Friday, December 14, 2007

Cute (Irrelevant ) Picture of the Day

(Yoshi the cat as Elizabeth I)

Yoshi also dresses up as 11 other famous women for her 2008 calendar (her impersonations range from Jane Goodall to Oprah and Jackie Kennedy). Yoshi's work is available online here. 100% of the benefits go to the BC SPCA.

From the same (brilliant) folks who brought you Kitty Wigs.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Walk for Choice!

January 28th, 2008 will mark the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion in Canada.

To celebrate this day, and to voice our support for women's reproductive rights, there will be a walk in Montréal on or around January 28th.

If you wish to help us organize this event, or if you want to join us for the walk, please communicate with le Comité 28 janvier 2008 at 28janvier2008@gmail.com.

There is also a Facebook page for this event at: http://mcgill.facebook.com/p.php?i=13614773&k=4XC4Q5P4VYTAVJLAXK34 (see the details below).

Event: 28/01/2008
What: Rally
Host: Comité du 28 janvier
When: Sunday, January 27 at 12:00pm
Where: Palais de Justice/ Centre-ville/ Tout autre endroit suggéré

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:
http://mcgill.facebook.com/p.php?i=13614773&k=4XC4Q5P4VYTAVJLAXK34

Everyone can join Facebook.
To register, go to:http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=13614773&k=4XC4Q5P4VYTAVJLAXK34&r

Monday, December 10, 2007

I want to see this film



(It will be released in January in Québec.)

Quote of the Day

From Me Julie Latour, former Bâtonnière du Barreau de Montréal, on the assumption that career women necessarily favour motherhood and recognition at home over professional ambition, and that men are wired to do the opposite:

Le Blackberry a démontré que l’homme professionnel est doté d’un grand talent pour une petite chose difficile à manipuler, qui requiert une attention constante. Pourquoi pas un bébé?

Go read the whole of the speech Me Latour gave at the Barreau de Montréal's conference Pouvoir et Féminité: Oser prendre la première place.

Picture of the Day


(This cartoon is hilarious, but the story next to which it was originally posted is not.)

In the News: Robert Pickton found guilty of the 2nd degree murder of six women

The Globe and Mail has more on the verdict.

The six women disappeared from Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside between August 1997 and December 2001. Their names were Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Mona Wilson, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey.

Robert Pickton has been charged with, and will be prosecuted for the murders of 20 other women.

More announcements...

... this time with respect to the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion in Canada.


CÉLÉBRATIONS DU 20e ANNIVERSAIRE DE LA DÉCRIMINALISATION DE L’AVORTEMENT AU CANADA – AN ENGLISH VERSION WILL FOLLOW.

Montréal, le 6 décembre 2007

Le 28 janvier 2008, nous célébrerons le 20e anniversaire du jugement de la Cour suprême du Canada dans l’affaire R. c. Morgentaler, [1988] 1 R.C.S. 30, qui a décriminalisé l’avortement au Canada.

En effet, c’est seulement depuis cette date que les Canadiennes jouissent réellement, et sans crainte de poursuites pénales, du droit à choisir si et quand elles auront des enfants, et à contrôler pleinement leurs capacités reproductives.

Il est donc d’une importance primordiale de s’organiser et de souligner cet anniversaire important comme il se doit, et de rappeler à nos concitoyens et concitoyennes que nous désirons que l’avortement au Canada demeure:
  • légal;
  • sécuritaire;
  • accessible; et
  • gratuit.
Nous sommes présentement à la recherche d’autres personnes qui, comme nous, croient qu’il est important de manifester, à l’occasion de cet anniversaire, notre support à la liberté de choisir, et nos craintes quant à la montée de courants politiques conservateurs et hostiles au droit à l’avortement et aux droits des femmes en général.

Le 27 octobre dernier a marqué le 40e anniversaire de la légalisation de l’avortement en Grande-Bretagne. Peu de groupes pro-choix ont souligné cet anniversaire, ce qui a alors laissé toute la place et la visibilité à des groupes anti-choix et soi-disant « pro-vie ». Ne laissons pas cette erreur se répéter chez nous !

Si vous êtes intéressé(e) à souligner de façon spéciale la journée du 28 janvier 2008, veuillez nous contacter par courriel à: 28janvier2008 (arobas) gmail (point) com.

Merci !

Comité 28 janvier 2008

*****

20th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECRIMINALIZATION OF ABORTION IN CANADA

Montréal, December 6th 2007

January 28, 2008 will mark the 20th anniversary of the judgement of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Morgentaler, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 30, which officially decriminalized abortion in Canada.

As a matter of fact, it has only been 20 years since Canadian women can truly, and without fear of legal prosecution, exercise their right to choose if and when they will have children, as well as their right to fully control their reproductive capacities.

It is thus extremely of the greatest importance to get organized and celebrate this anniversary as it should, and to remind our fellow citizens that we want abortion in Canada to remain:
  • legal;
  • safe;
  • accessible; and
  • free.
We are currently looking for other like- minded people who believe that it is important, on this special day, that we publicly show our support for freedom of choice, and our fears with respect to the rise of conservative political movements that are hostile to the preservation of women’s right to abortion, and to the advancement of women’s rights in general.

October 27th, 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United Kingdom. While few pro-choice organizations actually celebrated this anniversary, many anti-choice and so-called “pro-life” groups took the opportunity to feed their views to the media. We must not let that happen in Canada!

If you are interested in celebrating this anniversary on January 28, 2008, please contact us by email at 28janvier2008 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks!

Comité 28 Janvier 2008

Call for Volunteers - Research Project on Radical Feminism

I received the announcement below in my mailbox today and thought it would be helpful to post it here, as it might interest some of you:

December 7th 2007

PLEASE CIRCULATE IN YOUR NETWORKS

Hello there! Are you a radical feminist? Did you first get involved in radical feministactivism in the mid-1990s in Quebec? Do you want to share your experience and analyses with other feminists, the population in general and with the academic milieu? If you answered “yes” to these questions, I would like to meet with you!

My name is Jacinthe and I work with the CRAC – a research group oncollective autonomy – that is affiliated with the School of Community and Public Affairs at Concordia University (under the responsibility of Anna Kruzynski). The CRAC is an anti-authoritarian (pro)feminist affinity group that is working to document the diversity and complexity of our own movement. With the activists who choose to participate in our study, we are documenting anti-capitalist anti-authoritarian organizing that has emerged in Québec since the mid-1990s (see our repertoire that is underconstruction http://repertoire.crac-kebec.org/).

One part of this project aims to gain a better understanding of the workcarried out by anti-authoritarian activists specifically against the patriarchy or heteronormativity. We intend to document the three tendencies or cohorts identified so far: radical queer groups, women of colour feminism and radical materialist feminism. Three CRAC teams will work in parallel to carry out these tasks, which will lead, in 2010, to a week-end of reflection bringing together the three tendencies (and others should they emerge as the process unfolds).

I am working on case-study of the radical feminist cohort. In the next few months, I will be conducting individual interviews with radical feminists wanting to participate in our study. All women who self-identify as radical feminist – as defined in the call-out for the 2nd radical feminist meeting to be held in February 2008 (the definition is in appendix) – are encouraged to participate. We want to interview activists who first got involved in radical feminist organizing in Quebec sometime after 1995, be they active today or not and be they attached to anti-authoritarian, union, community, feminist, student or other movements.

If you want to participate, please let me know before January 31st 2008. If you have any questions or if you need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

If you know of any other women who may be interested in this study, please forward the invitation to them.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Jacinthe Leblanc
For the Collectif de Recherche sur l’Autonomie Collective
jacinthe@crac-kebec.org
514-848-2424, extension 8709
Website: http://www.crak-kebec.org

What do we mean by radical feminism?

That aims to eradicate, at their roots, patriarchy, capitalism, hetero-centrism, racism and hierarchy.

