via feminists@law: Contribution of Feminism to 3 Contemporary Debates About Law

Nicola Barker speaks on ‘Feminism, Family and the Politics of Austerity’ (with accompanying powerpoint slides); Sinead Ring speaks on ‘The Pernicious Nature of Rape Myths and How They Continue to Affect Rape Prosecutions'; Maria Drakopoulou speaks on ‘Feminism, Tradition and the Question of Sexual Violence'; and Rosemary Hunter acts as discussant, commenting on all three papers.

check it out in audio & ppt at feminists@law.

expertise & experts

If you haven’t seen the storm over Steve Paikin’s post on the blog for the TVO show “The Agenda”, go and check it out (here)

here are a few of my favourite responses:

…and here are a couple of my responses,

But i do think there are some serious issues here, of course, beyond the blatant sexism of the post.  I don’t doubt women turn it down more often than men, as a group (though if i was a person who had been on The Agenda, i would be pretty pissed off at that blog post, I mean, more pissed off).   So let us ask questions like,

what is an expert?

how is expertise used in media?

how does one become an expert?

what’s the difference between an expert, a pundit, and other kinds of guests that media are looking for?

what’s the place of race in this discussion about representation? (oh, i know! so predictable of me! but yes, it’s not irrelevant)

If it is true that women are more likely than men to claim lack of expertise, what does that mean? Should women then be encouraged to claim expertise? Is there a way of changing the framing of these things that might

a. bring in a more representative group and  b. make the show itself different, better, more helpful?

For many university professors, the idea of being able to contribute to a more accurate representation of a situation – whether that means getting technical details correct, or expanding the frame of options – is very exciting.  I know that of the people who do media in my institution, more are men.   My institution doesn’t have a women like Ottawa’s Carissima Mathen, who does lots of media and does it well.  There are many men, and many women, in my institution, who do almost no media.  And Paikin’s show requires bantering on TV.  That might not be everyone’s strong suit and I think there are good reasons that women might think that it’s risky, professionally, to do that if you feel unprepared.  I think it’s fair to speculate that the risks might be greater, as a woman.

At any rate, my own experience is mainly with radio, and I have to say that I probably put pressure on the producers who call me.  I have questions.  I want to make sure that I have the information and expertise that they want, and that I can do what they want – both that I have the knowledge, and that it’s not the kind of set up that I need to avoid.  Hats off to Beza Seife at CBC Radio and Britt Aharaoni at Newstalk 1010 (yes.  I went on talk radio and talked about racism and sexism.  It was fun and a good experience, honestly). who increased my ability to do the job they asked me to do.  Also to a number of print journalists – all these folks tolerate my excitement about the issue, my inability to sound bite, and my anxiety about public exposure.   I’m not saying everyone’s like me.  I’m just saying that this issue, like all the “lean in” issues, deserves more attention than just “women won’t do it because they aren’t aggressive and confident enough – let’s make them aggressive and confident so they’ll fit the box.”

(1) More attention about the ways  that these kinds of media shows shape understandings and how they educate – are these good things? Do they further the cause of justice and truth and fairness, or whatever cause we’re owning at the moment? or are they things we have to do because otherwise there’s no female representation?  Furthermore, are there things we can do in the way that we participate which address or ameliorate the problem of low female representation (maybe a mild something along these lines? There’s some real value in these efforts to broaden the community


(2) about gendered expectations and tropes, about conversational styles, about what it is that burdens more women than men in a way that results in more women being not interested in pursuing or accepting (certain types of?) media invites.

Oh, and the need to make sure we all get our cheeks swabbed by our institutional media unit to check for that pesky DNA marker.

