The first debate of the 2010 Winnipeg mayoral campaign, largely a contest between incumbent Sam Katz and his main challenger, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, was aired on CJOB radio and so I tuned in to a station I normally try to avoid, eager to hear Judy take Sam to task. But the most memorable exchange turned out to be unexpected. At one point when Judy was criticizing some point or other of Sam’s, he said in a sarcastic voice “Thanks, mom.”
My hackles immediately went up. This struck me as an extremely sexist comment – highlighting not only Judy’s gender, but also trying to portray her as an old, nagging crone and he as the youthful rebel (this in front of an audience of students at Red River College.) Yet apparently the Winnipeg Sun thinks it is much ado about nothing – just as it also thinks a comment made towards Judy when she was a Member of Parliament that she “can’t balance her chequebook” was a comment on her individual abilities and not sexist at all.
The “thanks, Mom” incident shows that politics is still perilous for women, critically under-represented in the field. Women are scrutinized for appearance, personal life and family ties in ways that men rarely are. I am no fan of Sarah Palin, but I recall that when her campaign for Vice-President was first announced, her youngest son was about five months old and diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, and several commentators questioned her ability to campaign and be a good mother to such a young child with special needs. A new father would be unlikely to be subject to such criticism.
Here in Canada, we have seen the harsh treatment meted out by Stephen Harper to Helena Guergis apparently for nothing more than the sins of her husband. Again, I am no Guergis or Conservative supporter, but it is highly unfair that she was banned from the party completely while Maxime Bernier, for example, was himself reckless with state secrets and is still part of the party. Over the years, we have been subjected to numerous commentary on the attractiveness of the younger women in Parliament such as Ruby Dhalla, Rona Ambrose and Guergis, sometimes to the exclusion of their actual accomplishments.
Then there was the recent episode where Vic Toews called upon Nikki Ashton to vote to scrap the long-gun registry by telling her to “vote like her father did”, and then completely denied any sexist intent to this comment, which totally denied Nikki her own autonomy and conscience, implying that as Daddy’s little girl, she should do as he says.
What would be the effect if Judy had said “Thanks, Dad” to Sam Katz? I doubt it would carry the same negative connotations as “Thanks, Mom.” While our culture generally reveres and respects motherhood, in that context, “Thanks, Mom” means she was nagging. “Thanks, Dad” on the other hand would likely be taken to mean that Sam was wiser and knew best – that he was looking out for our interests and protecting us, just as Steve Ashton, according to Vic Toews, knows what is best for his daughter Nikki, who should just listen to him. It would also degrade Judy herself and place her as a little girl, naïve and uninformed as compared to him.
Judy has been a strong voice for womens’ rights as well as for social justice in general, and she deserves better than being caricatured in this way. Sam on the other hand has shown his sexist ways before – when Cindy Klassen and the rest of the Olympic speed-skating team were honoured at an event in Market Square, he made some silly comment about feeling good with all these good-looking women gathered around him. Let’s say no to sexism in our municipal politics on October 26th!
*Zilla Maria Jones is a third year student at Robson Hall. She works as a research student for Dr. Heckman and will be articling at the Public Interest Law Centre. Zilla is a passionate advocate for a number of important social justice issues.
Read Full Post »
Posted in FLF Events, Forum Guest Posts, tagged feminism in law school, feminism in legal practice, girls club, how to address sexism and anti-feminism, Jennifer Schulz, roundtable, women and law in film, women and law on tv on October 25, 2010|
Leave a Comment »
Today’s roundtable discussion with Dr Jennifer Schulz, “girls club? Feminism in Law School and in Legal Practice,” was well attended and proved to be quite the hot topic. Discussion and debate were lively, constructive and engaging. Dr Schulz began by speaking briefly about her research interest in how female lawyers are depicted in popular cultural, past and present. Widely known films and TV shows served as stimulating catalysts for discussion: Can Ally McBeal really be considered a feminist show? What does Legally Blonde tell us about women, femininity and the law? Dr Schulz shared some thoughts on a short lived David E. Kelly legal drama, girls club (yes, the official title is indeed uncapitalized, and also served as the inspiration for the name of the roundtable), her writings about which have been published in the book Lawyers in Your Living Room!: Law on Television (M. Amismow, ed.). Though girls club’s entire run consisted of only two episodes, Dr Schulz was able to identify certain prominent stereotypes of female lawyers highlighted by the show: a female lawyer may fill the role of either incompetent or bitch, with few or no viable alternatives; and that a success in the career of a female lawyer will necessarily be dispelled by some other personal shortcoming or failure.
