Tag Archives: Slutwalk

Women In/On the Street: From SlutWalks to #StreetHarassment

Another sure-to-be thought provoking event from the Centre for Feminist Research, happening next Tuesday at York!

Women In/On the Street: From SlutWalks to #StreetHarassment
Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 | 2pm—4pm |
626 Kaneff, York University Introduced by Dr. Sheila Cavanagh
Light Refreshments provided.

poster for CFR event, all info included in text

Text from poster (or click on it):

This presentation offers a critical discourse analysis of the comments and controversies raised by the SlutWalk and the online denunciation of street harassment, in the mainstream media and within the feminist movement. It examines the current issues and tensions surrounding the street as a means of protest as well as an apparatus of sexual control of women’s bodies, at the intersection of new media and social networks.

Elisabeth Mercier is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Université du Québec à Montréal and York University. Her research interests include the cultural and political aspects of gender and sexuality, at the intersection of other axes of social differentiation (class, age, ethnicity). She’s a collaborator to the Testimonial Cultures project, an action research group working on the use of testimonials as a social and cultural intervention strategy for sexual and gender minorities, sex workers, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Her work has been published in Commposite, Féminétudes, and Heteropolis.


Hoodies (What not to wear, encore)

Osgoode’s Black Law Student’s Association put out a call for members of the Osgoode community to wear red/black hoodies in a photo today as a sign of “solidarity with Trayvon Martin and his family in their time of tragedy” (March 29, 2012 12:15pm Atrium).  The facts of Martin’s murder (which is, of course, a legal term of art that I’m using even though it’s pretty clear that Florida doesn’t think it applies) are egregious and covered everywhere in news and commentary (I particularly like Colorlines, and Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic for his incredibly thoughtful passion on a variety of topics).

Canada, of course, has very different gun laws and self defence laws.  A stand in solidarity with the family knows no boundaries or jurisdiction, but what other actions on this issue might be meaningful for Canadians?  Let us assume that a Zimmerman here would be in custody.  Is this a U.S. issue?  Of course, it is not, though the context here is different.   It made me think of three things, so I’ve just done a little roundup of links based on these different lines of thought.

First, of course, about state sponsored profiling, surveillance and violence against people, particularly young men, of colour.  Any who haven’t had a look at the Toronto Star’s recent series “Known to Police” about the incredible levels of police stops/documentation of black and brown people, particularly in certain city neighbourhoods, you can find it here.  Early last year, I did a few posts on profiling arising out of the case of Stacy Bonds, in Ottawa, because I thought these highlighted gender as a sometimes hidden issue in profiling – for both racialised women and men, gender is very relevant to the context and consequences of “profiling”.  These are critical issues for Canadian law enforcement.  If you’re interested, I recommend following the activities of U Windsor Law’s “LEAP” (Law Enforcement Accountability Project), hereDirector Prof. David Tanovich writes about and litigates in racial profiling cases.


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/OsgoodeIFLS/status/184670434384556033″]

Second, I thought about the clothing thing.  Hoodies, Hijabs, slutty clothes.  Too little, too much, scary, provocative.  I appreciate the importance of the hoodie protests, but I did love the one below, from Wake Forest students, which mixes hoodies and hijabs.  This blog has had a significant amount of stuff about the niqab, but mainly centered around the niqab in court case, N.S. (see here).  I haven’t looked at the cases of women who are accosted in public and assaulted by people who try to tear off their veil like this one, or this one, nor at more common incidents of discrimination against women wearing the scarf, the veil, niqab or burqa.  There is a recognition of the connection between these two items.

