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

What’s interesting these days?

"I literally couldn't give a…": Feminist fight on the web.

You don’t need an MA in gender studies to know that race matters to feminism | Chitra Nagarajan and Lola Okolosie | Comment is free |



In their article “In defence of Caitlin Moran and populist feminism” , Rhiannon and Holly from the Vagenda magazine employ a heady mix of biographical context and anti-intellectualism to defend the indefensible: Moran’s dismissal of the representation of black women. They write that “feminism is, and to an extent always has been, a white, middle class movement”, which must be resuscitated from the “dust and the stuffiness” it has been cocooned within by reinventing itself. To do this the movement has to silence its most “academic [which] is almost incomprehensible” and express “its ideals in a way that thousands of women understand and identify with”.

Nagarajan and Okolosie refer to this piece from the Vagenda Team, in the New Statesman

It almost seems as though some educated women want to keep feminism for themselves, cloak it in esoteric theory and hide it under their mattresses, safe and warm beneath the duck down duvet. As long as that happens, though, the lives of many women and men in this country will remain the same. Feminism should not be a discipline far removed from the lives of ordinary people, but part of a larger social justice movement that strives to achieve a better life for everyone. Caitlin Moran may not be perfect, but she has come closest thus far. In the last few weeks some have been bandying about the oft-quoted phrase “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” We would suggest that anyone with an interest in genuine equality for all adapt that phrase to “my feminism will be comprehensible or it will be bullshit.”

Rhiannon and Holly wrote that Vagenda piece as a defence of Caitlin Moran (author of How to Be a Woman, columnist).  Assigned to interview Lena Dunham, whose show “Girls” has been both much feted for showing something real about the lives of young women and much critiqued for being relentlessly white, Moran was tweeted at by someone asking whether she addressed that lack in the interview.  She tweeted back, “Nope. I literally couldn’t give a shit about it” thus unleashing (come on, it’s the internet, what else could be unleashed) mainly a sh*tstorm but also some thoughtful commentary (see Guardian story which opens this post as one example).

Here‘s Jezebel on the story, here‘s Bitch Magazine.

One of the things I find really curious about the Vagenda “defence” (which they have of course had to defend through twitter now) is that their argument in some ways closely tracks the arguments made in Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism edited by Jessica Yee (now Danforth).  Until it diametrically diverges.  That book (see here for an old IFLS post) also took aim at the academy – but from a very different position.  Yee and her co authors were largely women of colour, deeply concerned about the silencing of particular experiences and concerns by academic feminism, not just the academy’s more general tendency to either exclude or pirate experiences into bodies of work made inaccessible to the subjects of study.

I don’t think the  Vagenda argument has much to it.  They slip between class and race in both their original piece and their defences, and to the extent that they are claiming that intersectionality is incomprehensible, I don’t think they can really run with that…it’s not that hard to understand. Operationalise, detail, capture, yes, but understanding the basic concept?    Please.

So that’s the story.  In other news, British papers are full of articles about the netmum’s survey (if you’re reading this blog, let me warn you that clicking through will probably really piss you off) that found feminism irrelevant and used FeMEnism to “reflect women’s personal choice”. Argh.  See here, here and here for examples of feminist responses.


Post-Doc Opp at Osgoode…[tell your friends/students]

Osgoode Catalyst Fellowship

The Osgoode Catalyst Fellowship program will serve as a bridge to a legal academic career for one or more scholars each academic year.

The Osgoode Catalyst Fellowships are designed to bring to Osgoode emerging scholars who have a demonstrated interest in a career in law teaching, and to support and mentor scholars who will enhance the diversity of the profession. Fellows will be given the opportunity to present a faculty seminar with the aim of preparing a major article for publication, to pursue an active affiliation with one of our research centers, and to teach a course at the Law School.

Promising candidates should commit to being in residence at the Law School for a full academic year. Fellowships may also be awarded for a semester. Fellows will receive approximately $50,000 in funding for a full academic year.

Fellows should not be degree candidates at Osgoode Hall Law School or any other school during the term of the fellowship.

Osgoode Hall Law School is committed to equality and diversity. We especially welcome applications from women, visible minorities, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, and LGBT candidates. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply, and we encourage candidates to self-identify in their initial applications.

Interested individuals should send an application that includes a curriculum vitae, copies of law and graduate transcripts, a detailed statement of a research project, and three signed confidential letters of academic reference to be received as soon as possible, and in any event no later than Friday, November 30, 2012 to:

Michelle Berman

Secretary of the Faculty Recruitment Committee

Osgoode Hall Law School

York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3


tel: (416) 650-8283

Please note that electronic applications are strongly preferred, and hard copies will not be returned.

via Osgoode Catalyst Fellowship | Osgoode.

Read about our first fellowship holder, Pooja Parmar, here.