There was a general sense throughout the group present at girls club? that we were collectively familiar with these stereotypes not only in fictional depictions of the legal world, but also in our own experiences at school and work. While it was mentioned on more than one occasion that these movie and TV depictions are not necessarily realistic in many respects, the issues identified certainly seemed to have resonance with our real world experiences. As various participants in the discussion shared personal (or near-personal) stories of encountering discrimination, one was left with the feeling that the issues are not only very much alive but also unfortunately pervasive. However, the girls club? roundtable did not end on this frankly dismaying note; instead, at the suggestion of Dr Schulz, it came to a close with a brainstorming session about what we can do when faced with sexism, anti-feminism or any other form of discrimination in the course of our legal lives. Ideas about collective action and reliance on institutional supports were well received, and undoubtedly deserve further exploration.
* Eli Mitchell is a first year student at Robson Hall. She comes to law school via a philosophy degree at the University of Winnipeg. Her favourite 90’s pop star is Amanda Marshall.
Read Full Post »
Notice of upcoming event – note that there is a student price for tickets!
The MBA Women Lawyers’ Forum Proudly Presents
An evening of live entertainment hosted by Justice Brenda Keyser, featuring the talents of:
- Nalini Reddy & Tracey Pniwosky (Department of Justice)
- Melissa Burkett (Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson LLP)
- Joan Schmidt (Public Prosecution Services of Canada)
- Hayley Main (Thompson, Dorfman, Sweatman LLP) and
- Not Quite the Supremes (Judges of Manitoba)
Wednesday, October 27
6:30 – 9:30 pm
The Academy – Osborne & Stradbrook
Appetizers by the Academy, Cash bar
Tickets: $30 MBA members, $40 non-members, $25 students
RSVP before October 25th to the Manitoba Bar Association (t) 204-927-1211 or (e) email@example.com
*including, but not limited to women!
Read Full Post »
Posted in FLF Events on October 12, 2010|
Leave a Comment »
Due to some scheduling conflicts, both the day and room of the girls club? roundtable with Prof. Schulz have been changed.
The roundtable will now be held on October 25th (Monday) from 12 -1 in room 308 (Not 309 as previously thought)!
Read Full Post »
McNally Robinson Booksellers,
The University of Manitoba Faculty of Law
University of BC Press
Justice Bertha Wilson:
One Woman’s Difference
Tuesday October 26, 7:00 pm
Grant Park in the Atrium
Bertha Wilson’s appointment as the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1982 capped off a career of firsts. Wilson had been the first woman lawyer and partner at a prominent Toronto law firm and the first woman appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Her death in 2007 has, in turn, provoked reflection on her contributions to law and the legal profession and the question, what difference do women judges make?
Justice Bertha Wilson examines Wilson’s career from a wide range of feminist perspectives. The book is a portrait of a complex woman and highlights her contributions to the Canadian legal landscape and addresses many of the issues that she grappled with in her life and career.
Kim Brooks is the Dean at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Contributors Dr. Lorna Turnbull and Professor Debra Parkes are Law Professors at the University of Manitoba and they will also be in attendance.
This event is presented by the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba in association with LEAF Manitoba, a branch of Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund Inc., and WISE (Working in Support of Equality) Endowment Fund; and The Centre for Human Rights Research Initiative (CHRR).
McNally Robinson Booksellers Grant Park
1120 Grant Ave.
(Toll Free 1-800561-1833)
Read Full Post »
The FLF is excited to announce our second roundtable of the year, “girls club? Feminism in Law School and in Legal Practice”, facilitated by Dr. Jennifer Schulz.
The roundtable will be held on Monday, October 25th from 12 -1 in room 308. Dr. Schulz has done some fascinating work on women, law, mediation and television, and this promises to be an extremely interesting and engaging roundtable discussion. The title of the roundtable and the suggested reading is based on a short-lived television show about 3 female junior lawyers, called girls club.
Dr. Schulz has suggested a short chapter as reading for the roundtable for attendees looking to get some context. If you’re looking for some thought provoking reading prior to the roundtable, find it here: Jennifer L. Schulz, “girls club does not Exist” in M. Asimow, ed., Lawyers in Your Living Room! Law on Television, (Chicago: ABA Press, 2009) at 243-251.
Dr. Jennifer L. Schulz is Associate Dean (Research & Graduate Studies) and an Assistant Professor at Robson Hall. Dr. Schulz teaches and researches in the areas of negotiation and mediation, law & film and torts. Dr. Schulz specialises in dispute resolution. Previously, Dr. Schulz was an invited research fellow at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and the Associate Director of the LL.M. in ADR program at Osgoode Hall Law School. Dr. Schulz is the recipient of a SSHRC grant, has won a “Professor of the Year” Award, is a practicing mediator, and is currently researching the depiction of conflict resolvers in popular culture media.
We are really looking forward to what promises to be a fascinating discussion and hope to see you all there!
Read Full Post »