There is also significant recognition of the ways in which placing the blame on the hoodie replicates the narrative which sees rape as a consequence of women’s clothing choices (see here for all the IFLS posts on slutwalk and related issues).   So lest you wonder whether Hoodies are a Feminist issue, there are, in my view, at least 4 solid central reasons that the answer is yes.  Audre Lorde puts one of the reasons better than I ever could:

Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You [white women] fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying  .
Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”

My last thought was that I don’t need to analogize Zimmerman to police in order to get into the Canadian context. I can look to private security companies, particularly in malls or even the security provided at Universities and Colleges and schools, and the ways that these entities engage with the racialized public.  See here for the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s info sheet on profiling – it goes far beyond police, and beyond security guards.  The OHRC’s 2003 Report, the Human Cost of Racial Profiling, isn’t purely law enforcement focused.  It takes testimony from those members of our community who have been directly affected, and is worth a read:

“It would be interesting if the powers that be would at least listen to the comments coming out of the affected communities. An entire community cannot have the same impression and … all [be] deluded.” (R.M.) (The Human Cost of Racial Profiling, p13)

“This situation actually scares me because I have teenage children and I have an older son, and I fear when they go into a mall … I constantly counsel my son because of issues like this that occur about going out into the public and how to conduct yourself and what happens if something like this happens, the reaction is anger, the reaction is frustration, at their young age, if they react, then the situation escalates even further.” (L.V.) (at p21)

“My friends who are White are bewildered because their sons do not get stopped, and my friends with Black children are afraid, because they have already had their own teenaged sons stopped, or they have young sons coming up who they know will experience the same treatment. … “(D.W.) (at p25)

I include these testimonials because I wonder what I should along with standing in the photo (if they let me, my hoodie isn’t the right colour, i had only brown and orange, not red or black…).  Trayvon’s case seems, to so many, such an obvious miscarriage of justice – a true travesty, so egregious.  But the reality is that profiling is normalised, that blaming people for the misfortunes they experience because of what they wear, for the suspicions that fall upon them because of how they look, is so ordinary as to be an organizing factor in our daily lives.  It’s true for me that, hoodie or not, these days I could probably walk around Mount Dennis (one of the neighbourhoods the Star focused on in their Known to Police series) for days without getting stopped.  It’s been a long time since the last time I think my partner was racially profiled (he speeds, so not every stop is suspect).  Even the cousins and friends are aging out of the bad years.  I don’t have as much time as I used to have to hang about in the mall with my friends, and the suspicions of sales people about who has enough money to be where feel insulting but not dangerous to me because of class/professional privilege.  So what should I be doing?   I don’t wear the hijab.  And I’ve kind of aged out of certain kinds of reactions others might have to my clothes.   How should I be demanding accountability from our police forces? How should I be challenging the daily, non police, profiling that goes on?  What political and personal actions can I take?  I’ve got some ideas.  I could use more.


As a postcript, this morning on CBC a caller pointed out the way that the word hoodie itself brings in the notion of “hood” – bad guy.  Check out Law Prof Antony Paul Farley’s poetic riff on the word here, at SaltLaw,  Or revisit David Cameron’s so called “hug a hoodie” speech: “For some, the hoodie represents all that’s wrong about youth culture in Britain today. For me, adult society’s response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right.”.  One of my colleagues told me that the hoodie, in Saskatchewan, is called a Bunny Hug.  And not that I was checking up on her, but I googled it, and I found corroboration in … the Miami Herald?   The piece closes with a clear hit:

Humans give fashion its meaning. Not the other way around.




Happy IWD! Kapur (yesterday) on slutwalks and chaddis, Mossman and Luxton launch (soon) Reconsidering Knowledge

Osgoode Genest and IFLS visitor Ratna Kapur spoke on IWD-eve (obviously this should be a real thing, right? )from her forthcoming paper Pink Chaddis and SlutWalk Couture: The Postcolonial Politics of Feminism Lite.  A great talk which wrapped critical approaches with a touch of real optimism.  The piece links campaigns which developed out of the remarks made by police (both official and unofficial police of female behaviour, in fact) in India (Kapur provides this example: People are turning out to be more fashionable …..all these things they provoke; provoke these types of things [rape] which are not in the control of the police. …When you are taking food which gives you good josh (urges), you tend to be more naughty”.  Within minutes of these words being uttered by the Director General of Police (DGP) of Andhra Pradesh, a state in southeastern India, in late 2011, they were posted on youtube and provoked an avalanche of protest.”  (citations removed) and in Toronto – actually at Osgoode (see our post here and for more on the Pink Chaddi’s campaign, see here or here).

