What is the PAR-L Listserv For?

Online communities are relatively new things and we don’t understand them well. But I understand this listserv to be about a few basic things* – a place to share information and news of interest to feminists and their allies; a place to discuss issues relating to women; a place to learn and educate.

Moderators play a key role in creating the environment where these things take place and I have my issues with our moderators. But I’ve co-administered a Facebook place for feminists since 2009 and I well know that, just as it’s impossible to control any group of people anywhere, it’s just as impossible to control a group online, especially if one doesn’t want to become the thought and tone police. The balancing act is beyond difficult. The group of people has to “sign on” at a basic level.

If this listserv is meant to be a place for sharing information and opinion and for debate and discussion and for education and learning, it is failing with respect to trans issues. I think the moderators need to make some changes that could be helpful, but they could only be helpful if the group members were willing. I do not see that willingness.

I’m interested in what kinds of principles must be agreed upon to create a group that thrives. When I think of the goal of educating, and I am an educator, there are a few things I know. One is that if I attempt to provoke fear and shame in learners, I will be successful with some people but they will learn nothing other than to submit. That is not the thing I want people to learn. Another thing I know is that some people will not feel fear and shame, they will feel anger and they will resist. Sometimes their resistance will look as ugly as the words and actions of those trying to provoke fear and shame because that’s what reaction looks like. On the other hand, anger can energize people for battle. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone trying to convince another human of anything would want to provoke anger and resistance. The desire for freedom and liberation runs deep in humans and when they feel they are being oppressed (even if you think they’re not actually being oppressed) you have a deep and persistent problem on your hands that will have to be addressed before you will ever win anything, teach anything, learn anything, achieve solidarity and allyship with anyone.

There are a few members of this listserv – a very few – who make its goals impossible to achieve, assuming I’m even partly correct about its goals.  I’m not interested in trying to blame or shame them. I’m interested in describing behaviour that has made this group a truly toxic place for achieving anything but a state of fear and shame and blame and anger and resistance.

In my view it is impossible to discuss trans issues effectively in this group because battle lines have been drawn and personal attack has been accepted from some, while a version of silencing and censorship has been imposed on others. Some of us are told that we must refer to a certain Jenner-person using the proper name “Caitlyn” and female pronouns, or our posts will be rejected. While others have posts approved that state no facts, make no arguments and substantiate no claims other than asserting that anyone who disagrees with what they say is a transphobic bigot. I have seen little to no attempt to engage with arguments about sex, the human brain and the social construction of gender – just attempts to shame and blame people who think, with good and explicable reason, that being sexed female or male or intersex are real things in the world and biologically immutable, and that gender is a real thing in the world but socially constructed and mutable. Not all people agree with these propositions, that much is clear. But these propositions have an intellectual history that cannot be made to go away by insulting them. My own views about these things become stronger the more people yell at me and offend me and cause me pain. That’s just human.

Is that what we want? Is there a “we” here? I feel close to invisible. If I want to disagree with and discuss the views of DJ Freeman, for instance, I have to prepare myself to be attacked. As an elder woman who has been a socialist and a feminist for over forty years and an online activist for eight years, I’m pretty used to attacks, but that doesn’t mean there is no impact. It’s not every day I’m up for it. Besides, what I have to do to make myself less vulnerable to attacks is shut down my heart and close my mind and fight. That’s no help to my own learning or my ability to articulate my thinking to others or to my ability to engage in rational, respectful dialogue. I shudder to think of the numbers of women who haven’t developed ways to deal with it and simply shut down, go away and refuse to engage. Whenever I post here, I receive private messages from some those women, thanking me. They are here. I regret that we cannot hear from them and that we make no attempt to create a space in which they can speak.

When I started my Facebook feminist group, it was “open to the public”. Anyone who wanted to could see that it existed, could see who its members were, and could see posts and comments. Because of attacks from people who were not interested in discussing anything but wanted only to be disruptive and make conversation impossible, I had to make that group “closed” such that the group description can be seen publicly as can the membership list, but no posts and comments can be seen. Even so it was a daily task to eliminate attackers and it still is, so much so that I have had to find other ways to use social media for education, sharing of news and information and rational discussion that are even less accessible to those who aren’t aware. That has been beneficial in some ways, but it necessarily excludes a lot of women and a few men that I would really like to talk to. So it makes me angry that it’s been necessary to do that and that anger is not going to subside. It will be channelled into action because it simply has to be. Women won’t sit on our anger forever and nothing makes us more angry than attempts to silence us. When we fail to create, sustain and protect spaces where the oppressed can articulate their understanding of their oppression and their ideas and strategies for liberating themselves and others, we fail democratic ideals, we fail any idea of progress and we fail our analyses of sex, gender, class and race. These failures are bad signs indeed but not unusual in these times. I believe these failures will be answered.

To those who are struggling for the acceptance of particular ideas about trans people, personal attack might be effective in closing down and shutting out some people, but that’s not what will happen to me and it’s not what will happen to the feminists I run with. You are forcing us underground in terms of the places we can meet and speak without fear of threat, harassment, reprisal and bullying. But you are also making us stronger because we believe in our struggle. I’m not enjoying being forced underground. But hundreds and thousands of women have lived and worked and struggled and resisted away from the public eye for hundreds of years so I will take up that task as an honour and a privilege. We will find our ways to be heard and to continue to work for the liberation of all women, of every race and class, everywhere. I worry about pressure cookers though: they have this nasty habit of exploding. I’m getting tired of working so hard to prevent explosions when some people (here) are interested only in causing them. I hope I’m up to the task of continuing to do that. But I honestly don’t know if anyone really is.

*PAR-L means Policy Action Research Listserv and it has always been focussed on women’s issues. Men are members of the group. This is a message I sent to the list this morning.

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Open Letter to rabble – AWCEP, IWASI, National Congress of Black Women Foundation-BC

Yesterday, this Open Letter to rabble.ca was posted on the website of Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution – AWCEP:

logo

Dear Editors and Founders of Rabble.ca

We write to you because we are disturbed by your response to the recent smear campaigns against Rabble contributor, writer, and fellow leftist Meghan Murphy.

We are disappointed in your statement regarding the attacks and the petitions against Meghan. It is troubling that Rabble repeated the libelous claims made about Meghan rather than making a fulsome defense of her right to hold or present opinions critical of the sex industry and its apologists. We note that your statement gives an inordinate amount of attention to appeasing those maligning Meghan.

Attacking Meghan for using her platform to present feminist analysis and critique has the effect of squashing and threatening those whose voices she reflects. As women of colour and indigenous feminists, we are more aware than ever that our dissent is not welcome by Rabble. Your tyrannical enforcement of neo-liberal ideals is to the detriment of women of colour and indigenous women working to end racism, sexism and colonialism in the midst of overwhelming poverty imposed on us by unfettered capitalism and imperialist agendas. We expect more openness, democratic practice and intellectual rigour from you who pride yourselves as progressives and who lay claim to alliance with the oppressed.

Pornography and pop culture portray Indigenous women as “squaws”, Asian women as “geishas”, and Black women as being animalistic – available for any kind of sex with anybody at all times. These profitable and easily consumable images serve to further marginalize racialized women as these oversimplified tropes are turned into commodities to be exchanged through monetary transaction, and thus fuelling a particular demand for these women, who already have very limited choices, in prostitution. Indigenous women, Asian women and Black women are immersed in racialized sexism in our society. The idea of giving “equal opportunity” to all women to be objectified will not help end racism or sexism. In fact, such fetishizing has highly negative consequences particularly for poor, working class women of colour.

As an example, the phenomenon of Asian massage parlours and their associated advertising have served to normalize the prostituting of Asian women, as well as the racist and sexist notion that Asian women are naturally or inherently inclined toward prostitution. In most cases, prostituted women in Asian massage parlours have no status in Canada. No pimp, nor any sex industry profiteer, has truly fought for immigrant women’s rights to have residence status or economic and social security in Canada. When they lay claim that they support immigrant women’s rights to not be deported, it is only done in the context of wanting to funnel more women into prostitution under the banner of “supporting migrant sex workers” – which, in reality, is a way of taking advantage of the fact that many of these migrant women are unable to speak English and are financially insecure.

Rather than attack one of your own to silence women of colour and indigenous women, we urge Rabble to challenge Playboy, Allure Magazine and the pro-pimp/john/brothel-keeper version of feminism. We challenge Rabble to turn to supporting the feminists who strive to dismantle the rape culture that dehumanizes women of colour and normalizes male demand for racialized sexist experiences. We urge you to defend feminists’ rights to defend ourselves and fight back as we continue organizing to break the current social order where Asian women, Black women and Indigenous women are expected to service male privilege.

Please reconsider your responsibilities and commitment as leftists who run a left publication. We urge you to commit to social change that will threaten the current sexist, racist, colonialist and capitalist society we live in. Please turn away from rationalizing and making excuses for this destructive ideology that panders to corporate capitalism serving only to maintain hierarchies of race, gender and class. We call on you for alliance rather than diversion, derision and attack.

Sincerely,

Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution
National Congress of Black Women Foundation-BC
Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry

FRENCH TRANSLATION (by Johanne Heppell):

Lettre ouverte à Rabble.ca Distingués rédacteurs et fondateurs de Rabble.ca, Nous vous écrivons aujourd’hui, car nous tenons à vous faire part du profond malaise que nous en avons ressenti en lisant votre réponse aux récentes campagnes de salissage menées à l’endroit de l’auteure, journaliste de gauche et collaboratrice de Rabble, Meghan Murphy.

Votre déclaration au sujet des attaques et pétitions lancées pour discréditer Meghan nous a grandement déçues. Il est troublant de voir Rabble reprendre les allégations calomnieuses proférées au sujet de Meghan, plutôt que de résolument défendre son droit d’avoir et d’énoncer des opinions qui remettent en question l’industrie du sexe et ceux et celles qui en font l’apologie. Nous remarquons que dans votre déclaration, vous passez vraiment beaucoup de temps à tenter d’apaiser ces personnes qui diabolisent Meghan.

En attaquant Meghan pour s’être servi de sa tribune pour présenter des analyses et des réflexions critiques féministes, on fait du même coup des remontrances et des menaces à toutes les personnes qui marchent à ses côtés. En tant que femmes racisées et féministes autochtones, nous sommes plus conscientes que jamais que notre dissidence n’est pas la bienvenue chez Rabble. Votre adhésion autoritaire aux idéaux néolibéraux se fait au détriment des femmes racisées et autochtones qui s’efforcent de mettre fin au racisme, au sexisme et au colonialisme, et ce, malgré la grande misère dans laquelle nous maintiennent le capitalisme sauvage et les politiques impérialistes. Nous nous attendions à plus d’ouverture d’esprit, de sens de la vie démocratique et de rigueur intellectuelle de la part des progressistes et des défenseurs des opprimés que vous prétendez être.

