Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The "Smart Women are Scary" Moment of the Day....

A friend of mine, who is a smart and attractive young woman, was sitting at a bar, when some guy came up to her and offered her a drink. He started chatting her up, and eventually asked what she did for a living.

She replied that she was working on her PhD in Neuropsychology. The guy did not answer and simply took his drink elsewhere.

This, people, is 2008. "Smart women are scary." Boo.

Happy halloween. (Sort of.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blogging in French

From November on, I will be also be blogging - in French - at Je suis féministe.

I will also keep updating this blog from time to time, and perhaps even cross-post translations of posts from one blog to another.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Breaking News: Raising a Family Interferes with Pursuing a Career

Wow. I'm in shock.

The Québec government, just found out, from the conclusions of a totally groundbreaking study, that fathers who take this whole raising kids thing seriously and who are actually involved in the upbringing of their offspring do not ascend the workplace ladder as fast as their childless or deadbeat counterparts.

No shit. Really. Who knew?


It's interesting to note how the media spun this news. For men, family is seen as interfering with paid work, i.e. a man's natural activity, whereas for women, it's paid work that is seen as interfering with childrearing, i.e. our natural purpose...

At least that's the appropriate use for "bitch"...

I stumbled upon this while I was surfing the web in search of ideas for a Halloween costume for my dog...

Not only can modern, post-feminist, empowered women dress like slutty schoolgirls/nurses/prison wardens this Halloween, but they can also dress their pet as a slutty [insert chosen variation on the theme of sexual objectification here] girl-dog!

How lucky are we!

I don't know what's more disappointing:
a) the mere fact that someone thought this was a great idea
b) the fact that some women - and men - will actually buy those costumes; or
c) the fact that they felt the need to remind their audience that women are human beings, just like the men who objectify and commercially exploit them, by naming that section of the website "matching costumes for female dogs and female humans".
*Surprisingly*, this website didn't seem to have a similar section of sexy matching Halloween costumes for men - even though they are sensitive enough to gender differences to distinguish between "male dog costumes" (such as the pimp dog, the cowboy dog, the astronaut dog...) and "female dog costumes" (such as the "doggie bride", the fairie princess dog, and the dog cheerleader costume)...
This, on the other hand, is cute.

A Call to Action Against Legislative Assaults on Reproductive Freedoms

If you find yourself in Montréal this Sunday, there will be a protest against the recent legislative assaults on the reproductive freedoms of Canadian women.

The protest was originately against Bill C-484, but the people behind it decided to broadened its purpose, given that the upcoming elections have effectively put C-484 on hold - for now - and given the other crazy right-wing anti-abortion legislative initiatives that have surfaced recently.

Come and join other feminists and like-minded citizens at 1:30 p.m. in Parc Lahaie (corner of St. Laurent and St. Joseph). Bring signs, t-shirts and catchy slogans.

In the mean time, do visit the organization committee's website.


As a general note, let's not kid ourselves. On October 14th, Canadians will vote for the future of reproductive and abortion rights in Canada.

Is your current MP pro-choice or does he/she oppose abortion? Check and find out here.


The Barreau du Québec has finally taken a stand against Bill C-484. The Barreau's letter to the Senate exposes how the C-484 effectively would have the effect of conferring legal personality onto the fetus, and how it could undermine women's right to have an abortion.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The "You've come a long way, baby" moment of the week

Law, when it comes to gender issues, is a most amazing field of study - and work.

One very interesting thing is that, along with medicine, law used to be a predominantly male bastion of the workplace. Don't get me wrong, our noble profession is still in many ways run like an old boys' club (think "billable hours"). However, young women are graduating from law school and are being called to the Bar in gargantuan proportions (in Québec, there are roughly 3 female law students for every male, and guys are becoming an endangered species in Bar school).

The phenomenon is strikingly observable in the courtroom. In practice division (where lawyers show up at court in the morning to be either heard by a clerk or dispatched before a judge to present their motions), the great majority of lawyers in their 20's as well as a good proportion of lawyers in their 30's are female, while the lawyers with grey hair are almost all men.

10 to 20 years form now, if we keep this pace, we'll be running the business.

Until then, I guess we'll have to cope with our beloved patriarchal legal practice, as sexist and - sometimes - disappointing as it gets...