Kapur asks

Do the SlutWalk marches and Pink Chaddi campaigns represent the coming of age of feminism? Or do they signal feminism’s final demise?

and she encourages us to consider the possibility that:

These are not revolutionary moments, but hold within them powerful critiques of dominant feminist positions and operate as space clearing mechanisms for other analytical possibilities to emerge.

Kapur argues in this work that, in the Indian context:

The limitations of an exclusive focus on gender, victimisation, and a universalised Indian women’s identity gradually began to undermine the feminist movement.

These critiques expose deep fissures within the feminist ranks and the moralistic and essentialist understandings of gender which underpin a victim-centred analysis. There is no question that women have struggled as victims to subvert power – yet that power has not emanated from a single source – men. In the context of India, resistance to the colonial encounter was central to the experience of subordination for women on the Asian subcontinent. This history cannot be understood simply in terms of the history of gender subordination or sexual violence perpetrated by men against women. It was also about the broader economic and political subordination and expropriation of another nation’s labour, resources, land, raw materials and market, and the exclusion of the native – both men and women – from sovereignty and legal entitlements.

In this context, the Pink Chaddis campaign, and the Slutwalks can be seen as

…. techniques of critique, not only of dominant attitudes towards women’s sexuality, but also of some segments of the feminist movement’s complicity  in reinforcing a sexually-sanitised understanding of female subjectivity. These campaigns mark, at one and the same time, the demise of a politics based on dominance feminism and the reincarnation of a politics of productive critique.

The full paper is coming in April from Feminist Legal Studies.   See here for more about Feminist Legal Studies and the CFP around the paper).

 The next IFLS event that we’d love to see you at will be the CFR/IFLS book launch of RECONSIDERING KNOWLEDGE, a project that was edited by Meg Luxton and Mary Jane Mossman.  The event will be held on Friday March 23, at 2pm.  Here’s a pdf flyer for circulation.

Reconsidering Knowledge: Feminism and the Academy (Fernwood 2012)

March 23, 2012, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.  FSCR (Founders 305)

How has feminist thinking shaped what we know? Emerging from the lecture series “Feminist Knowledge Reconsidered: Feminism and the Academy,” held at York University in 2009, Reconsidering Knowledge examines current ideas about feminism in relation to knowledge, education and society, and the future potential for feminist research and teaching in the university context. Connecting early stories of women who defied their exclusion from knowledge creation to contemporary challenges for feminism in universities, this collection assesses how feminist knowledge has influenced dominant thinking and transformed teaching and learning. It also focuses on the challenges for feminism as corporatization redefines the role of universities in a global world. The essays reflect on both historical and contemporary themes from a diversity of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, but are united in their exploration of how feminism’s continuing contribution to knowledge remains significant, even fundamental, to the transformation of knowledge in the academy and in our world.


Introduction (Mary Jane Mossman and Meg Luxton) • Part One: Feminism and the Academy: Revealing the “Other” • Feminism and the Academy: Transforming Knowledge? (Meg Luxton) • Cartographies of Knowledge and Power: Transnational Feminism as Radical Praxis (M. Jacqui Alexander & Chandra Talpade Mohanty) • Sexual Diversity in Cosmopolitan Perspective (Elisabeth Young-Bruehl) • Part Two: Feminism and the Academy: (Re)Engaging the “Knowledge Revolution” • Universities Upside Down: The Impact of the New Knowledge Economy (Margaret Thornton) • The University on-the-Ground: Reflections on the Canadian Experience (Janice Newson) • Part Three: Feminism and the Academy: Remembering History/ Recalling Resistance • Bluestockings and Goddesses: Writing Feminist Cultural History (Ann Shteir) • Feminism, Ecological Thinking and the Legacy of Rachel Carson (Lorraine Code) •


Joined with the book launch is the launch of the “Timeline of York Women’s Studies History to 2011” project, directed by Rusty Shteir (who is also a contributor to the book).

SlutWalk, theorised: Feminist Legal Studies CFP & Ratna Kapur at Osgoode (Mar 7)

Prof Emily Grabham from Kent  just sent me this CFP from Feminist Legal Studies (she is the Editor-in-Chief) on “Theorising SlutWalk: Critical Feminist Perspectives” (deadline Sept. 30, 2012, complete call (pdf)  here).