Dans la pornographie et la culture populaire, les femmes autochtones sont des « squaws », les femmes asiatiques des « geishas » et les Noires des bêtes de sexe, et toutes acceptent toutes les pratiques sexuelles avec quiconque et en tout temps. Ces images profitables à consommer à volonté marginalisent encore plus les femmes racisées, puisque ces clichés simplistes deviennent des biens à échanger contre de l’argent, ce qui alimente une demande particulière à l’égard de ces femmes, dont les choix sont déjà très limités, dans le milieu prostitutionnel. Dans notre société, les femmes autochtones, asiatiques et noires sont ensevelies sous une épaisse couche de sexisme raciste. Cette idée selon laquelle on doit accorder à toutes les femmes les « mêmes chances » d’être réifiées n’aidera en rien à éradiquer racisme et sexisme. De fait, ce fétichisme a des conséquences néfastes, surtout pour les femmes racisées démunies de la classe ouvrière.

Ainsi, le phénomène des salons de massage asiatiques et la publicité qui les entoure ont contribué à normaliser la prostitution des femmes asiatiques, ainsi que la notion raciste et sexiste selon laquelle les femmes asiatiques sont naturellement et foncièrement attirées par la prostitution. Dans la plupart des cas, les femmes prostituées dans les salons de massage asiatiques n’ont aucun statut au Canada. Pas un proxénète, pas plus qu’un quelconque profiteur de l’industrie du sexe, ne s’est jamais réellement porté à la défense des droits des immigrantes d’obtenir le statut de résidente ou une forme de sécurité économique et sociale au Canada. Quand des exploiteurs contestent l’expulsion de ces immigrantes, cette opposition de leur part doit être comprise à la lumière de leur volonté d’alimenter la machine prostitutionnelle sous la bannière de l’« appui aux travailleuses migrantes du sexe », ce qui dans les faits, permet de profiter du fait que bon nombre de ces femmes immigrantes sont pauvres et ne parlent ni l’anglais ni le français.

Plutôt que de vous en prendre à l’une des vôtres pour faire taire les femmes racisées et autochtones, nous exhortons Rabble à remettre en question la parole de ces soi-disant féministes à la solde de Playboy et d’Allure et au service des proxénètes, clients et tenanciers de bordel. Nous demandons à Rabble d’appuyer les féministes qui s’efforcent de démanteler la culture du viol qui déshumanise les femmes racisées et normalise la demande masculine en termes d’expériences sexuelles sexistes racistes. Nous vous en conjurons, vous devez nous aider à défendre nos droits en tant que féministes et à lutter contre ceux qui souhaitent nous écraser, alors que nous continuons de resserrer nos rangs pour sortir du contexte social actuel, selon lequel il est normal que les femmes asiatiques, noires et autochtones soient au service du privilège mâle. Vous vous devez de réévaluer vos responsabilités et votre engagement en tant que gens de gauche à la tête d’une publication progressiste. Nous vous exhortons à aller dans le sens d’un progrès social qui modifiera en profondeur la société sexiste, raciste, colonialiste et capitaliste dans laquelle nous vivons. Nous vous prions instamment de cesser de justifier et de défendre cette idéologie destructrice qui se plie aux exigences du capitalisme de marché, et qui ne fait que perpétuer les hiérarchies fondées sur la race, le sexe et la classe.

Nous vous invitons à créer une alliance plutôt que de faire diversion et de laisser libre cours à la raillerie et aux attaques. Cordialement, Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution (Coalition des femmes asiatiques pour l’élimination de la prostitution)National Congress of Black Women Foundation-BC (Congrès national de la Fondation des femmes noires – C.B.)Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (Femmes autochtones opposées à l’industrie du sexe)

Italian and German translations to come.

Solidarity with our sisters!

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Support Italian Feminists, Support Italian Women

The petition:

Italy: Enact legislation that prevents sex trafficking and exploitation

Photo courtesy of Resistenza Femminista

Right now, Italian lawmakers are discussing law proposals that would make things worse for people in prostitution, violate their human rights, and undermine efforts to reduce sex trafficking and exploitation. Parliament is seriously considering legislation to decriminalize pimping and brothel-keeping; create legal “red light areas”; criminalize those selling sex outside of these areas; and require public registration and exorbitant fees for people in prostitution (Bill No. 1201, the ‘Spilabotte Bill’). Alarmingly, according to our partners, it also proposes secondary school lessons for young men and boys on how to “safely” use people in prostitution. Rather than teaching young people about gender equality and healthy relationships, the proposed curriculum teaches them that it is ‘ok’ to buy sexual access to another person if you have the money for it. And, by normalizing the objectification of women and girls, it also contributes to a culture where violence against them is tolerated.Essentially the proposed bill would stigmatize people in prostitution, normalize exploitation, and allow the Italian government to promote and profit from trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

Help us stop this from happening! In Italy, the vast majority of those in prostitution are women and girls, primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds and poorer countries. Many have been trafficked, and they are constantly exposed to serious safety and health risks. Please join Equality Now and our Italian partners Resistenza Femminista and IROKO by calling on the Italian government to #ListenToSurvivors and reject the Spilabotte Bill (No. 1201) and similar proposals. Rather than criminalizing people in prostitution and profiting from their exploitation, the government should enact legislation that protects their human rights and reduces exploitation in the commercial sex industry.

Please sign and share.

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Open Letter to rabble re: Meghan Murphy

NOTE ADDITION: An Italian translation provided to us on behalf of Resistenza Femminista has been added online and will be sent to rabble.ca

To: The Editors, Publishers, Founders and Editorial Board – rabble.ca

We, the undersigned, wish to express our deep dissatisfaction with rabble’s response to the recent attacks on Meghan Murphy.

In past weeks, Meghan Murphy has become the target of a vicious and focused attack that we believe is aimed not only at her—as the most visible voice of a set of feminist principles with which we broadly agree—but at women in general and feminists specifically.

This attack—sparked by an article at Playboy magazine and a petition inspired by the Men’s Rights Movement and women who are known for their promotion of the sex industry—focuses nominally on a brief piece written by Murphy in response to nude photos published of a trans woman named Laverne Cox. Her piece criticized the notion that the publication of highly sexualized, pornographic photographs of a woman or trans woman is “empowering.” We see no fair basis upon which the piece can be characterized as “transphobic.” Moreover, the definition of “transphobia” is, like its partner in discourse, “whorephobia,” a subject of debate. For those of us who still adhere to democratic standards and principles of fair journalism, it is disturbing to see critique converted to “phobia/personal attack” resulting in an end to rational discussion.

Given that there is no reasonable argument that Murphy’s article discriminates against or is disrespectful to trans people, it is our belief that the breadth and vitriol of the attack on her and the ideas she articulates is rooted in a broader attempt to marginalize and inevitably silence women and feminists who agree with her political views—and ours.

As evidenced by her work at Feminist Current and at rabble, Murphy has taken a principled, feminist position in opposition to the institutionalization of women’s oppression and exploitation through prostitution and in support of the goal of the abolition of prostitution beginning with the criminalization of the men in charge of the prostitution industry—pimps and traffickers—and the consumers of women’s bodies—johns.

There has been, and is, deep division across many constituencies with respect to this issue, accompanied by a concerted effort from the sex industry and those on the sex industry bandwagon—often including women—to attack, smear, stalk, harass and threaten any woman—or man—who threatens the flow of cash streaming from women’s backs into the pockets of exploiters. In our view rabble has consistently supported, published and given wide berth to these voices at the expense of reasoned argument, debate and discussion, rather than articulate a principled stand on the issue.

The one ray of light at rabble on feminist issues and prostitution is Meghan Murphy. Unlike many in the pro-prostitution, anti-feminist, and transactivist movements, Murphy depends on analysis and reasoned argument in articles she has written at Feminist Current and rabble. Her detractors have failed to actually engage with the arguments Murphy makes. Instead they favour vicious, personal attacks and astroturfing. These attacks now threaten her employment and career, not only at rabble, but elsewhere.

As women and feminists who depend on Murphy’s integrity as a journalist and her ability to think and write analytically and lucidly, this is of deep concern to us. We support her and we vehemently oppose the effort to silence her public voice.

But the issue goes beyond Murphy herself to the principles of journalism, democracy and the valorization of public speech for a wide variety of otherwise marginalized voices. It is obvious that we live in difficult political times wherein there is deep polarization across many political divides and within oppressed communities with respect to political and “cultural” issues. While it may not be possible for rabble to take a principled position on each and every issue, we, your readers, demand that at the very least you provide an environment wherein reasoned discussion is encouraged and ad hominem attack is not tolerated.

Many of the blog and opinion pieces you have sponsored have not met that basic expectation. Personal attack against certain voices appears to be encouraged, thus legitimizing the kind of vicious campaign levelled against Meghan Murphy and her supporters. By not taking a firm stand and making a clear statement in support of Murphy’s journalism, published in your own digital pages and appreciated by a broad spectrum of women, feminists, and male supporters of feminist principles, you are implicated in the current witch hunt. rabble thus harms not only Meghan Murphy both personally and professionally, but also stifles public discussion of complex and difficult issues that are simply not covered adequately in mainstream media.

We believe that rabble has a responsibility to affirm its commitment to giving the voices of the largest class of oppressed humanity—women, and most especially Indigenous women, women of colour and women living in poverty —a hearing and a public forum for principled debate. We would like to see a new statement that acknowledges that rabble accepts its responsibility to act with professional and political integrity in the treatment of its staff, its writers, and the national and global feminist movement.

Yours truly,

ORGANIZATIONS:

Feministas of Canada

S.A.N.T.A.S. (Uruguay – Argentina – Spain)

Mujeres de AgrupaciÛn Lucretia Barredes (Uruguay)

Lunas Lesbianas Feministas (Mexico)

The Störenfriedas, German Blogger Group

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

WoLF ( Women’s Liberation Front)

Deep Green Resistance

ROSE (Remember our Sisters Everywhere)

CATWA (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia)

CLES (Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle)

LAWC (London Abused Women’s Centre), London, ON

Women Fight Back, Vancouver Island, BC

Newfoundland and Labrador Feminists and Allies

The Resist Collective, Vancouver, BC

NorMAC (Nordic Model in Australia Coalition)

Collective Shout Australia

Persons Against Non-State Torture

EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating)

Sisyphe.org

Le collectif d’aide aux femmes exploitées sexuellement, Le CAFES

CATW-Asia Pacific

Resistenza Femminista, Italy

INDIVIDUALS:

Alena Nikole, WoLF

Alexandra Pelletier, Montreal, Quebec

Ali Bee, Norwich, UK

Amanda Thornhill, Parrish, FL, USA

Amy Titus, Ashland, OR

Ana Popovic, Montréal, QC, community organiser

Andrea Stumpf, Vancouver, BC

Angie Conroy, Cambodia

Anna Fisher, London, UK.