The radical feminist movement is diverse and takes on many differentforms. Radical feminists, however, share a commitment to fight, on a dailybasis, for the elimination of patriarchy and all forms of domination without resorting to legislative or social changes that do not address the fundamental causes of patriarchal, capitalist, imperialist oppressions and all forms of authority and hierarchy. Moreover, radical feminists claimthat women have the right to organize autonomous women-only spaces. Below is a short definition of radical feminism. Of course, radical feminism emerges in many different spheres of life (love life, environment, fightagainst racism, maternity, struggle against hetero-centrism, etc.). One simple definition cannot do justice to the diversity of the movement, but it can act as a benchmark that can help us identify what unites us.

Radical: adj. Latin radicalis, from radix, root. The term radical refers to feminist organizing or analysis that goes to the root of women-specific oppression, patriarchy, and that seeks to eliminate it. Radical feminism posits that women are individually and collectively appropriated for the purpose of biological reproduction and economic production. This exploitation intersects with capitalism, racism, hetero-centrism and allother forms of hierarchy and domination.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Jack and Jill go to law school... (Jack should pay attention.)

An argument, not too long ago:

- "The accused could not raise the defence of mistaken belief in consent because he had failed to take reasonable steps to ascertain whether the complainant was consenting.

- "The complainant did consent. She willingly followed him to his place...

- "BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN SHE WANTED TO SLEEP WITH HIM!

- "It was 2 in the morning...

- "It still doesn't mean anything!"

*sigh*

***

The argument above (which genuinely took place) is symptomatic of two problems with the application of the criminal law of sexual assault.

First, it shows a very frustrating lack of understanding, among lawpeople, of the distinction between the notion of "consent" to sexual activity, and of "mistaken belief in consent".

Secondly, it constitutes evidence that far too many people still entertain sexist attitudes towards sexual assault, sexual offenders and sexual assault victims. Such beliefs are sometimes, as we'll see later on, borderline delusional, and unfortunately, endorsed by law students, law professors, lawyers and *ugh* judges.

***

The argument excerpted above arose over a hypothetical about sexual assault and, more precisely, about the so-called defence of "mistaken belief in consent".

It involved a man (let's call him Jack) who meets a woman one night (we'll call her Jill). They have drinks and start chatting. The conversation quickly turns to sex, and both people describe various sexual acts. At about 2 am, Jack and Jill decide to go to Jack's place. When they get there, there's a second man (say, Joe) waiting for them. Jill feels uncomfortable and repeatedly asks Joe to leave. He refuses. Jill is scared and eventually submits to the sexual acts Jack and Joe ask her to perform. Jill files a complaint, and Jack and Joe are charged with sexually assaulting Jill.

The question is: Can the accused raise the defence of "mistaken belief in consent"?

***

First, a little legal background...

In order for a person charged with sexual assault to be found guilty, the Crown must prove beyond reasonable doubt certain facts that constitute the material components of the culpable act (i.e. the actus reus) and the facts that constitute the intentional components of the crime (i.e. the mens rea).

Thus, the essential elements of the actus reus for the offence of sexual assault are the following:

  • The accused applied a force on the complainant (any type of touching, albeit very slight);
  • The force was applied in a sexual manner, or the touching had a sexual connotation (notwithstanding which part of the complainant's body was touched, or which part of the accused's body touched the victim);
  • The victim did not consent to the touching (i.e. she subjectively did not want the touching to happen).

The mens rea, or culpable intention, for sexual assault only has one element. Here, the Crown only needs to prove that the accused knew that the complainant was not consenting. (The Crown's burden will also be fulfilled if it is established that the accused was reckless or wilfully blind as to the possibility that the victim was not consenting.)

Once the Crown has proven all the elements of the actus reus and of the mens rea beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused will be found guilty unless he can negate one of these essential elements.

That's what is meant in this case by "defence".

The two most common defences with respect to sexual assault (besides, of course, "I never touched her") are the defence of consent and the defence of mistaken belief in consent. In the former case, the accused will try to negate the victim's non-consent, by adducing evidence that she had in fact consented to the sexual activity. In the latter case, the accused will seek to demonstrate that he sincerely thought that he believed that the complainant had consented.

For the defence of mistaken belief in consent to be admissible, the accused's belief must be sincere, and based on reasonable grounds. Moreover, an accused can't invoke it when his belief arises from his voluntary intoxication, or when he did not take any reasonable steps to ascertain whether or not the complainant consented.

That's not too complicated, right?

Yet, many people who approach sexual assault cases similar to the hypothetical above tend to confuse the two defences. For instance, an accused will say "she was consenting, because she went to my place late at night, and earlier on we had talk about sex together".

This is often - mistakenly - labelled as a defence of consent. It's not.

Consent is a subjective notion. The only one who can testify as to whether the complainant had consented to the acts are the complainant herself. It's an inquiry into the complainant's mind. If the trier of facts finds her testimony to be credible, he must conclude that no consent was given.

As the late Lamer C.J.C. once clearly explained:

[T]he issue of mistaken belief in consent should also be submitted to the jury in all cases where the accused testifies attrial that the complainant consented. The accused's testimony that the complainant consented must be taken to mean that he believed that the complainant consented.

R. v. Bulmer, [1987] 1 S.C.R. 782, at par. 24.

[Emphasis added.]

Thus, when the accused (or another witness for the defence) claims that the victim had consented to the acts because she followed him home, or she was drunk, and whatnot, we're not talking about what was going on in her mind at the time. We're going through the accused's own reasoning about what he perceived to be the complainant's mindset.

It might not seem to be of great importance at first glance, but if you were raped and your assailant got away with it, would you prefer that the judgment say that you had in fact consented, or that he was just stupid and made a mistake.

While I find the latter possibility appalling, I must acknowledge that stupidity is not - yet - a criminal offence. On the other hand, being told, despite your testimony to the contrary, and all the troubles you've gone through to bring your attacker to trial, that you had in fact consented is paternalistic and incredibly insulting.

***

The second thing that pisses me off regarding how (far too) many people discuss sexual assault is that they view it from a fundamentally patriarchal and heterosexist standpoint.

The current state of the law of sexual assault in Canada, when it comes to the issue of consent, is clear: consent is an essentially subjective notion, and, not only does "no means no", but "only yes means yes".

Therefore, even though, in a court of law, the Crown still has to establish the victim's non-consent (instead of the accused having to establish that the complainant had consented), the law does not assume that the default state of a woman's mind towards sexual activity is a big fat, unequivocal "yes".

In other words, the law does not treat women as if we were walking around in a state of perpetual consent - to anything, anytime, with anyone. *shrug* Thus, unless a woman expresses her consent to sexually activity (by unequivocal words or conduct), the iniator of the sexual activity in question must take reasonable steps to ascertain whether the woman actually consents.

Otherwise, if the woman was not, in fact, consenting, the initiator could not invoke the defence of mistaken belief in consent.

Still with me?

So this is how it works - well, in theory, that is...

But in practice, judgments tend to stray from this pro-feminist reasoning, and revert to the use of sexist premises to infer either consent or a mistaken belief.

For instance, my interlocutor, in the discussion excerpted above, readily assumed that the fact that a woman talks about sex with a man, and willingly follows him to his place late at night necessarily implies that she had thereby given him permission to engage in whatever sex acts he might think of.

This reasoning also implies that all women would want sex with any man, in any conditions, at all times, and that all women are heterosexual.

Well, uh um... *puts on white lab coat and nerdy glasses* Strong empirical data collected from millions of women around the globe for a gazillion years has shown that these premises are not true.

I know. What a shocker. The fact is that inferences such as this one are simply fundamentally sexist.

Take the same situation, but replace Jill with a Joe.

So Jack meets another guy, Joe. They have drinks. They talk about sex. Joe follows Jack to his place, at 2 in the morning. If Jack then sexually attacks Joe, will anyone really make the argument that it's obvious that Joe had consented, because he had a prior discussion about sex with his assailant, and had willingly followed him to his place at night?

