Solidarity with #LAWC

CANADIAN FEMINIST NETWORK

Ottawa, Ontario

*TO: Megan Walker, ED London Abused Women’s Centre, The Board of Directors London Abused Women’s Centre, Staff and Clients London Abused Women Centre

Women in Canada and around the world look to the London Abused Women’s Centre as a leader in the provision of services to women who have experienced male violence, whether in intimate relationships, from strangers or through the sex trade. We admire the willingness of the Centre to take public, feminist positions regarding the oppression and exploitation of women, and particularly its recent decision to withdraw its support for the London “Take Back the Night” event because of a proposed pole dancing demonstration that was to take place as part of a larger protest highlighting public violence against women perpetrated by men.

Like LAWC, we understand that pole dancing emanates from the highly objectified practice of stripping and “exotic dancing” performed for the benefit of men to the disadvantage of women generally, insofar as it focuses on a male-defined understanding of women’s worth and sexual expression. Women’s individual choices with respect to participation in physical exercise that focuses on their sexual attractiveness to men within a context of oppression and exploitation are confined by male social and economic dominance. All women are entitled to respect, compassion, care and service provision. All women. This does not mean that women’s organizations must endorse activities that represent male dominance and concomitant damage to women and girls in order to be respectful of women who engage in them.

We admire the courage of the London Abused Women’s Centre, its Board of Directors and staff for willingness to publicly articulate the principles of anti-sexist, anti-misogynist, feminist practice in the provision of services and are appalled by the abusive response of some members of the community. We believe it is important that personalized attacks on leaders and staff of LAWC be publicly identified and acknowledged as attempts to intimidate individuals and the organization and pre-empt free public discourse.

We offer our solidarity and support.

Organizations:

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, Melbourne, Australia

Collective Shout, a grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture), Australia

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

Women’s Place Kenora

Nordic Model Coalition in Australia

NL Feminists and Allies, St. Vincent’s, Newfoundland

Canadian Feminist Network

Persons Against Non-State Torture

Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle

EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating), a volunteer, non-governmental, non-profit organization composed of former sex-industry women dedicated to naming prostitution violence against women and seeing its abolition through political action, advocacy, and awareness raising that focuses on ending the demand for paid sexual access to women and children’s bodies.

Strey Khmer Organization, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Radical Feminists Unite, Toronto, ON

Scottish Women Against Pornography, Edinburgh, Scotland

Edmonton Women & Allies Against the Sex Industry (EWAASI)

Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Korea Women’s Liberation

Ressources Prostitution, Paris, France

Rape Crisis Scotland

Individuals:

Linda Beacham, Women’s Place, Kenora, ON

Sylvia Black, Atlanta, GA

Emily P, Toronto, ON

Elizabeth Sellwood, Toronto, ON

Ness Fraser, Guelph, ON

Carol Dunphy, Toronto, ON

April Carriere, Ottawa, ON

Dawn Kuehn, Kelowna, BC

Trisha Wilson-Singer, Toronto, ON

Sam Turi, Kitchener, ON

Mary Poelstra, Fredericton, NB

Cathryn Atkinson, Squamish, B.C.

Sharon Fraser, Halifax, NS

Marie Hume, Mannum, South Australia

Candice Pilgrim, Belleville, ON

Simone Watson, prostitution survivor and director of Nordic Model Coalition in Australia

Susan Barley, Australia

Kylee Nixon, Edmonton, AB

Fawn Sewell, Edmonton, AB

Paula Schmidt, Vernon, BC

David DePoe, Toronto

Lynda Richardson, Women’s Place, Kenora, ON

Celia Nord, Chase, BC

Elizabeth Pickett, Ottawa, ON

Meghan Murphy, Vancouver, BC

Orla Hegarty, NL Feminists Allies, St. Vincent’s, Newfoundland

Jennifer White, London ON

Terre Spencer, Atlanta, GA

Meagan Tyler, Melbourne Australia

Inge Kleine, Kofra (Communication Centre for Women), Munich, Germany

Colleen Glynn, Richmond, BC

Tamara Gorin, Port Coquitlam, BC

Jess Martin, Vancouver, BC

S.C. Gillett, Toronto, ON

Natasha Chart, Rochester, NY

Wendy Lewis, London, ON

Leah Harwood, Toronto, ON

Jacqueline Gullion, Ghent, Belgium

Johanna te Boekhorst, Chilliwack, BC

Krista Sawchuk, London, ON

S.L. Bondarchuk, Edmonton, AB (Edmonton Small Press Association)

Rachel Goodine, Victoria, BC

Arianwen Harris, Australia

Jennifer Chavez, Maryland, US

Antonia Bookbinder, Maryland, US

Eliana Bookbinder, Indiana, US

Bronwyn Winter, Associate Professor, Acting Director, European Studies Program, The University of Sydney. Sydney, NSW, Australia

Megan Larin, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Jade Tinkler, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Ally Johnston, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Susan Barley, Lithgow, NSW, Australia.

