A WOMAN’S PLACE
Men’s Rights Activists Newest Target: Universities
A male student filed a civil-rights complaint against Yale, sparking a federal probe of the school’s women’s groups. It’s just the start of a new front in men’s rights activism.
Men’s rights activists have been suing female-centric businesses for years, alleging discrimination against men. Now, under Betsy DeVos’ education department, they’ve found a new method for airing their grievances: filing federal civil-rights complaints against universities.
The student behind a federal probe into whether Yale University’s women-focused organizations discriminate against men is an active member of the men’s rights group National Coalition for Men (NCFM), and he has reportedly filed similar complaints at two other schools.
With a proliferation of groups seeking to uplift women, NCFM and its members have aimed to knock down efforts towards female advancement or gender equity—in business, the workplace, and, in this case, academia.
According to NCFM president Harry Crouch, the men’s rights organization wholeheartedly endorses such actions. When asked by The Daily Beast if groups can expect more cases like these in the future, he said without reservation: “Yes.”
“We’re an educational civil rights organization. If they don’t believe they should take some action, then they wouldn’t be here,” Crouch said. “Do we support [these actions]? That’s why we exist.”
Kursat Christoff Pekgoz, a doctoral student studying English at the University of Southern California, filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination by female-centric campus groups. This prompted an OCR investigation of seven groups, including the Yale Women’s Campaign School, Yale Women Innovators, and the school’s Women Empowering Women Leadership Conference.
“Men are a minority at Yale University (48%) and nationwide enrollment rates for men are even lower (42.8%),” Pekgoz wrote in his complaint, obtained by Campus Reform. “Therefore, affirmative action for women in colleges is irrational: indeed, it would only stand to reason to implement affirmative action for male students.”
Pekgoz told The Daily Beast that he is a member of NCFM, and the group’s 2017 conference schedule shows that he gave talk titled “A New Class of Victims: Abuse of Title XI at USC.” While he does not plan on filing “hundreds” of these complaints, he hopes that his “precedent” will “encourage other individuals to file similar complaints against their institutions.” He even wrote a guide titled “How to Abolish Affirmative Action for Women,” which tells the reader how to file a discrimination complaint with the OCR.
Pekgoz told Refinery29 that he filed the complaint against Yale for "no particular reason,” and said that he “thought about going after Harvard, but then I felt that Yale has larger affirmative action programs for women."
"I oppose feminism in colleges because women often have special privileges in academia that men do not have. That's probably why male enrollment is so low," he told the website.
In a statement, Yale said that they are “committed to nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in all university programs, and will be responsive to any requests from OCR.”
The NCFM was formed in 1977, and they claim on their website that men have been “systematically discriminated against” in a myriad of ways–including “child custody, criminal sentencing, military conscription, [and] education”—all while facing “societal misandry and male bashing.”
The NCFM met with DeVos last year, along with other groups. Acting assistant secretary for the OCR Candice Jackson was also in attendance, The Daily Beast previously reported. The OCR under Jackson has since rolled back the scope of civil-rights investigations since the Obama era, and has taken on anti-male discrimination complaints like Pekgoz’s.
Filing federal complaints against universities seems to be a new development in a years-long stand for men’s rights activists. The NCFM has a history of filing suits claiming discrimination against men, with Crouch telling The Daily Beast that they’ve been “doing it for decades.”
And the equal-pay organization Ladies Get Paid was just the latest in that saga. The California company got hit with a lawsuit in August and September 2017 for not letting Rich Allison and George St. George into their women-exclusive events at a San Diego bar and a Santa Monica town hall.
Allison and St. George’s lawyer, Alfred Rava, was formerly a part of the NCFM, but Rava told Salon.com that he had not been part of the men’s rights group for “years.” Crouch said Rava used to be their secretary but left years ago because he didn’t think the group was “radical enough.”
Mother Jones described Rava as NCFM’s “free legal consultant” back in 2016, when a similar case was filed against a company called Chic CEO. Allison was refused entry to their women-only event. Crouch told The Daily Beast that he did not know anyone by the name of Rich Allison, but Mother Jones reported that he was with Allison when he was turned away.
In 2015, Rava told CNN that he had “filed 150 sex discrimination lawsuits against California businesses in the past 12 years,” banking on the state’s Unruh Civil Right Act.
When Ladies Get Paid founder Claire Wasserman discovered she was being sued on the grounds of a civil-rights rule, she says she felt frightened.
“I wanted women to share their experiences where they could be vulnerable, and having men there would disrupt that safe space. It didn’t even cross my mind that it was gender discrimination,” she said. “Seeing that we’re up against a system, and that this was an operation, that was extremely intimidating.”
Wasserman continued: “There are groups of guys who don’t want us to meet alone. Using a civil-rights law, the intention of the law is perverted this way.”