On one of the bloodiest weekends in recent American history, a reported white supremacist gunman took 20 lives in an El Paso Wal-Mart. Only 13 hours later, a reported Antifa sympathizer in Dayton, Ohio killed his sister and her boyfriend as well as seven others at a popular nightspot, though his personal motivation is still unclear. These two young men who seemingly followed opposing ideologies both saw mass violence and death as the solution.
This kind of violence doesn’t stem from either an exclusively left or right perspective, but from an undercurrent of tribalism in our society that can cause young people to feel worthless and hopeless. When people feel isolated, they reach out desperately for somewhere to belong.
Britain’s youngest person to have transitioned, at the age of 15, Ria Cooper, now 25, was recently denied a role in a pornographic film because she is trans. After sending out her new glamour shots and portfolio to her fan base on social media, Cooper was contacted by a photographer who wanted to take saucy photos, engage in sex with her, and film that for distribution. Cooper’s portfolio is in hopes to get just this kind of work.
Hailing from Hull, Cooper reported this incident to the Humberside Police, who are investigating the incident as a hate crime. Hopefully, nothing will come of it, but even so, the fact that being denied sex on camera was reported as a hate crime may increase the statistics for number of hate crimes reported. And of course, that’s just silly.
“I am reporting this as a hate crime,” Cooper said in the Hull Daily Mail, “It’s like calling someone who is black the ‘N’ word. It doesn’t matter if I have c*** or not. The pictures should be judged as they are… It says on my social media profile that I am a ladyboy, I didn’t ever say that I wasn’t and I thought he knew… I want to be a glamour model and a porn star – that’s what I want to do. I don’t think I should be treated like this.”
There’s been some significant social media chatter of late as to whether refusal to engage in the act of sex with a trans person should be considered hateful, transphobic, bigotted, or prejudice, or if it’s okay for a person, trans or otherwise, to have a preference for who they’d like to have sex with. Prominent among the voices who say no, preference for what kind of genitals a person wants to engage in sex with is actually super transphobic, is cyclist Rachel McKinnnon.
McKinnon made headlines when she won a women’s cycling championship in 2008, and continues to be in the news for saying things like lesbians who don’t want to sleep with transwomen lesbians aren’t lesbians but are transphobic. This opinion raises the question of exactly what a lesbian is, whether it’s a woman who is romantically attracted to other women or a person who is attracted to anyone who says they are a woman despite their anatomical make-up.
Her latest diatribe syncs up with Cooper’s ideas that genitals do not make the man. McKinnon feels that her femaleness goes beyond genitals, hormones, or any physicality. She believes that trans women, who were born with male bodies, should use those male bodies to compete in women’s sports without the caveat of having to keep their testosterone levels under a certain threshold for at least a year prior to team play, as the International Association of Athletics Federations and International Olympic Committee mandate.
Cooper would have the same feeling. A photographer who wants to take pictures of naked ladies, to have sex with them, and to video record that, is undoubtedly wrong when he imagines that a woman is a person with a vagina. For him to not want to to take pornographic pictures of Cooper and her penis, or to have sex with Cooper, is, per Cooper and McKinnon’s way of thinking, unbeleivably transphobic and bias.
Trans individuals, like all of us, should live as they choose, but their determination as to what that way is does not give them dictates over how other people should live, conduct themselves, or with whom they should engage in sex.
Not wanting to have sex with a male bodied trans woman cannot be a hate crime. Choosing sexual partners must remain an entirely personal, consensual act. Cooper and McKinnon would have us intentionally police our own minds to try and force ourselves to have sexual preferences and attractions for specific individuals for whom we have neither preference nor attraction. However, this is exactly what opponents of homosexual conversion therapy have argued against, as have women, who routinely put off the advances of men with whom they do not want to engage with in sex.
If Cooper and McKinnon were really looking at this from the woman’s point of view, they would know that consent is the most important thing in choosing a partner, and that if there’s no consent, that’s just not sexy. In fact, it’s rapey.
The latest issue of “men’s magazine” GQ focused entirely on “New Masculinity,” or as the publication puts it “the ways that traditional notions of masculinity are being challenged, overturned, and evolved.”