I was waiting for my case to be called in practice division the other day, when I had to momentarily leave the room to speak to the other counsel, leaving my briefcase and my documents on my seat behind me.

When I got back inside, a middle-aged lawyer was sitting on my chair, preventing me from getting to my stuff. I politely whispered: "Excusez-moi, mais ce sont mes affaires."

He got up, smiling, started stroking my shoulder paternalistically and said: "Tu sais, tu peux t'asseoir sur mes genoux."

I managed to stay polite and not to let show how pissed I was from this verbal butt-slapping, and told him: "No, I don't think so."

Many people noticed, among them the clerks (all women) who, to my relief, frowned in utter disgust.

The lawyer in question, on the other hand, seemed blissfully unaware of both the lack of propriety of his conduct, and the fact that he's part of a - hopefully - dying breed.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Updates on Bill C-484

Bill C-484 wasn't debated yesterday in the House of Commons as expected earlier. As a matter of fact, the debate has been postponed to this Monday, March 3rd.

In the meantime, Conservative MP and proponent of the Bill, Mr Ken Epp, reassures Canadians that the so-called "Unborn Victims of Crime Act" has absolutely nothing to do with restricting abortion:

"Because we want to recognize the humanity of that unborn child. Whether that child was killed three months before birth or three months after birth, it was still a child, there was still a loss of life. The other side might wish to deny the humanity of that unborn child, but we want the law to recognize it."


For more debunking of the anti-choice bullshit in "women's protection" disguise regarding Bill C-484, click here.


And don't forget to do you part and write to Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and to your MP!

The WTF moment of the day, brought to you by Playboy...

... yet another good reason to "bin the bunny"!

And yes, this is supposed to be some creative form of advertisement... *sigh*

Via Feministing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Newsflash: PETA confirm they're anti-fur, anti-women

Actually, it's no news that PETA has frequently resorted to objectifying women as a medium to get its message across.

To my eyes, this blunt and often quite gory objectification of the female body, and the distasteful sexualization of violence against women could already be characterized as pornography.

But now they've officially crossed the line between the radical feminist interpretation of what constitutes pornography, and that of the mainstream public.

As a matter of fact, PETA has teamed up with Suicide Girls, a so-called "alternative" pornography website for its new campaign against fur. Seemingly nubile, skinny pornography models strike falsely coy poses, and are tagged with the slogan "I'd rather go naked than wear fur."

Please do complain to PETA if you feel shocked by their exploiting women to promote their ideas. (And prepare yourself to get a patronizing, "you should know that there's nothing shameful about the female body, you should learn to love yourself", touchy-feely kinda crap of an answer.)


Just a few quick facts about Suicide Girls (no, I won't link to their website).
  • Although they flatter themselves for allegedly featuring "alternative porn" and models, they mainly feature very young, skinny, conventionally beautiful, able, hairless, White women (though apparently, some of the models are "alternative" to the extent that they've got tattoos, piercings or still a little pubic hair left);
  • They objectify women for money;
  • Suicide Girls is - no shit - run by men;
  • The company's managers have been accused of exploiting their female employees - yes, the very same people who are being objectified in such a progressive way;
  • And please, what's with the name? Since when is suicide considered as sexy? Since when one's self-destruction gets people off? WTF.


Some Conservative wingnuts at the House of Commons want to restrict our right to choose whether and when to have children through the back door.

Bill C-484, which will be debated at the House of Commons this Friday, February 29th, aims at amending the Criminal Code so as to criminalize as murder the fact of causing the death of a foetus, notwithstanding its stage of development, upon hurting or killing pregnant woman.

These amendments - also known as "The Unborn Victims of Crime Act" - have been presented under the guise of "preventing violence against pregnant women" or even "protecting a woman's *cough* choice to bring her pregnancy to term."

The Bill would even characterize the foetus, no matter its stage of development, as a full-fledged person, which is the first step towards recriminalizing abortion.

So let's say no to this hypocrisy. Contact your MP. Spread the word among your friends, family and coworkers.

This Bill must not be enacted into law.


For more information about the issues regarding Bill C-484, and recent attacks on our freedom of choice, visit the folks at Birth Pangs.


If you own a blog, please take part in the One Person, One Body, One Count to oppose Bill C-484, hosted at Rose's Place.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yet another rant on (or constructive criticism of) pornography...