Feminist Legal Studies is pleased to publish Ratna Kapur’s article Pink Chaddis and SlutWalk Couture: The Postcolonial Politics of Feminism Lite in our upcoming issue: 20(1). [i will update with when/where you can get this article! – sl] Kapur deftly analyses the postcolonial feminist politics of the Indian SlutWalk and Pink Chaddi movements…..

In dominant narratives circulating about SlutWalk, the marches began after a police officer made comments at Osgoode Hall Law School in January 2011 that women could avoid sexual assault by not dressing ‘like sluts’. Nevertheless, SlutWalks rearticulate a range of contextually specific feminist concerns that pre-date and transcend this apparently North American ‘genesis’. Moreover, SlutWalk organising has been critiqued for ignoring dynamics of colonialism, as well as institutionalised violence against women/queers of colour, and against low-income women and queers.

Papers are invited which analyse these developments within the usual FLS guidelines, which are reproduced below. Authors are encouraged, but not required, to draw on or respond to Ratna Kapur’s arguments.

Lucky Osgoode, we get a kind of a name check (?) in the CFP and  Ratna Kapur arrives here for as a Genest Global Visitor on March 5th and will be giving a talk based on the paper that Emily mentions on Wednesday March 7th 1230-2 in room 2001.

Join us! But please RSVP at this site using event code: GENEST2. More information: 

Slutwalk Couture: The Politics of Feminism Lite

Genest Global Lecture
Co-sponsored with IFLS

 Ratna Kapur, Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations

Ratna Kapur is a faculty member of the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Geneva. She was a Coca-Cola World Fund Faculty Fellow at Yale Law School in 2010. She practised law for a number of years in New Delhi, and now teaches and publishes extensively on issues of international law, human rights, feminist legal theory and postcolonial theory. She was the Senior Gender Advisor with the UN Mission in Nepal during the transition period from 2007-2008. She has also been a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University and Harvard Law School. She has held a distinguished Chair in Human Rights at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, as well as the Endowed Joseph C. Hostetler-Baker and Hostetler Chair in Law at Cleveland Marshal School of Law. Professor Kapur also works as a legal consultant on issues of human rights and international law for various organizations. Her latest books include “Erotic Justice: Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism”(Cavendish, 2005) and “Makeshift Migrants: Gender, Belonging and Postcolonial Anxieties” (Routledge, 2010″).

If you are interested in what appeared on this blog about SlutWalk and the triggering incident, click here for the first post, here for the second, and here for the rest. Loads of links! Student commentary! Very few pictures!

Guest Post: thoughts on the OBA Slutwalks panel from Sonia Nijjar Osgoode Hall student

When the blog gave out tickets to attend the panel discussion on Slutwalks held by the OBA Feminist Legal Analysis/Young Lawyers Section, I asked for contributions to the blog to fill out the story.  This one comes to us from Sonia Nijjar, a first year student at Osgoode Hall Law School who based her decision to study law on the last (and best) political science class she ever took, “Gender and Public Policy,”  and one influential professor at the University of Alberta.  She is a self-proclaimed “minority within a minority, within a minority:” an Indo-Canadian, creative nonfiction writer, and feminist (who is also Tina Fey’s biggest fan).

The Slutwalks panel hosted by the OBA on Thursday, November 3rd has no doubt been on my mind for the last couple of days.  Trying to think of what to post (seeing as how the tweeters did such a good job describing the event and discussion) I found myself reconciling my position as a person with political feminist beliefs, in relation to those views of feminism represented on Thursday night..  I have a specific understanding about what is an effective, critical, and progressive public discourse.  I’m also sensitive to these issues, because I identify as a minority within a minority within a minority (I’m an Albertan, Indo-Canadian feminist).  I’m used to qualifying and providing a very clear framework for every single social, cultural, and political belief or view that I dare to represent publicly.  And when I say publicly, I mean with anyone beyond my friends who share similar views.