No. Because our patriarcal society does not assume that men are sexually available to other men on a permanent basis. Patriarchy would intrepret the relationship between Jack and Joe as asexual and friendly, in a frat-boyish way.

Patriarchy, on the other hand, presupposes that men and women cannot interact in a way that is simply asexual and friendly. If a woman responds to the attention of a man by doing anything short of yelling at him to stay away from her, or slapping him, then she necessarily has some womanly sexual feelings for him.

Patriarchy does not take into account that women are not sex-bots, that we have free will and individual preferences. A patriarcal interpretation of the law of sexual assault on the first "Jack and Jill" hypothetical does not take into account, for instance, the fact that Jack had bad breath and greasy hair, that Jill was menstruating or that she had forgotten her pill that day.

Nor does it take into account the proven fact that women do often talk about sex in a sometimes quite frat-boyish sort of way, and that, being free of their movements and not submitted to a Gileadean curfiew, they are free to be out of their home at night and visit whomever they like.

And patriarchy being concerned about the preservation of male privilege, it does not place the onus on the male initiator to go beyond those sexist assumptions, challenge the myth of female sexual availability and simply make sure that she really agrees to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Is this really so much to ask?

(For the record - and before being labelled as a man-hater - there are plenty of men out there who are considerate and man enough to make sure their partner is as willing as they are, and who frown upon their fellow males who don't.)

***

I think it would be interesting to see how sexual assault cases involving a lesbian victim and a male accused, and where the defence of mistaken belief in consent was invoked, were treated by the courts.

Unfortunately, I haven't found any so far. (Help, anyone?)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Picture of the day


A very good reason not to support the Ottawa Senators

... they're raising money for an anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy center"...

***

For more information:

A day of remembrance


18 years ago in Montréal, 14 young women were murdered because they were women.

In a letter he wrote shortly before he went on his deadly rampage at the École Polytechnique, the shooter, 25 year-old Marc Lépine, blamed feminists and women who "usurp" the place and advantages of men in society for his troubles, and for the crimes he was about to commit.

Before he started shooting, he cried "I hate feminists."

Feminism has little to do with Lépine's actions. It's probable that many of the women - and men - he shot did not identify as such. He killed them because they were women.

***

These events are infinitely sad and shocking and disgusting in and of themselves.

But it's all the more disheartening to think that, almost 20 years after this tragedy, most people just don't seem to give a damn about what happened then, or about gender violence in general.

This anniversary has received little to no news coverage so far today - from what I know.

Meanwhile, gender-based violence is still an endemic social problem in Canada and little is being done to eradicate it.

Many people - local politicians, "men's rights activists" and even women's magazines editors - still trivialize justify violence against women.

People like them still maintain that men who murder their female partners do it because of a lack of control, out of passion/jealousy/anger/love, in the spur of the moment, or because they were provoked.

They will blame rape/attempted murder survivors for what happened to them, and call them "cows" and "little bitches."

They will label blatant instances of extreme violence against women as "feminist myths."

They will blame female victims of crime for their "lifestyle choices," and play down any act of violence against women, from a street fight to gruesome serial killings, as a normal and justifiable "occupational hazard", if the victim belongs to an untouchable group.

They will you straight-faced that Marc Lépine was misunderstood, that he didn't really hate all women, that he just wanted to slay those evil feminists.

***

It's completely unacceptable that this sort of attitude and behaviour is still tolerated in 21st century Canada. It has to stop. This is why feminism exists. This is why women's fight to be treated as equals both under the law and in our day-to-day dealings with one another, must continue until the day women will really be respected and valued - and not despised, feared or hated - by men.

***

For more information about the events at the École Polytechnique:
  • Contemporary clips of the media coverage of the events, in French and English;
  • A Wikipedia article on the shooting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"The Greatest Medical Discovery Ever Known" - Curing women from being women

When I came across this vintage ad a few days ago, I thought it was absolutely hilarious.

I can't help but think that the device in question must have been invented by some uptight victorian physicians who had had enough of "cure" hysterical or frigid women by manipulating them to orgasm. I can just picture the utterly awkward and uncomfortable look on their prudish faces: "Gross! Women experiencing sexual pleasure! Eeeeew!"





It seems unreal that, back in the early 20th century, physicians and psychiatrists genuine believed that women were either hysterical or frigid, depending on whether they enjoyed sex too much or not enough. (And by "enjoying sex," what they really meant was the ability to have a so-called vaginal orgasm.)

A woman's lack of ability to enjoy sex on exclusivity male terms, i.e. via penetration alone, was then, as evidence by the ad above, a "disease" that had to be "cured."

Such attitudes were mistakenly and largely based on androcentric perspectives on sexuality and the female body, and fueled, namely, by Freud's psycho-analytic theories.

The problem is that they still persist today. It still seems to me that, to a certain extent, women are inherently abnormal. As a matter of fact, women are constantly being reminded that, at their natural, basic state, they necessarily either (1) grossly depart from the acceptable model of womanhood and femininity, or (2) constitute abnormal variants of the normal human, i.e. the human male.

Many people still refer to women who don't/can't experience "vaginal" orgasms as being frigid, or as being plagued by arousal problems. Hence drugs that can supposedly enhance a woman's abnormally low sexual desires, or procedures purported to enhance a woman's elusive "G-spot" so as to increase the probabilities that she will reach orgasm during penetrative sex.

Would such remedies exist at all if our society adopted a female perspective of sexuality, or at the very least, if we collectively acknowledged once and for all that sex is something that is physically and physiologically experienced differently in men and women?

Imagine if society adopted a female outlook on sexuality. Would men who don't/can't reach climax solely by manipulating their female's partner's clitoris deemed "frigid"? Would male orgasms obtained via vaginal penetration considered inferior or "immature" by medical and psychiatric literature?


***

The idea that women, simply because they are women, need to be cured of some form of inherent and congenital female disease related to one's femaleness, often takes a psychiatric twist.

Not only are women physically deficient, but there's also apparently something wrong with the way we're wired.

For years, medical textbooks and publications aimed at a female audience have urged women to seek psychiatric attention and/or treatment should they experience feelings of uneasiness, discomfort or frustration towards their bodies, marriage, men, sex, pregnancy, and whatever else was traditionally expected from women.

The following is an excerpt from a book aimed at a female teenaged audience:

Au temps de l'ovulation, quelques jours avant ou après la menstruation, certaines adolescentes sentent un besoin sexuel intense qui les rend excessivement nerveuses. Ces jeunes filles ont beaucoup de difficultés à contrôler leurs sens, durant ces courtes périodes.

Vous connaissez bien vos jours de faiblesse? Alors, n'allez pas vous exposer ces jours-là! Si vous devenez trop tendues, certains tranquilisants vous aideraient à adoucir ces orages.

- Lionel Gendron, L'adolescente veut savoir (Éditions de l'Homme: Montréal, 1964), at 51.

Dr Gendron also recommends that young girls take sedatives and tranquilizers to treat "nervous" symptoms related to menstruation, fatigue, headaches, lack of self-confidence, not feeling appreciated by your husband, and love.

As if, women needed constant medical attention. As if the mere fact of being female required medical intervention.

Vous pratiquerez ce test de fécondité pendant au moins dix mois consécutifs. Avec ce tableau, vous verrez votre médecin au moment de votre mariage et il établira avec vous votre calendrier sexuel conjugal.

- Ibid., at 103.

Seriously.

***

This is still going on today. A little while ago, I saw an ad on an American TV channel (I forgot which) for a new oral contraceptive, Yaz, that also purports to "treat" or "suppress" the psychological symptoms associated with menstruations.

On the one hand, I think it's great that there is finally an alternative to "hard" medications, such as anti-depressants, for women who experience regular bouts of anxiety and depression-like symptoms at some point of their menstrual cycle.

On the other hand however, I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea of "treating" menstruation as if it were a disease. It's not. It's unpleasant for many, but it's not a disease.

