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We encourage everyone to check out this amazing event! Always really fun, interesting and inspiring. FLF members should check their email for a very generous and exciting opportunity to attend for free, courtesy of RH’s own Dean Turnbull.

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FLF Co-chairs Carla and Eli, along with members Mary-Ellen and Leila attended this year’s Slutwalk march in downtown Winnipeg. While the crowd was a little smaller this year (as compared to last), the sentiment remained positive and empowering. A commonly held misconception about the Slutwalk movement is that, rather than conveying any particular message, it’s really just an over the top, outrageous display of exhibitionism.

Two years in, we’re happy to report that this is far from the case. Sure, people are welcome to wear anything they’d like (that is part of the idea), but most people don’t attend the event because they want an excuse to whip out their nipple tassels. To the contrary, the focus is far from what people are wearing. Rather, the event centres on making a powerful, united statement against victim blaming in all its forms.

A shorter march this year meant there was more time for speakers, and these were speakers worth listening to. Those who spoke at last year’s Slutwalk set a very high bar, and this year’s speakers met that challenge. Starting with Chandra Mayor (who spoke brilliantly last year as well; you can read her tremendous speech about the word ‘slut’ here), the tone was set for thoughtful reflection, incredibly brave personal story telling and accept-zero-bullshit activism and advocacy. Mayor was followed by several women who told their own stories with grace and grit.

There is something incredibly powerful about both the telling and the hearing of these stories; for those who have been lucky enough not to be touched by sexual assault, it lends a striking air of reality to a devastating issue. For those who have been assaulted, there is hopefully some comfort in knowing they are not alone. Perhaps the lasting contribution that Slutwalk will make will be to provide a safe, public forum for victims of sexual assault to stand up and declare, “This was not my fault,” and for other people to hear it.

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A huge thank you to everyone who supported our bake sale and clothing drive yesterday! We raised over $170 for LEAF’s Bertah Wilson Fund, and collected an impressive amount of clothing and products for the Elizabeth Fry Society.

We also got some interesting feedback from our ‘share your thoughts’ posters, which we thought we’d post here in case you didn’t get a chance to have a look in person. Here they are in all their unedited, anonymous glory. On that note, we’d love to keep the discussion going, so please feel free to comment!

Question: In 2010, Justice Himel (Ont SCJ) struck down the living on the avails, bawdy house, and solicitation provisions of the Criminal Code. Does Justice Himel’s decision promote women’s equality?

Your thoughts:

– “This is step 1 – ie., letting these women come to the law for help. Step 2 is putting programs in place to better insure safety and health”

– “It has the potential to promote women’s equality, but without a comprehensive program to address these issues, women’s equality will be stalled”

Question: Women make up 14% of corporate boards in Canada. The EU is considering mandatory quotas for women on corporate boards. If Canada followed the EU’s example, would it promote gender equality?

Your thoughts:

– “No. the % is  much lower in Europe. This is only an issue today, but i believe the problem will be solved organically in very short order as more women hired in the 80s and 90s make it to upper management positions at our major corporations. The corporate elite will probably be unrecognizably diverse within 10 years.”

– “[arrow indicating direct response to previous comment] that’s something of a ridiculous assumption. The diversity of the corporate elite hasn’t changed much in the last one hundred years. There is very little support for an argument it will change radically in the next 10 yrears.”

– “No – even if the women deserved to be there, there would be underlying rumours that they were only there because of quotas. Better to earn it honestly. Time will even it out.”

Question: Quebec’s Bill 94 would refuse reasonable accomodation to niqab-wearing women receiving or providing public services. Does Bill 94 promote gender equality?

Your thoughts:

– “no”

– “I second that”

– “It doesn’t support equality of any kind”

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On November 2, Dr. Jennifer Schulz joined us to discuss “A Feminist Approach to Torts Law”. Sporting a very fashionable FLF t-shirt, Dr. Schulz encouraged the group of students in attendance to approach the law critically. This is of particular importance in mandatory courses, where many professors will unconsciously teach from a perspective of liberalism, a perspective that treats the law as objective and neutral, even where inequalities are rampant. Although torts law may be presented as fundamentally objective, Dr. Schulz challenged us to think about ways in which torts law can benefit from feminist analysis.

A first and perhaps obvious example is the notion of the “reasonable person”. Professors and students may accept this standard as simple – the standard is simply reasonableness. We may all assume that our perspective on what is reasonable is the same, in reality, the opposite is true. This notion is sharpened when we consider that the “reasonable person” is just the “reasonable man”, the “bloke on the Clapham bus” from England. This standard was changed to reflect modern day political correctness, but has the way it is applied really changed? Feminist scholars have critiqued this approach, and we learned that two lines of thought have emerged in the literature. One approach recommends accepting that men and women do view the world differently and it might be useful to take about care in a positive way, rather than a negative duty to not to harm. The other approach is more radical as it questions the efficacy of relying on objective standards, and calls for focusing on the actual tortious event and how someone with that person’s experiences would react in the circumstances. This approach recognizes that nothing is actually objective, even if we apply that label to the standards we use, and challenges an approach that allows for conflating the reasonable person with a normative standard of behaviour. As the student discussion suggested, taking this kind of subjective approach may be beneficial to balance out the racist, classist and sexist attitudes a person faces as soon as they enter a courtroom.

