Keep­ing abu­sive stu­dent ac­tivists ac­count­able

The McGill Daily - - News -

On Fe­bru­ary 6, 2017, Igor Sadikov, for­mer Daily ed­i­tor and for­mer Arts Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety of Mcgill Uni­ver­sity (SSMU) tweeted “punch a zion­ist [sic] to­day” on his per­sonal ac­count. This tweet was widely dis­sem­i­nated, re­ceiv­ing in­ter­na­tional news cov­er­age. In re­sponse, two camps formed at Mcgill: one call­ing for Sadikov’s res­ig­na­tion from stu­dent pol­i­tics, and one sup­port­ing Sadikov in the face of this back­lash. Sadikov’s anti-zion­ist be­liefs and in­volve­ment in anti-op­pres­sive groups on cam­pus be­came rea­sons to hail him as a rad­i­cal martyr. Af­ter two weeks, how­ever, much of this pub­lic sup­port dwin­dled as al­le­ga­tions of Sadikov’s past abu­sive be­hav­iour were brought forth. Sadikov’s glo­ri­fi­ca­tion in left­ist cir­cles, in­clud­ing our own edi­to­rial board, de­spite var­i­ous de­grees of knowl­edge of his pre­vi­ous abu­sive be­hav­iour, is the lat­est ex­am­ple of misog­yny and the will­ful dis­re­gard of abuse in ac­tivism.

In the days fol­low­ing the tweet, a Face­book group chat con­tain­ing over two hun­dred Mcgill and Mon­treal ac­tivists was cre­ated to mo­bi­lize stu­dents in sup­port of Sadikov. The de­bate sur­round­ing Sadikov’s res­ig­na­tion quickly turned from one about a tweet to one on the safety of anti-zion­ists on cam­pus, es­pe­cially af­ter sev­eral mem­bers of Mcgill’s se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion pub­lished state­ments in con­demn­ing Sadikov. The Ad­min­is­tra­tion even threat­ened to with­hold fund­ing from SSMU if the ex­ec­u­tive did not re­quest Sadikov’s res­ig­na­tion. Both within the afore­men­tioned chat, on so­cial me­dia, and within the pages of this news­pa­per, Sadikov was painted as a vic­tim be­ing lam­basted by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, var­i­ous Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, and count­less or­ga­ni­za­tions out­side of Mcgill. In our cov­er­age of the calls for his res­ig­na­tion The Daily de­fended Sadikov, and mem­bers of The Daily’s edi­to­rial board at­tended events in sup­port of Sadikov. We re­gret our com­plic­ity in un­crit­i­cally por­tray­ing Sadikov as a vic­tim. The ac­tions of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the ha­rass­ment faced by anti-zion­ist stu­dents ev­ery day are rep­re­hen­si­ble, but so is Sadikov’s rise to glory de­spite his pre­vi­ous abu­sive be­hav­iour.

Be­ing a male fem­i­nist al­lows abu­sive men ac­cess to ac­tivist spa­ces and the trust of the women in the com­mu­nity, as well as a buf­fer against al­le­ga­tions of abuse or misog­yny. The com­mon be­lief is that a self-pro­claimed fem­i­nist couldn’t pos­si­bly be abu­sive. This is true of for­mer SSMU VP Ex­ter­nal David Aird and for­mer Pres­i­dent Ben Ger who, im­mersed in left­ist cir­cles, both faced claims of past gen­dered and sex­ual vi­o­lence. In ac­tivist spa­ces, women are of­ten pres­sured to down­play or ig­nore their ex­pe­ri­ence of abuse and misog­yny in or­der not to de­flect from the ‘real’ is­sues. This ten­dency is par­tic­u­larly per­va­sive in move­ments seen as more ‘se­ri­ous,’ such ac­tivism against cap­i­tal­ism or state vi­o­lence, move­ments which Sadikov and Aird en­gaged in.

Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity of­ten share in­for­ma­tion about abu­sive men’s be­hav­iours in pri­vate, but refuse or are un­able to pub­licly de­nounce these men. There are valid rea­sons why some com­mu­nity mem­bers may not call out abu­sive men: if one is are trig­gered by dis­cus­sions of abuse, in or­der to pro­tect one’s per­sonal or emo­tional safety, or to re­spect the wishes of the sur­vivor. Even so, there are usu­ally oth­ers in the com­mu­nity who are ca­pa­ble of de­nounc­ing abu­sive men but are re­sis­tant to hold­ing their col­leagues and friends ac­count­able are re­sis­tant to hold­ing their col­leagues and friends ac­count­able. As a re­sult, many women and femmes end up leav­ing the com­mu­nity to pre­serve their men­tal health or safety, and other women are put at risk when abu­sive be­hav­iour is kept quiet.

Ac­tivist spa­ces are a mi­cro­cosm of so­ci­ety and are not free of misog­y­nis­tic and abu­sive be­hav­iour. In fact, ac­tivist spa­ces are of­ten hunt­ing grounds of choice for abu­sive men; the in­her­ent dy­nam­ics of these groups pro­tects per­pe­tra­tors of abuse. The pub­lic ado­ra­tion of abu­sive men can of­ten be in­tensely trig­ger­ing and trau­matic to peo­ple they – or other men – have abused. In­stead of dis­miss­ing women’s con­cerns as gossip, those of us who come to or­ga­nize out of a gen­uine de­sire for a more just world ought to lis­ten to women’s voices, hold abu­sive men ac­count­able and make their ac­tions known to the pub­lic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.