Anna Hoheide, Blogger

Anne Pyterek, Crestone, Colorado

Anne-Marie Bilodeau, avocate retraitée, Montréal, QC

Aoife Emily Hart, Vancouver, BC

Betty Qi, Stouffville, ON

Bo Novak, Bath, England

Bonhomme Fannie,Montauban, FRANCE

Brigitte Tucker, Australia

Carol Hanisch, Ellenville, NY, USA

Caroline Laplante, animatrice en art collectif, Québec

Caroline Werner, LISA Wiesbaden, DIE LINKE (german left party)

Cassaundra Blythe, Havelock, ON

Catherine Weiss, Melbourne, Australia

Cathryn Atkinson, Squamish, BC

Celia A. Nord, Chase, BC

Chantale Caron, directrice générale, Centre de prévention du suicide  Pierre-de-Saurel, Québec

Cheryl Lynn Bergen BSW, RSW, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Chloe Gustella, Melbourne, Australia

Chris Cherry, Writer and Former Communications Director, SC Democratic Women’s Council

Chris Hedges, Journalist, Princeton, NJ, USA

Chris McDowell, Vancouver, BC for ROSE (Remember Our Sisters Everywhere)

Christine Boyle, Q.C., Professor Emeritus, Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Christine Le Doaré, juriste et militante féministe, Paris

Ciara Carpita, Resistenza Femminista – Italy

Claire Young, Professor Emerita, Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Colette Price Swietnicki, New York City, NY, USA

Colleen Fuller, Vancouver, BC

Colleen Glynn, Richmond, BC

Coralie Allison, Director, Collective Shout Australia

Coralie Pittman, Melbourne, Australia – Collective Shout

D.  Klaric, Toronto, ON

Dana Seilhan, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Danielle Cormier, Vancouver, BC

Danielle de Ronde, Ottawa, ON

Daphne Gilbert, Associate Professor – University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, B.A. (Hon.)(Manitoba), LLB (Manitoba), LL.M. (Yale), Of the Bar of Ontario

Derrick Jensen, Crescent City, CA, USA – Deep Green Resistance

Diana Boston

Diana Salles, Emoryville, CA

Diane Matte and Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle

Didier Bois, abolitionnist activist, Paris, France

Dominique Bernier

Dr Meagan Tyler, Feminist Academic, Melbourne, Australia

Dr. Erin Graham, Vancouver, BC

Dr. Helen Pringle. Senior lecturer U.N.S.W (University of New South Wales)

Dr. Julian Vigo, London, UK

Drew Walker, London, ON

Elaine Audet, directrice des Éditions Sisyphe, Montréal

Elaine Grisé, MA in Sexology, Women’s Centre Coordinator, Montréal, QC

Elizabeth Ann Calhoun, Grandview, MO, USA

Elizabeth Fleetwood, Australia

Elizabeth Hungerford, Maynard, MA, USA

Elizabeth Pickett, Founder – Feministas of Canada

Elizabeth Sheehy, FRSC, Shirley Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Emanuel Marcos Abinzano, Cordoba, Argentina

Emily Bagnald, WoLF, occupied Mi’kma’ki (aka Nova Scotia, Canada)

Emily Pascall

Emma Anstruther, Cambridge, MA USA

Emma Walker, London, ON

Erin D. Jackson, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Ernesto Aguilar, Houston, TX, USA

Estella Muzito, Kampala, Uganda

Estrella Sicardi, Montevideo, Uruguay

Fathia Hizam, ancienne membre du bureau directeur de l’Association Tunisienne des Femmes démocrates (Tunisian Association of Democratic Women)

Florencia Negreira, Canelones, Uruguay

Françoise Pelletier, feminist, M.A. Art-thérapie, Mental health counselor, Maison alternative de développement humain inc, Saint-Hyacinthe, QC

Frank Austin, Atlanta, GA, USA

Gail Dines, Professor and founder, Stop Porn Culture, Boston, MA, USA

Hanna Dahlberg, Blogger, Die Stˆerenfriedas, Germany

Heather Black, Toronto, Ontario

Hélène Morin

Hilla Kerner, Vancouver, BC

Inge Kleine, Munich, Germany (Abolition 2014)

Isla MacGregor, NorMAC, Australia

Ismène Fleury, France.

J. Renee Bernard, Farmer City, IL, USA

Jacqueline Gullion, Vancouver, BC

Jaqueline Sephora Andrews, Seattle, WA, USA

Jan Watson- South Coast Environment Group WA

Janet Hacker, Victoria, BC

Janet Suarez, Canleones, Uruguay

Janice Latisha Betts, Manti, Manabi, Ecuador

Janine-Heather Goodrum, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia

Jean Enriquez, Executive Dir, CATW-Asia Pacific

Jennifer Bilek, Woodside, NY USA

Jeanne Sarson, Truro, NS

Jenifer Walker, London, ON

Jennifer White, London, ON

Jess Martin Dueck, Exploited Voices’ Allies (EVA)

Jewelles Smith, Artist, BC

Johanna te Boekhorst, Chilliwack, BC

Johanne Heppell, translator, Plaisance, Québec

Johanne St-Amour, Québec

Jonah Mix, Deep Green Resistance, Crescent City, CA

Fran Luck, Executive Producer, Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI, New York City, NY, U.S.A.

Judith Morz, Blogger, Germany

Julie Bindel, Author, Journalist, Feminist Campaigner, UK

Karina Ansolhabere, Montevideo, Uruguay

Karla Mantilla, Hyattsville, MD, USA

Katarina Vidovic, Croatia, EU

Kate Graham, Edinburgh, Scotland

Kathleen Barry, Ph.D., Sociologist and Professor Emerita

Kathy Miriam, Santa Fe, NM, USA

Kathy Scarbrough, E. Brunswick, NJ, USAKim Pate, Sallows Chair in Human Rights – Faculty of Law, University of Saskatchewan and Executive Director – Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS)

Komal Gilani, Austin, Texas

Krista Sawchuk, London, ONKylee Nixon, Edmonton Supporters of Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, Edmonton, AB.Laurel Long, MD, USALeah Harwood, Toronto, ONLee Lakeman, Vancouver, BCLeslie Gildart, Boston, MA

Laurel Long, Maryland, USA

Lee Lakeman, Vancouver, B.C.

Lierre Keith, California, USA, co-founder – WoLF

Lily Munroe

Linda MacDonald, Person Against Non-State Torture, Truro, NS

Lira Laluz, Montevideo, Uruguay

Lisa MacLeod, Sahuarita, Arizona, USA

Lisa J. Whelan, London, UK

Lise Bouvet, Ressources Prostitution, Paris, France

Liz Waterhouse, ShoutOut Australia, Western Australia

Lorna Garano, El Cerrito, CA, USA

Lori Jean Meyer Khan, Houston, TX

Luke Bourke, Melbourne, Australia

Lynda Davies, Former Frontline Worker – VAW, Ottawa, ON

Madeline Beckett, St. Louis, MI, USA

Maggie Jihan, Knox, ME, USA

Maggie Sinclair, Edinburgh, Scotland

Manuela Schon, LISA Wiesbaden, DIE LINKE, Member of City Parliament, Wiesbaden, Germany

Margaret McCarroll, London, ON

Marie Hume, Mannum, South Australia

Marie-Andrée Boivin, militante pour les droits des sourds et des femmes, maîtrise en communications – profil média expérimental, UQAM, Montréal, Québec

Marie-Pier Lauzon, Québec

Marina de Carneri, Roverto, Trento, Italy

Marion Wallace, Memphis, TN, USA

Martin Dufresne, Editor/translator/activist, Montréal, Qc

Martine Roucole, FRANCE, Militante Osez le Féminisme

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Coventry, UK

Mary Ceallaigh, Tucson, AZ, USA (WoLF member)

Mary Lou Jones, London, ON

Mary Moylan, St. John’s, NL

Mathew Gustella, Melbourne, Australia

Matthew B. Ezzell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, USA

Matthew Holloway, Australia

Max Dashu, Suppressed Histories Archives, CA, USA

Max Wilbert and Deep Green Resistance Seattle

Maya Shlayen, feminist activist & journalism student

Megan Bourke, Melbourne, Australia

Megan Walker, London Abused Women’s Centre, London, ON

Meike Matarazzo, Oakland, CA, USA

Michèle Anne Rannou, Locronan (finistere), FRANCE

Michele Landsberg, Toronto, ON

Michelle Belden, Maine USA

Michelle Hurtibise, London, ON

Michelle Lyn Jones, Winchendon, MA – Deep Green Resistance

Micheline Carrier, éditrice de Sisyphe.org, Montréal, Québec

Miep Rowan O’Brien, Carlsbad, NM, USA (WoLF member)

Miranda Yardley, Essex, United Kingdom

Mira Sigel, Feminist Blogger, Germany

Monica Moore, Melbourne, Australia

Monique Carbonell, Lilburn, GA, USA

Morris Dalla Costa, Journalist, London, ON

Myrian Machain, Sydney, Australia

N. Fraser, Guelph, ON

Naida Pintul, Heidelberg, Germany

Nancy J. Meyer, Hyattsville, MD, USA

Natacha Rault, Geneva – Switzerland – economist

Nicholas James, Ottawa, ON

Nicole Jameson, Collective Shout, Adelaide, Australia

Orla Hegarty, BMath, MASc, WoLF member, Newfoundland & Labrador Feminists and Allies

Otilia Puiggros, PhD Candidate, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Owen Lloyd, Deep Green Resistance, Port Orford, OR

Patricia Antuna, Montevideo, Uruguay

Patricia Karina Vergara Sanchez, DF, Mexico

Paul Lavergne, MACP, The Turning Point Counselling, Peterborough, ON

Paula Schmidt, Vernon, BC

Paulette C. Turcotte, Victoria, BC

Peggy Luhrs, Burlington, VT, USA

Pei-Ju Wang, Ottawa, ON

Pete Newbon, Walthamstow, London, Greater London, UK

Peter Maxwell, Melbourne, Australia

Rachel Goodine, Victoria, BC

Raquel Thomas-Caesar, Georgetown, Guyana

Rebecca Huntington, Lansing, MI, USA

Rebecca Thornhill, Ottawa, ON

Rebecca Whisnant, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Director of Women’s and Gender Studies, the University of Dayton, OH, USA

Reece K. Sellin, Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Ren Fox, Seattle WA, USA

Rhéa Jean, PhD Philosophy, Université Laval, Université de Sherbrooke, founding member of La CLES

Rhoda Mueller, Edmonds, WA, USA

Robert Jensen, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA

Rosa, Survivor of the sex industry, abolitionist, and blogger, Germany – https://zorarotblog.wordpress.com