***

On a related topic, many women's rights groups in Québec - including la Fédération québécoise pour le planning des naissances - have required a moratorium on the mass vaccination of teenaged girls against HPV, on the ground that there are still many things we don't know about how safe the Gardasil vaccine actually is, and have raised questions about the adequacy of suppressing menstruation via various contraceptive medications.

As much as I loathe the systematic "medicalization" of women and of conditions associated with being one, I don't think it's appropriate to ban a technology or a medically approved practiced for fear that it be unnecessary or that it become systematically imposed on women.

Whether a woman should be vaccinated against HPV, or whether she should opt for a medical contraceptive that will - temporarily - stop her menstruations, is matter of personal choice. Find an OB-GYN who is knowledgeable in those areas and whom you trust, discuss these issues and make a choice that suits your beliefs and your personal needs.

Campaign against female genital mutilation

The new ads for Amnesty International's campaign are beautiful and horrible at the same time, as they show with great sensitivity and aesthetics - and yet, quite graphically - exactly what female genital mutilation entails.

Here is one of them:


The Village where Men are Forbidden

The video below is an excerpt of Umoja, le village interdit aux hommes. This film is a document about a village in Kenya founded by women who have been repudiated by their husbands or cast out of their community because theyr have been raped.


Almost "Dateline" - Incestuous quote of the day

Picture this. A fifty-something man takes a teenaged girl out on a date to a formal event.

Feels awkward, doesn't it? (Not to mention blatantly illegal if the girl is under 14...)

What if the man is the girl's father? And what if he says things like this:

"This was a great event to teach your daughter how a gentleman conducts himself with a young lady."

Eewww... Doesn't that scream "incest" or what?

***

The statement above was made by one of the thousands of Conservative Christian American fathers who took a daughter to a "Purity Ball" over the last few years.

For those who are not familiar with the concept, it's a formal, high school prom-style of gathering where girls as young as 7 pledge their virginity to their fathers until the day they marry, and where fathers pledge to "war" for the hearts, purity and honour of their daughters.

Yuck. Many things ire me about purity balls.


First and foremost is the fact that it basically indoctrinates very young girls with the idea that she will never own her sexuality. These events effectively tell girls and young women that their sexuality is something that first belongs to their fathers, and that will be, upon marriage, passed on to their husbands.

The older girls at the Broadmoor tonight are themselves curvaceous and sexy in backless dresses and artful makeup; next to their fathers, some look disconcertingly like wives. In fact, in the parlance of the purity ball folks, one-on-one time with dad is a “date,” and the only sanctioned one a girl can have until she is “courted” by a man. The roles are clear: Dad is the only man in a girl’s life until her husband arrives, a lifestyle straight out of biblical times. “In patriarchy, a father owns a girl’s sexuality,” notes psychologist and feminist author Carol Gilligan, Ph.D. “And like any other property, he guards it, protects it, even loves it.”

...

“When you sign a pledge to your father to preserve your virginity, your sexuality is basically being taken away from you until you sign yet another contract, a marital one,” worries Eve Ensler, the writer and activist. “It makes you feel like you’re the least important person in the whole equation. It makes you feel invisible.”


Secondly, Purity Balls in particular, and abstinence-only sex ed in general convey the message that virginity has a material value. They speak in terms of "value," "treasure," and "gift." When you think about it, this is not so far from such backward practices of being sold into marriage, or of arranged marriages.

And guess what? That's exactly what those wackos do.

When I point out to Christy Parcha’s father, Mike, that experience with relationships, bumps and all, can help young women mature emotionally and become ready for sex and marriage, he warily concedes that’s true. “But there can be damage, too,” he says. “I guess we’d rather err on the side of avoiding these things. The girl can learn after marriage.”

...

“I am not worried about that. She is not even going to come close to those situations. She believes, and I do too, that her husband will come through our family connections or through me before her heart even gets involved.”

[Emphasis added.]

Again: yuck...

***

(Thanks to MJ for the links!)

The opposite end of the sexual objectification spectrum

Like many other things in life, the degree and kind of the sexual objectification of women varies along a spectrum of behaviours and attitudes.

At one extremity of the spectrum, it could fairly be said that you'd find pornography and prostitution. At the other end, you'll find very repressive and proprietary attitudes towards women based on women's purported sexual nature.

In a very interesting piece, Holly at Feministe, writes about a ultra-orthodox Jewish group in Israel, who take religious teachings concerning modesty to an extreme and ask that women wear Taliban-style burqas.

“The whole of a woman is genitalia. It is forbidden for a man, other than your husband to see you.”

Go read it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Indoctrination from the crib!

La Presse, on how to pick an appropriate Christmas present for a girl aged 0 to 4 years old:

Les fillettes apprécient en général les items féminins et empruntés à la mode pour adultes, comme le boléro, le poncho, la jupe paysanne et la minijupe plissée. La collection Oiseaux d'amour de Souris Mini propose des vêtements chics et coquets tels que des jupes de laine bouillie, la blouse-boléro et son pantalon à frisons assortis. Les fillettes adoreront aussi les collants et les accessoires.

I'm sure girls as young as this really do prefer "feminine grown-up fashion." Yeah, right. I'm sure they do.

(As opposed to, say, capitalism and patriarchy.)

*sigh*

***

I guess I just never really understood the social pressure to clearly identify the gender of infants and very young children, by dressing them up in stereotyped uniforms.

Baby boy in a baby blue outfit with boats and cars... Baby girl in a light pink ensemble with lace/fur/frizzy stuff, with kittens, shoes, little purses and whatnot...

Is it just easier for people to interact with other human beings who are so categorized and identified, when there are clear assumptions about how people who belong to a given category are expected to behave?

If, at that age, it's impossible to tell apart a boy from a girl, but for the way they're dress or the length of their hair, why bother dressing them differently? The only plausible answer to this question is: so as to make sure that people will treat them differently.

Different "but equal," of course.

***

Click here to read a very good post by a feminist mother-to-be, who's trying to sort this all out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ode to creepy men in lingerie stores

Let's face it: our collective lingerie/pyjama shopping experience would not be complete without them...

***

A man was paying his purchase, a pink peignoir, and asked the (female) clerk to gift wrap it. He then notice a Christmas lingerie catalogue on the counter, and asked the clerk that she put one inside the folded garnment. (Quite a classy way to drop a hint, don't you think?)

A really interesting thing is that the man made the following lapsus: he asked for a calendar instead of a catalogue.

(At this point, you start to see a clearer picture of the type of man in question.)

He then went on rambling about the Christmas decorations in the store, pointing how appropriate it was to decorate a lingerie store with "plein de belles boules." He also found wise to add: "moi j'aime ben ça, des petites boules."

Then, nodding towards a table covered with panties, the man said to the clerk: "There are a lot of things in here that would suit you well."

She kind of smiled back at him, with a noticeably annoyed look in her eyes.

*sigh*

***

Lingerie saleswoman #1 to lingerie saleswoman #2: "I used to work at La Senza on Ste-Catherine, but I couldn't stand the drunken men who would come into the store just to touch the clothes and the mannequins, and harass the female personnel."

(I find it really sad to think that we live a society where some men seem incapable to distinguish between an underwear store and a sex shop/strip club/porn booth.)

Violent Porn: Now in a Lingerie Store Near You

The British lingerie retailer Agent Provocateur has recently opened a store in Vancouver, and is apparently planning to open new locations in Toronto and Montréal.
Well, this can only mean one thing, ladies: Get your torches and pitchforks ready.

But what, you might be wondering is so wrong about Agent Provocateur? Or is it just me, you know, the no-fun anti-sex, ever-frustrated feminist?

If you don't know the company yet, let's just say that it sells very expensive (i.e. between $140 and $160 for bras, and between $70 and $90 for thongs and panties) "exotic" lingerie. And by "exotic", we're talking porn/escort services-grade underwear.

Like, for instance, bras with no cups that expose the breasts, nipple pasties and tassles, and the like.

You know, the kind of delicate and impossibly uncomfortable stuff that are not made to be worn all day by real women, and that are solely designed to be put on shortly before coming into the bedroom, only to be removed and thrown on the floor by one's drooling partner seconds after.

