Several Mount Allison students are holding up two events at The Pond and anonymous commentary on a third as evidence of gendered violence and inequality. The complaints came after a CBC article reported Mount Allison as having the second-highest number of reported sexual assaults per capita in Canada.
The incidents – an event initially called Men’s Night, an improv event initially called Dick Tales, and a tweet, which read in part, “Spotted: all the single ladies sluttin’ up #ValentinesDay” – provoked criticism from Mt. A students, prompting organizers to rename each event and the tweet to be deleted.
For Men’s Night, the criticism began shortly after the event was posted on Facebook. Mt. A student Karissa LaRocque posted on the event, calling it “fairly insensitive” in light of the CBC article and suggesting “Singles’ Night or Alone on Valentine’s Night” instead.
“[The Pond is] pretty well-known as a place that is notoriously unsafe for women,” LaRocque said.
Several other students echoed this concern about The Pond, the Mount Allison-owned campus pub.
But when The Pond’s manager, Andy Hebert, and his team decided to host Men’s Night, he did not anticipate the backlash they received.
“I honestly don’t feel that The Pond is the most unsafe place in Sackville and it surprises me that people feel that way,” Hebert said.
Hebert said his team decided to host Men’s Night because The Pond had hosted Ladies’ Night the week before. Some of the commenters used that fact to refute LaRocque’s opinion.
“I wonder if you’ve raised the same concern with respect to the ‘Ladies’ night’ that the pond occasionally holds?” wrote Rayan Bouhlel.
LaRocque said this comparison was dubious.
“That is a false equivalency, and for the record I think both kind of silly,” LaRocque said. “I think that when people say, ‘You can’t be angry about Men’s Night because there is also a Ladies’ Night,’ they are ignoring the fact that these spaces operate differently for men and women.”
Bouhlel has since told The Argosy that he sees the name Men’s Night as problematic.
Several people said this incident is only a product of a systemic problem of gendered violence and inequality harmful to women at Mt. A and in society.
Men’s Night was not the only event at The Pond that ended up renamed last week.
Presents: The Improv, an improvisational comedy group, hosts a weekly improv event on Wednesday nights. The initial theme for their Feb. 10 event was “Dick Tales.”
Several students voiced their concerns about the event, and it was quickly shut down with a post on Facebook which read, “One comedy show isn’t worth hurting people.”
The students’ objections stemmed from the event’s attempt to parody the Vagina Monologues, which would have been held at the same time and expresses women’s issues through performance art.
“My concern was mostly just on the fact that it was being presented as a parody, and for the potential for it to be mocking issues of violence against women and sexuality,” said Izzy Francolini, a third-year fine arts student who performed in the Vagina Monologues.
The creative director of Presents: The Improv, Malcolm Elliot, said his intention was not to harm anyone or be disrespectful.
On Saturday night, a Twitter account entitled “SpottedAtMTA” posted a tweet about female students attending The Pond’s Catalina Wine Mixer event. The tweet read, “Spotted: all the single ladies sluttin’ up #ValentinesDay #catalinawinemixerMTA.”
The next day the account received criticism by several students on Facebook and Twitter. Katharyn Stevenson, the president of the Women and Gender Studies Society, posted on her Facebook page:
“Calling girls sluts on multiple occasions is absolutely disgusting. Anonymously bullying students through a social media platform is absolutely disgusting. It has got to stop.”
The SpottedAtMTA Twitter account deleted the tweet, but then posted twice more: “Spotted: haters gonna hate #pms,” seemingly in response to the criticism, and, “Didn’t mean to offend anyone, if you don’t like our tweets then please unfollow us and #GetOverIt.”
For many of the students who raised concerns about the culture of gendered violence and inequality, the responses to their criticism were not satisfactory. Haley Shaw, a fourth-year English honours student who participated in the Vagina Monologues, is one of them.
“I want our problems to stop being brushed off. I want our voices to stop being shut down,” Shaw said.