I've already said before that, at a purely personal level, I don't get it. I don't understand what people like about porn. I don't understand what people find arousing about it.

First, it's just so artificial. It's fake because it probably depicts people who are only doing it for money, not primarily because they enjoy it, or because it's so graifying. It's fake because it's also likely to depict - or evidence - non-consensual sexual activity.

The pleasure is fake, the desire is fake, the love (if any) is fake.

How can a person enjoy looking at images of fake pleasure? How can a person get off on people faking, on people pretending to find sex pleasurable?

The inevitable answer to this question seems to be: the people who get off at this type of stuff :
  1. do not understand what pleasure is, and what it looks like in reality, OR
  2. make themselves believe that the fake images are in fact real; OR
  3. obviously don't care about other people's pleasure but their own when it comes to sex...

In any case, if that's how you think, there's something seriously wrong with you. Either because you've got a fucked up notion of what constitutes someone who genuinely willing to participate in sexual activity, or because you don't care about other people's enthusiasm, willingness or consent.

Which, of course, makes you a sicko and a wannabe rapist.

Most people accept the argument that, in child pornography, the minor participants are not *exactly* enjoying themselves, and that people who get off at this are would-be criminals who are sick enough to make themselves believe that this is for real.

Why don't people then also accept that the same is true with respect to "adult" pornography, and that the people who use it and get off on it are equally sick?


I've just realized that I've been writing this blog for a year. Cheers to me.

I was going to write about depressing matters.

(E.g. Michel Veillette who pleaded not guilty today to charges of stabbing his wife to death and of killing his four children by setting his house on fire, on account that he had a fight with his wife and that he was provoked. *vomits*)

However, I can't commit myself to write anything remotely thoughful, so here's some good old abstinence humour.


(This skit reminds me of the brilliant folks at Iron Hymen and their sister site, Sex is for Fags.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

On painful periods and sucking it up...

I just came across an interesting post at The Curvature, on the pros and cons (but especially the pros) of the suppression of menstruation through the continuous use of birth control.

It also addresses the so-called debate about the "end" of menstruation and the myth that our monthly bleeding is a grand, spiritual, reassuring experience of female-bonding - or some hippie bullshit like that.

But what struck me the most was this comment to that post, which I thought accurately summed up the issues that most women encounter when it comes to their periods.

Before I went on continuous BCPs sometime around the late 90’s or early 00’s, my periods were consistantly so shitty that I had to take major painkillers and whatnot. Of course, in my case, it was because I have Endometriosis, and Superbad Periods are a symptom/result.

When I first started getting my period, I thought it was a tremendous pain in the ass (or uterus, as the case may be) and mentioned this to my mother. “This is annoying. At what point do you get used to this?” I asked. “I’ll let you know,” she said. “I never have.”

Frankly, the kumbaya/Have A Happy Period/women in tampax commercials prancing around in white pants approach to menstruation has always felt quite alienating to me, rather than being a source of bonding and camraderie, because it just made me feel like my superbad periods were all the more freakish.

I certainly wouldn’t want to deny a period to anyone who wants one, but at the same time, I think being a woman is about more than just whether or not you get a period every month and/or think it’s fun.

Menstruation is not exactly a spotted owl. It’s not like it’s being endangered by continuous birth control pills and must therefore be protected.

Another thing I appreciated about this comment is that it mentions endometriosis. Although it is a chronic condition that plagues approximately one woman out of ten and can ultimately cause infertility, endometriosis is rarely acknowledged or even spoken of.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that girls and women are conditioned to readily accept the idea that periods are supposed to be extremely painful and uncomfortable, or that sex is not that enjoyable after all, or simply that we really have nothing to complain of.

But why, in those modern times of wondrous medical advances, should women suffer debilitating symptoms every month? Why should women accept that their reproductive system should disturb their activities and dictate their schedule?

In my humble opinion, we should not. As a matter of fact, we women should, as a class of human beings, vindicate our right to not to be treated as cattle when it comes to our health.

Humour, bona fide work of art, or patriarchal provocation? You decide!

It has recently come to my knowledge that a major law firm in a major French speaking city of some province in Eastern Canada has acquired, as many major law firms frequently do, a new work of art to ornate its corridors.