Rose Sullivan, Québec,  Le collectif d’aide aux femmes exploitées sexuellement, Le CAFES

Ruth Greenberg, Nottingham, Britain

S.C. Gillett, Toronto, ON

S.J. Martin, Oregon, USA

Samantha Berg, journalist, co-founder – WoLF

Sanda Rogers, Ottawa, ON

Sara Lynn, Bracebridge, ON

Sarah Forrester, London, ON

Shanie Roy, Montréal, QC

Shannen Bethune, Mount Waverley, Melbourne, Australia

Shauna Devlin, Maghera, South Derry, Ireland

Sheila Jeffreys, Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia

Sheila McIntyre, Ottawa, ON

Shelagh Day, CM, VAncouver, BC

Shiloh Minor, Pond Inlet, NU

Simone Andrea, Fremantle, Australia

Simone Watson, Director NorMAC, Australia

Solveig Senft, Terre des Femmes, Germany

Sophia Chaudhary

Spider Redgold, The Feminine Byte, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Stephie Smith RN, Vermont, USA

Sue Breeze, Windsor, ON

Susan Barley, Australia

Susan Boyd, Vancouver, BC

Susan Hyatt, UT, USA

Suzan Attwood, Snellville, GA, USA

Sylvia Black, co-founder WoLF, Atlanta, GA, USA

Tamara Gorin, poet and front line anti-poverty and housing worker, Vancouver BC

Tatjana Cherifi, LISA Wiesbaden, Germany

Teagan Westendorf, Melbourne, Australia

Terre Spencer, Peachtree Corner, GA, USA

Terri Moore, Johannesburg, South Africa

Thistle Pettersen, Madison, WI, USA

Tracie Warden Denga, Pacific Grove, California

Trish Oliver, Beaver Hall Artist, Toronto, ON and co-founder – WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front)

Trisha Baptie, Vancouver BC and EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating)

Trisha Wilson-Singer, Mississauga, ON

Ulla Wojciechowski, translator, Oberhausen, Gemany

Veronica Penfold, Windsor, ON

Victoria Humak, Atlanta, GA, USA (WoLF member)

Wendy Lewis, London, ON

Whitney Austin, Atlanta, GA, USA

Winnie Small, Sarnia, ON

Wynell Austin, Atlanta, GA, USA

Yolande Clarke, Queenstown, NB

French translation:

Nous, les soussignées, tenons à vous faire part par la présente de notre profond mécontentement après avoir lu la réponse de rabble aux attaques dont fait l’objet Meghan Murphy.

Depuis quelques semaines, Meghan Murphy est la cible d’une charge violente et coordonnée qui la vise, elle, explicitement, à titre de porteparole de principes féministes qui sont essentiellement les nôtres, charge qui est également dirigée contre les femmes, en général, et contre les féministes, en particulier.

Cette violente campagne, déclenchée par un article de Playboy et amplifiée par une pétition digne du mouvement masculiniste et soutenue par des femmes connues pour leurs efforts de lobbying pro-prostitution, prend sa source dans un court texte que Meghan Murphy a écrit en réaction à une série de photos de nus d’une femme trans connue, Laverne Cox. Dans son billet, Meghan Murphy critique cette notion qui voudrait qu’une femme ou une femme trans qui publie des photographies d’elle à caractère sexuel, voire pornographique, pose par là un geste d’« empowerment », autrement dit, un geste d’émancipation. Nous ne voyons pas en quoi un tel texte pourrait être qualifié de « transphobe ». Cela dit, nous croyons aussi que le mot « transphobie », comme son acolyte lexical « putophobie », est un terme aussi galvaudé que controversé. Pour celles et ceux d’entre nous qui croyons encore aux principes de la vie démocratique et aux règles de la déontologie journalistique, il est troublant de voir une analyse critique transformée en « phobie » et en « attaque personnelle », ce qui empêche toute possibilité de dialogue rationnel.

Dans la mesure où les prétentions selon lesquelles l’article de Meghan Murphy serait discriminatoire ou blessant pour les personnes trans ne reposent sur aucun argument sensé, nous pensons que l’ampleur et la violence de cette attaque menée contre elle et les idées qu’elle défend s’enracine dans une entreprise plus vaste de marginalisation et ultimement de silenciation des femmes et des féministes qui partagent sa vision des choses, une lutte politique qui est aussi la nôtre.

Comme en atteste son travail chez Feminist Current et rabble, Meghan Murphy a adopté une position féministe ferme, fondée sur des principes clairs, concernant l’institutionnalisation de l’oppression et de l’exploitation des femmes dans la prostitution et en faveur de l’abolition de la prostitution, à commencer par la criminalisation des hommes à la tête de l’industrie de la prostitution, les proxénètes et trafiquants, et des consommateurs du corps des femmes, les clients.

Cette question a créé et continue de créer d’importants différends entre de nombreux groupes d’intérêts et dans divers milieux, ce qui a donné lieu à un effort concerté de la part de l’industrie du sexe et des personnes qui en vivent, qui comprennent souvent des femmes, pour attaquer, calomnier, traquer, harceler et menacer toute femme – ou tout homme – qui met un tant soit peu en péril le magot des exploiteurs des femmes prostituées. Nous avons constaté que rabble a toujours appuyé, publié et accordé une très grande marge de manœuvre à ces diffamateurs, et ce, aux dépens d’une argumentation rationnelle, d’un réel débat et de discussions hétérogènes, en ne se positionnant pas clairement en regard de cet enjeu.

Chez rabble, la seule collaboratrice qui se démarque avec limpidité et intelligence du consensus tacite qui s’y est formé autour du féminisme et de la prostitution, c’est Meghan Murphy. Contrairement au lobby pro-prostitution, aux groupes antiféministes et à de nombreux transactivistes, Meghan Murphy produit des analyses rigoureuses et emploie des arguments réfléchis et logiques dans les articles qu’elle publie dans Feminist Current et rabble. Parce que ses détracteurs n’ont pas réussi à démonter ses arguments, ils s’en remettent plutôt à d’odieuses attaques personnelles et à la création de faux mouvements spontanés. Ces attaques mettent désormais en péril son emploi et sa carrière, non seulement chez rabble, mais dans ses autres domaines d’activités.

En tant que femmes et féministes qui comptons sur l’intégrité journalistique de Meghan Murphy et sur sa capacité à réfléchir et écrire avec rigueur et lucidité, la présente situation nous inquiète grandement. Nous appuyons Meghan Murphy, et nous nous opposons avec véhémence aux efforts déployés pour la faire publiquement taire.

Cette affaire nous projette aussi au-delà de Meghan Murphy ellemême, aux fondements mêmes du journalisme, de la démocratie et de la valeur que l’on accorde au discours que peuvent tenir dans l’espace public divers groupes qui sinon n’auraient pas voix au chapitre. Il est évident que nous vivons des temps difficiles sur le plan politique, en raison de la polarisation que créent les clivages idéologiques importants et nombreux qui divisent les communautés opprimées en termes d’enjeux politiques et « culturels ». Bien qu’il ne soit sans doute pas possible pour rabble d’adopter une position éditoriale claire dans tous les dossiers, en tant que lectrices et lecteurs de rabble, nous exigeons que vous offriez à tout le moins un environnement propice aux échanges rationnels et où les attaques injustifiées ne sauraient être tolérées. 

Bon nombre des billets de blogue et textes d’opinion que vous avez accueillis dans votre site ont contrevenu à ces exigences de base. On semble y favoriser les attaques personnelles contre celles et ceux qui défendent certains points de vue seulement, ce qui a eu pour effet de disculper les auteurs de la violente campagne menée contre Meghan Murphy et ses sympathisantEs. En ne prenant pas fermement position et en refusant de produire une déclaration d’appui non équivoque au travail journalistique de Meghan Murphy, qui publie dans vos pages numériques, rappelonsle, et qui est appréciée par une foule de femmes, de féministes et d’alliés masculins qui adhèrent aux principes féministes, vous devenez un acteur de la chasse aux sorcières en cours. Ce faisant, non seulement la rédaction de rabble nuit à Meghan Murphy, tant dans sa vie personnelle que professionnelle, mais elle contribue à étouffer la conversation publique sur des questions complexes et délicates qui ne sont tout simplement pas abordées dans les médias traditionnels.

Nous pensons que rabble se doit de réaffirmer son engagement à donner la parole au plus important groupe de personnes opprimées de l’humanité, les femmes, et en particulier les femmes autochtones, racisées et démunies, à leur offrir un auditoire et une tribune où poursuivre le débat dans une enceinte civilisée. Nous aimerions que la rédaction de rabble produise une nouvelle déclaration par laquelle elle reconnaît la responsabilité qui lui incombe de traiter son personnel et ses auteurEs, ainsi que le mouvement féministe national et international, avec professionnalisme et intégrité.

Cordialement,

German translation:

Wir, die Unterzeichnenden, möchten hiermit unsere tiefe Missbilligung gegenüber rabbles Antwort zu den jüngsten Angriffen auf Meghan Murphy ausdrücken.

In den letzten Wochen wurde Meghan Murphy zur Zielscheibe eines üblen und koordinierten Angriffs, von dem wir glauben, dass er sich nicht nur gegen sie – als die bekannteste Vertreterin feministischer Grundsätze, mit denen wir insgesamt einverstanden sind – sondern gegen Frauen allgemein und Feministinnen im Besonderen richtet.

Dieser Angriff – losgetreten durch einen Artikel im Playboy und eine Petition, die ausgeht von der Männerrechtsbewegung und durch Frauen, die als Unterstützerinnen der Sexindustrie bekannt sind – bezieht sich vorgeblich auf einen kurzen Text Murphys als Reaktion auf Nacktfotos, die eine Transfrau namens Laverne Cox von sich veröffentlichte. Ihr Text kritisierte die Ansicht, dass die Veröffentlichung sehr sexualisierter, pornografischer Bilder einer Frau oder Transfrau „empowering“ sei. Wir sehen kein angemessenes Argument, aus dem heraus dieser Text als „transphob“ bezeichnet werden könnte. Davon abgesehen ist „Transphobie“, genau wie die ihr diskursiv oft zur Seite gestellte „whorephobia“, „Hurenhass“ ein Thema verschiedener Auseinandersetzungen. Für diejenigen unter uns, die sich noch an demokratische Prinzipien und den Grundlagen eines fairen Journalismus halten, ist es irritierend zu sehen, wie ein kritischer Ansatz in „Phobie/persönlicher Angriff“ umgemünzt wird, womit sachliche Diskussionen beendet werden.

