CAFE’s attempt to stage an “Equality Day” concert on the Toronto Islands fell apart this week when the proposed venue and sponsors were alerted to the group’s alleged ties to the men’s rights movement, a label applied to a broad spectrum of virulent anti-women ideologies that often blame feminism for male oppression.
The host venue and sponsors pulled out of E-Day Thursday, saying that when CAFE approached them they weren’t fully aware of the nature of the event or the group’s cause.
Gee I wonder how that happened. Could it be the name, maybe? Is the name a little misleading, possibly?
CAFE says it’s committed to improving the “status, health and well-being of boys and men” but is not part of the men’s rights movement. The E-Day debacle has renewed accusations by the group’s critics that it is deliberately wrapping itself in benign language in an attempt to legitimize what it knows is a very controversial mission. No one would object to something called Equality Day, but presumably Equality for Men Day would have raised some red flags.
CAFE plans a scaled down version of E-Day, (less up-with-men jamboree, more leafleting a public space) at the corner of Yonge and Dundas Sunday at noon. The Ride for a Dream event, which combats violence against women, is happening at the same time across the street. We hope to god this is a coincidence.
You mean, because you hope CAFE isn’t actually counter-leafleting an event that combats violence against women? That would be bad, for sure.
Ahead of the event we called the group to ask about its beliefs. The bizarre interview that followed won’t do much to assuage concerns that CAFE is being disingenuous about its activities, or that it is trying to put a female-friendly face on an anti-women agenda.
Because CAFE has made clear that it has a different interpretation of the interview than we do, we’ve posted the audio in full so readers can judge for themselves.
…Then we asked about the press release we received from CAFE that said the organization was “working with support from City Councillors [and] MPPs.” This was surprising because CAFE had previously reported it was having difficulty getting councillors on board. On CAFE’s website they report Councillor Gord Perks said, “I have better things to do with my time” when they approached him.Fong, who said she wrote the press release about E-Day, would not or could not tell us who the councillors and MPPs were. Instead she passed the phone to a man named Justin (at 3:49 of the interview).
Justin declined to give us his last name, saying he was “working behind the scenes as a volunteer” and wasn’t authorized to speak for the group. He too refused to tell us which politicians are backing CAFE. He claimed that supporters have been harassed, bullied, and sometimes stalked and he couldn’t identify them in order to protect their safety.
At that point I paused and wondered – is that Justin Trottier? Is it? Then I realized I might find out if I kept reading instead of wondering.
We put it to Justin that an equally plausible explanation for his refusal to name names would be that CAFE does not in fact have the support of any councillors or MPPs. He agreed that the group’s critics would indeed say that, which was “perfectly fine. They can say lots of things,” he said.Then he put Fong back on the phone.As the interview continued, we could hear Justin speaking in the background. It sounded like he was helping Fong answer our questions. We asked her if the man talking was Justin Trottier, a well-known and controversial critic of feminism whose name does not appear on CAFE’s list of officials. She said no.We asked again if the man was Trottier, and again she said it was not.Now, we can’t say that Fong was lying about this. But later we compared our interview to recordings of Trottier’s many previous public appearances, and the man Fong assured us was not Justin Trottier sounded like Justin Trottier. A lot.
What a fascinating once-in-a-lifetime coincidence. Isn’t life exciting.
As our interview progressed, a pattern emerged. We would ask a question, the man-who-definitely-wasn’t-Justin-Trottier would say something in the background, and Fong would repeat his words back to us.
We thought this was strange, and we pointed it out. When we said it sounded like Justin was answering for her, Fong appeared to take offence. “He’s not speaking for me,” she said. “I am the writer of the news release and I am the one who put this out there so you can speak to me.”
You know what they need? They need a chatbot, that’s what. They need a Siri.
Then there’s a whole sequence where the journalistic “we” asked about A Voice for Men and Fong said there was no connection, none at all, nope nope nople, and “we” said what about an article on their site touting an AVFM conference, and Fong said first no connection and then we’ll look into it.
When we pressed them on their relationship to the group, Justin told Fong who then told us that CAFE has attended AVFM events.
“We attend events to explain how we’re different from them,” Justin said in the background.
“We attend them just to identify our difference from them,” Fong repeated into the phone.
Justin Trottier will probably be Prime Minister one day.
Update: a sleuth friend uncovered the deeply hidden right out in the open fact that the Denise Fong in the story who passed the phone to Mystery Justin Who Is Totally Not At All Justin Trottier is engaged to…
wait for it