The sculpture in question portrays a woman wearing a pink suit. Above the woman is a transparent glass plaque, through which one of the woman's hands pierces.

Charming. Great way to cheer up the female lawyers who work their asses off all day and manage a husband and a few kids in addition, and still can't make partner.

Although it's supposed to be innovative and tongue-in-cheek, from what I know, the reaction to this purchase was kinda cool - among female lawyers, that is.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blog for Choice - Part Two

As you already know, tomorrow will mark the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion in Canada.

Today, a small group of pro-choicers proudly walked in downtown Montréal to remind their fellow citizens of this important date, and show that they want abortion in Canada to remain legal, safe, accessible and free.

Despite our numbers, the event was a success because the participants responded individually to this call for action. They walked in the cold, not because they're part of some group or organization that told them to be there, but because they believe in reproductive freedom.

Secondly, it was also a success because approximately one third of the participants were men who are equally concerned about the issue of freedom of choice, and who don't dismiss it as a "women's issue."

Finally, our little, spontaneous march received some excellent media coverage, thanks to our wonderful volunteer publicist, MJ.


However, I was disappointed by the abysmal apathy of the people that we had contacted over the last few months. Most of them either did not give us any answers, or told us that they were not interested in participating. In addition, some people who had said they would attend the event never actually showed up.

But above everything else, I was extremely disappointed by the blatant lack of support of women's organization (namely, the Fédération des femmes du Québec and the Fédération pour le planning des naissances du Québec), and of student associations.

Despite having been notified months ago that we wanted to organize an event to celebrate the anniversary of R. v. Morgentaler, it was only until recently that the FFQ contacted us to inquire into our actions.

To my knowledge, no FFQ member or representative attended the march today.

Although the FFQ, along with other Québec pro-choice and women's groups, is to hold a press conference tomorrow to commemorate this anniversary, this initiative suspiciously looks like a last minute attempt to show that they're still on top of their things and that they care about reproductive rights.

Well, big effing deal.

The FFQ had other plans, months in the making. As a matter of fact, they'd been planning another event for January 26th, 2008. That is, this protest for peace in the Middle East and the preservation of environment. Though these are important issues as well, I can't help to have the uneasy feeling that the FFQ somehow forgot to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler ruling, or that they *just* thought that it was more important, this January 2008, to celebrate something else.

I can only wish that this administrative decision will be explained shortly, and that the people responsible will be held accountable.

Our freedom of choice is a right that can't afford being kept in the dark by the very people who should be upholding it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

A Christian website on how to deal with porn-addicted Christians:

"The church needs to expose this snake and cut off its head before more lives are ruined. "

By "snake", they mean "penis", right?

Rant of the Day

"If I had a cock..." - A rant on pornography by Oni Baba

It's no secret for those of you who read this blog that I'm deeply opposed to pornography.

From an ideological point of view, I think it's at odds with the egalitarian and non-exploitative values that feminism - in my opinion - stands for.

I also think that it is morally - and should be treated as legally - wrong. It's wrong because it's about making objects out of women - you know, those uppity female human beings. It's about using women, and trying to make them fit into the mold of unrealistic fantasies. It's also morally wrong because the goal of pornography is to use static interactions with representations of women as a way to reach sexual arousal/satisfaction. This necessarily entails that such arousal of satisfaction is not conditional to the male pornography consumer's negotiating the terms of the sexual act with the woman. The static nature of pornography make her consent entirely irrelevant. The women featured in pornography are always willing partners. We find the same attitude towards women in men who consume porn to get off, and those who rape women to achieve the same end.

And on a personal level, I really don't get it. Maybe it's just because I'm a woman.

Maybe my female upbringing didn't teach me that it was OK and socially acceptable to get off on unknown persons of the opposite sex because I want instant, easy sexual gratification, or just to boost my self-confidence.

Maybe it's just that I don't have a cock, where, as everybody knows, male self-confidence resides. If I had one, maybe I'd be tempted to exercise my god-given right to use women without their consent to satisfy my personal needs.

Maybe if I had a cock, I'd feel so lousy about myself that I'd rather play with myself and fantasizing about my virtual sexual performances than have real, consensual sex with an actual human being, with *gasp!* feelings, an *gasp!* intellect and even an *GASP!* ability to criticize my pathetic performances.

