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There was a brief furore yesterday evening as an e-mail purportedly sent by Chris West, to Sholto David a third year Biochemist, appeared on Facebook in which West appeared to indicate his support for a Men's Rights Society.
In the e-mail West thanks David for his inquiry and states that 'as far as I am aware the proposed society does not contravene any of the YUSU requirements for ratification...As it stands I cannot personally foresee any obvious difficulties in your society being accepted'.
Pressed by York students, Chris West took to Twitter to strongly deny York has a men's rights society and to reassure people that having checked through all his e-mails that it was 'a complet[e] fake' and he had 'never sent such an e-mail'.
Given the recent controversy over YUSU's refusal to ratify Feminist Society, the appearance of this e-mail created a strong backlash against YUSU. LSE student and member of the Labour Party's National Executive Council, Bex Bailey, tweeted 'Cannot believe that [YUSU] are on the verge of ratify a men's rights society but kicked up a fuss about ratifying a feminist society!'
Concerned activists went to the "York Men's Rights Society" Facebook Group to find out what was going on. Unearthing an e-mail, seemingly, sent earlier on Saturday by David to West outlining the aims of MRSoc and asking whether it contravened any YUSU regulations. Apparently West's "reply" was confirmation that it didn't. However, alarm bells were rung when it was noticed that West's e-mail was dated '06/11/12' and that it referred to the November ratification period last year.
A picture was then circulated on the Men's Rights group of two of the founders in 'Willow' accompanied by a piece of text which concluded 'you got hoaxed'. Making it clear that Men's Right's Society were in some way behind the faked e-mail themselves. The Facebook Group then vanished with Will Broad, a York Biology graduate, who now works for Fujifilm, posting on the FemSoc page 'So it was all a hoax. At least we got people talking about gender issues'.
Speaking to Nouse, Sholto David, the founder of MRSoc denied any involvement with the fake e-mail. Stating 'the entire group has been a joke from the start' and that he was 'pursuing ratification to highlight the unfair decision taken with regards FemSoc ratification'. And that he was surprised 'by just how many people were taken in by the group' because 'my comments on the group were always tongue in cheek'.
Claiming to have not been a page admin for most of the week MRSoc was up, David commented : "I would like it to be known that I have realised how much upset this has caused , and am truly sorry that the group I started got so out of control. I've woken up to the reaction this morning and am truly horrified."
Upon revelation of the hoax, West sent an e-mail to FemSoc stating that he had faced 'a barrage of abuse' and wished 'to reassure' members of the group that he 'could not find any trace of correspondence with [Sholto David]'. And that he would be 'getting expert people to investigate how this has been spoofed when I get to work on Monday".
Reacting to events Alex Wilson, the Chair of FemSoc, said: "My personal reaction to the debacle over the so called 'Men's Rights Society' has been shock, anger and hurt. A large amount of what was posted on the now deleted facebook group were personal attacks on me and my behaviour and attacks on the York Feminist group, something which I have put a huge amount of effort and work into."
"It saddens and angers me that people would be willing to put so much effort into a hoax which has done nothing but upset people. The fact that they were willing to go as far as producing a fraudulent email to maintain their hoax shows that this was more than just "trolling", this was a deliberate attempt to undermine Feminism and Women's issues here at York and to scare and upset everyone involved in them."