Dr Merike Johnson, Hervey Bay, QLD, Australia.

Caitlin Roper, Perth, WA, Australia.

Melinda Tankard Reist, Collective Shout. Canberra, ACT, Australia

Paige Gleeson, Hobart, TAS, Australia

Lindy Cameron, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Spider Redgold, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Raina Robertson, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Jodie Finnigan, Melbourne. VIC, Australia

Yolanda Krockenberger, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Jacqueline Gwynne – Pink Cross – Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Rosemary Davey, QLD, Australia

Elizabeth Sheehy, Professor of Law , University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Ottawa, ON

Martha Jackman, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Ottawa, ON

Lynda Davies, former Executive Director, Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Ottawa, ON

Catherine Weiss, Melbourne, Australia

Rebecca Thornhill, Ottawa, ON

Shana Bergen, USA

Angie Conroy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Julie Bindel, London UK

Dr Kate Cook, Manchester UK

Bernie O’Roarke, London, UK

Samantha Jinks, UK

Yolande Clark, Fredericton, NB

Dr. Erin Graham, Vancouver, BC

Diane Martin CBE, United Kingdom

Nayoung Kim, Seoul, South Korea

Sue Breeze, Barriere, BC

Julie Chalder-Mills, Cambridge, UK

Diane Martin CBE, United Kingdom

Sineat Yon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Sue Breeze, Barriere, BC

Julia Long, London, UK

Caroline Pugh-Roberts, London, ON

Margaret McCarroll, London, ON

Marina O’Brien, Bristol, UK

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs London, UK

Kristyan Robinson, London, UK

Lee Lakeman, Vancouver, BC

Lucy Coghill, Hertfordshire, UK

Gloria Savage, Niagara Falls, ON

Fay Blaney, North Vancouver, BC

Marv Wheale, Vancouver, BC

Manon Marie Jo Michaud, Montreal, QC

Lucy Wainwright, Derbyshire, UK

Michael Laxer, Toronto, ON

Jennifer Drew, London, UK

Shauna Devlin, Ireland

Manu Schon, Wiesbaden, Germany

Mary Lou Jones, M.Ed, London, ON

Eliza Karat, Warsaw, Poland

Rebecca Harrison, North Yorkshire, UK

Chris Wilson, Vancouver, BC

Ina Major, NS

Raquel Rosario Sanchez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Sonia Zawitkowski, Georgetown, ON

Reaksmey Arun, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Hilary McCollum, Donegal, Ireland

Yeliz Osman, Mexico City, Mexico

Lori Hirt, Rochester, N.Y.

Pam Rubin, Halifax, NS

Stephie Smith, Vermont, USA

Kelly Wark, Toronto, ON

Danielle Loger, Melbourne, Australia

Tera Cornel, Edmonton, AB

Raymond Cornel, Edmonton, AB

Sarah Miller, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Fraser Windsor, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Laura Clappinson, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Liz Waterhouse, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Elizabeth Carola, UK

Liz Smith, Melbourne, Australia

Elizabeth Gordon, London, UK

Emma Cox, Essex, UK

Darlene Corry, Donegal, Ireland

Kathleen Barry, California, USA

Nayoung Kim, Seoul, South Korea

Heather Gunn, West Vancouver, BC

Kayley Self, Los Angeles, CA

Michele Landsberg, Toronto, ON

Paige Schwimer, Los Angeles, CA

Sara Davidson, Hamilton, ON

Brian Cross, Vancouver. BC

Rachel Feury, Ireland

Rose Meltzer, USA

Meaghan McGraw, Vancouver, BC

Dr Maja Bowen, UK

Charlotte Peterson, AZ, USA

Martin Dufresne, Montreal, PQ

Lise Bouvet, Paris, France

Eileen Maitland, Glasgow, Scotland

Dr Susan Hawthorne, Melbourne Australia

Dr Renate Klein, Melbourne, Australia

Didier Epsztajn, France

Contact: Elizabeth Pickett, Ottawa, ON elizabethpickett1@gmail.com

*Posted at Feminist Current

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22 Responses to Solidarity with #LAWC

  1. Kirstin says:

    Hi there! What is the Canadian Feminist Network? I’m interested but can’t find any information on them. Thank you!

