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

There is also a Facebook page for this event at: (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:

Everyone can join Facebook.
To register, go to:

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.


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



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.


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


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

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
514-848-2424, extension 8709

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...


- "It was 2 in the morning...

- "It still doesn't mean anything!"



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.



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.