A chilly Canadian tale for International Women’s Day

Over at Hook and Eye there’s a terrific guest post by Canadian feminist philosopher Shannon Dea about a nightmarish situation that’s been developing at the University of Waterloo.

Writes Dea: “For just under a month, women at University of Waterloo have been terrorized by an anonymous propagandist who claims that women’s “defective moral intelligence” poses a serious risk to the planet. Starting on February 7, when student election posters for female candidates were covered by misogynistic flyers, there have been three waves of flyers (two of them attached to eccentric and disturbing email messages) and two Facebook messages disseminated by an author who has variously referred to himself as Lord Irwin, nath007, Feridun Hamdullahpur (University of Waterloo’s president), and Sylvester J. Pussycat. The rustic and syntactically idiosyncratic communications, the most recent of which was emailed to assorted students, staff and faculty members late March 1, have bit by bit advanced the thesis that women should not be educated as highly as men, and that universities should not teach gender equity, because woman’s deceptively weak exterior hides her evil interior. When women are educated and treated as equals, according to the propagandist, they pose a real danger to the planet. The poster girl for this campaign is Marie Curie, who figures prominently in all of the flyers, and is characterized by their author as the “mother of the Nuclear bomb,” as the “evil” woman responsible for the deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as the Eve leading a hapless Adam-Pierre Curie toward the apple of Nuclear weaponry.”

Chilling, right? What’s even more chilling is the university’s response. The rest of the story continues over at Hook and Eye and I strongly recommend you read it.

I’m also hoping this post serves as an introduction to the readers of Feminist Philosophers to a great Canadian blog about the academy. Hook and Eye describes itself this way: “Hook & Eye is an intervention and an invitation: we write about the realities of being women working in the Canadian university system. We muse about everything from gender inequities and how tenure works, to finding unfrumpy winter boots, decent childcare, and managing life’s minutiae. Ambitious? Obviously. We’re women in the academy.”


14 thoughts on “A chilly Canadian tale for International Women’s Day

  1. I live in the Waterloo area. When I was a member of the Board of Directors at the former UW radio station, whose station manager was female and non-white and who was all but hounded out of there, I had the misfortune to have run into these politics myself. It really is this scary, both at the student level and at the administrative level.

    But I will point out…Marie Curie discovered radium. It was a MAN who split the atom and a bunch of military guys who dropped the bomb. Not us.

    In other words, Eve FOUND the apple…Adam was the dumbass who ate it.

  2. I’m also reminded of a good friend’s take on Genesis. It took the devil itself – the most powerful force of evil in the universe – to tempt Eve. Adam was tempted by a mere mortal.

  3. Thanks for posting the Fish article. I don’t think Fish does anything in the article that Rae Langton and others haven’t done in discussing speech acts in relation to pornography, but it’s nice to see the discussion in a less academic venue.

  4. If you’d like to read further about this matter, Luisa d’Amato’s report here (http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/489999–two-uw-centres-closed-following-anti-female-messages) is the best that’s appeared in the media so far.

    Here’s the official word from UW: http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca/2011/feb/24th.html. That article links an earlier one here:
    http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca/2011/feb/17th.html (but you have to scroll down quite a ways to get to that article – evidence of how concerned UW administrators were about the matter on Feb. 17). Note too the use of quotation marks in both titles. The charitable reading is that the quotation marks really do indicate direct quotation, but note that “incidents” and “posters” are also direct quotes and aren’t enclosed in quotation marks. One wonders whether the author worried about the aptness of the terms “disturbing” and “offensive”.

    If you think UW could be doing more about this matter, here are some senior administrators at University of Waterloo whom you might email:

    Feridun Hamdullahpur, President, fhamdullahpur@uwaterloo.ca

    Janet Passmore, Associate Provost, Human Resources, passmore@uwaterloo.ca

    Bud Walker, Associate Provost, Students, bwalker@uwaterloo.ca

    Daniel Anderson, Director of Police Services, dananderson@uwaterloo.ca

    If you prefer to send an old-fashioned paper letter, you can contact all of these folks at

    200 University Avenue West
    Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1

    If you write to any of the above, consider cc’ing the letter to these two people at the Faculty Association of University of Waterloo (FAUW):

    George Freeman, FAUW President, george.freeman@uwaterloo.ca

    Diana Parry, Chair, Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC), dcparry@uwaterloo.ca

    (Again, if you prefer a paper letter, the above address prefixed by “FAUW, MC Building” will get it to them.)

    The women at UW will be most grateful for any support of this type that our colleagues at other institutions can provide.

    Best wishes,
    Shannon Dea,
    University of Waterloo

  5. Small world. I’ve seen Dr. Dea around and not had a clue who she was.

    I didn’t go to UW, but I lived with Synaesthetik WBW (in the late ’90’s). I remember the serial rapist that went after students in res and student houses near the 2 campuses. They didn’t take those complaints seriously either. The guy raped close to a dozen young women before they caught him.

    Maybe if he’d pretended to be president of UW they might have caught him sooner :-P

  6. Ok, I’ll put my tongue AND my snark back in my head, and see if I can talk S, as an area resident, into using the channels Dr. Dea has provided to protect the young women in this community.

  7. Thanks for the shout-out, Feminist Philosophers! We love your blog (and are a little in awe of your almost-four-year-old-ness).

  8. That is the kind of student or person in the community who is either playing a joke, or about “this close” to killing someone. Locating this person and giving him a through psych evaluation is in order. If that’s legally possible.

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