The German term Fremdscham describes a type of proxy-embarrassment; it’s the feeling of shame you have on behalf of others, often those who don’t realize they should be embarrassed for themselves. I can’t think of a term that better applies to the scene that unfolded at the University of Ottawa two weeks ago.
Professor Janice Fiamengo had planned to speak on men’s issues and rape culture as part of a talk organized by the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE). The lecture, called “What’s Equality Got To Do With It? Men’s Issues and Feminism’s Double Standards,” was intended to dispel the notion of rape culture, according to Fiamengo, as well as discuss issues such as suicide by young men and custody rights after divorce. But some student activists decided Fiamengo’s lecture was not appropriate, so they took it upon themselves to shut it down.
Bullying and censorship: the new women’s movement
The entire display is chronicled in a 50-minute YouTube video that shows protesters booing, yelling and blowing a vuvuzela throughout Fiamengo’s attempted address. The lecture organizer tried to reason with protesters, but it didn’t work. Campus security tried to intervene, with little success. Finally, the event moved to another room, but shortly after, the fire alarm went off.