Da es kein sinnvolles Argument für die Behauptung gibt, Murphys Artikel diskriminiere Transmenschen oder sei ihnen gegenüber respektlos, gehen wir davon aus, dass die Breite und Intensität des Angriffs auf sie und die von ihr geäußerten Ansichten Teil eines größer angelegten Versuchs ist, Frauen und Feministinnen an den Rand zu drängen und damit zum Schweigen zu bringen. , die mit ihren – und unseren – Ansichten übereinstimmen.

Wie aus ihrer Arbeit bei Feminist Current und rabble klar hervorgeht, vertritt Murphy eine ethische und grundsätzlich feministische Position gegenüber der Institutionalisierung der Unterdrückung und Ausbeutung von Frauen durch Prostitution. Sie unterstützt das Ziel der Abschaffung der Prostitution, angefangen mit der Kriminalisierung der Männer an der Spitze der Prostitutionsindustrie – Zuhälter und Menschenhändler – und die Frauenkörper konsumieren – Freier.

Es gab und gibt in vielen Gruppierungen eine massive Spaltung bezüglich dieser Frage, begleitet durch konzertierte Versuche der Sexindustrie und derer, die in ihrem Fahrwasser schwimmen – oft sind Frauen dabei – jede Frau – oder jeden Mann – anzugreifen, zu verleumden, zu stalken, zu mobben und zu bedrohen, die die Profite gefährden, die auf dem Rücken der Frauen erwirtschaftet werden und von dort in die Taschen der Ausbeuter fließen. Unserer Ansicht nach hat rabble diesen Stimmen durchgängig weiten Raum gegeben, sie auf Kosten vernünftiger Argumente, Auseinandersetzungen und Diskussionen unterstützt und veröffentlicht, anstatt in dieser Sache eine grundsätzliche Position zu beziehen.

Der einzige Lichtblick zu feministischen Themen und zu Prostitution bei rabble ist Meghan Murphy. Anders als Viele in den pro-prostitutions-, anti-feministischen und transaktivistischen Gruppen belegt Murphy ihre Artikel auf Feminist Current und rabble mit Analysen und sachlicher Argumentation. Ihre Angreifer haben sich überhaupt nicht mit den Argumenten Murphys auseinandergesetzt. Stattdessen ziehen sie heftige persönliche Angriffe vor, sie sind keine Graswurzelbewegung, sondern eine Kunstrasentruppe. Die Angriffe gefährden inzwischen Murphys Arbeitsstelle und –chancen, nicht nur bei rabble, sondern auch woanders.

Als Frauen und Feministinnen, die sich auf Murphys Integrität als Journalistin und ihre Fähigkeit, analytisch und klar zu denken und zu schreiben verlassen, betrifft uns dies zutiefst. Wir unterstützen sie und stellen uns entschieden gegen den Versuch, ihr und ihren Ansichten jede Öffentlichkeit zu nehmen.

Doch das Thema geht über Murphy hinaus. Es betrifft die Grundsätze des Journalismus, der Demokratie und der Wertschätzung freier öffentlicher Rede für eine breite Gruppe sonst marginalisierter Stimmen. Es ist offensichtlich, dass wir schwierige politische Zeiten durchleben, in denen es quer durch verschiedene politische

Gruppen und innerhalb unterdrückter Communitys extreme Polarisierungen gibt, wenn es um politische und „kulturelle“ Themen geht. Auch wenn rabble vielleicht nicht zu jedem Thema Position beziehen kann, fordern wir – die LeserInnen – dass rabble ein Umfeld schafft, indem vernünftige Diskussionen ermutigt werden und in dem persönliche Angriffe nicht akzeptiert werden.

Viele der Blogeinträge und Meinungsartikel, die Ihr – rabble – veröffentlicht habt, entsprechen nicht diesen grundlegenden Erwartungen. Es sieht aus, als würden persönliche Angriffe gegen bestimmte Stimmen ermutigt, was diese Art übler Kampagne, die gegen Meghan Murphy und ihre UnterstützerInnen geführt wird, legitimiert. Indem Ihr keine klare Position zur Unterstützung von Murphy’s Journalismus bezieht, den Ihr in Euren digitalen Seiten veröffentlicht und der von einem breiten Spektrum an Frauen, Feministinnen und männlichen Unterstützern feministischer Grundsätze sehr geschätzt wird, seid ihr an der gegenwärtigen Hexenjagd mit beteiligt. rabble schädigt damit nicht nur Meghan Murphy sowohl persönlich als auch beruflich, sondern unterdrückt auch die öffentliche Diskussion komplexer und schwieriger Themen, die in den Mainstream Medien nicht angemessen berücksichtigt werden.

Wir glauben, dass rabble die Verantwortung hat, sein Bekenntnis dahingehend, den Stimmen der unterdrücktesten Klasse der Menschheit – Frauen – Gehör und ein öffentliches Forum für eine von Prinzipien geleitete Debatte zu bieten, wieder bekräftigen muss. Wir möchten ein neues Statement sehen, das anerkennt, dass rabble seine Verantwortung für professionelle und politische Integrität im Umgang mit den MitarbeiterInnen, den AutorInnen und der kanadischen und weltweiten feministischen Bewegung ernst nimmt.

Hochachtungsvoll, … 

Spanish translation:

Nosotras, las abajo firmantes, queremos expresar nuestra profunda insatisfacción con la respuesta de rabble a  los recientes ataques a Meghan Murphy.

En las últimas semanas, Meghan Murphy se  ha convertido en el blanco de un ataque vicioso que la toma por objetivo y que  creemos que no  está dirigido  sólo a ella – como la voz más visible de un conjunto de principios feministas con las que estamos ampliamente de acuerdo – sino también a las mujeres en general y las feministas más concretamente.

Este ataque, provocado por un artículo de la revista Playboy y una petición inspirada en el “Movimiento de defensa de los Derechos de los Hombres” y miembros de grupos de presión de trabajo sexual, se centra en una breve articulo escrito por Murphy en respuesta a las fotos de desnudos publicados por una mujer trans llamada Laverne Cox. Su artículo criticó la noción de que la publicación de fotografías altamente sexualizadas y pornográficas de una mujer o de  una mujer trans pueda ser considerado “empoderamiento”. No vemos ninguna base seria para decir que el artículo pueda ser caracterizado como “transfobico”. Dicho esto, también creemos que la idea de la transfobia es en sí misma, polémica y objeto de debate en aquellos lugares donde la discusión todavía se puede dar según las normas democráticas y los principios de periodismo justo.

Dado de  que no hay ningún argumento razonable para sostener que el artículo de Murphy sea  discriminatorio o  una falta de respeto a las personas trans, creemos  de que la amplitud y la virulencia del ataque contra ella y las ideas que articula tiene sus raíces en un intento más amplio de marginalizar y silenciar inevitablemente  a las mujeres y a las feministas que están en desacuerdo con sus puntos de vista políticos, que son también  los nuestros.

Como lo demuestra su trabajo en” Feminist Current” y en rabble, Murphy ha tomado una posición de principios feministas en oposición a la institucionalización de la opresión y de  la explotación de la mujer mediante la prostitución y en  apoyo a la meta de la abolición de la prostitución,  comenzando con la criminalización de los hombres a cargo de la industria de la prostitución – proxenetas y traficantes – y de los consumidores de los cuerpos de las mujeres. 

Ha habido y hay una división profunda en muchas reuniones constituyentes con respecto a este tema que cuenta con el apoyo y el esfuerzo concertado de la industria del sexo y de aquellos que se suben al carro de la industria del sexo – a menudo incluyendo a algunas   mujeres. Se ataca,  acecha, acosa y amenaza a cualquier mujer – u hombre – que amenace el flujo de dinero efectivo a costa de las mujeres en dirección de  los bolsillos de los explotadores. En nuestra opinión, rabble ha consistentemente apoyado y publicado tesis que dan amplio espacio a estas  voces,  a expensas de la argumentación razonada, del debate y de  la discusión que permita articular una posición de principios sobre el tema.

El único rayo de luz  en el sitio web en temas feministas y sobre la prostitución, es Meghan Murphy. A diferencia de muchos de los pro-prostitución, y los movimientos trans activistas antifeministas, Murphy depende del análisis y de la argumentación razonada de los artículos que ha escrito en “Feminist Current” en la web. Sus detractores no han podido con los argumentos que hace Murphy. En su lugar favorecen, ataques personales despiadados, manipuladores y falsos a la base. Estos ataques ahora amenazan su empleo y su carrera, no sólo en rabble, sino en todos los lugares.

Como mujeres y feministas que dependen de la integridad de Murphy como periodista y de su capacidad para pensar y escribir analíticamente y lúcidamente, esto es de gran preocupación para nosotras. Por ello,  la apoyamos y nos oponemos vehementemente al intento de acallar su voz pública.

Pero  el problema va más allá de Murphy en sí misma, el problema apunta  a los principios del periodismo, la democracia y la valorización del discurso público para una amplia gama de voces que de  lo contrario serian  marginalizadas. Es obvio que vivimos  en tiempos donde las  dificultades políticas  crean una polarización política que divide a  muchos de los oprimidos  dentro de sus propias  comunidades en relación  a temas “culturales” y políticos. Si bien  puede ser que no fuera  factible para rabble  tomar una posición de principios en todos y cada uno de los temas, nosotros, sus lectores, solicitamos  por lo menos, que se proporcione un ambiente donde sea posible el debate razonado y donde el  ataque “ad hominem” (a la persona)  no sea tolerado.

Muchos blogs de opinión y artículos que usted ha apoyado  no cumplen con las expectativas que tenemos hacia ustedes.  El ataque personal contra algunas voces  parece ser alentado, y así se legitima el tipo de campaña feroz dirigida contra Meghan Murphy y sus partidarios. Al no tomar una posición firme y hacer una declaración clara en apoyo del periodismo de Murphy, publicado en sus propias páginas digitales y apreciado por un amplio espectro de las mujeres, feministas y de varones partidarios de los principios feministas, usted está implicada en la actual caza de brujas. rabble perjudica  no sólo a Meghan Murphy tanto en lo personal como profesionalmente, sino que también  sofoca el debate público de asuntos complejos y difíciles, que simplemente no están cubiertos adecuadamente en medios de comunicación.

Creemos que rabble tiene la responsabilidad de afirmar su compromiso de dar la voz a los sectores más oprimidos, en este caso a la  mayoría de la humanidad,  las mujeres, así como audiencia y foro público para un debate de principios. Nos gustaría ver una nueva declaración de su organización aceptando la responsabilidad de actuar con integridad profesional y política en el tratamiento de la información, hacia el personal,  sus redactoras y redactores, y el movimiento feminista nacional y mundial.

Atentamente,

NB We will add signatures to this letter and update you.

Italian translation:

Noi, firmatarie e firmatari, vogliamo esprimere il nostro profondo dissenso nei confronti della risposta di rabble ai recenti attacchi di cui è stata vittima Meghan Murphy.