As far as many of us are concerned, the old masculinity was just perfect, but GQ has set out to change your mind. And what better authority offer a valuable perspective on masculinity than unfunny, female, man-hating comedian Hannah Gadsby.
In “Hannah Gadsby on Why Men Should Be More Ladylike,” the comedian offers a surface-level assertion that men should be more “feminine” and “ladylike,” characteristics she equates with being powerless, meek, and sheepish. In her attempt to bash men, she ends up revealing her true feelings about women, in what shapes up to be a strangely misogynistic tirade.
To give you a taste for Gadsby’s refined brand of humour, The New Yorker named her as having one of the best jokes of 2018.
“I don’t think even lesbian is the right identity fit for me. I really don’t. I may as well come out now. I identify—as tired.”
That’s it. That’s the joke.
In what appears to be an attempt at praise, The New Yorker describes how Gadsby spends part of her special “Nanette” actually explaining “how comedic tension works,” noting that “At times, the audience gets so quiet that it seems as if the sound mixer has turned the balance down to some kind of negative level.”
Gadsby begins her GQ piece by addressing “the men.”
“Hello, the men,” she writes, in what appears to be a sophomoric appeal to humour through either dehumanization, awkward phrasing, or a combination of the two. “My advice on modern masculinity would be to look at those traits you believe are feminine and interrogate why you are so obsessed with being the opposite.”
I would venture a guess that men are “obsessed with being the opposite” of women because they are set on living out the gender identity with which they most identify, that of a man. She later clarifies that she was indeed speaking directly to “straight white cis men.” How well would Gadsby’s comments be received if they were directed toward transgender men? Questioning why a transgender man is “so obsessed” with not being a woman would generally be considered extremely insensitive, and in some circles, even hateful.
“Because this idea that to be a man you have to be the furthest away from being a woman that you possibly can is really weird,” she continues.
It feels strange to even have to elaborate on why this statement is ridiculous, but in today’s world, such explanations are proving to be more and more necessary. Men are the complementary opposite of women. In order to be a man, you have to not be a woman. Because they are opposites. While both men and women are human and therefore share common elements of humanity, the “furthest way from being a woman” while still being a human is, by definition, being a man.
While GQ framed the piece as being one that would address “new masculinity,” Gadsby (surprise) simply attacks the value of masculinity altogether. “Why is everyone so scared of not being masculine?” she asks, before going on to ridicule “hyper-masculine man-babies.”
She then encourages men to look to “traditional feminine traits” and try “incorporating them into” their “own masculinity.” Again, what? Gadsby seems genuinely confused about the definition of masculinity, and how it relates to that of femininity. This is made even more evident when she goes on to encourage men to be “more ladylike” by tamping down their own confidence, or by refraining from sharing their own opinions.
Gadsby implies that confidence and opinion sharing are both masculine characteristics. What’s worse, she goes on to suggest that men “try pretending that you’re the least powerful person in any room and that no matter how hard you work you’ll never be the most powerful” and “Walk around like that for a couple weeks,” in order to become more in touch with their femininity.
If Gadsby thinks that women are the least powerful people in a room among men, then perhaps she is the one who needs to get in touch with her own femininity.
To imply that “incorporating” femininity into one’s own masculinity (never mind the oxymoron) would involve becoming sheepish, unconfident, less “bold,” and the least powerful person in any room, is the most blatantly sexist statement anybody has gotten away with publishing in any major publication in a very long time. But Gadsby’s words will be celebrated because they also happen to be bitter and anti-men.
It’s truly amazing how many libraries in Canada just can’t get with the idea that they need to police and restrict speech. The Vancouver Public Library came under attack for hosting an event with notorious gender critical feminist Meghan Murphy, and now the Toronto Public Library is being set upon by a petition of writers who, what else, don’t want Murphy to speak. Yet Murphy’s talk, “Gender Identity: What Does It Mean for Society, the Law and Women?” hosted by Radical Feminists Unite, is sold out.
Murphy’s biggest crime is believing that sex is not mutable, that biological sex trumps gender identity. For this she has dealt with aggressive protests, was banned on Twitter, and has been deplatformed numerous times. This time, it’s the brave writers of Canada, namely Alicia Elliot, Catherine Hernandez, and Carrianne Leung who feel the “need to share [their] disappointment” that the Library is hosting this event. They have demanded that Meghan Murphy be deplatformed. Additionally, they have expressed their surety that deplatforming is not a violation of free speech.