***

(Side note: Do men really know the difference anyway between average female underwear and the really expensive kind? That is, when they're not buying it as "presents" for their girlfriends?)

***

I know, I know... Isn't that just precisely what the business of any lingerie retailer consists of?

Maybe it is, although it's not my personal opinion. But in any case, what differentiates Agent Provocateur from other lingerie brands is its absolutely disgusting attitude towards women.

First, it uses porn as a form of publicity. If you go on their website (at your own risks - it might trigger very upsetting feelings), the first thing you'll see is three naked females bathing together and lascively posing for the camera. If you enter the website and actually check out the products, you'll notice that they can't just show you the picture of a bra, or even the picture of a fashion model wearing said bra. No, Ma'am. Every single product is displayed via pictures of models shot in soft porn postures or attitudes.

As a woman, I find the suggestion that I can't distinguish between bona fide lingerie advertisements and gratuituous online porn incredibly insulting.

The further you go, the worst it gets. The misogyny is extreme, and its everywhere. On the website, you'll find shoes that will suit you from the "boardroom to the bedroom" (seriously: WTF?!?) and, in the "jewellery" section, you'll find that the only proposed item is a metallic dog collar, complete with a fancy leash and matching (optional) handcuffs. There's even a blindfold with the phrase "Treat me like the whore that I am" written across it.


Classy, I know.

***

As a matter of fact, violent sex and sexual domination/submission seem to be a recurrent theme in the Agent Provocateur imagery. The website namely features "Adventures", i.e. pornographic stories illustrated by pictures and videos, in which L.A. debutantes and 1920's French maids are confined, exploited (in terms of the work they do and in terms of the sex acts they have to perform), disciplined and "taught" to "enjoy" sex.


Yuck. (And this is just a mild one, from the few that I've seen. Yet, it sends a chill down my spine.)

My point is not to make an argument against "rough" sex, certain types of fantasies or erotic scenarios, or even S&M practices.

I just don't like sexual violence against women and the sexual exploitation of women being used in a pornographic manner as part of an advertisement.

Even though there's not a hint of penetration of any kind, and that Agent Provocateur's pornographic advertisements are - mostly - confined to (fake*) lesbian sex, it's not just "soft" porn to me. It's violent and degrading porn, where women are humiliated, hurt, thrown to the ground, and whipped like beasts.

To a certain extent, I can tolerate the ambient sexism and misogyny of our culture, for the simple reason that otherwise, I'd probably shoot myself. But I can't tolerate the mere suggestion that violence against women generally is acceptable, and that sexual violence in particular can be branded as sexy for base mercantile purposes, turned into incredibly violent and degrading - yet easily available - porn and marketed towards women as "luxury" or "empowerment."

For these reasons, I will boycott the Agent Provocateur brand, and will protest by all means (legally) available to me the opening of a Montréal location.

***

* Fake as in "not just some guy's wacky patriarchical, sexist, androcentric view of lesbian sex..."

"Reasonable Accommodation: A Feminist Response"

A statement from the Simone de Beauvoir Institute of Concordia University, challenging the moral legitimacy of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission:

As anti-racist, anti-colonial, feminists in Québec, we have serious misgivings about the Commission de Consultation sur les pratiques d'accommodement reliées aux différences culturelles. The Conseil du statut de la femme du Québec (CSF) has proposed that the Québec Charter be changed so as to accord the right of gender equality relative priority over the right to religious expression and to ban the wearing of "ostentatious" religious symbols in public institutions by public employees. Our concern is that the Commission and the CSF's subsequent intervention pave the way for legislation that will restrict rather than enhance the rights of women. We invite you to join us in questioning the exclusionary structure of the Commission, the assumptions it supports, and the negative impact it is likely to have on women's lives.

So, why call into question the legitimacy and the effects of the Commission?

1. because although we see the urgent need for dialogue about racism and sexism in Québec society, we object to how this consultation process has been undertaken. Listening to people "air out" their racism is not conducive to promoting critical reflection and dialogue, but instead creates a climate of fear-mongering and moral panic. Furthermore, in asking whether or not "difference" and "minorities" should be accommodated the commission assumes and perpetuates "commonsense" racist understandings of some "cultures" as homogeneous, backward and inferior. In addition, the Commission's reliance on the notion of "reason" must also be critically examined. Historically, white men have been positioned as the exclusive bearers of reason, and the Commission runs the risk of reproducing this in a context of ongoing social inequality.


2. because the design of the Commission and the language of "accommodation" assumes and perpetuates a system of power whereby western "hosts" act as gatekeepers for non-western "guests." A better consultative process would start with the recognition that Canada is a white-settler state, and that its history is one of colonial and patriarchal violence against Indigenous people.


3. because the public debates that the Commission has sparked construct certain ethno-cultural communities as perpetual outsiders and as threats to Québec identity rather than as integral to it. Concerns about ethno-cultural others as socially regressive obscure the everyday homophobia, sexism and racism that pervade Québec society.


4. because the ways that the Commission has been represented in mainstream English media promotes the idea that racism is a feature exclusive to Québec society and is not a problem -- or is less of a problem -- in the rest of Canada.


5. because the preoccupation with veiled women serves to deflect from the sexism and racism that has historically pervaded Québec and Canadian society. As feminists, we must challenge our complicity with the state's violence against women both in its colonial relations with Indigenous people and in its use of the figure of the veiled woman as an alibi for imperialist war and occupation in Afghanistan.


6. because appeals to secularism as a guarantor of gender equality effectively function to promote Christian culture as the norm and to scapegoat Muslims as inherently sexist, erasing secular forms of sexism.

7. because although it is still underway, the Commission has already prompted the proposal of laws that could restrict, regulate, and otherwise impede the lives of immigrant and racialized people in Québec.

8. because regulating women's public religious expression is gender discrimination insofar as it takes away women's freedom and inhibits their civic participation.

9. because the CSF is failing to meet its mandate of "defending the interests of women." The CSF would better serve the interests of women in Québec by focusing on the conditions of poverty, violence, criminalization and racism that many of us face, and not on what women wear.

Signed: The Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, November 2007

***

Please go to the Institute's website (above) to read the full version of the statement.

To personally endorse this statement, kindly write to: acarastathis@gmail.com.

***

For another view on the matter, please go to Little Miss Brightside's blog.

Former Chief Justice of Canada dies

(The late Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, C.J.C.)


The Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, died last Saturday.



The Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, formerly a justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, passed away in Ottawa on November 24, 2007 after a prolonged illness. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Chief Justice Lamer served in the Royal Canadian Artillery and in the Canadian Intelligence Corps. In 1956, he graduated in law from the Université de Montréal. The following year, he was called to the Bar of Quebec. He practised law at the firm of Cutler, Lamer, Bellemare and Associates and was a full professor in the Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal. In 1969, Chief Justice Lamer was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court. In 1978, he was elevated to the Quebec Court of Appeal.


Appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1980, Antonio Lamer was named the 16th Chief Justice of Canada in 1990. He retired from the Court in 2000.


Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, on behalf of the members of the Supreme Court of Canada, mourned Chief Justice Lamer's passing, "Antonio Lamer was an eminent jurist, and a fierce defender of the independence of the judiciary. He served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and as Chief Justice of Canada during an important period of Canadian history. He was a forceful advocate for the rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His decisions left an indelible mark on both the law and Canadian society. His presence and passion for the law will be sorely missed. Members and employees of the Court extend their deepest condolences to Chief Justice Lamer's wife, the Honourable Danièle Tremblay-Lamer, and his family."


Former Chief Justice Antonio Lamer will lie in repose in the Grand Hall of the Supreme Court of Canada on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. for the public to pay their respects.

A religious ceremony will be held at the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral in Montreal on Friday, November 30, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. The family will receive visitors from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 2007, and from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, November 30, 2007, at the Centre funéraire Côte-des-Neiges, 4525 Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges, in Montreal.