Nelle scorse settimane Meghan Murphy è stata al centro di un mirato e riprovevole attacco che noi crediamo non sia diretto solamente contro di lei – che è la voce più visibile che rappresenta una serie di principi femministi che condividiamo completamente- ma contro tutte le donne in generale e specialmente le femministe.

L’attacco in questione – scatenato da un articolo pubblicato sulla rivista  Playboy e una petizione promossa dal Movimento per i diritti degli Uomini e le donne che sono conosciute per la loro attività di promozione dell’industria del sesso – era incentrato su un breve intervento scritto da Murphy in risposta a foto di nudo pubblicate da una donna trans di nome Laverne Cox. Il suo intervento criticava il concetto secondo il quale la pubblicazione di fotografie di contenuto erotico o pornografiche  di una donna o di una donna trans siano da considerare un atto che promuove l’avanzamento dei diritti delle donne nella società. Non esiste nessun motivo ragionevole per poter accusare questo intervento di essere ‘transfobico’. Oltretutto la definizione di ‘transfobia’ è, come il suo corollario, ‘puttanofobia’ un concetto in sè dibattuto. Per quelli di noi che ancora credono e aderiscono ai principi democratici e a quelli del giornalismo trasparente è veramente sconcertante vedere come delle critiche vengano trasformate in “fobia/attacco personale” in modo da impedire una qualsiasi discussione sensata.

Dal momento che non esiste alcun argomento valido a sostegno della tesi secondo la quale l’articolo di Murphy sia discriminatorio o irrispettoso nei confronti delle persone trans, crediamo che la portata spropositata dell’attacco e i toni al vetriolo usati contro di lei e le idee che ha sviluppato siano da leggersi come un tentativo più ampio di marginalizzare e di conseguenza ridurre al silenzio le donne e le femministe che condividono le sue idee politiche – e cioè anche le nostre.

Come è evidente dal lavoro da lei portato avanti nel blog Feminist Current e con rabble Murphy ha preso posizione ispirandosi a principi femministi contro l’istituzionalizzazione dell’oppressione delle donne e dello sfruttamento attraverso la prostituzione e sostenendo l’obiettivo dell’abolizione della prostituzione a partire dalla criminalizzazione degli uomini che lucrano nell’industria del sesso- sfruttatori e trafficanti- e i consumatori dei corpi delle donne-  i clienti.

C’è stata, e c’è ancora, una profonda divisione tra molti elettori in riferimento a questo tema, aiutata dallo sforzo concertato dell’industria del sesso e di quelli che salgono sul carro dell’industria del sesso – spesso donne incluse – che attaccano, calunniano, perseguitano, molestano e minacciano qualsiasi donna – o uomo- che rischi di mettere in discussione  la marea di soldi che passano direttamente dai corpi delle donne alle tasche degli sfruttatori. Dal nostro punto di vista rabble ha appoggiato in modo significativo, pubblicato e dato largo spazio a queste voci a discapito di un’argomentazione, un dibatto e una discussione valida, invece di prendere posizione in modo articolato su questo tema.

L’unico raggio di luce dentro rabble su temi femministi e la prostituzione è Meghan Murphy. A differenza di molte persone appartenenti alla lobby pro-prostituzione, anti-femministe e del movimento attivista trans, le idee di Murphy espresse negli articoli scritti su Feminist Current e per rabble sono sempre frutto di analisi sostenute da argomenti solidi e ragionati. I suoi detrattori in realtà hanno dimostrato la totale incapacità di confrontarsi con le tesi costruite da Murphy. Hanno invece scelto la strategia degli attacchi personali, viscidi,  usando mezzi scorretti come la creazione di identità virtuali multiple per fingere una pluralità di voci, un finto dibattito che invece è messo in piedi da individui isolati con il solo scopo di simulare un dissenso diffuso che non esiste nella realtà.

Questi attacchi adesso stanno mettendo in pericolo il suo lavoro e la sua carriera, non soltanto all’interno rabble ma ovunque, in qualsiasi realtà lavorativa.

Come donne e femministe che ci ispiriamo all’integrità morale di Murphy come giornalista e alla sua capacità di pensare e scrivere in modo analitico e lucido vogliamo che sappiate che tutto questo ci riguarda profondamente. Esprimiamo il nostro completo appoggio a Meghan e ci opponiamo con forza al tentativo di costringere al silenzio la sua voce pubblica.

Ma la questione va oltre il caso di Murphy e riguarda i principi stessi del giornalismo, della democrazia e della valorizzazione del discorso pubblico per una grande varietà di voci che sarebbero altrimenti marginalizzate. È ovvio che viviamo in un momento politico difficile nel quale assistiamo ad una forte polarizzazione all’interno di diverse fazioni politiche e all’interno della comunità oppresse con rispetto per le questioni politiche e “culturali”. Mentre può essere comprensibile che rabble non possa prendere posizione su ogni spefica questione sollevata, noi, i suoi lettori/lettrici, chiediamo che almeno possa garantire un spazio nel quale siano incoraggiate discussioni rispettose e sensate e non siano permessi gli attacchi ad personam.

Molti dei blog e dei pezzi che voi avete sponsorizzato  non hanno soddisfatto queste aspettative di base. Gli attacchi personali contro certe voci sembra che siano stati incoraggiati, legittimando in questo modo il genere di campagna infamante condotta contro Meghan Murphy e le sue sostenitrici/ i suoi sostenitori. La scelta di non prendere posizione con fermezza, dichiarando apertamente il vostro appoggio al lavoro giornalistico di Murphy pubblicato nelle vostre pagine digitali e apprezzate da un vasto gruppo di donne, femministe e di uomini sostenitori del femminismo, vi rende complici dell’attuale caccia alle streghe. In questo modo rabble danneggia non solo Meghan Murphy sia dal punto di vista personale che professionale, ma anche tenta di soffocare una discussione pubblica su una questione complessa e difficile che semplicemente non trova adeguata copertura mediatica.

Crediamo che rabble debba assumersi la responsabilità di dichiarare il suo impegno a dare voce alla classe più oppressa dell’umanità- le donne, e specialmente le donne indigene,  le donne di colore e le donne che vivono in povertà- uno spazio forum pubblico per un dibattito etico. Desideriamo vedere una nuova dichiarazione nella quale rabble accetti la responsabilità di agire con integrità politica e professionale nel trattamento del suo staff, i suoi autori/autrici e il movimento femminista nazionale e globale.

Cordiali saluti,

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Ashley and Bev

Update One: Oops, forgot the link to Ashley Judd’s post, here

Think Ashley Judd has nothing to do with Bev Oda? Think again.

Remember this:

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification.

This also applies to CON MP Bev Oda who is a woman. Yup, she’s a CON MP and I don’t like what she says and does. I didn’t like it when she did this:

Aid groups and opponents charged that the Conservatives have decided to cut off aid to groups whose political views differ from theirs – but the Tories said bureaucrats at the Canadian International Development Agency concluded Kairos no longer matched their priorities.

But new documents that emerged last December show that CIDA’s top officials signed a memorandum recommending new funding for Kairos before someone – the government won’t say who – inserted the word “not,” overruling the recommendation.

“The full body of material gives rise to very troubling questions. Any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes,” Mr. Milliken said in his decision on a Liberal MP’s complaint.

The document that cut off Kairos’s funding includes a recommendation for Ms. Oda “that you sign below to indicate that you not approve a contribution of $7,098,758 over four years for the above program.” But the word “not” was inserted in handwriting, and CIDA president Margaret Biggs testified that it wasn’t there when she signed it, just three days before Kairos was told its application had been rejected.

Ms. Oda’s parliamentary secretary, Jim Abbott, apologized for telling the Commons that CIDA analyzed Kairos funding request and found it didn’t meet their priorities. He said he did not know that was untrue when he said it.

But Ms. Oda has yet to explain what happened, and her office declined to comment on Thursday. (here)

And I’m, uh, “unhappy” with this (though it’s hardly what upsets me most about the HarperCON regime):

OTTAWA – It seems only the best will do for International Development Minister Bev Oda, who refused to stay at one five-star hotel in London, England, last year and rebooked at a swanky establishment for more than double the cost.

Oda was originally supposed to stay at the Grange St. Paul’s Hotel, site of the conference on international immunizations she was attending.

Instead, she had staff rebook her into the posh Savoy overlooking the Thames, an old favourite of royalty and currently owned by Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia.

The switcheroo is reminiscent of a controversial trip six years ago, when Oda rejected a minivan for transportation and opted for a limousine instead.

Oda had a luxury car and driver in London shuttling her between conference site, her new hotel and beyond at an average cost of nearly $1,000 a day.

The bill for three nights at the Savoy last June set back taxpayers $1,995, or $665 a night. The government still had to pay for a night at the hotel she rejected, costing an additional $287.

An orange juice Oda expensed from the Savoy cost $16. (here)

But neither Ms Oda’s expense account nor her integrity have anything, at all, to do with this:

Or this:

From here

Ms Oda can best be described as one of those women  colluding with patriarchy. But so are the women deriding her physical appearance, her mouth with a cigarette in it and her choice of “wardrobe”. And the men, of course. Thus:

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

Fat jokes about Rob Ford are cheap, easy, beside the point and denigrating to people other than Rob Ford. Comments, photographic and otherwise, that suggest that Ms Oda’s looks or choice of clothing are in some way ugly or lacking in femininity or what, “class”? are not only cheap, easy, beside the point and denigrating to people other than Ms Oda, they are also SEXIST? Get it? That’s even if you think Ms Oda and the party and government she represents are pigdogs from hell. Which I do.

Let’s just take one more reminder from Ms Judd:

 What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment? How can we as individuals in our private lives make adjustments that support us in shedding unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness?

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RIP Wangari Maathai

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Put the Womenzzz in Jail

UPDATE BELOW

This morning, Canada’s right-wing government announced it will allow only two days’ debate on its Omnibus Crime Bill C-10. The Bill is just the beginning of the neoCON government’s “crack down on crime” agenda, having swept away criticisms citing the fact that all indicators show the crime rate is falling in Canada by focusing on “unreported” crime.

This despite the fact that the federal NDP has moved to sever portions of the Bill for swift passage to allow full debate on more contentious issues such as mandatory minimum sentencing for some crimes – for instance, the possession of six marijuana plants. The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair says

The Conservatives are trying to shove this down the throats of parliamentarians; there will be no full debate on this bill or on its costing and . . . we will not be hearing from experts in parliamentary committee.

Of course I’m much more concerned that the CONs are shoving this down the throats of Canadians. We’ve had full Senate committee hearings on mandatory minimum sentencing but nobody paid attention. Not the CONs most assuredly but 24% of the Canadian public didn’t care much either, voting the bastardos into a majority government on May 2nd.

