Queen's University — Since 1873
8th April 2014

Prof target of poster campaign

Adèle Mercier claims men's-issues group is guilty of libel

Posters accusing Adele Mercier of being a rape apologist are displayed around campus.
Posters accusing Adele Mercier of being a rape apologist are displayed around campus. (Alex Pickering)

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Posters accusing Queen’s philosophy professor Adèle Mercier of being a “rape apologist” were plastered around campus this afternoon.

The posters display a photo of Mercier with the caption “rape apologist” highlighted in red underneath.

The images, which were seen strewn across poles near the JDUC, Stauffer Library and up University Ave., were put up by Attila Vinczer and Suzanne McCarley, representatives of A Voice For Men (AVFM), a Houston-based men’s rights group, this afternoon.

According to Vinczer, director of Canadian activism for AVFM, the posters were put up in direct response to Mercier’s April 3 Letter to the Editor, featured in the Journal.

In the letter, Mercier states that “Yes, men too are raped (and note that it is men who rape them)”, which Vinczer claims is a statement that denies the existence of male rape caused by women.

“Feminists are the best allies of such men, who can learn from feminists and their struggles how to conceptualize their circumstances and how to organize themselves,” Mercier further stated in the letter.

According to Vinczer, Mercier also threatened the group with a libel suit after AVFM responded to her comment on the March 31 Letter to the Editor on their website. In the comment, Mercier cites statistics of sexual assault in youth detention centres from a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“89.1% of MALE YOUTH engage in unauthorized sexual activity with FEMALE STAFF; 3% of MALE YOUTH engage in unauthorized sexual activity with both male and female staff.

“This merely reflects THE PROPORTIONS OF GAY AND STRAIGHT MALES in juvenile detention centers, (and the fact that even people in detention centers like to have sex),” Mercier wrote in response to another comment.

Vinczer said her comment implies that male youth aren’t subject to sexual assault.

“She’s claiming that it’s untrue that she is not a rape or pedophile apologist and when in fact she’s claiming she made statements to the effect that boys in detention centres are able to consent to having sexual intercourse,” Vinczer said.

Vinczer, from Toronto, and McCarley, from Indiana, traveled to Kingston to attend a feminist talk, titled “What’s Feminism Got To Do With It?” hosted by the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre on Tuesday night. They said they began making the posters last Thursday in preparation for the talk, which Mercier originally intended to speak at.

Last week, the Centre announced that Mercier wouldn’t be speaking at the event, and that it would feature a panel of students instead.

At the talk, flyers were passed out to audience members by members of the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), condemning Mercier’s comments.

“[We] roundly condemns the trivialization of all rape and sexual exploitation,” it read. “What are we to make of a University now directly sponsoring a talk that gives a podium to one of their own Professors who has dismissed actual criminal sex offences.”

Mercier declined to comment on any legal action she would be taking against Vinczer and McCarley, but said she had been libeled by AVFM members online with regard to her comments.

“Clearly my mistake was to engage people I thought were students on the Queen’s Journal site and I stand by what I said in those comments I made on the Journal site,” she said.

“It was having had to do with violence and I will not dignify their inanities by defending what I have stated [as] it is public and online, but here is what I did not say: I did not say that statutory rape was okay, I did not say that raping children is okay, I did not say that blaming the victim is okay, and I never once used the word consensual.”

Mercier said the reaction by AVFM is an example of “systemic libel,” and said she expects the University to pursue defamation claims on her behalf.

“Given that I was defamed in the commission of my duties and that somewhat shockingly I was the only professor there at Fiamengo’s talk to support our students, I fully expect it is [their] responsibility,” she said.

“I don’t have enough confidence in the trustworthiness of this administration either to understand, proceed to understand or to defend women in my position, barring that I will have to reflect on the next step ahead should be.”

Jim Byset, AVFM news director, claimed at Tuesday night’s talk that Mercier was pulled because organizers knew AVFM would be there. The talk was geared toward healthy sexuality, sexual violence and defining the meaning of consent.

“It’s rape apology, what’s she’s done, and we’re here to take a stand against it and say we don’t agree with that,” he said.

During the question period, members of AVFM repeatedly stood to ask questions about Mercier, such as whether someone who is incarcerated can give meaningful consent to their jailer. They also asked the talk’s keynote speaker, American writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman, how she felt about Mercier’s comments.

Friedman had not heard about Mercier’s comments, and organizers steered the conversation away from the subject. “It seemed like they didn’t listen to a lot of the talk,” she told the Journal following the talk.

“They were asking about a lot of things that had already been said.”

With files from Chloe Sobel and Sebastian Leck

This article was last updated at 1:26 a.m. on April 9 and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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