Maybe if I had a cock, no life and a fast Internet connection that allowed me to access loads of porn on demand, I'd do society a huge favour and I'd shoot myself.

Walk for Choice! - In Montréal, this Sunday!

Closer to home, I'm proud to announce that there will be a walk next Sunday in downtown Montréal to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion in Canada.

The walk will start at 12:00 in front of the Palais de justice, on the corner of St-Laurent and St-Antoine. (For those who are interested, there is a parking lot right there so you can leave your car.)

We will march downtown for about 30-45 minutes until we arrive at the Place du Canada (on the corner of Peel and René-Lévesque).

Please bring banners and signs, with fun and thoughtful pro-choice slogans.
This is also a B.Y.O.B. event, i.e. Bring Your Own Boyfriend. (And make your guy carry a sign that says "If men could get pregnant, there'd be abortions at Wal-Mart.")
This event is organized by a handful of concerned women who wanted to let their fellow citizens know that reproductive freedom is relatively quite recent, and that Canadian women care deeply about the preservation of those rights.
For more information, please write to 28janvier2008@gmail.com.

Blog for Choice - Part One

Today's the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That's 35 years of reproductive freedom for our fellow uterus owners South of the border - and as many years of fighting to preserve those hard-won rights, and of bitter losses to the hands of heinous conservative nutbags who think it's normal to force other people ('cause, you know, women are just people without penises) to suffer pregnancies and bring unwanted babies into this world.

So, cheers!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

'Takes the words right out of my mouth...

A - feminist and pro-choicer - friend of mine had this to say about the anti-abortion folks who hijack the mainstream media and use events such as January 28th to their own advantage.

I could not have said it better myself:

Le problème est que les pro-choix se taisent et se cachent. Les pro-vies se manifestent, manifestent, et crient. Ils utilisent les sentiments, les restants de religion, la pseudo-éthique. Hey, ils veulent jouer à ça : on peut jouer à ça. Ils veulent montrer des photos des fœtus en plastique? On peut montrer des photos de cadavres de femmes mortes lors d’accouchements illégaux. Ils veulent parler de choc post-avortement, parlons-en des conséquences d’une grossesse non-désirée portée à terme! Ils veulent pleurer sur le sort des hommes? Sortons leur ce pauvre homme de Daigle c. Tremblay: yé tellement fin et tellement à plaindre!!
Ils veulent pas avoir d’avortement. Qu’ils en aient pas et qu’ils se trouvent un autre truc à pas vouloir faire pour manifester.

I cannot stress it enough: it's up to us, the pro-choice, feminist crowd, to get in the spotlight for once and get our message across to our fellow citizens and to our governments.

So let's not waste this opportunity.

Pro-choicers must fight back!

Just like in the UK, anti-choicers in Canada plan to hijack the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion in Canada (January 28th, 2008) by holding misleading, anti-feminist and borderline hateful events all over the country.


For instance, a new so-called "pro-life" groupe (as if we needed any more of those) called "ProWomanProLife" has been lauched to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1988 Morgentaler Supreme Court ruling.

This group seeks to convince the public that they're all "pro-choice," in the sense that they want Canadian women to choose to "eradicate abortion" and to "remove abortion from our cultural landscape". Ugh.

They also want to open and operate more "Crisis Pregnancy Centres", i.e. fake clinics where distressed pregnant women are tricked into going through unwanted pregnancies.

Predictably, those folks are liars...:

ProWomanProLife celebrates women, life and freedom, and is being launched to mark the Morgentaler decision of January 28, 1988, which removed all restrictions on abortion in Canada at any stage of a pregnancy.

(They make it sound like before January 28th, 1988, women could freely get legal abortions, under certain conditions. This is not the case, as those folks surely know. Terminating one's pregnancy was a crime before that date.)

... as well as bigots, for they are acquainted with such "pro-women" groups as Focus on the Family Canada and Family Canada.

"Pro-women". Yeah. Right.


On January 28th, 2008, another anti-abortion group has made an anti-choice short film called "1st Degree Morgentaler" that has been entered in a film competition called "Project Breakout".

The film in question a very doubtful account by a woman who claims to have undergone a forced abortion at the hands Dr. Henry Morgentaler himself.