An excellent friend of mine, Professor Elizabeth Sheehy of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, presented evidence to that ole Senate Committee back in 2009 when it was Bill C-15 – one of those Bills that died when Steve prorogued Parliament . She addressed the issue of the discriminatory effect that mandatory minimums have on racialised people, Indigenous people – and women. Particularly women belonging to those marginalised and exploited groups, such women being the twice exploited.

It’s a bit long and maybe legally technical. But everyone in Canada should read it. Because this is what we have to look forward to. Here it is:

Introduction: In Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts,2 the Conservative Government seeks to create new mandatory minimum prison sentences. Minimum sentences of incarceration from six months to three years in duration would be required for a number of drug offences.

Under the proposed legislation, trafficking in a Schedule I or II drug (except a Schedule II drug in amounts not exceeding those set out in Schedule VII) will carry a mandatory prison term of one year if the offence was committed for a “criminal organization,” a weapon or violence was used or threatened in the commission of the offence, the offender had previously been convicted of a designated substance offence (ie “double doctoring,” trafficking, importing, exporting or production) or had served a sentence of imprisonment for a designated substance offence, in the last ten years. A minimum period of two years incarceration will be required if the offence was committed in or near a school, school grounds or other place frequently by persons under 18, if a person under 18 was involved, or if the offence was committed in a prison or on its grounds.

Importing a Schedule I substance less than 1 kg or a Schedule II substance (ie cannabis) will carry a mandatory sentence of one year if committed for the purpose of trafficking, the offender abused a position of trust/authority, or had access to a restricted area and used it to commit the offence. The mandatory sentence is increased to two years for Schedule I drugs in excess of 1 kg.

Producing Schedule I drugs would carry at least two years in prison, increased to three years if the offender used the real property of a third party, production was a health or safety risk to persons under 18 in the location or “immediate area,” production posed a public safety hazard, or the accused set a trap likely to cause bodily harm or death. Producing Schedule II drugs, except cannabis, would carry a minimum term of one year if production was for the purpose of trafficking or 18 months if, in addition to the trafficking objective, the health/safety risks noted above applied.

Producing cannabis will carry a minimum term of six months if the person grows between five and 201 plants for the purpose of trafficking; it will be nine months if in addition health and safety factors apply; it will be one year if the plants number between 201 and 501, and 18 months if the health and safety factors apply; it will be two years if the plants number 501 or more, and three years if the health and safety factors apply.

Sadly, Canada is no newcomer to the “race to incarcerate,”3 as the Supreme Court of Canada observed in R. v. Gladue:4

Canada is a world leader in many fields, particularly in the areas of progressive social policy and human rights. Unfortunately, our country is also distinguished as being a world leader in putting people in prison. Although the United States has by far the highest rate of incarceration among industrialized democracies, at over 600 inmates per 100,000 population, Canada’s rate of approximately 130 inmates per 100,000 population places it second or third highest…This record of incarceration rates obviously cannot instil a sense of pride.5

Bill C-15 will not only raise Canada’s incarceration rates: its new minimum sentences will also have a disproportionate, discriminatory impact on groups protected by s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms who already experience historic and current political, social, and economic disadvantage, including Aboriginal Canadians, African-Canadians, Asian-Canadians, and women, particularly African-Canadian women. While sentences of between six months and three years might look mild as compared to US sentence terms, these new minimums may have an inflationary effect, increasing the length of incarceration above the minimum for many such offences. They will pave the way for future bills to increase the number and severity of minimum sentences, as we have already seen with respect to the escalation in the mandatory minimum for many firearms offences from four years to five if a “criminal organization” is involved. They will send the message that these crimes are somehow worse than crimes of violence against the person, where we do not (and should not) impose mandatory prison sentences. For example, the median sentence for sexual assault in this country is reported by Statistics Canada as 360 days imprisonment.6 It is disturbing to see drug offences designated as requiring stronger denunciation than crimes of sexual violence.

Witnesses before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, testified in its March 3d, 2006 hearing on the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing in the federal criminal justice system in the US:

[M]andatory minimum sentences—prison terms predetermined by Congress and automatically levied for drug and gun crimes—have resulted in excessively severe and arbitrary sentences, undermine judicial discretion, and result in disastrous social consequences. ….[T]he laws are violations of protected human rights …specifically the right to equal protection of the law, the right to a fair trial, and the right to judicial protection against violations of fundamental rights.7

Section 15 and Discriminatory Effects: Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. Canada’s courts have never been called upon to evaluate mandatory minimum sentencing against equality standards, and the evidence supporting the discriminatory impact of such laws is formidable. The Supreme Court has foreclosed judges from using the device of “constitutional exemption” to shield individuals from the harsh effects of mandatory minimum sentences,8 making constitutional challenges to the law itself the only safety valve to protect vulnerable groups from such laws. Our courts will face increasing pressure to invalid laws like Bill C-15 using the Charter.9

Laws can “discriminate,” contrary to s.15 through disparate impact on vulnerable groups either because they affect those groups in a manner disproportionate to their population or because those groups will feel particularly harsh effects emanating from those laws. As an example of the first kind of “discriminatory effects” claim, two judges of the Supreme Court of Canada in Sue Rodriguez’s case would have found the Criminal Code prohibition on assisted suicide to be unconstitutional because it was more likely to criminalize people with disabilities who cannot themselves end their own lives but require assistance to do so.10 Another example is provided by R. v. C.M,11 a decision in which Justice Abella at the Ontario Court of Appeal found that section 159 of the Criminal Code, which criminalized anal intercourse using a higher age of consent than that used for other forms of intercourse, had a discriminatory effect on gay men, in violation of s. 15. The Quebec Court of Appeal has reached the same conclusion.12

As an example of the second kind of “discriminatory effects” claim, Carol Daniels succeeded before the Saskatchewan Queen’s Bench in arguing against her incarceration in the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario (when we had only one women’s federal penitentiary) because the effects for her as an Aboriginal woman of being imprisoned far from home and community in an institution that had seen a high rate of suicide by Aboriginal inmates was particularly punitive and discriminatory.13 Another example can be found in a decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal that found that the requirement for a licensing fee for an on-reserve bingo (taking it therefore out of the illegal gaming house provision in the Criminal Code) violated s. 15 for its discriminatory impact on Aboriginal accused who are entitled to tax exemption.14

Mandatory sentencing laws have discriminatory effects on many racialized groups in part because they are at the receiving end of targeted policing, whereby the neighbourhoods in which they live are subject to increased surveillance, and they are the subjects of “racial profiling,” whereby they are more frequently stopped by police for investigative purposes than are non-racialized individuals. The reality of racial profiling by police in Canada has been demonstrated by numerous studies,15 acknowledged by some police,16 and judicially noticed by the courts.17

Yet this targeting is not warranted when one examines the rate at which these groups are involved in drug crimes:

According to a Human Rights Watch Report released in April of 2009, although “Whites and blacks engage in drug offenses at similar rates, […] blacks were 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites in every year between 1980 and 2007,” the Drug War Chronicle reports (“Blacks Arrested on Drug Charges in Wildly Disproportionate Numbers, Rights Group Charges”). … As the organization’s senior counsel Jamie Fellner stated, “Jim Crow may be dead, but the drug war has never been color-blind. […] Although whites and blacks use and sell drugs, the heavy hand of the law is more likely to fall on black shoulders.”18

Further, the parameters used to impose mandatory sentences often exacerbate targeted policing. For example, the aggravating factor in Bill C-15 of alleged participation in a criminal organization will likely have disproportionate and discriminatory impacts on racialized and otherwise marginalized Canadians. As criminologist Mark Totten, Ph.D. noted in a 2008 Research Report, police statistics show that nationally a disproportion of reported young “gang members” is African-Canadian (25%); another disproportionately large group of youth gang members are Aboriginal (22%), while only 18% are Caucasian.19 A study prepared for the Department of Justice notes that various ethnic groups (especially African-Canadians and Asian-Canadians) are over-represented in certain “high-risk” neighbourhoods.20 In turn, the over-representation of these racialized groups in high-risk neighbourhoods for gang activity is related to their general disproportionate poverty and marginalization in Canadian society.

The new mandatory minimums will produce both forms of discrimination prohibited by s.15: members of racialized communities will be represented disproportionately among those arrested, convicted and sentenced under mandatory sentencing laws, and those sentences of certain imprisonment will exacerbate the social, economic and political inequality of already marginalized members of society. For example, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, “aboriginal offenders are, as a result of [] unique systemic and background factors, more adversely affected by incarceration and less likely to be ‘rehabilitated’ thereby, because the internment milieu is often culturally inappropriate and regrettably discrimination towards them is so often rampant in penal institutions.”21 The Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System documented the particularly harsh consequences of imprisonment for African-Canadian men, who in prison are racially segregated and face alarming rates of racial abuse from other inmates and from guards, as well as other forms of discrimination.22 Imprisonment is also experienced disproportionately harshly by women, in light of the fact that women as mothers will be separately from their children, often permanently, receive fewer and less resourced programming, and may also experience gendered harms such as strip searching by male guards.23

It is true that s. 15 challenges can be defended by arguing that the problem is not the law but rather discriminatory enforcement,24 or that s. 15 violations can be justified in a free and democratic society using s. 1 of the Charter. One can only hope that the resilience of racial profiling practices by police will force our courts to re-think the wisdom of drawing such a sharp line between discriminatory laws and enforcement practices for Charter purposes when they work together to such ill-effect. Further, reliance on s. 1 to justify discriminatory effects on racialized Canadians seems manifestly undemocratic, particularly when all the social science evidence indicates that mandatory minimum sentences “do not appear to influence drug consumption or drug-related crime in any measurable way.”25

Aboriginal Canadians

Canada faces a crisis of legitimacy with respect to the criminal justice system in light of the high rates incarceration of Aboriginal people that are grossly disproportionate to their representation in the population. The Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Gladue spoke clearly on this issue:

Not surprisingly, the excessive imprisonment of aboriginal people is only the tip of the iceberg insofar as the estrangement of the aboriginal peoples from the Canadian criminal justice system is concerned. Aboriginal people are overrepresented in virtually all aspects of the system.

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.26

The Court exhaustively reviewed the data on overrepresentation when it interpreted the legislative intent behind Code s. 718.2(e). This section directs sentencing judges to consider all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances, “with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.”

