No Girls Allowed

The Boys Club, a discussion group for male-identified people which began at King’s, wants guys to consider gender equality a men’s issue.

The club recently joined a protest against a Q104 radio contest they deemed sexist. The campaign was called “The Male is in the Czech,” and gave men the chance to win a trip to Prague, where the winner would meet a group of “Czech beauties” through a dating service.

The contest ended on International Women’s Day (March 8), which Boys Club founder Omri Haiven called “ignorant”. “I don’t even think they thought about the significance of that day,” he said.

NSCAD student Derrick Dixon was the first to speak out against the ad. Boys Club member John Wasteneys took up the cause and created a Facebook group to share his indignation. The contest was brought up at several Boys Club meetings, said member Sam Krawec in an email. “The Q104 contest emerged as a clear example of gender-based oppression, and a number of us felt compelled to respond,” said Krawec. “Sexist and hyper-sexualized depictions of women, the use of women as prizes, and the promotion of a wild male sex drive are (all) aspects of a rape culture that the Boys Club is committed to ending.”

The Boys Club and others involved in the protest contacted Q104 repeatedly to urge them to end the contest. Several complaints were also submitted to the CRTC, said Krawec. The Campaign was named “Shame on Q104.”

The protest at the Q104 headquarters on March 8, which the Boys Club helped organize, attracted a few dozen protesters.

Reactions from Q104 staff members and fans were dismissive, said Krawec. “(They) continue to insist that we are overreacting to something they see as normal—despite us telling them that the normality of rape culture is exactly what we are protesting.”

While Q104 made no apologies for the contest, the protesters’ voices were heard in national media, including Metro and the CBC, thanks to a statement made by Halifax MP Megan Leslie in the House of Commons. Leslie had received a petition with 700 signatures, signed by members of the Boys Club and other concerned community members.

“This is the environment we’re asking women and girls of Halifax to live in, one where they’re offered up as trophies,” Leslie told the House on March 8. “As a woman, I am furious.”

The Boys Club was formed out of a similar sentiment: anger at the oppression of women and at stereotypical portrayals of gender roles in the media.

KSU External Vice-President Haiven and Campus Safety Coordinator Laurel Walsh started the group in the fall to create a safe space for “guys to talk about issues that affect their gender,” said Haiven. This includes sexuality, “male privilege and the role of male-identifying people in feminism,” said Krawec.

Haiven says he was inspired by a speech at the Take Back the Night march in September, where Halifax District Labour Council President Kyle Buott described violence against women as a “men’s issue.”

“I wanted to really advocate for that message … People don’t like to admit that gender-based oppression is a men’s issue,” said Haiven.

The meetings began as round-table discussions, where members put questions or statements concerning masculinity in a hat. “We drew them, read them aloud and tried to answer them together,” Haiven.

“The interesting thing about the Boys Club is that it very quickly started to extend beyond the King’s campus,” said Haiven. The group now includes Dalhousie, NSCAD and Saint Mary’s students, as well as community members. “It slowly evolved, and it keeps on evolving in each meeting.” Meetings now include general discussions and guest speakers. “The initial idea was that it would be an event, but it was so successful that we decided to make it into a group of its own.”

Will the Boys Club continue to be involved in protests like the Q104 campaign?

“I think that all discussion groups of this nature are activist,” said Haiven. “By virtue of its existence, the Boys Club is a radical organization. In the discussions that we have, we’re already subverting the norm … but my primary focus is that the group continue to be a forum for guys to get together and talk about their shit.”