“There is a difference between denying free speech—and what is known as deplatforming, which is when you refuse to allow hate speech to be disseminated in your facility.” The petition circulating on Change.org goes on to state that “if this event moves forward, the signed writers and publishing professionals will no longer, in clear conscience, participate in TPL events.” They vow also to “stage peaceful demonstrations both online and in front of the Palmerston branch on the night of the event.”
The point of contention between the cabal of writers and Murphy is the 2017 passing of bill C-16, which amended the Candian Human Rights Act. This amendment added “gender identity or expression” to those characteristics that are protected from discrimination. Murphy aptly notes that this change was made in haste, without adequate consideration for the impact it would have on the rights of women and girls. The petitioners believe that raising concerns or having an open debate about the rights of women and girls is hate speech. This is exactly the kind of madness that was predicted by Jordan Peterson when he originally made headlines by opposing the bill.
But they also go further and speak about how those who advocate for further consideration of the trans-inclusive amendments are weaponizing free speech.
“Those who want to disseminate hate speech today know that they can misrepresent, then weaponize the phrase ‘freedom of speech’ in order to get what they want: an audience, and space to speak to and then mobilize that audience against marginalized communities. While everyone has freedom of speech, we want to once again point to the limits of those freedoms when certain acts and speech infringe on the freedom of others, particularly those in marginalized communities. We also want to point out that hate groups do not have a right to use publicly funded facilities to meet and organize.”
This is a completely absurd supposition, made all the more inane and caustic because it is coming from a group of writers: people for whom free speech should be the most cherished right. Writers, of all people, should be advocating for the inalienable right of everyone to speak, to make use of public gathering space, and to not be denied that right simply because a couple of thousand people disagree with them. Disagreement is not violence. Why do we keep having to say this to writers, academics, and intellectuals? They really should have the entirety of history at their fingertips to tell them just how dangerous, illiberal, and totalitarian this kind of petitioning is.
Go ahead: stand outside the library, hold up some placards, that’s completely within your rights. But trying to tell a library to deny basic rights that you want to make use of yourself is anathema to, well, being a writer. Free speech should never be conditional.
Protesting the library by refusing to attend or take part in literary events, and by protesting speakers with whom they disagree, are both reasonable ways to express displeasure. But trying to pressure a library into banning speech is not an act of bravery, but one of cowardice.
Thankfully, the Toronto Library will not bend to the will of the totalitarian writers. They released a statement: “As a public library and public institution, we have an obligation to protect free speech. When Toronto Public Library (TPL) makes meeting rooms available to the public we serve, we need to make them available to all on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use. As a public institution, our primary obligation is to uphold the fundamental freedoms of freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
It’s reassuring to see that in a society where writers have turned into a censorious mob, at least the public institutions that shelve their books are still committed to the fundamental right of free speech.
On September 29th, Twitter user @ThinGrayLine posted a video of 81-year-old Dorothy Marston being prevented from safely entering Mohawk College to see Maxime Bernier and David Rubin speak. While a stoic, orange-shirted man would block her way, a woman would scream “Nazi scum off our streets!” point-blank in her face, horrifying the millions of Canadians that would go on to watch the footage over the coming days.
The internet, consumed with fury, would immediately mobilize in an attempt to identify those who committed such an atrocious act against on a senior was such a clear representation for so many Canadians’ own grandmothers. And on October 2nd, the man in the orange shirt was identified as Alaa Al-Soufi. It didn’t take long for his family, proprietors of Soufi’s restaurant in Toronto, to be found.
It was on this day that Alaa’s father, Husam Al-Soufi, first heard about what happened at Mohawk College. “Before that, I did not know what antifa was…” He says, “I had not even heard of it.”
The Al-Soufi patriarch and I began speaking after he politely requested I remove a post I had made that had generated quite a bit of attention on my personal Twitter. Husam became anxious over a screenshot I had included from an older Toronto-area foodie article which revealed the name of one of his sons’ Universities. “I don’t blame you, Anna,” he said, but his fear was palpable.
