Archive for February, 2012

Howdy all,

Happy February 29th (don’t get to say that too often, so I thought I’d better take the opportunity)! Just thought we’d share this call for papers, in case anyone is interested.


Theorising SlutWalk: Critical Feminist Perspectives
Feminist Legal Studies is pleased to publish Ratna Kapur’s article Pink Chaddis and SlutWalk Couture: The Postcolonial Politics of Feminism Lite in our upcoming issue: 20(1). Kapur deftly analyses the postcolonial feminist politics of the Indian SlutWalk and Pink Chaddi movements. Echoing a range of contextually specific concerns, SlutWalk movements have erupted over the past year in many different locations, re-appropriating the term ‘slut’ to challenge sexual violence, advocate for sex workers’ rights, and contest misogynistic constructions of sexual morality. In dominant narratives circulating about SlutWalk, the marches began after a police officer made comments at Osgoode Hall Law School in January 2011 that women could avoid sexual assault by not dressing ‘like sluts’. Nevertheless, SlutWalks rearticulate a range of contextually specific feminist concerns that pre-date and transcend this apparently North American ‘genesis’. Moreover, SlutWalk organising has been critiqued for ignoring dynamics of colonialism, as well as institutionalised violence against women/queers of colour, and against low-income women and queers.
Papers are invited which analyse these developments within the usual FLS guidelines, which are reproduced below. Authors are encouraged, but not required, to draw on or respond to Ratna Kapur’s arguments. Please submit articles online via the FLS Springer website at http://www.editorialmanager.com/fest/
Articles and commentary pieces will be published on a rolling basis.
Deadline: 30 September 2012
Inquiries: Emily Grabham (e.grabham@kent.ac.uk)
Feminist Legal Studies Guidelines
Feminist Legal Studies aims to publish critical, interdisciplinary, theoretically engaged feminist scholarship relating to law (broadly conceived). It has a particular interest in work that extends feminist debates and analysis by reference to critical and theoretical approaches and perspectives, including postcolonial, transnational and poststructuralist work. The journal publishes material in a range of formats, including articles, essay reviews, interviews, book reviews and notes on recent legal developments. The journal is committed to an international perspective and to the promotion of feminist work in all areas of law.

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A new catchphrase is making its way through the feminist media: “the war on women.” This label refers to the anti-women stances taken by Republican politicians this presidential primary season. As Judith Timson said in today’s Globe and Mail, “pelvic politics” are increasingly the focus of the political debate, despite there being real issues to discuss (unemployment, anyone?) In fact, some pundits suggest that all this lady talk is just a way to distract from the bigger issues and perhaps from the fact that these candidates have no dog-gone clue what to do about said bigger issues. Still, any feminist worth her salt will warn that the anti-contraception, anti-abortion, anti-sex talk should not be so easily dismissed. Rather, as Katrina vanden Heuvel argued compellingly in The Nation last week, 2012 must become the Year of the Woman. Featuring this pleasingly sarcastic barb, “Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell announced that the GOP will pursue legislation permitting any employer to deny contraception in their health insurance plans. He said, “The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion.” Thank goodness Mitch is there to let women know when we are mistaking religious freedom for contraception,” vandel Heuvel’s article insists that there must be a groundswell of female activism and politics.

While all of this is happening in the US, Canadians should take heed. We must proactively defend women’s rights, including and perhaps most importantly reproductive rights, and we must do so through not only making a lot of noise, but through achieving decisive political victory. Now is the time to act and to organize.

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With International Women’s Week coming up next month, we at the FLF are preparing ourselves for the inevitable “we don’t need feminism in the West” commentaries (we’re looking at you, Margaret Wente). With that kind of anti-feminist reaction to IWW in mind, we point to the notion that is “trending” on Twitter post-Grammy awards: that if a man is good looking and/or a celebrity, domestic violence is just part of the sexy fun of being with him. See this compilation of disturbing tweets  for evidence, and also more commentary on this issue over at the Globe and Mail. The very idea that we still don’t take domestic violence seriously is reason enough for Western feminism to still exist. The tweets (and facebook status updates) linked to above are pretty upsetting. The fact that a number of women (and at least one man) think that domestic violence is nothing but a small price to pay to be with an attractive, (in some people’s opinion) talented man demonstrates that feminism still has a lot of work to do.

What are your thoughts on this? Are we making a mountain out of a twitter mole-hill? Or does this point to a more serious issue?

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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court released its judgment in R v D.A.I. LEAF and the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada (DAWN) jointly intervened in the case. In a majority ruling (the Court split 6 – 3 ), Justice McLachlin clarified that adults with mental disabilities need  not demonstrate an abstract understanding of the obligation to tell the truth to meet the test for testimonial competence.

D.A.I. involves a 23-year old complainant with intellectual disabilities such that her mental age was between 3 and 6 years old. The Crown is alleging that the complainant’s step-father repeatedly sexually assaulted her over a period of four years. The Crown sought to call the complainant to testify, but the trial judge held on a voir dire that the complainant had failed to show that she understood the duty to speak the truth. In a separate voir dire, the trial judge also excluded out-of-court statements made by the complainant to the police and her teacher, holding that the statements were unreliable. Despite the existence of other evidence that raised serious suspicions about the accused’s conduct, the case collapsed and the accused was acquitted. The Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed the acquittal.

The majority decision is a feminist victory that ensures the equality rights of all women. As Joanna Birenbaum, Legal Director of LEAF, stated in a press release on the day of the decision,  “In today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision, Chief Justice McLachlin writing for the majority described sexual assault as “an evil” and acknowledged that women with intellectual and other disabilities are targeted for this offence at alarming rates. The Court confirmed the importance of hearing the voices of women with mental disabilities in court. The Court acknowledged that the testimony of women with mental disabilities is essential to stopping sexual abuse and ensuring that sexual offenders are brought to justice.”

As an aside, the FLF seems to recall the Court splitting in the exact same way in R v J.A. Some interesting sexual assault jurisprudence trivia…

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A number of FLFers recently finished facilitating LEAF’s “No Means No” program at a local school. “No Means No” is a workshop series for grades 6 to 9 that teaches youth about their rights and responsibilities in the areas of consent and sexual assault, and includes workshoping concepts of power, violence, stereotypes and gender. Given that this workshop experience is fresh in our minds, this story from the Globe & Mail about Minnesota elementary students playing “Rape Tag” at recess is particularly poignant. The story tells us that “Rape Tag” is similar to freeze tag, except that the frozen player must be “humped” by another player in order to become unfrozen. Apparently, the name “Rape Tag” was used by the children themselves. Teachers realized what was happening and intervened, and the school sent letters home to parents about the incident. What is perhaps the most striking is the notion that some parents were angry at the school because the letters meant that they were “forced” to discuss rape with their children (grade 5 students). Given we offer No means No to grades 6 – 9, this is interesting.

When should we discussing issues of sexual assault with children? Obviously these kids knew the word, and understood enough about the concept to know that it involves “humping” another person. Are there age appropriate ways to broach this subject? Personally, I think it is probably a good idea to discuss inappropriate touching with children, to express that its a serious issue, and to brainstorm ideas about what a child can do if something happens to them, or if they hear about it happening to someone else. Perhaps these parents shouldn’t have been angry that they were “forced” to discuss rape with their children, but glad to have the opportunity to raise a serious and important issue with their children. There’s some feminist perspective on this over at Jezebel.


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