(Well. At lease, they're stupid enough to publicize their acts of clear-cut defamation. I can't wait to see the lawsuits that will follow...Yay!)

The anti-choicers behind this are rejoincing because the results of the competition are to be released on January 28th.


Now, it's up to us, pro-choicers and feminists to hold our own events to let the public know that we don't accept that anti-choice, anti-women crap.

We need to unite our voices to tell the people of our communities that we support a woman's right to choose if and when she will have children.

We must take action to tell our fellow citizens and our governments that we want abortion in Canada to remain LEGAL, SAFE, ACCESSIBLE and FREE.


On Sunday, January 27th, there will be a walk in downtown Montréal to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion and to reaffirm our pro-choice values.

I will post more details of this events later on on this blog. You may also contact me by email at womenwithswords@gmail.com, or at 28janvier2008@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The Globe and Mail tells us that there are not many women in top executive jobs, and that their numbers have been decreasing over the past year.

No shit.

Left out in the cold

Some aboriginal communities in Canada, like for instance, the Crees and Inuit of Northern Québec, are lucky enough to have strong land claims on vast territories that are rich in coveted natural resources. I say they're lucky because the riches of their ancestral lands provide them with they potent leverage they need when negotiating agreements with corporations and governments.

In 1994, the Innus of Uashat mak Mani Utenam (near Sept-Îles, in the Côte-Nord region in Québec), successfully stroke a deal with Hydro-Québec for the development of the SM-3 basin and plant on the Ste-Marguerite river, which is situated at the heart of their traditional hunting grounds.

The Innu obtained close to $20 millions from Hydro-Québec as compensation for the destruction of their lands, and as funding for the reconstruction and preservation of other areas. They also obtained $300,000 per year for 50 years to subsidize hunting, trapping and fishing.

But the major benefit of this deal for the Innu are spelled out in terms of short and long term employment opportunities with Hydro-Québec and its subcontractors.

However, many Innu women noted that the benefits for women were practically inexistant, as the bulk of the jobs created by the SM-3 project belong to traditionally male fields, such as construction, truck driving, electricity, etc... Moreover, they complained that most of these jobs had been created on a short term basis only, and that the male leaders of the community had favoured unsustainable development in an attempt to gain political support from the population:

Kathleen Saint-Onge, qui a été directrice adjointe de l’emploi, de la formation et du développement au Conseil de bande et qui, à ce titre, a participé aux travaux de la SOTRAC, s’est battue en vain pour obtenir un centre de formation professionnel, plutôt que de créer des emplois temporaires qui ne profitent qu’aux hommes. «La plupart des gens autour de la table étaient tous des hommes d’expérience. J’étais trop jeune pour leur faire face et le Conseil de bande voulait créer immédiatement des emplois». Kathleen déplore ce manque de vision à long terme. «On ne mise pas sur le développement durable dans la plupart des communautés... parce qu’il n’y a pas de capital politique à faire».

Hydro's response? Well, how could they have possibly known that women would not benefit from these jobs?

Ces commentaires étonnent Richard Laforest, représentant d’Hydro-Québec à la SOTRAC. Que les femmes aient éprouvé de la difficulté à se faire entendre ne lui a jamais effleuré l’esprit. «À ma connaissance, aucun projet pour les femmes ne nous a été présenté», dit-il, tout en reconnaissant que les critères pour les travaux rémédiateurs ou les activités traditionnelles ne les favorisent pas vraiment.

There you go. *sigh* It's so easy to hid you head in the sand, while patting yourself on the back for being to generous towards those poor Aboriginals...


The Innu of Uashat mak Mani Utenam are currently involved in negotiations with Consolidated Thomson with respect to the Bloom Lake iron mining project. Let's just hope that the interests of women will be taken into account this time, and that they'll be able to reap substantially equal benefits as the male half of the community.

When does catcalling become criminal harassment?

Imagine you're walking down the street with your five year-old child. Some random guy starts following you, wolf-whistling at you, and repeatedly telling you - in a completely uninvited and unwanted fashion - that you've got a nice ass, or nice tits or whatever. He only stops when you get in your car and speed away from the scene.

Surely, most women would say that such behaviour constitutes "harassement" in the colloquial sense of the word. But would most women say feel "threatened" by such catcalls?

