Category Archives: What we’re thinking/reading/doing (IFLS blog)

What’s interesting these days?

The Regulation of Motherhood: Good mothers, bad mothers & feminists

Lots in the media lately about motherhood, following publication of Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood undermines the Status of Women(publisher’s blurb:

In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Time Bind, The Conflict, a #1 European bestseller, identifies a surprising setback to women’s freedom: progressive modern motherhood.  Elisabeth Badinter has for decades been in the vanguard of the European fight for women’s equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: liberal motherhood, in thrall to all that is “natural.” Attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and especially breast-feeding—these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s. Badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs—and anything that distracts a mother’s attention from her offspring—have turned childrearing into a singularly regressive force.   In sharp, engaging prose, Badinter names a reactionary shift that is intensely felt but has not been clearly articulated until now, a shift that America has pioneered. She reserves special ire for the orthodoxy of the La Leche League—an offshoot of conservative Evangelicalism—showing how on-demand breastfeeding, with all its limitations, curtails women’s choices. Moreover, the pressure to provide children with 24/7 availability and empathy has produced a generation of overwhelmed and guilt-laden mothers—one cause of the West’s alarming decline in birthrate.”)

Some of the media reaction just feels like baiting (Time magazine’s Are you mom enough cover, for instance).  What, had the so called mommy wars died down so much that the media was compelled to light a match? The New York Times put the issue on its Room for debate page under the headline “Motherhood vs. Feminism“, with gems like “…the present feminist climate pressures women to work,”

After reading that, I became convinced that the whole “issue” is a desperate attempt to distract feminists from something really important that’s happening.  Like, say, inequality,  wage stagnation, lack of good jobs, and the persistent failure to close the wage gap.  Or maybe they were worried all the focus on inequality was edging dangerously close to thinking about class and race seriously, so they had to put us back into more familiar territory.

Anyway, I’m too busy to read these kinds of so called debates, seriously, I have kids!  The endless capacity to judge harshly is particularly devastating in these kinds of contexts, though.  These people need to read some Joan Williams (her book, Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and what to do about it” and great article available on SSRN (open to all) Implementing Anti-Essentialism: How Gender Wars turn into Race and Class conflict).  Who else should we be reading on this?  There is a NYT oped which makes a similar point (focus on the conditions of work, not motherhood, will produce a very different set of ideas).

Anyway, along the same lines the NYT Mag did publish an amazing and terrible story,The Criminalization of Bad Mothers, it’s definitely recommended reading.

Personhood advocates regard fetal rights as a civil rights issue, and they often compare themselves to abolitionists. “I think it would be unequal protection to give the woman a pass when anyone else who injects drugs into a child would be prosecuted,” Ben DuPré, director of Personhood Alabama, said. “What it boils down to is, aren’t these little children persons?”

And to cap off, this morning, Joanna Birenbaum of LEAF sent me a link to this article, Bei-Bei Shuai released from Jail and the Politics of Motherhood (Slate) which details another kind of tragedy in Indiana.

Schlifer, METRAC, LEAF Submission to the Parliamentary Committee re Bill C31


These changes, considered cumulatively, remove the ability of a significant number of women who come to Canada with their abusers and rely on the abuser’s refugee claim while living under his power and control, to have their risk of persecution assessed at all. The lives of many women will be put at risk and Canada’s reputation as a safe haven of gender equality will be severely undermined.

Read the full submission here:

Submission of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, The Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC), and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Immigration regarding the Committee’s review of Bill C-31
April 24, 2012


Law & Society in Hawai'i: Events, Program and "What's a CRN?"

Apparently I had a good reason for not going to this conference, June 5-8 in Hawai’i.  Now I’m even more annoyed at myself because apparently the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law will host an event on Wed. June 6th (email Deb Parks at Manitoba, parkesd at ms.manitoba dot ca)  and the Feminist Legal Theory CRN and Gender & Sexuality CRN’s are also having a dinner ($45) on June 7th (email Nancy Polikoff at law dot ucla dot edu before May 24)

What’s a CRN?  It is a LSA based Collaborative Research Network:

originally developed,….to facilitate international research collaboration in selected topics for presentation at the meeting in Budapest in July 2001, …..[m]any new CRNs have since been developed and CRNs have become an significant and integral component in Annual Meetings.

