|University of Alberta women's studies student Derek Warwick shows off one of the satirical posters from the Samarasekera Response Team issued following some remarks made by the University of Alberta president. (Sun Media/Jordan Verlage)
EDMONTON -- Hundreds of posters featuring the "femimenace" and other tongue-in-cheek images were put up around the University of Alberta campus last week in response to controversial comments made by the university's president.
In an interview published Oct. 21, president Indira Samarasekera said she was concerned by Statistics Canada numbers that indicate women make up 58% of the student population at Canadian universities.
She went on to say a major worry is that 20 years from now "we will not have the benefit of enough male talent at the heads of companies and elsewhere."
She also said she will be an "advocate" for young white men because, as a woman who is a visible minority, she "can be."
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The comments struck a chord with women's studies major Derek Warwick and a group of students.
"The group in general felt the president's comments were pretty uncalled for," Warwick said.
"Her comment that women are going to be leading or beating men in the workplace in 20 years suggests a complete lack of understanding of our context today."
So, the Samarasekera Response Team, as they dubbed themselves, got to work designing and distributing posters voicing their opposition.
In one, a giant woman reminiscent of King Kong, is walking over a university building with a car in hand.
"Women are attacking campus!" it reads. "Only white men can save our university! Stop the femimenace."
Warwick explained it was meant to be humorous, "as well as provoke some thought."
But less than 24 hours after they were put up last Tuesday, most of the 300 posters were taken down, he said.
Samarasekera was away from work last week, the group was told, but her office was aware of the campaign.
The most disappointing part of the comments was that Samarasekera glossed over demographics that really could use a post-secondary advocate, Warwick said.
"The biggest problem we had was just how her comments were creating this fear-mongering (that the number of women enrolled in university) is increasing at a faster rate than men," he said. "There was no mention of lower classes and women of colour, whose numbers are lower."
Kory Mathewson, president of the University of Alberta Students' Union, agreed that addressing barriers to education for all people is important.
"The comments that the president made really speak to a larger issue of ensuring all qualified students are able to access a quality education," Mathewson said.
"I think the growth in female enrolment is encouraging news. But there are still under-represented groups that need representation, (such as) aboriginals and low-income (earners)."
Calls to the university for comment were not returned by press time.