  2. Lauren says:

    This is incredibly frustrating coming from a feminist group. We are trying to change the perception of women’s sexual expression. Why shouldn’t women be allowed to express themselves freely? This is reinforcing the antiquated notion that it’s not socially acceptable for a woman to be proud of her sexuality in the same way men are. Pole dancers don’t all dance to be perceived as sexually attractive by men, in the same way that women don’t get ready in the morning for the sole purpose of being found attractive by men. To me, nothing is more empowering than watching a performance of a woman who is confident in herself, her body, her craft, and her sexuality. Not to mention this was going to be a pole fitness demonstration. Pole dancers frequently perform in family friendly environments and the audience would have been kept in mind. Shunning the pole community only shows that you agree with the “male-defined understanding of a woman’s worth and sexual expression”, and comes off as quite judgmental towards women who freely choose to be employed in the sex industry. Apparently pole dancers’ support isn’t worth as much as other feminists. But what do I know… I’m just over here normalizing violence towards women.

    PS: Listing a whole bunch of people and organizations that support you doesn’t make your claims any more valid. I am quite certain the pole community could come up with plenty more that support the opposing view as well. It’s also interesting that you advertise the support of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in Australia; an organization that illegally used a photo protected by copyright to denigrate a community of feminist women.

    • elizabeth says:

      We have no difficulty with women’s individual self-expression. We believe individual women are not in control of how pole dancing is perceived. If you find pole dancing individually empowering, have at it. That does not change our structural analysis. We also cast no judgment upon women engaged in the sex trade. Our judgment is upon men who use, abuse and exploit women, girls and boys in the sex trade. Of course organizational support does not make our claims valid. We depend upon our analysis for that. Thanks for your comment.

      • elizabeth says:

        My understanding is that the picture used on LAWC’s meme was taken from google image.

      • Kirstin says:

        You say that you “believe women are not in control of how pole dancing is perceived.” How will that change if you continually take away the ability of the group to prove otherwise? You’re essentially saying, ‘express yourself as you see fit…but not in groups…and not in public lest somehow portray you in a certain way’. Give pole dancers – who dance for fitness or otherwise – the chance to be seen in any way other than the male gaze! Pole dancers want to be given the chance to showcase and normalize the activity yet so few people are willing to allow them to step outside of the negative connotations!

      • elizabeth says:

        Not what we’re saying at all Kristan. Express yourself in private or in public. But not as representative of feminist efforts to Take Back the Night. Entirely inappropriate.

      • Kirstin says:

        “Express yourself in private or in public. But not as representative of feminist efforts to Take Back the Night.” So ‘do feminism’ but only how “we” think it should be done? While this conversation has become far removed from the controversy surrounding LAWC, I sincerely think you need to reevaluate what feminism means, and what it means to be a feminist in today’s world.

  3. KrisMac says:

    As a pole fitness instructor, I respectfully disagree with your position as to whether or not pole fitness may be considered a feminist activity. But respectful disagreements are okay, and are often necessary to fully explore complicated issues. What is NOT okay is the disrespect which has been shown to women of the pole fitness community by the LAWC. The LAWC published a copyrighted image featuring female pole dancers, stating that pole fitness “normalizes men’s violence towards women”. This statement is incorrect, and the creation of such a meme was irresponsible on the part of the LAWC. This image was stolen, and the women in the photo did NOT consent to having their image used in such a way. I find it ironic that we should have to explain consent to a government funded agency who’s purpose is to support and protect women.

  4. elizabeth says:

    Statement from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter supporting LAWC:
    Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter stands in solidarity with London Abused Women’s Centre on your decision to withdraw support from the 2016 Take Back the Night event. Through promoting a critical feminist analysis of pole-fitness, in direct opposition to the often touted “empowerment” view, you seized an important public education opportunity. As you state, Take Back the Night events are a platform to demand an end to male violence against women. It is our hope that LAWC’s withdrawal of this year’s event will result in serious reflection on the part of the organizing committee and mark a return to the grassroots feminist ideology that it once embodied which rejected objectification. Your resolution to radical politics in defiance of a movement that has seen feminism become increasingly diluted is appreciated by your sisters in the west.

    • M Richings says:

      That would mean that all forms of female dance, TV Shows, media news, etc where women show artistic, sporting talent such as Body Building would be considered an OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN. WHERE ARE WE GOING WITH THIS, WHAT DOES THAT PORTRAY TO MEN? As an athlete I’m appalled at the lack of education of LAWC.

    • Kirstin says:

      “…Take Back the Night events are a platform to demand an end to male violence against women. It is our hope that LAWC’s withdrawal of this year’s event will result in serious reflection on the part of the organizing committee and mark a return to the grassroots feminist ideology that it once embodied which rejected objectification.”