* more seriously, I love it when people call me and want to talk to me about something that they think I might understand better than them, because it’s my area of work.  Because I like my work! My area of work is not being on TV though, and I don’t know anything about that really.  The Media Trainings I have attended are all really interesting and motivating to start and then at some point I start to think, what? I have to find a “hook” in my work? I have to “pitch” my work through some existing known thing that people are interested in? But that might completely miss the point of my work.  And turn it into something else – maybe even the opposite of what I want to say.  And if the point of my work is to say that simple thing X has really complicated causes, or consequences, how can I simplify that without changing the message? If media formats can’t accept that, does my work have to change or appear in some form that I don’t recognize?  Why would I do that?  I am still trying to find a plkace to work through the dilemma of knowing that the stuff I do know about and think about is important enough to deserve a wider audience, but in order to get that wider audience, I have to package the stuff in a form that (it seems to me) subtly changes the contents.






Joanne Conaghan and Yvette Russell consider progressive legal strategizing through 'rape myths' controversy

Taking on Helen Reece’s mythologizing…..

New in Print: Joanne Conaghan and Yvette Russell Rape Myths, Law, and Feminist Research: ‘Myths About Myths?’. In: Feminist Legal Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2014.  Feminist Legal Studies is available via Springer Link here.

Read the introduction here.

ABSTRACT: In an article recently published in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, the legal scholar Helen Reece argues that the prevalence and effects of rape myths have been overstated and the designation of certain beliefs and attitudes as myths is simply wrong. Feminist researchers, she argues, are engaged ‘in a process of creating myths about myths’ in a way that serves to close down and limit productive debate in this ‘vexed’ area. In this article we argue that Reece’s analysis is methodologically flawed, crudely reductionist and rhetorically unyielding. We locate Reece’s analysis within the wider theoretical field to show how her failure to engage with feminist literature on rape other than in the narrowest, most exclusionary terms, yields an approach which impedes rather than advances public understanding and panders to a kind of simplistic thinking which cannot begin to grapple with the complexity of the phenomenon that is rape. We conclude by emphasizing the continuing commitment of feminist researchers carefully to theorize and (re)map the fraught field of progressive legal strategizing in order to identify and counter the kinds of risks and shortcomings of political activism with which Reece is rightly concerned.

See also

Nov. 28 2013 Davina Cooper “Question Everything? Rape Law & Free Speech”

At one level, the con­flict con­cerns how crim­inal law and pro­cedure treat (and should treat) rape — whether “or­dinary” people have a series of be­liefs about rape that make them less sym­path­etic (than they should be) to women vic­tims. At an­other level, the con­flict is about speech — about what speech is, what it does, and our re­spons­ib­ility for its ef­fects. Helen poses the ques­tion, why is rape dif­ferent? But, in the face of “free speech” calls to de­fend aca­demic freedom and the right to ques­tion everything, I want to ask, why is speech dif­ferent? Is it priv­ileged simply be­cause ex­pres­sion and com­mu­nic­a­tion are priv­ileged, or be­cause it rep­res­ents an ex­cep­tional way of ex­pressing opinion or ques­tioning re­ceived norms?

Nov. 15 2013 Sarah Keenan and Yvette Russell “Rape is Different:  Academic Impact Sinks to New Lows”

The LSE is a pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion of higher learning whose public de­bate series pur­ports ‘to po­s­i­tion LSEat the centre of de­bate in all areas of the so­cial sci­ences… [and] to en­hance the School’s repu­ta­tion for in­tel­lec­tual, chal­len­ging ideas and dis­cus­sion with a broader public audi­ence.’ But far from opening up a cut­ting edge de­bate, the so­cial media pro­mo­tion, public event and media cov­erage sur­rounding Reece’s art­icle in fact closes down and severely limits careful, con­sidered and evidenced-​based dis­cus­sion about rape and rape law, al­most all of which con­tra­dicts Reece’s and Hewson’s claimsThese claimsare not new or in any way path-​breaking.

Helen Reece


Celebrate IWD (just not with this news)

and one of them is former Federal Minister Vic Toews.  No information on whether any of the new appointments are indigenous, visible minorities or disabled because why would there be any information on that. Although I would guess that the answer is no in 7/7 cases.