Weekend Read: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay in the VQR

Roxane Gay, a writer I really like, in the latest issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, on being a bad feminist.

Will no doubt resonate with many, and perhaps slightly reassure? Some of the beats i like are er, slightly misogynistic.  And in part because of that, I try not to be the feminist police.  But I don’t buy the argument that feminism means validating all the choices any woman, anywhere, ever makes as inherently feminist… Anyway, this is a nice weekend read.

My favorite definition of a feminist is one offered by Su, an Australian woman who, when interviewed for Kathy Bail’s 1996 anthology DIY Feminism, described them simply as “women who don’t want to be treated like shit.” This definition is pointed and succinct, but I run into trouble when I try to expand it. I fall short as a feminist. I feel like I am not as committed as I need to be, that I am not living up to feminist ideals because of who and how I choose to be. I feel this tension constantly.

Roxane Gay, via VQR » Bad Feminist.

When you are done and want to know, ‘Who is this Roxane Gay and where else can I read her work?’, she has a blog and here is a link to her writing at The Rumpus, where she is essays editor.  She seems far too cool to be a professor, but apparently not.  For those of you who discover your new best (writer-you-want-to-be-best-friends-with) through this post – you’re welcome! I will pass your thanks to @lawandlit who brought me to Roxane Gay through this article on trigger warnings.



Events at Osgoode: Meet a Gladue Caseworker; Dialogue about "Honour Killings"

It’s a pleasure to be an institution where students are active in creating links between the community and the school and opportunities to learn.  Here are two events coming up.

OCTOBER 24: A Dialogue About “Honour Killings” in Canada

Brought to you by Osgoode’s: Muslim Law Students’ Association, South Asian Law Students’ Association, and Women’s Caucus

What are ‘honour killings? • Are ‘honour killings’ different from other forms of violence against women? If so , how? • Have ‘honour killings been discussed accurately and fairly in the media? • Should there be a specific Criminal Code provision to address ‘honour killings? Why or why not? • And more

Panelists: Deepa Mattoo (Staff Lawyer, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario) •Kripa Sekhar (Executive Director, South Asian Women’s Centre) •Nader Hasan (Partner, Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan LLP)

Refreshments Provided.  Poster here. OCT 24 @ 12:30 IKB 2001

 OCTOBER 31: Gladue & Sentencing

Please join the Osgoode Indigenous Students Association (find them on Facebook here) to hear from Jennifer Bolton, a Gladue Caseworker from Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, who will be speaking to faculty and students on Gladue sentencing principles.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012    12:30-2:00   Room 2010    Lunch will be provided

Who Should Attend:  This event will benefit faculty and students interested in criminal law and Aboriginal law, sentencing, equity, equality, criminology. .

The Supreme Court of Canada in a landmark decision called R v Gladue(  held that a court must take into consideration alternatives to incarceration with respect to Aboriginal offenders during sentencing. The court made the following comment at paragraph 64 after reviewing the statistics of Aboriginal peoples in custody:

These findings cry out for recognition of the magnitude and gravity of the problem, and for responses to alleviate it.  The figures are stark and reflect what may fairly be termed a crisis in the Canadian criminal justice system.  The drastic overrepresentation of aboriginal peoples within both the Canadian prison population and the criminal justice system reveals a sad and pressing social problem.  It is reasonable to assume that Parliament, in singling out aboriginal offenders for distinct sentencing treatment in s. 718.2(e), intended to attempt to redress this social problem to some degree.  The provision may properly be seen as Parliament’s direction to members of the judiciary to inquire into the causes of the problem and to endeavour to remedy it, to the extent that a remedy is possible through the sentencing process.

Since the Supreme Court’s judgment, Gladue principles have not  been consistently applied in courts. Recently, in  March 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Ipeelee ( confirmed Gladue principles and held that the failure to apply these principles “would run afoul of this statutory obligation. Furthermore, the failure to apply the Gladue principles in any case would also result in a sentence that is not fit and is not consistent with the fundamental principle of proportionality.  Therefore, application of the Gladue principles is required in every case involving an Aboriginal offender, including the breach of an LTSO, and a failure to do so constitutes an error justifying appellate intervention.”


Public lectures. Oct 22 Greenfield on "the myth of choice" & Oct 24 Bradbury on Studying Canada & Feminist Histories

Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies Annual Lecture and Collective Book Launch

This year Bettina Bradbury (history and women’s studies, Glendon College and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Profressional Studies), will present “Twists, Turning Points and Tall Shoulders: Studying Canada and feminist histories”.

Wednesday October 24 in the Senate Chamber (9th floor North Ross Building)  4 – 6 pm.  Please rsvp to


Here’s another talk, on the 22 October at Osgoode 1230.  Info below.  I’m intrigued by how feminist theory might engage with this, both generally around choice and more particularly around consumer culture.