(For harassment to constitute criminal harassment in the eyes of our criminal law, it has to be objectively "threatening," that is, that the accused's conduct must "[rise] to the level of a 'tool of intimidation designed to instill a sense of fear'".)

Now, what if the catcaller was a police officer in full uniform?

In a recent case, the Yukon Territory Court of Appeal acquitted a police officer of harassment charges, on the ground that his actions did not objectively constitute a "threatening" conduct.

Some commentators have rightly pointed out that the Court failed to take into account that the power dynamic that necessarily kicks into gear when a person in authority is involved:

I would have liked the Court to say something more about the fact that the accusedmade these comments while in uniform.
To my mind this elevates the conduct, viewed objectively, beyond the merely inappropriate, and potentially makes it threatening and intimidating. This guy wasn’t a construction worker.

Any thoughts?


Update (as a - lenghty - response to Lilith's comment):

The problem is that under our criminal law, we're stuck with "objective" notions of what is threatening when it comes to such offences as criminal harassment and uttering threats. The rationale for this is that the law seeks to punish the offender who had the intention to cause the victim to feel threatened or in danger of death or bodily harm. The courts determine if this intention is present by asking themselves whether the accused's words or actions were designed to instill fear, from his point of view, and not from that of the victim.

This is why we're forced to trust our judges with taking into account the perspective of the women who are most often the victims of such crimes. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For instance, in 1991, in the McCraw case, the Supreme Court of Canada had to explain why threatening a woman of rape, even when the guys says he finds her pretty or that he's infatuated with her, necessarily constitutes a threat of bodily harm...

The problem is that judges are most often men, who interpret objective legal norm from the vantage of a reasonable man, who unlike a reasonable woman, is usually not afraid to go out alone at night, and usually capable of fending off potential assailants...

I agree that is not the best way to interpret laws that, in practice, seek to punish acts of violence against women. In fact, many feminist legal scholars have demanded that courts turn to a standard of a "reasonable woman" in such cases.

However, I'm not too sure it's a good idea, because I fear it would only allow male judges to introduce sexist notions on how a "reasonable female" should behave in such and such situation into our jurisprudence.

The best solution, I think, would be to appoint more women to the Bench!

A side note: In my opinion, the offenders who harass women or who threaten them, on the other hand, usually understand too well what women find threatening. That's precisely why they harass or threaten them in the first place.

That's also something - unfortunately - they understand almost instinctively, something they understand better than the judges who are called to rule their case.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A little reminder...

In less than two weeks, Canadians will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion in our beautiful, so-progressive-I'm-hiding-my-head-in-the-sand country.

Here are two reading suggestions.

The first is an interview with Dr. Henry Morgentaler, to whose efforts and altruism we, Canadian women, mainly owe our reproductive freedom.

The second is an article from the Globe and Mail, by Judith Timson, where she criticizes the mainstream media for depicting abortion as negative, traumatizing or -worse - non-existent. Namely, she takes on the movies Knocked Up and Juno, which both deal with the topic of unwanted pregnancies, which both understate the physical and social impact of an unplanned pregnancy, and which respectively do not mention abortion and quickly dismiss it as an unthinkable option.

Ms. Timson's article makes two majors points. First, such films are at odds with reality. For instance, in Québec, one out of three pregnancies end up as abortions. So - get it? - abortions do exist, and they're not exceptional at all.

Secondly, the mainstream media dismisses the validity of the choice to terminate a pregnancy - as well as the importance of the mere fact that it is available at all. She rightly points out that, not so long ago, teenage girls who got pregnant had to illicitly travel to obtain abortions out of the country, or go through illegal and unsafe procedures.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Behind the veil

I recently finished reading Persépolis, the wonderful graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi.

In the four tomes of Persépolis (now available in a consolidated format), Ms. Satrapi recalls her childhood in Iran during the fall of the Shah and the instauration of the Islamic Republic, her subsequent exile and coming of age in Vienna as a teenager, and her eventual return to Iran as a liberated and freedom-loving young woman.

Ms. Satrapi's story is simply and sincerely told and drawn in a sober, black and white fashion. As the story progresses, the author's tone evolves from that of a 10 year-old girl to that of a rebellious and educated young woman, and alternates between tenderness, despair and brutality.