A private memorial ceremony by invitation only will be held at the Supreme Court of Canada on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 3:00 p.m.

***

One of my all-time favourite quotes from Lamer C.J.C.:

"[I]n my view the issue of mistaken belief in consent should also be submitted to the jury in all cases where the accused testifies attrial that the complainant consented. The accused's testimony that the complainant consented must be taken to mean that he believed that the complainant consented."

[Emphasis added.]

R. v. Bulmer, [1987] 1 S.C.R. 782, at par. 24.



***

For more information on Lamer C.J.C.'s life and legacy:



- Official SCC bio;
- Wikipedia bio.

Meanwhile, in France...

A recent French study showed that only 8% of victims of domestic violence eventually complain to the authorities.

In reaction to this finding, French lawmakers enacted new measures to curb domestic violence and encourage women to report it to the police.

But guess what? They're totally useless...

As a matter of fact, some genius came up with this great idea: when a woman report an incident of domestic violence to the police, the perpetrator is given the choice between being prosecuted before a criminal court, or attending 10 hours of conjugal therapy.

*rolls eyes in disbelief*

There's no way such measures can curb domestic violence, when it doesn't even address its genuine roots, and when it's being dismissed as a conjugal and private matter...

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Yesterday, November 25th, marked the beginning of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this period, organizations and individuals are encouraged to speak up against gender violence, to reflect on the causes of this problem and to propose solutions.

A 16 Days "action kit" is available online here. You can also wear the traditional white ribbon as a sign of support for this cause, and as a sign of remembrance for the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre.

Le Ministère de la Condition féminine du Québec has also launched a publicity campaign about domestic violence, in order to remind people that acts of violence, even where they occur within a relationship, are still criminal acts.

(Click here to watch the video.)


Friday, November 23, 2007

Pro-Choice Contest


Brought to you by Canadians for Choice. For more details, or to participate, visit their website here.

Bill Watch - Fetus fetishizers edition

Apparently, Conservative MP Ken Epp brought forward a private bill that seek to create a "Laci Peterson"-type of criminal offence. This offence would punish those who cause the "death" of an unborn child during an act of violence against a pregnant woman.

The worst thing about this Bill is that it purports to protect "a mother's choice to give birth."

As the Unrepentant Old Hippie explains:

"The latest jeans-creaming dream come true for Gileadean fetus-fanatics is a private member's bill tabled today by Alberta MP Ken Epp, the 'Unborn Victims of Crime' bill. The UVOC bill would 'protect a mother's choice to give birth', making it a crime to cause the injury or death of a fetus in the commission of violence against the mother.

"Don't get excited. Nothing 'anti-abortion' to see here, noooooo, just move along. Why, the UVOC bill is just about protecting 'choice' -- the mother's choice to carry a pregnancy to term and have it culminate on Day 273 as a baked-to-perfection babycake. And anyone who wields a knife or baseball bat (or scalpel?) and stops that from happening would be committing murder, as surely as it would be murder to kill the mother. Fetus? Hell, never mind that, this bill would protect embryos... zygotes, even. 'At any stage of development before birth.'"

...

Predictably, Ken Epp identifies as pro-life, and opposes gay marriage. But he "advocate[s] fairness and equality of all Canadians."

Yeah, right. Straight, White, male, middle-class (and preferably unborn) Canadians, that is...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Being the Catholic Church is never having to say you're sorry...

After making clumsy and insensitive remarks recently at the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Québec City wrote a letter to French-language newspapers in Québec, as an apology for the past wrongs of the Catholic Church against, namely, members of other religions, homosexuals and women.

The jist of Mgr Ouellet is contained in those two paragraphs:

"Comme archevêque de Québec et primat du Canada, je reconnais que des attitudes étroites de certains catholiques, avant 1960, ont favorisé l’antisémitisme, le racisme, l’indifférence envers les premières nations et la discrimination à l’égard des femmes et des homosexuels. Le comportement des catholiques et de certaines autorités épiscopales relativement au droit de vote, à l’accès au travail et à la promotion de la femme n’a pas toujours été à la hauteur des besoins de la société ni même conforme à la doctrine sociale de l’Église.

...

"Je reconnais aussi que des abus de pouvoir et des contre-témoignages ont terni chez plusieurs l’image du clergé, et nui à son autorité morale : des mères de famille ont été rabrouées par des curés sans égard pour les obligations familiales qu’elles avaient déjà assumées ; des jeunes ont subi des agressions sexuelles par des prêtres et des religieux, leur causant de graves dommages et traumatismes qui ont brisé leur vie ! Ces scandales ont ébranlé la confiance du peuple envers les autorités religieuses, et nous le comprenons ! Pardon pour tout ce mal !"

[Emphasis added.]

To me, not only is this so-called mea culpa blatantly insufficient, it also strikes me as being insincere and hypocritical.

First of all, Mgr Ouellet is speaking for himself, and not as a voice for the Catholic Church.

Secondly, he's not really apologizing for anything. In fact, he doesn't even come close to fully taking the blame for the Church oppression of women and homosexuals. He merely admits that some Catholics, before 1960, might have had attitudes that may have fostered discrimination against women and gays.

Seriously, I fail to see an apology in there. As if the whole Catholic doctrine wasn't hostile to women and gays in the first place. As if such "attitudes" had miraculously stopped after 1960.

Thirdly, while Mgr Ouellet seems to be acknowledging the historically common pratice of priests who would either deny communion to women who illegally used contraception or remained abstinent in order to prevent further pregnancies, or visit them at home to sermon them, it can hardly be said that he's showing more understanding.

In fact, his words even suggest that it would have been OK to do so with respect to women who had not had children yet.

***

However, I am please to see that most politicians, journalists and feminist leaders in Québec are not buying this bullshit.

Christine St-Pierre, Ministre de la Condition féminine, while she acknowledged Mgr Ouellet's "effort", stressed that the Catholic Church must still review its position regarding contraception, homosexuality and the equality between men and women.

La Fédération des femmes du Québec also expressed similar feelings.

Elizabethan Match-Making

"European Queen, single, still capable of child-bearing, red head, youthful look, seeks blue-blooded bachelor, to stabilize her country and produce a male heir. Love is optional."

***
A rare contemporary portrait of Queen Elizabeth I was sold today for 5,3 million $ in England. It is believed that this portrait was ordered by Elizabeth as a form of publicity to help her find a royal husband.

Isn't it absolutely beautiful?




Happy Sexual Harassment Season!

It's snowing outside and it can only mean one thing: the Holiday Season is coming, and along with it, the traditional office parties, where co-workers have fun and exchange mundane presents.




So, you ask, what's an appropriate present to give to a co-worker/your boss/a subordinate?


What about something sexy and fun? Like, for example, lingerie or lubricant?

I notice the ad below in today's Metro.




In this ad, Boutique Séduction, a Montréal sex shop, is suggesting upfront that its merchandize constitute appropriate gift ideas for office parties, and that such "sexy" gifts are just fun and playful.

You know, because somehow, being given lingerie by your boss or one of your coworkers is not sexual harassment around Christmas time, when everybody's drunk and happy.

The picture on the ad is pretty disgusting in and of itself. All the people picture look drunk, and all the men are either looking down someone's décolleté or grabbing a female coworker. The mere fact that it suggests that this sort of behaviour is acceptable in a work environment is unacceptable.

***

If you want to complain to Boutique Séduction, please do so at the following number: (514) 593-1169, or by mail, at:

Boutique Séduction
5220, boulevard Métropolitain Est
Montréal (Québec)
H1S 1A4

Make sure to CC your letter to Metro... :

625 Avenue du Président-Kennedy
Suite 700
Montréal (Québec)
H3A 1K2
Phone: (514) 286-1066

... and to la Commission des normes du travail:

Commission des normes du travail
26e étage
500, boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest
Montréal (Québec)
H2Z 2A5

You can also write an opinion letter to Metro, at: opinions@metronouvelles.com.

