Posts Tagged ‘feminism in the news’

Has Alex Chapman been a victim of victim blaming? The author of this comment in the University of Winnipeg’s Uniter seems to think so.

While her view that female victim blaming is “beginning to become taboo”, and that it is always met with “backlash”, may be a tad optimistic for my taste, I think her overall argument is sound and definitely worth considering.

“Allowing such details [victim’s sexual history] to come forward in court and in the media perpetuates the incredibly harmful practice of victim-blaming that has seen such effective social back-lash in recent months.
A failure to hold those same standards for male victims reveals a fundamental flaw in the movement – a hypocrisy that seriously damages the legitimacy of the campaign to stop victim-blaming.”
             (Sandy Klowak, “Men can be victims, too: Victim-blaming discussion shows gender double-standard” in The Uniter (11 October 2012)), online: http://uniter.ca/view/8153)

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This just in!

The Ontario Court of Appeal today released its decision in Bedford v Canada, a landmark lower court decision that found that provisions 210 [bawdy house], 212(1)(j) [living on the avails], and 213(1)(c) [communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution] of the Canadian Criminal Code unconstitutionally violate the Charter rights of sex trade workers. The CA has upheld the finding that 210 is unconstitutional, has read in an added element of exploitation to 212(1)(j) and has allowed the appeal of 213(1)(c).

We’d love to hear what you have to say about this – have a look at the complete decision here. It’s a long one, but undoubtedly worth a look-see.

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According to the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Police Department is considering a new set of guidelines that would instruct officers to prioritze sex workers’ safety over enforcing prostitution-related prohibitions. The propsed guidelines were written by Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke, and highlight the historic distrust of law enforcement by sex workers, and a need for officers to show them respect. “Sex work involving consenting adults is not an enforcement priority for the [Vancouver Police Department],” state the guidelines.

It’s interesting to note that the guidelines come in the wake of the Pickton Inquiry, which is investigating why the VPD failed to recognize the ongoing abduction and murder of sex workers by Robert Pickton. Evidence before the inquiry has shown the tendency among officers policing Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to not only disregard violent crime against sex workers, but also to personally harass, over-enforce and even to commit assault themselves against sex workers, up to and including the recent past. While the guidelines do seem progressive, considering them in context highlights the fact that they may be more in the realm of damage control than a sincere attempt to protect the phsycial safety and dignityof sex workers. That being said, sex work safety advocates seem to be excited by the prospect of the new guidelines, and it does seem possible that they could lead to positive change.

The guidelines will be considered before the Vancouver Police Board tomorrow, and we look forward to seeing if they are adopted. We’ll keep you posted!

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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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The recent Tory assault on a woman’s right to choose continued this week. This Globe and Mail article details the intention of a Tory Backbencher, Stephen Woodworth, to bring a motion that would seek to have MPs debate whether a fetus is a human at conception, or at the moment a baby has fully emerged from the birth canal (as Canadian law currently holds): http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/mps-have-duty-to-debate-rights-of-unborn-backbench-tory-argues/article2299369/

This is part of a series of moves by Tory Backbenchers to re-open the “abortion debate” and is distressing for anyone who believes in the need to protect a woman’s right to choose and to make her own decisions about her body and her life. Social conservatives have been steadily working to erode this right.

This is a contentious subject (for some – we at the FLF consider the matter closed. See R v Morgentaler (1988), and in particular, the strong concurring opinion by Justice Wilson). What are your thoughts? How should this political maneuvering be addressed by  feminists and allies?

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In light of today’s excellent roundtable discussion on R v Rhodes and December 6th being only 5 days away, I’m finding this editorial in the Globe particularly interesting. Judith Timson makes the argument (obvious to me, but sadly still not obvious to many) that “women’s rights are human rights” in the context of the so-called “Honour killings trial” that is currently unfolding very publicly in Kingston.

What has given me pause is commentary from Constance Backhouse (one of the FLF’s feminist heroes). In an e-mail to Timson, Prof. Backhouse points out that what is on trial in Kingston is femicide and argues that “I think our culture has just as bad a record.” Timson acknowledges this, but seems to miss the point a bit, especially where she envisions “reading the riot act” at our borders and telling prospective new Canadians that “we don’t even  call women whores here” (really? clearly its been awhile since Timson strolled through a high school, a locker room or a newspaper’s annonymous comments section).

I feel a certain level of uncomfortableness at the coverage of this trial in Kingston. I am staunchly anti-violence and it makes me sick any time a woman faces violence, whether from a stranger or, the violence that is more common in Canada, from someone she knows. At a basic human rights level, every woman deserves to live free from violence, absolutely irregardless of actions or dress that a man may disapprove of, or take advantage of. Yet, I wonder if there isn’t a significant amount of racism that enters into the discussions of violence against women in the specifically Muslim context. I often read a significant amount of “their violence is worse than ours” into the media coverage. I find arguments that new Canadians need to conform to Canadian ways hypocritical – as we discussed in our roundtable today, one need look no farther than R v Rhodes to see how Canadians accept violence against women through victim blaming. This is what Prof. Backhouse seems to have been trying to tell Timson. But all in all, I feel very conflicted. (As an aside, if anyone can explain to me what Timson means by saying the trial embodies a “feminist morality tale” I would be very interested to know).

We’d love to hear from you on your thoughts about the Shafia trial, “Honour killings”, violence against women, or any other issues this post and the Globe editorial raised for you!

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There have been two big stories in the news recently about sexual harassment:

* American presidential hopeful Herman Cain

* Allegations of members of the RCMP, especially  Catherine Galliford

It would be easy for those of us lucky enough to work in respectful environments to be under the impression that workplace sexual harassment was rapidly (and happily) becoming a thing of the past. These stories, however, make it clear that the problem persists; while allegations in both stories have taken some time to come to light, all of the incidents in question are by no means ancient history. And they both raise a lot of questions: Why do these incidents and allegations persist in what is supposedly an increasingly enlighted and egalitarian world? Is a para-military, rigidly hierarchical structure partly (or mostly) to blame? Are the women involved being too sensitive, or are the men involved being too insensitive? What’s the best way to deal with these kinds of allegations?   

 The Globe and Mail published a somehow simultaneously pointed and yet tongue-in-cheek opinion piece this weekend by Tabatha Southey that we enjoyed and thought we should share. It’s called “Lighten up, ladies! Sexual harassment, sexual shmarassment, right?“, and it begins with Herman Cain’s comment, “I do have a sense of humour — some people have a problem with that.” Check it out here.


Update: Here‘s another opinion piece, this one from the New York Times, written by Katie Roiphe and taking a very different approach workplace sexual harassment. It’s called “In Favour of Dirty Jokes and Risque Remarks.”

Give them both a read and let us know what you think!

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