      Why should there by only one platform? Why can’t someone – in this case, a pole-dancer (a GROUP of pole-dancers providing a demonstration on the ways in which pole fitness can be used for individual and collective female empowerment by creating a strong self: physically, mentally, and strong as a group of like-minded women) – demand an end to male violence by TAKING BACK an activity that was once seen as derogatory and demeaning towards women? These women (and men – gasp! Men pole dance too!) were attempting to showcase their REJECTION OF OBJECTIFICATION by saying “THIS is what I CHOOSE to do with MY BODY.” Isn’t that empowering? Isn’t it amazing that these people had the courage and strength to stand up against all they’d been told their entire lives and say “You can’t tell me what to do anymore. You can’t tell me how to feel about an activity or about my body, anymore.”

      All that these Take Back the Night demonstrators were hoping to do was provide yet another outlet for women to feel good in their bodies, in their minds, and in their society. They wanted to achieve this through a fitness demonstration – pole FITNESS. And while there is nothing wrong with stripping, whether a woman or man does it to serve others (provided they are aware of their situation and have an understanding of the relationships surrounding such an environment) or they do it for themselves, THAT IS NOT WHAT POLE FITNESS IS. Can we please try and wrap our heads around that idea?

      • elizabeth says:

        “This kind of ‘anything-goes-so-long-as-we-call-it-a-choice’ discourse often, rather than signaling collective female power and freedom, is a co-optation feminist language used for individual means. Often this version of ‘choice’ is used in order to frame sexist imagery and actions as something that empowers women, when in fact, it is often doing nothing of the sort. While certainly ‘choice’ is one of the founding concepts of the feminist movement, and of primary importance, I can’t help but feel as though it has been taken from us; that the word ‘choice’ continues to represent feminism but is more often used in an entirely ‘unfeminist’ way. I believe we are beginning to forget where ‘choice’ came from and what it means. And I think it’s time we started paying attention.” — Meghan Murphy, http://www.feministcurrent.com/2011/03/11/the-trouble-with-choosing-your-choice/

  5. Manon m-j Michaud says:

    am Sing and support it !!

  6. Fran MacKenzie says:

    I find it highly ironic that a group devoted to protecting women chooses to perpetuate a stereotype in stating that pole dancing normalizes violence against women. This is a very misinformed statement. I also find it offensive that a publicly funded orgaization has painted women who pole dance for their own enjoyment as sex workers. Since MY tax dollars are at work, I feel that there should be a massive overhaul of the management of this organization as they clearly do not represent all women, just that select few that fall within their Victorian standards.

    • elizabeth says:

      I haven’t heard anyone mistake pole dancers for women engaged in the sex trade. It’s an egregious misunderstanding of feminism to suggest that our understanding of women’s sexualization and objectification amounts to “Victorian standards”. Victorian standards privileged men and hurt women. As do contemporary standards. Never has that been more clear to me since learning about the liberal, individualist demands of the “pole community”.

  7. Anne-Marie says:

    I think you have a serious misunderstanding of the pole community and the women and men that participate in pole dancing as a form of self-expression. I also find it truly offensive that you are insinuating that the only reason women participate in the sport of pole fitness (yes it is a sport) is to be attractive to men, that can not be any farther from the truth. When I asked my students in the past why they were taking pole dancing classes the majority of answers were to be stronger and healthier. They were doing it for themselves, to better themselves, not for anyone else. The pole community has, for years, been trying to shed the bigoted view that pole dancing is just about dancing to please a man and you just contributed to the view. So thank you for helping to set back women all over the world socially, expressively and sexually.

    • elizabeth says:

      I think you have a serious misunderstanding of feminism. Very serious indeed.

      • KrisMac says:

        And yet the LAWC is willing to publicly state in a meme that pole dancing “normalizes men’s violence towards women”…without the consent of the women in the photo. What does that say about their understanding of feminism? And why is no one in their camp willing to acknowledge or address the existence of this meme?

      • Anne-Marie says:

        Actually I think you do, as feminism is about equality for women. That is what feminism is about , that is what women have fought for and are still fighting for; and judging other women like you are doing for their choices is not feminism. Telling women they are part of the problem because they choose a form of fitness or whatever they choose is not feminism. Feminism is about supporting each other as women and lifting each other up and helping us become equal regardless of our choices that is what feminism is.

  8. elizabeth says:

    My feminism, and the feminism of the women and organizations named here, is not about equality, and not about “lifting each other up” regardless of our “choices”. http://www.feministcurrent.com/2011/03/11/the-trouble-with-choosing-your-choice/

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