***

A recent Canadian study, sarcastically called "The Sexual Harassment of Uppity Women", shows that women who don't conform to feminine stereotypes in the workplace are twice as much likely to be sexually harassed than their "traditional" counterparts.

As left-clicked, at F-email Fightback, explains:

"[S]exual harassment is motivated by a wish to punish women who blur gender distinctions. Women coming up through the ranks or entering a traditionally male work environment may threaten some men's sense of security and status. The dynamic is similar to harassment of minorities who threaten a majority group's dominant position in the workplace.

"Jennifer Berdahl, at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, found that women who behaved independently and assertively and spoke out were more likely to be sexually harassed than women who fit feminine ideals of deference, modesty and warmth. Ms. Berdahl noted this was especially true in male-dominated workplaces."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Feminine instincts and personal safety

Yesterday, I was in a café with a friend, standing in line. After she got her order, I moved away from the line and a male staff member bump into me from behind.

Instead of just apologizing, he grabbed me from behind, firmly holding my waist with his arm. He maintained his hold of me for two or three seconds, and said something like "Shall we dance?"

As the place was noisy, I had not seen or heard him coming, and was completely caught by surprise. He was holding me and speaking to me from behind, and I couldn't even see his face.

When he let go of me, I caught up with my friend. I told her what had just happened. I was angry, but more than anything else, I was really upset, as the incident has triggered old fears and feelings of inadequacy.

I wish I had had the instinct to defend myself, to push him away, to yell at him, to claw his eyes out. But I did not do any of those things. I didn't even say anything, not even a hushed complain.

Of course, I fell incredibly outraged and angry at this asshole. But I can't help to feel angrier at myself, for being so inadequate and useless in defending myself. I also feel sad that I can't do what I preach, what I have learned and what I believe is the right thing to do.

I couldn't apply the basic rules I've learned: attack his eyes, pull his hair, kick his groin... It didn't even cross my mind. I was paralyzed by surprise and fear.

It wasn't an attack per se, although this guy didn't have the right to touch me - let alone seize me - like that without my consent. (Assault simpliciter, anyone?) Maybe the guy acted in good faith, or without thinking - which, while it clears him of being a predator, doesn't change anything to his being a complete idiot. It happened in a public place, and I guess that another person might have reacted differently than I did.

My point is just that, had this been a full-fledged attack, I'm not sure I would have been able to adequately defend myself.

Wake up call

Britain celebrated the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion, and apparently, nobody cared.

(Except of course, the so-called "pro-life" folks.)

***

It seems it can't be stressed often enough. January 28th, 2008, will mark the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion in Canada.

Pro-choice people must do something about it. Just so that anti-choicers won't have this special day all to themselves to complain about how many "babies" have been "murdered" in Canada over the past 20 years.

The End of Real Women

I'm not making this up. The signs are everywhere. Real women - of the thinking, feeling, natural kind - are facing extinction.


We are being replaced. We are being replaced by pictural and mechanical versions of ourselves that are better than we'll ever be. The pornography industry is more powerful than ever on its own. In addition, it is fueled by the creativity of misogynistic inventors from all over the world, and by the fierce marketing of products that target to women.


Slowly but surely, real women are being replaced. The notion of genuine womanhood is being replaced, with a more aggressively marketed, manufactured femininity ideal, that is impossible for real women to compete with, let alone attain.


Real women are facing a choice: they can either try to run with it and try to commit to the rules of this pornified femininity, or disappear.


Or rather, the notion that it is acceptable to call ourselves women when we cannot or do not want to conform to these norms will disappear.


***


After all, the utility and likeability of rea women is so limited. We don't come anywhere close to being acceptable, porn-grade women.


Real women think, feel and express themselves. We are not silent, passive and cannot be shut down at will by our male owner.


Real women are complex sexual beings. We do not orgasm at the mere push of a button, and we don't have knobs and switches that make us moan.


All real women don't moan.


Real women don't always want to have sex with their partners. Nor can they follow their husbands wherever they go just so they will be sexually available if and when he feels like getting off.


Real women have a mind of their own, a life and a history, with which their life partner necessarily has to cope.


Real women don't have "perfect," plastic bodies. Real women have hair, wrinkles, and uneven skin. Real women don't wake up in the morning with their hair done and their make-up on. Real women don't perpetually look like they're 14. Real women age.

March in support for the Rule of Law in Pakistan

"The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is joining legal organizations around the world in a show of support for the lawyers and judges of Pakistan, calling for the restoration of the rule of law in that country.

"On Sunday, November 25 in Ottawa, the CBA will be holding a march in solidarity with the defenders of the rule of law in Pakistan. CBA President Bernard Amyot will lead the procession of CBA Bar Leaders, lawyers, law students and other members of the legal community from across Canada. The County of Carleton Law Association is also giving its full support to the march to the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada. Bar Leaders will address the marchers and participants will have the opportunity to sign a petition of support for Pakistan lawyers, judges and the rule of law."

Click here for the details.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Finally, an intelligent film with ... um... bite?

There's a new film coming up called Teeth, that sounds really interesting and that I'd really like to see (that is, if and when it's released in Canada).

It's the story of Dawn, an introverted high school student, who, as a typical female teenager, feels awkward about boys, dating, sex and her own body. Dawn tries to deal with her contradictory feelings by being part of some abstinence club, and keepings things platonic with her boyfriend.

The twist is that, when he attempts to sexually assault her, she discovers that her vagina actually has teeth, which leaves her boyfriend in a sorry state and herself in possession of an unexpected weapon against male violence.

From the reviews I have read so far, this "horror comedy" is a pretty good commentary on sexual education politics, male attitudes towards female sexuality, and women's relation with their bodies:

"If you get over the rather distasteful subject matter and focus on what's beneath the surface, you'll find a flick that's got a whole lot to say about young women and their fear of burgeoning sexuality, society's general distaste (and, let's face it, fear) of the female sex organ, and the ways in which men do a serious disservice to womankind by treating their "naughty bits" as if they're something to be ashamed of. Teeth covers all this ground (and a whole lot more), and I suspect it's more open-minded and honest than most of what passes for "sex ed" these days. This movie offers enough meaty subtext to fill three semesters and it does so in a shocking, humorous and strangely compassionate fashion.

...

"I'm of the opinion that audacity is something to be admired in today's cinematic world, and Teeth has audacity to spare. Fortunately for the brave movie-watcher, the film is also very smart, slick and entirely unashamed to throw a few nasty shocks into the equation ... if that's what it takes to get the point across. As Dawn begins to realize that her privates possess a decidedly unsavory set of dental features, the phrase "sex as a weapon" begins to take on a whole new meaning. Lichtenstein bravely refuses to shy away from the sticky questions and icky repercussions, which elevates Teeth beyond the label of "interesting curiosity" and right into the realm of 'brazen brilliance.'"

(Click here for the full review.)

Teeth was shown at the Berlin Film Festival 2007, and at the Sundance Film Festival 2007, where actress Jess Weixler (who plays the lead role) won the Special Dramatic Jury Prize for Acting.

***

Here is the trailer:



The only thing that makes me tick with this film is the fact that its trailer calls it a "cautionary tale for men."

Why would it be? Because hurting women is OK? Because our ladyparts are, indeed, weird and dangerous? *sigh*

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bad analogies

Bad pro-life analogy #1 - Women as broodmares:

"Carl Gunter Jr. (deceased) - 'Inbreeding is how we get championship horses'.
"Louisianna state representative, explaining why he was fighting a proposed anti-abortion bill that allowed abortion in cases of incest."

***

Bad pro-life analogy #2 - Women as cardboard boxes:



... *sigh*

"Snow White"

Below is a very moving excerpt from a post at Marginal Notes:

"I used to love reading fairy tales when I was little...didn't everyone?

"Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella...

"All suffered at the hands of other women and were saved by the fairy-tale love of a man.

"How different real life is from the fairy tales...

"Most of us suffered at the hands of men. At least, I did.