Just as Maus, the acclaimed graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, was not just about the Holocaust but also dwelled on the themes of the family and memory (as in mémoire), Persépolis is not just about Iran's oppressive regime.

It is also a critique of middle-eastern politics in recent history, an assault on organized religion, the tale of a young woman who learns how to find her true self, and a story about love - of men, of one's family and friends and of one's country and culture.

Now I can't wait to see the film!
Starting January 25th, A Creative Revolution will accept nominations for the first annual Canadian F-Word Blog Awards, which will salute the efforts and merits of Canadian blogs of feminist persuasion.

The categories are:

Best Canadian Feminist Blog
Best International Feminist Blog
Activist Blog
Environmental Blog
Entertainment Blog
Culture Blog
Group Blog
Individual Blog
WOC-centered Blog
Reproductive Liberty Blog
Family Blog
Political Blog
Humour blog
Best comment thread
The "why the fuck didn't I say that?" award for most poignant comment
Best Snark Comment
Most Regressive "Progressive"
The Support Bro - Best Post by a male in support of feminists/feminism

The winners will be announced on February 24th.

In the news: "Dead heart beats anew"

... maybe there's hope after all for the Conservatives...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Fighting teh Porn around us

A little while ago, I was shopping for birthdays cards at a Carlton store. I noticed a display of 2008 calendars near the entrance, and among them, many featured -Brazilian-style-bikini-clad-almost-naked bombshells, happily cavorting in the sand, or striking pouty poses.

Besides the obvious "why would Carlton be selling porn?" question, I was shocked by the fact that those calendars were in plain sight, and close to the ground, where small children can freely see them, pick them up and flip through their pictures.

As I paid my purchase, I told the cashier that it was, in my opinion, unacceptable that pornographic calendars be displayed in such way as to be easily accessible for children. She looked at me as if I was crazy. I then went on to explain that in most stores where pornographic magazines are sold, they are usually harder to see, and hidden at the back of the displays.

The cashier was still looking at me with a glazed, "does-not-compute" look in her eyes.

Her (female) colleague then intervened: "Those are not pornographic. It's just naked women."

I decided not to push the discussion any further and left the store.


A few days ago, I found myself at a calendar stand in the middle of a mall, trying to find something cute or funny enough to ornate my wall for a whole year.

I noticed - again - pornographic calendars on the lower shelf of the display, at the ground level, in plain sight. I looked around. The cashier, this time, was a young man.

There was no chance in hell, I decided, that he'd be more sensitive to my arguments. After all, he had made the business decision to order, display and sell such products...

So I opted to fight the sneaky fight. I picked up a few "Studs and Spurs" calendars and placed them in front of calendars that pictured naked women.


OK. Fighting porn that objectifies women (i.e. very popular porn) with porn that objectifies men (i.e. less popular porn) is arguably not the best way to eliminate it. But at the very least, it may help, for a few hours or even a day, decrease the sale of pornographic material.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Unhappy Valentines

(Pun definitely intended.)

A Mississippi court awarded a man $754,500 in damages against his wife's lover for "stolen affections" and loss of consortium (i.e. his wife's sexual "services").

The ex-lover apparently attempted to challenge the constitutionality of the law, on the ground that it is based on the "medieval" notion that a woman is the property of her husband, but the law was upheld.


Update (2008/01/09):

For those who are not familiar with the term, consortium was one of the three heads under which a plaintiff could claim moral damages. (These categories of moral injury have lost their importance in Québec civil law.)

The others heads were solatium (i.e. grief) and servitium (i.e. the loss of the domestic services of the plaintiff's wife).

It is unclear whether women could claim damages for loss of consortium. In my humble opinion, it would have been unlikely, as married women, lacking legal capacity, could not sue on their own, and had to do so via their husband.

This reminds me of a Canadian civil liability case from the 50's. The plaintiff was a husband who was suing a hairdresser on his own behalf and on behalf of his wife. His wife had her scalp badly burnt by hair dye products, and had become bald as a result. The husband claimed damages on account of a loss of solatium, because his wife was so disfigured that he could not go out with her in public anymore, and for loss of consortium, because she had become so ugly that he couldn't bring himself to have intercourse with her...

*sigh* How tactful...

Picture of the day