Want to join a CRN? “you should identify yourself by sending an email to organizer (simply click on the organizer’s name to email these recipients simultaneously).  In the email message describe your research interest and how it might fit in the subject of the CRN.”

The complete list of CRN’s is here, and you can find all the organizers and descriptions for all the groups, including Feminist Legal Theory

feminist concerns implicate a wide variety of subjects in the legal academy and in other areas of the academy, and there is a broad array of scholars interested in this topic. Although many scholars would benefit from more discussions on feminist issues, the fact that feminist theory cuts across so many fields hampers conversation: many of us, particularly those newer to the academy, do not know one another or the work that is being done on these issues in other fields. A number of us regularly attend the Law and Society Annual Meeting, but simply arrange panels within our own fields and subfields, and the discussion at these panels is more insular than it might otherwise be. Designating a CRN on feminist theory could help change this dynamic. It would allow members to organize panels across fields and encourage more cross-pollination on feminist issues than has been occurring. It would also encourage more research and mentoring relationships. Despite calls for a “break” from feminist legal theory, and cognizant of the well-deserved criticism that some feminist legal theory has essentialized the feminine and excludes many voices, feminism continues to be an energizing force for scholars within law and across other disciplines. This CRN seeks to foster a community of scholars with a shared interest in gender and equality as related to race, class, sexual orientation, disability, and much more. To build our community, the CRN will operate as a working group, with scholars presenting works-in-progress on varied topics related to feminist legal theory. We will not set themes before the meetings but instead will shape the panels around the work of the participants, facilitating an organic discussion that is not constrained by specific topic or inquiry. In addition, we hope to use an annual business meeting to strategize about other ways feminist scholars could more profitably work together, and a roundtable on works-newly-in-progress to further collaboration on existing projects.

and Gender, Sexuality and Law

The interplay between the law, gender, and sexuality is a precarious one. On one hand, the law and legal decision-making are rooted in a tradition of predictability, uniformity, and rigidity. On the other hand, gender and sexuality identities are dynamic, non-discrete, and fluid. As gender and sexuality issues are increasingly resolved in legislatures and courts, the question of how to reconcile these competing motifs themselves are worthy of Law and Society scholarship. The purpose of this CRN is, thus, two-fold: first, to critically examine the law and its relationship to gender and sexual identities — i.e., how the law constructs, constrains, and/or enables gender and sexual minorities at the municipal, state, and national level; and, second, to engage comparatively with international legal systems, both established and emergent, to shed new light on these constructs. Specifically, this network seeks to promote scholarship that looks at gender and sexual minorities as its own research question and not simply as a case study within the discipline (e.g., social movements, tax law, etc.). Using these critical and comparative lenses, not only would this collaborative space cast light on these understudied groups, but it also encourages discussions about broader Law and Society questions such the relationship between law and social change, issues of diversity and citizenship, and transnationalism.

Preliminary Program

Twitter for non twitter people: Just links

Recent IFLS tweets with links! These tweets were culled from the recent set, so that almost all of them are links to articles or posts that are worthy of a post but fell victim to (laziness) (marking pressure).   Looking for a little reading?

So for instance, check out the new BlawgReview on Joan of Arc, very interesting, written by Melissa Castan (Monash University in Melbourne), who maintains the feminist blog Amicae Curiae.and Kate Galloway (James Cook University in Cairns).

Joan of Arc Day! #BlawgReview #320: A Call To Arms! @blawgreview

Or read Lolita Buckner-Inniss and imagine yourself with her, out and about in Paris on election day with 80% voter turnout.

Prof. Buckner-Inniss in Paris, captures the mood. RT @AuntieFeminist: Sarkozy, Hollande & a Sunday Kind of Feeling

Or consider these legal developments re Gender.

