Category Archives: Commentary

Critical Race Feminism goes to War: The States of Race (Sherene Razack, Malinda Smith, Sunera Thobani, eds.

click through to order from Amazon.ca

I’ve just finished reading this.   I enjoyed it, although that’s a strange reaction to assert in context of this book.  What I enjoyed was not the bad news that the authors offer (things haven’t changed that much, and the big change – 9/11 – wasn’t particularly positive), but the incisive arguments made by the contributors.  Click the book cover for the book’s amazon.ca page.

You may have seen the current Time Magazine cover story on the women of Afghanistan (August 9, 2010.  The cover reads “What happens if we leave Afghanistan”, and the cover picture is of a woman whose face was mutilated by Taliban troops after she tried to leave the home of her in-laws).  The articles and photo essay concentrate on the position of Afghan women as the US considers “exit strategies”.  The Afghan state may be forced to reconcile with the Taliban if foreign troops leave.   Reading Time after reading Yasmin Jiwani (media representations) and Sunera Thobani (feminist positions on the war) affected my thinking about the “point” of the Time article profoundly.

Time says:

We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it. We do it to illuminate what is actually happening on the ground. As lawmakers and citizens begin to sort through the information about the war and make up their minds, our job is to provide context and perspective on one of the most difficult foreign policy issues of our time. What you see in these pictures and our story is…. a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead.

There are other interesting pieces in The States of Race.  I’m writing a review for the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, and haven’t finished it yet.  But I’m ready to recommend the book!

Canadian Lawyer Mag lists the top 25 most influential lawyers: department of predictability

So, Canadian Lawyer has provided law geeks across the country with something to argue about.  Anything to increase readership, right? On that front, at least, we agree.

Here’s my take (there are also regional takes, of course, including a sharply worded critique from a Quebec lawyer who was on the judging panel): The list includes 4 women (the Chief Justice, at the top of the list, Justice Abella, Sheila Block and Marlys Edwardh), one person of colour (Julian Falconer), as far as my knowledge goes, and (again, as far as I know) no Indigenous lawyers.  lawyers with disabilities. (i skipped a page, it seems, and as a lawyer i have trouble with counting). However, David Lepofsky, who is blind and works ceaselessly as an advocate for people with disabilities, is included.

Click the picture to see the article, or click here. The panel that chose the list is noted on the last page.

Why don’t we open up the comments on this one – any thoughts?

  • On the one hand, given the Ornstein report, is this just an accurate description of a profession in which racialized lawyers and women are usually relegated to positions which lack influence, not to mention high pay?
  • What about the methodology of measuring influence (something I’m struggling with in thinking about teaching/mentoring) – what counts? I’ve included the criteria below. In making their list, Canadian Lawyer said it was about both power and influence. What about innovative and inspirational practitioners?
  • What is the meaning of lists like these in constructing the profession? Do lists like these make an already closed profession more so? Or is the list just a meaningless marketing device?
  • What about an alternative list? Who would you nominate? Leaving academics out of it (i’m making a safe assumption about readership here), can we put together a list of people who could/will/should be the most influential in 10 years?

In general, we thought we’d avoid opening comments on this blog, for reasons that perhaps I’ll blog about later this week.  But let’s try one baby step here. If you can correct any of my errors, please do.  Otherwise, let’s think about metrics and alternatives. Maybe we can do a monthly feature on people who SHOULD be influential, but won’t make it past most of CL’s criteria:

Who are behind cutting-edge advocacy and getting the ear of government? The judiciary obviously wields power but who hold positions that really have an impact? It’s about respect, ability to influence public opinion, and help shape the laws of this country; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; and social and political influence and involvement. It can include politicians and regulators, but only if they are lawyers and are still in the legal field. (from Canadian Lawyer Magazine)