My young and evolving feminism is firmly rooted in a belief that (pretty much) every discourse, particularly in a pubic space, cannot assume that our ideas of our feminism(s) are the same.  I’m not talking about second and third wave struggle or sex wars—both issues were raised on Thursday night.  I’m talking about the fact that the various feminism(s) in the room were implicitly and explicitly (you’ll see as I describe how the questions/comments from audience went) trying to occupy the same space.  Which is great, don’t get me wrong.  My issue is that for the purpose of this kind of discourse, it would have been useful to have been provided with a framework for the kinds of feminisms we were dealing with on the panel; one that goes beyond categorical distinctions.  That is to say, operationally, what were each of the panelists suggesting about their feminism in relation to Slutwalks, implicitly (or explicitly, in the case of Brenda Cossman at least)?   I want to explain why this would be important in the context of what was discussed on Thursday night.  So I’ll start first with brief references to the panelists and their primary contributions in starting the discussion, and then with a couple of references to the types of (very insightful and diverse) questions/comments from the audience.


1) Sonya implicitly referring to her emerging feminism which resulted in Slutwalks being about responding to the real fact that women are not equally protected under supposedly equal services;

2) Brenda Cossman viewing the movement through the lens of the sex wars;

3) Karin Galldin speaking about the legal implications as a feminist practitioner; and

4) Shelly Quinn raising issues about the inaccessibility of the message underlying Slutwalks for some second-wavers. 

(Side note: My impression of the evening was that although everyone on the panel seemed to agree that Slutwalk is a positive step forward in “our” feminist agenda, there was an explicit recognition that some feminists don’t think so.  It’s too bad that those feminists weren’t represented on the panel—which was a significant issue for a colleague of mine who attended the talk.  There were no women of color on the panel). 


1.  I sat close to a group of women who, in the context of the event, identified as “women of color.”  I should note that I usually always identify as a woman of color, since I’m not white… but because I’m also not Black, I felt that the discussion on Thursday night was trying to tell me I’m closer to a white woman than a woman of colour.  Which makes me angry, but is a complexity of its own, worthy of another billion blog posts.

From the way they were shifting in their chairs, some of these women had something to say.  A couple of times somebody from this group would stand up to the microphone and emphasize that although they identified as being feminist, they were often unrepresented by the discussions (like this one) that took place, dealing with feminist issues.

Although these women were diplomatic, eloquent, expressive—there was an implicit frustration in their comments, in their tones and voices.  Their feminist identities were in conflict with the identities represented on the panel, but they could not expressly identify the struggle.  Yes, “victim blaming” is also an issue for women of color, and yes, the panel did in fact recognize that.  But there was an added complexity—these women were not saying “I am not the same as you.”  Instead, they were expressing that “my feminism is not the same as yours.”  What was the difference?  What did it mean?  The women on the panel mostly responded with comments suggesting that they understood the frustrations of unrepresentative issues—that, for example, the issues behind SlutWalks, and the movement itself, posed a different challenge for women of color.  The panel recognized that those differences existed, but failed to engage with what that meant for the women in that room, for feminism, and for the movement itself.  I felt unsatisfied with that—and by the way the women around me were whispering, sighing, and looking at one another, my feelings were shared.

2.   There was an insightful comment from two women in particular who expressed frustrations of categorical feminisms in light of this kind of discourse.  One suggested that “we don’t know who the second-wavers are,” and the other suggested that “operational definitions, rather than labeled categories” could be much more effective.  I should give credit to this second speaker who was not only impressively eloquent, but also gave me a lot to think about.

Here’s the thing. I get it—because I am a third-waver, I can identify with the whole “feminism is the water” ideal. [ed note, see the contention in Manifesta (2000): “The presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted. For our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarcely notice we have it—it’s simply in the water.”]   But I also, perhaps more obviously, understand that feminism in itself is a site of struggle.  Maybe one could reasonably assume that people coming or listening in on a discussion about Slutwalks “understand feminism.”  But herein lies the problem.  Our feminism(s) are necessarily varied.  Had we been given an operational framework of the feminism(s) represented on the panel, I am confident the discussion would have been enriched.  Instead of what really felt like a competition to occupy a feminist space with what seemed to be (but probably weren’t) competing feminist identities, we could have engaged with the issue as it related to a mutually acknowledged framework—regardless of if all our feminism(s) fit within it. 

I’d like to propose a shared framework of the feminism(s) that I’m confident were represented on the panel that night:

‘Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression’

                -bell hooks (source, at 6)