"Once I lay unconscious in an emergency room, hooked up to a heart monitor. A nurse asked my mother, "Has your daughter been raped?" My mother was shocked, but answered, "Yes...but why do you think that?" The nurse told her that every time a male doctor went near me, my heartbeat changed.

"How do you undo wounds that leave you vigilant even when unconscious?"

Go read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The WTF Highlight of the Day

Don't tell me we don't live in a pornified society.

This toy stripper pole (below) - yes, you've read correctly: a toy stripper pole - was available in the UK up until recently.



Seriously: Who are you supposed to play this "game" with? In what outfit - let alone the garter thing - are the little kids supposed to "dance"?

"The Tesco Direct site advertises the kit with the words, 'Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go!

"'Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars'.

The £49.97 kit comprises a chrome pole extendible to 8ft 6ins, a 'sexy dance garter' and a DVD demonstrating suggestive dance moves."


(If, after reading the above, you still think that the Peekaboo stripping pole is just good, harmless, tongue-in-cheek fun, and that it's suitable for your 10 year-old, click here.)

This "toy" was removed from the shelves after Tesco received numerous complains of outraged parents and health profesionals.

Predictably, Tesco attempted to justify itself:

"Tesco last night denied the pole dancing kit was sexually oriented and said it was clearly marked for "adult use".

"A spokesman added: 'Pole dancing is an increasing exercise craze. This item is for people who want to improve their fitness and have fun at the same time.'"

"Exercise," eh?... Yeah, right... *rolls eyes*

Is it just me or that statement doesn't really convince me that they weren't trying to market sex work to grade-school kids?

Tesco's attitude is an insult to the intelligence of the parents who complained and of the members of the general public who are offended by this toy. Do they actually expect us to believe that a toy, called "Peekaboo" was "clearly marked for adult use"?

Opposite perspectives on sexual assault

Recently in the UK, Conservative MP David Cameron called for more support for sexual assault victims, both at the pre-trial and trial stages, and for "proportionate", i.e. harsher, sentences for rapists. He also requested that the government enact measures to purge society of its "rape culture", so that attitudes and behaviours that trivialize or legitimize sexual assault and the objectification of women be clearly identified as wrong and, to a certain extent, against the law.

Mr Cameron also asked "that the government ... fund public service announcements against rape and cover sexual consent in sex-ed classes."

As Mr Cameron explained:

"It is important that we talk to children, so that years later when they become jurors, they no longer believe the myths of sexual assault: that women and girls are asking for it if they wear particular clothes, or are out late, or are drinking, that it's all their fault."

***

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, a 19 year-old rape victim was sentenced to 90 lashes. Her crime? Being in a secluded place with a man who was not her husband or a relative.

"The young woman’s offense was in meeting a former boyfriend, whom she had asked to return pictures he had of her because she was about to marry another man. The couple was sitting in a car when a group of seven men kidnapped them and raped them both, lawyers in the case told Arab News, a Saudi newspaper.

"The woman and the former boyfriend were originally sentenced to 90 lashes each for being together in private, while the attackers received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison, and 80 to 1,000 lashes each."

The woman's lawyer appealed her sentence, on the ground that it was unusually harsh (the usual sentence for "adultery" being 60 to 80 lashes), and publicly denounced the ruling. As a result, "the court increased the victim’s sentence to 200 lashes and six months in jail", and her lawyer's license was suspended. (He is now facing disciplinary procedures.)

More on crazy cat ladies...uh... over-achieving, single feminists

Picture of the day


(This cat is probably a feminist, because, you know, we feminists eat babies and, well, we share our miserable, lonely, and unfulfilled lives with our kitties and everything...)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Party like it's 1988

And now for something completely different, I'll post something in French for once.

Depuis plusieurs mois, la chanson Dégénérations du groupe folklorique Mes Aïeux tourne à plein régime sur les ondes radiophoniques québécoises. Récemment, cette chanson a même remporté le prix de la Chanson populaire de l'année au gala de l'ADISQ.

Toutefois, je déteste personnellement cette chanson. Ce n'est pas de la mauvaise musique. Le rythme est entraînant, et le son folklorique épuré n'est pas désagréable en soi.En fait, c'est son message rétrograde envers les femmes qui m'horripile.

En effet, le deuxième couplet se lit comme suit:

"Ton arrière-arrière-grand-mère, elle a eu 14 enfants
Ton arrière-grand-mère en a eu quasiment autant
Et pis ta grand-mère en voulait trois c'était suffisant
Pis ta mère en voulait pas, toi t'étais un accident

"Et pis toi, ma p'tite fille, tu changes de partenaire tout le temps
Quand tu fais des conneries, tu t'en sors en avortant
Mais y'a des matins, tu te réveilles en pleurant
Quand tu rêves la nuit d'une grande table entourée d'enfants"

(Cliquez ici pour les paroles complètes.)

Bleh. Quelle horreur.

Je rêve où les masses adorent une chanson où l'on idéalise une époque où la femme était la simple propriété de son mari, où le divorce était sinon illégal, sinon socialement impossible, et où elle n'avait pas accès - ni même le droit - à la contraception?

Oui, les Québécoises d'il y a deux ou trois générations avaient des familles de 10, 12 ou 14 enfants. Mais combien de ces grossesses étaient désirées, ou même encore issues de rapports sexuels égalitaires et consentants? Combien de ces grossesses pouvaient réellement être supportées par les ressources physiques de la mère et les ressources financières du ménage?

C'était l'époque où les filles les plus âgées dans la maisonnée (comme ma propre grand-mère, qui était l'aînée d'une famille modeste de 14 enfants) devaient se passer d'une éducation de niveau primaire pour aider leurs mères à s'occuper des frères et soeurs plus jeunes et des diverses corvées domestiques.

Et oui, beaucoup de personnes de notre génération sont nés de grossesses non désirées. Réveillez-vous: la contraception n'a été légalisée au Canada que depuis 1969, et l'avortement n'a été décriminalisé qu'en 1988.

Si vous êtes nés avant 1988, rappelez-vous que votre mère n'a peut-être pas eu le choix de vous mettre au monde, avec tous les sacrifices physiques, mentaux et matériels que ça implique.

D'autre part, la chanson parle de "conneries" que les "pauvres" filles d'aujourd'hui font.

De quelle "connerie" parle-t-on? Avoir des relations sexuelles? Avoir des relations sexuelles non protégées? Avoir des relations sexuelles pour le plaisir, sans désir qu'il en résulte une grossesse?
Avoir des relations sexuelles avec des partenaires différents? Est-ce qu'il faut traiter de cons tous celles et ceux - pourquoi la gent masculine serait-elle exemptée du jugement moral de Mes Aïeux? - qui ont déjà eu des relations sexuelles dans de telles circonstances? Ou qui ont déjà fait eu des relations sexuelles tout court? Ou avec plus d'un partenaire?

Avoir une vie sexuelle libre, sans contrainte, non limitée au mariage, et non assujettie à la possibilité de devenir mère? On devrait plutôt célébrer les 20 ans de cette réalité.

Enfin, l'avortement n'est ni - j'en conviens - un moyen de contraception en tant que tel au même titre que le condom ou la Pilule. Toutefois, c'est un choix légitime, et non, comme cette chanson le suggère, qu'une façon d'éviter les conséquences d'une "connerie".

C'est un choix légitime de choisir si, quand, et avec qui on veut avoir des enfants. C'est un choix légitime de décider que non, on n'est pas physiquement, mentalement ou financière prête à créer, porter, accoucher, entretenir et élever un enfant.

Toutes les femmes n'ont pas envie, contrairement à ce que le suggère la chanson, d'avoir des tas enfants. Ou même un seul. Toutes les femmes n'ont pas besoin, pour s'épanouir pleinement dans la vie, de devenir mère.

Je suis déçue de l'engouement que les gens de ma génération (gens de la vingtaine) semblent avoir pour cette chanson rétrograde, moralisatrice, simpliste et avant-tout misogyne.