13h Gender&SexualityLaw@GenderSexLaw Colorado-based lesbian mom granted PATERNITY in custody battle over adopted daughter

1h Hugo Cyr@ProfCyr  Canadian passports to recognize transgenders? “un troisième sexe sur les passeports canadiens? #canpoli

Maybe you’re in Vancouver and looking for something to do.

5 May  RT @mash09 …MUST check out the #BeatNation exhibit at the {vancouver} Art Gallery. Hip hop culture meets First Nations culture. Mad cool.


Or you’ve been thinking about the death of Adam Yauch, who made great public comments that were anti racist and anti sexist.

5 May RT “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be through” MCA, TheBeastieBoys RIP

I was at a conference this weekend, so there’s a bit about that

5 May   #ozcon gender violence & sex. assault panel on paper & in person [wtih apology to MShaffer for spelling her name wrong in caption!]

5 May  #ozcon orgnzrs @blberger & J Stribopoulos got diversity in spkrs/topics. = #s women/men on prgrm, & already talking race this am. Bravo.

4 May  SCLRs #ozcon cases collection of 212 articles (finally) online thanks to Jamie Cameron’s relentless work.

4 May  Elliott: fabulous lgbt legal victories on bake sale budgets, against sig gov’t $. Generous apprch to intervent’ns & standing help. #ozcon


This piece on Abortion politics in Ireland put a new spin on things for me.

4 May  Máiréad Enright: Abortion, Resistance and the Politics of Death and Grief. – Human Rights in Ireland #really,readthis

This development is unfortunate. We’ve been patting ourselves on the back a great deal for the influence of Canada’s Charter on SA’s (despite the fact that SA’s is much better on social/political rights).  This is an ongoing story.

3 May Feminist Law Profs@FeministLawPrfs New blog post: Will the South Africa Constitution Remove Sexual Orientation Equality??

Katha Pollitt asks whether women are in the 99%, and since we are, where are the gendered issues?

 3 May Laura Track@lktrack  She’s the best. RT @equalitybfast: Women: Occupy the Left (yes @KathaPollitt)

A men’s centre is proposed at SFU.  So:

3 May UN Women@UN_Women Are #men-only or #women-only spaces needed in #universities? It’s the cause of a debate at @SFU in #Canada

On the informed opinions front,

3 May  RT @OsgoodeResearch: @osgoodeifls mbr Prof. Carys Craig in “The #trademark that roared (on sound protectn in Cda)

And a post on a conference in India that looked good and interesting, but is also one of many in India that involve co sponsorship of Australian universities.  Good N/S collaboration?  What could we do here?

3 May  Sarah Stephens @ intlawgrrls posts In India, global discussion of feminism & law re ILS int’l conf on Feminism & Law



An IFLS Screening Series? Kikkik E1-472

Following on my post about Rex v Singh, my colleague and Grad Program director  Ruth Buchanan alerted me to another film that would be great for the series, one that she and Rebecca Johnson (Uvic) are writing on, called Kikkik E1-472 (2002).  It’s a harrowing true story from the 1950’s, another one which involves a trial and takes up questions about the use of/place of race and culture in Canadian nation building projects.

The bones of the story are here, on wikipedia.

Kikkik was an Inuit woman who, in 1958, was charged with but acquitted of murder, child neglect and causing the death of one of her children.

Here is an article from the Nunatsiaq News which looks at the participation of Elispee Karetak, one of Kikkik’s children and a student at Akitsiraq law school, in the making of the film:

The story recounts the relocation of Inuit in the interior of the Kivalliq region, the devastating starvation that followed, the murder of Karetak’s father and her mother’s struggle to keep her starving children alive. It is the heart of Kikkik, a documentary the crew is filming in Iqaluit.

The camera is rolling and Karetak, a 45-year-old originally from Arviat, is ready to unravel the emotional tale.

“This is a story of my people, the Ihalmiut, and what happened to us after the first contact with the white people and their government,” Karetak says in Inuktitut.

The 2002 version was made by a team including Karetak, Martin Kreelak and Ole Gjersted in English and Inuktitut.  The judge who acquitted Kikkik, John Sissons, commissioned an incredible series of three sculptures to tell Kikkik’s story (for more on Sissons and those carvings, see this book).