He lit up when I offered to delete my post, thanking me with a little heart emoji when I offered to contact the news outlet who had published information about his son on his behalf to request that they delete or edit the article of the potentially revealing information.
While my post had been critical of the Soufi’s, and generally dismissive of the air of virulence that had emerged on both sides of their situation, speaking with Husam instilled in me a new appreciation for his family by showing me a side the media had not covered. I took the opportunity to pick Husam’s brain about what happened that day, offering him an audience that was likely full of his biggest disparagers. But only wanting to foster dialogue, Husam jumped at the opportunity.
“We just want to wake up from this nightmare,” Husam said. “I hate politics.”
After his daughter notified him about what she saw on social media, Husam says he was incredulous. “I was so ignorant about what was happening. I thought antifa was anti-fascist—[that’s] anti-Hitler, anti-terrorist. I had no idea it happened in Hamilton. I had no idea about Mr. Maxime’s speech.”
Husam says he knew his son was politically active, but that he demonstrated for causes he believed to be right. “For Hong Kong, Tibet, Venezuela … He does volunteer work, he is a sweet young man. This time he did a mistake.” After finding out about the incident at Mohawk, Husam reviewed past footage of Alaa’s demonstrations and activities, only then becoming aware that they had become physical at various points. According to his father, Alaa has been extremely ill recently, so much so that he’ll be taking time off of university to recover.
I asked Husam if Alaa knew who the woman who screamed at Dorothy Marston, and he said that his son had never met her before. He also said he and Marston’s son, Davis, have sat down, and he hopes to have the opportunity to apologize to the elderly woman in person. “I pray it will happen. And when I say pray, I usually look at a beautiful thing and make a wish. Usually, this beautiful thing is my wife.”
On freedom of speech, Husam agreed it was a fundamentally Canadian value, even going to far as to believe people had a right to be upset over how Dorothy Marston was prevented from safely entering Mohawk College.
“She is a lovely senior lady and my son blocked her way. Wearing a scary mask is not something we should accept. It is legal but immoral.”
When the conversation shifted to antifa, Husam believed they might have good goals, but the wrong methods.
“I don’t know much about them, but I will say this … Even if their intentions are to serve and protect marginalized communities, they are going about them the wrong way.” He suggested to his son that they should be giving out flyers and handing out flowers to people. Peaceful methods to win over the hearts of people, not “shouting and wearing masks.”
Husam says his decision to close the restaurant was hasty, but only in hopes of diffusing the situation. In doing so, he found himself stuck in the middle of an even worse situation.
“I thought I would give a victory to angry people, and the threats would stop coming. I was wrong.” He says, “But then people on ‘the other side’ told me I was giving up hope for newcomers. I was in the middle. I was on no one’s side!”
Currently, Soufi’s is being managed by Paramount Foods while Husam and his wife care for Alaa and their own health. Husam noted he is unsure of when he will return to his restaurant, feeling unconvinced reopening was the right decision to begin with.
“When I closed the restaurant my decision was final, but I was under so much pressure from a lot of people,” Husam says, “I felt like I didn’t want to be the one to discourage new immigrants or refugees.”
Husam says he never intended for notoriety, or to become a symbol of anything, least of all resistance towards some racist bogeyman. Through and through, he demonstrated he was a simple man who only sought to run a quaint Syrian restaurant in his new country—a country he came to as an investor immigrant, mind, not a refugee as many had wrongly claimed. The stress this situation has brought seems to have genuinely taken its toll on him.
“Canada is my home until I die,” Husam says, noting that he loves and admires Canadian values. A civil engineer, Husam says he has much larger projects he is able to pursue, but his Soufi’s was his ‘baby,’ and he had been floored by its success. “My restaurant introduced me to Canadian people. [It was] a place where we could talk and laugh. We felt at home after this restaurant. We knew people of all ethnicities, religions, and cultures.”
When I asked him if he had any final words for the article, he reiterated a sentiment he had repeated many times throughout our conversation, once before he said he forgave everyone who had said something cruel or threatening towards his family, and once more when he was reflecting on antifa:
“Love is our only hope!”