Dr. Schulz also highlighted the area of damages as another aspect of torts law that can benefit from feminist perspective. The principle of compensation (putting a person back to where they would have been had the tortious event not occurred) can actually perpetuate inequality. A thought-provoking example is that of lost future wages. Because pay inequity remains rampant, the damage awards women receive for lost earnings reflect this economic inequality. Damage awards are therefore structured along discriminatory lines. We learned that, to this day, courts routinely take a percentage off a damage award for contingencies to account for women bearing and raising children. 7 percent is routinely knocked off of the damage awards women receive simply because women shoulder a disproportionate burden for child bearing and rearing in society. 

Another topic in torts that cries out for feminist critique is the treatment of mothers. The case of Dobson v Dobson, where the Supreme Court held that a mother does not owe a duty of care to her fetus, is one example. While this case is heralded as a feminist victory, the result also meant that a mother who gave birth to a disabled son as a result of her negligence was unable to collect insurance money to help her raise her child. The tension in this case is clearly worthy of further discussion. Finally, Dr. Schulz pointed to so-called “wrongful birth” cases and noted that there is judicial reluctance to ever call the birth of a child damages or harm, therefore they don’t want to compensate for these damages or harm. Yet, the burden for child raising falls disproportionately on women, thus this is another very gendered example of not acknowledging women’s damages in the way that men’s would be.

The lunch-hour discussion wrapped up with some very thoughtful comments and questions from students in attendance. Certainly, there is much to consider around the notion of standard of care. Why not utilize a concept of actual care? As Dr. Schulz posited, why do we obsess over compensatory principles to “equalize” a person, when the law could actually care about an individual and seek to help them as much as possible in a given case. I think I can speak for all in attendance in saying that we left the room challenged and encouraged to approach doctrinal law courses with a critical perspective and to ask the difficult questions, beyond facts, ratio and holding: who does this decision benefit? Who is the law really helping? What is the actual result of this? Is it really true that this is neutral?

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Dayna Steinfeld is co-chair of the Feminsit Legal Forum.

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Great news– our next roundtable is right around the corner!

It’s happening one week from today– Wednesday, November 2nd — from 12-1pm in room 309. We are delighted to have as our featured guest speaker our very own Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Jennifer Schulz. It’s tentatively titled: “A Feminist Approach to Torts Law”. Dr. Schulz’s roundtable last year was super interesting and interactive, and also standing room only– so be sure to come out and be sure to come early!

Dr. Schulz has kindly passed along a short reading for anyone who would like a little primer for her presentation. It’s called “Spaces and Challenges: Feminism in Legal Academia” by Susan B. Boyd (UBC Law) and you can find it here.

(Anyone having trouble with the PDF– seems that one minute it works and the next it doesn’t– , please shoot us an email at flf.robsonhall@gmail.com and we will most happily hook you up!)

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Yo FLF,

Manitoba Status of Women alerted us to this super cool event (feat. our very own Roundtable presenter and fabulous feminist Dean Dr. Lorna Turnbull!).  By the sounds of it, definitely worth checking out!

Wednesday, November 2, 9am-4:30pm

 

University Of Winnipeg, Convocation Hall, 515 Portage Avenue

 

 

What does a government budget have to do with women’s equality?
Come learn how the spending and taxing decisions of the federal government affect women’s equality rights. Learn how governments set budget priorities and how women are advocating for change. Share your own concerns and hopes and help create budgets that represent you.

 

Presenters

Dr. Marilou McPhedran          Principal, Global College, University of Winnipeg

Dr. Lorna Turnbull,                  Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba

Dr. Meg Luxton                       Professor, School of Women’s Studies, York University

Dr. Barbara Cameron          Associate Professor, Department of Equity Studies and Political Science, York University

Co-organized with FAFIA and University of Winnipeg Global College

All workshops are free and lunch will be provided. To register or for more information contact UNPAC, 204.772.7876. Please inform UNPAC of any food allergies, childcare requirements or required disability supports.

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Thanks to everyone who joined us for Slutwalk yesterday! It was a lovely sunny day for a well-attended, organized and thought-provoking event. And our discussion was really great, too! If you weren’t able to make it out yesterday,we’d still love to hear your thoughts . About three hundred Winnipeggers came out and attended the annual Slut Walk in downtown Winnipeg Saturday, October 15, 2011. (John Woods/Winnipeg Free Press)

The FLF’s very own Meghan Menzies, as well as Robson Hall’s Professor Karen Busby, were both quoted in a feature length article about Slutwalk by Melissa Martin in the Winnipeg Free Press yesterday. Check it out!

Here’s looking forward to lots more fun and interesting FLF events to come. (On that note, don’t forget about Take Back the Night — this Thursday October 20th at MERC!)

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