The Court noted that:

By 1997, aboriginal peoples constituted closer to 3 percent of the population of Canada and amounted to 12 percent of all federal inmates: Solicitor General of Canada, Consolidated Report, Towards a Just, Peaceful and Safe Society: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act — Five Years Later (1998), at pp. 142-55. The situation continues to be particularly worrisome in Manitoba, where in 1995-96 they made up 55 percent of admissions to provincial correctional facilities, and in Saskatchewan, where they made up 72 percent of admissions.27

In spite of s. 718.2(e) and the Court’s guidance to the lower courts in Gladue, the over-representation of Aboriginal people in prisons has only increased since 1999, when the decision was released. One study reported an increase in Aboriginal admissions to custody of 3% as of 2001, bringing the national rate for Aboriginal offenders serving jail terms to 19%;28 most recently, this incarceration rate has climbed further, to 22%, according to Statistics Canada.29 In fact, the main beneficiaries of the sentencing reform appear to be non-Aboriginal offenders, who experienced a decrease of 22% in admissions.30

The legacy of colonization and specifically the use of the Indian Act to separate Aboriginal peoples from their lands, their culture, their children, and their governance, is a population that is both impoverished and vulnerable to the use of drugs31 to escape what Justice Murray Sinclair has called “collective social depression.”32 As noted by the Supreme Court in Gladue:

The unbalanced ratio of imprisonment for aboriginal offenders flows from a number of sources, including poverty, substance abuse, lack of education, and the lack of employment opportunities for aboriginal people. It arises also from bias against aboriginal people and from an unfortunate institutional approach that is more inclined to refuse bail and to impose more and longer prison terms for aboriginal offenders.33

The new mandatory sentencing laws will undoubtedly add to the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people given the profiling of Aboriginal people (for example the Kingston study found that Aboriginal pedestrians were 1.4 times more likely to be stopped by police than were Whites34) and the profiling of “Aboriginal gangs.” Professor David Tanovich provides the following example: “Having identified Aboriginal membership in certain street gangs such as the ‘Indian Posse,’ ‘Ruthless Posse,’ and ‘Manitoba Warriors, a number of Winnipeg police officers appear to be routinely conducting spot checks based on nothing more than a person’s Aboriginality and, sometimes, clothing.”35 Several reports of major drug arrests show a focus on Aboriginal reserves as locales for drug production, such that reserve lands may in future be subject to targeted surveillance.36 In addition to the “criminal organization” factor that will trigger the mandatory sentences the factor of firearm use may also disproportionately affect Aboriginal accused.37

The proposed mandatory sentencing laws will negate one important tool, s. 718.2(e), which can and should be used to keep Aboriginal offenders out of jail, especially for drug offences. As the Supreme Court said in Gladue:

There are many aspects of this sad situation which cannot be addressed in these reasons. What can and must be addressed, though, is the limited role that sentencing judges will play in remedying injustice against aboriginal peoples in Canada. Sentencing judges are among those decision-makers who have the power to influence the treatment of aboriginal offenders in the justice system. They determine most directly whether an aboriginal offender will go to jail, or whether other sentencing options may be employed which will play perhaps a stronger role in restoring a sense of balance to the offender, victim, and community, and in preventing future crime.38

Bill C-15 will effectively repudiate s. 718.2(e) and swell even further our jails with Aboriginal offenders, in violation of s. 15. As Larry Chartrand outs it: “any statutory provision that denies Aboriginal offenders the benefit of such a targeted and remedial provision is itself discriminatory.”39

African-Canadians

It is well documented that the impact of mandatory minimum sentences instituted in the United States has been disproportionately felt by African-Americans,40 the over-incarceration of whom has contributed to vicious cycles of continuing social problems, including poverty in American inner cities and in African-American communities and families. Family and social relationships, employment and education opportunities all suffer upon incarceration. 41 When released, support systems may have disappeared and jobs are hard to come by. Drugs and crime may be one of the few options available.

Patterns of incarceration in the United States since the “war on drugs” policies were adopted in the 1980s, using mandatory minimum sentences, show a huge increase in the prison population, with African-Americans over-represented and a high recidivism rate. In 1994, African-Americans represented about 13% of drug users in the United States, but 74% of those imprisoned for drug offences.42 In spite of the harsh approach to sentencing that has been taken in the States, it has not been shown to decrease crime. This disproportionate impact and its devastating consequences have been important reasons why legislatures in the US are moderating mandatory minimum sentence laws43 just as Canada’s current government seeks to introduce them.

While the Canadian social context is unique and different f.rom that of the United States, similarities are significant in that there is widespread and systemic racism against Canadians of African descent and these individuals are economically and politically marginalized. The conditions leading to disproportionate impact of US mandatory minimum sentences on African-Americans are substantially similar those that lead to disproportionate impact of mandatory minimum sentences on African-Canadians, should Bill C-15 become law.

Conscious and unconscious racism colour who police and security forces in Canada monitor, arrest and charge. African-Canadians are more likely to be stopped by police than Whites by a factor of 3.7, according to a police-initiated study in Kingston.44 Racial profiling has been documented as a practice at the level of police and airport security,45 and extends even to African-Canadian police officers, who themselves report being “profiled” by fellow officers.46 African-Canadians are also more likely to be charged, less likely to benefit from prosecutorial discretion in terms of Crowns electing to proceed by way of indictment instead of summary conviction, less likely to be released on bail, and face harsher sentencing compared to Whites. Research based on Toronto police reports between 1996 and 2002 reveals that:

1) Black people charged with simple drug possession are taken to police stations more often than Whites facing the same charge;

2) Black motorists are ticketed at a rate of 4.2 times that of Whites for violations that only surface following a traffic stop and;

3) Blacks accused with a crime and taken to a station are held overnight for a bail hearing twice as often as Whites.47

As Faizal Mirza observes, “the impact of racial profiling and the poor use of prosecutorial discretion are even more severe under mandatory prison sentencing laws: Black people who are unfairly and disproportionately targeted for criminal investigations will likely succumb to more guilty pleas, stiffer penalties, and higher incarceration rates.”48 He explains: “Overall, disparate rates of charging and pre-trial imprisonment of Black people combined with the threat of mandatory prison sentences upon conviction, may induce more Black defendants to accept a guilty plea and prison time (albeit reduced) regardless of their level of blameworthiness in order to avoid long periods in prison.”49

Increased incarceration rates of African-Canadians will further embed systemic racism against the African-Canadian community, wrongly give the impression that African-Canadian crime is increasing, and convey that African-Canadians are more likely to be involved in drugs and crime.50 In fact, argues David Tanovich, the “war on drugs” has become a “war on Blacks.”51 The Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System reported in 1995 on the massive over-representation of African-Canadians in Ontario jails, noting a 204% increase in admissions among African-Canadians from 1986/87 to 1992/93. When focused on drug-related admissions, the Commission found that the increase rate was several thousand per cent.52 While representing only 3% of the population, African-Canadians were being incarcerated at a rate of 15.3%.53 Further, “the majority of accused admitted to Metropolitan Toronto prisons for drug trafficking and drug importing offences were Black.”54 Tanovich argues that this war on drugs is seriously misguided, in that it contributes to gun and gang violence:

With its use of a drug courier profile and intensive policing of poor and racialized communities, the war on drugs and racial profiling have created a one-way ticket to jail for many young Black men in Toronto. The limited education and employment opportunities that existed for them before prison because of systemic racism become even scarcer upon release. Is it really a surprise that many of them turn to informal structures where they find self-worth, respect, community, and a means of earning a living?55

The new mandatory minimums will exacerbate the incarceration crisis of African-Canadians, and further reinforce racial divisions and disparities in Canadian society.

Asian-Canadians

The potential for discriminatory impact of mandatory minimum sentencing on Asian-Canadians must be examined in light of both the historical and present-day realities of the Asian-Canadian experience. There is a long history of legislative discrimination against Asians in Canada, including restrictions on immigration and exclusion from eligibility from holding public office, or practicing certain professions.56 In fact, Canada’s first narcotic drug-control legislation was primarily aimed at criminalizing Chinese opium users.57 Nor has such treatment been limited to days gone by.

While Asian-Canadians do not yet seem to be over-represented in our prisons, that may change in light of racial profiling and the increased surveillance of gang-related activity. For example, Alberta’s Annual Report of Criminal Intelligence Service for 2004/05 reported: “There are a large number of groups composed of Asian criminals who, collectively, dominate the distribution of cocaine and marijuana.”58 The 1998 Annual Report of the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada reported: “Vietnamese gangs, made up of both ethnic and Chinese Vietnamese…control much of the street level drug trade in Vancouver….More than half the targets of the Calgary Police Service Drug Undercover Street (DUST) team are Asian criminals. There is every indication that these individuals are actively expanding their share of the local drug trafficking scene.”59 In fact a 1998 study reported that 45% of Vancouver gang members were Asian.60 Canadian courts are seeing racial profiling cases involving Vietnamese accused,61 and we should expect that the new mandatory minimum sentences will also affect Asian-Canadians.

Women, and Particularly African-Canadian Women

Mandatory prison sentences affect women very harshly. When judges lose the ability to mitigate sentences by reference to women’s lack of prior criminal history, the non-violent nature of their crimes, and their family obligations as mothers with the primary responsibility for their children, women’s incarceration rates soar. These effects are worsened when women have been brought into the criminal justice system through their histories of sexual abuse, victimization and addiction—particularly when they serve sentences in male institutions or under male guard. Women also feel the effects of imprisonment acutely when they lose custody of their children in consequence, the prison programs available are inadequate, and the prisons are far from their homes.62 Moreover, the worst effects of women’s imprisonment for drug crimes will be felt by their children, whose “[n]egative behavioural manifestations can include sadness, withdrawal, low self-esteem, decline in school performance, truancy and use of drugs or alcohol and aggression.”63

The discriminatory effects of mandatory jail terms are heightened for women when added to drug offences. In the US, women are described as the fastest-growing prison population, a phenomenon almost exclusively attributable to mandatory sentencing laws for drug crimes.64 This is partly due to racial profiling, discussed below, but also because women’s involvement in the drug trade is invariably at the low level where visibility to law enforcement is high. Many such women are themselves drug-dependent, which renders them more vulnerable to both participation and detection. Further, as the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network points out, mandatory minimum sentences fail to consider the relational position of women, wherein many women charged for drug-related offences have had minimal involvement with the crimes, but instead were involved with a male partner engaged in drug trafficking. If the woman was dependent upon that male, or involved in a violent relationship, the unfairness of a mandatory sentence that ignores minimal or coerced involvement is compounded.65 In the US many women have been convicted of drug crimes in spite of having minimal involvement with drug trafficking: “Unlike typical conspirators, these women find themselves involved in criminal activity because of social or cultural pressures, and their criminal activity is an uninvited and often unforeseen repercussion of choosing an intimate relationship.”66

African-Canadian women will be the sub-group of women most dramatically affected by mandatory prison sentences. They are already profiled disproportionately to their involvement in drug importing,67 and over-incarcerated at seven times the rate of White women.68 A report developed by the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System reveals that while both African-Canadian men and women are over-represented in the criminal justice system, incarceration rates in provincial prisons are significantly higher for African-Canadian women in comparison to their male counterparts.69

Although clause 5 of Bill C-15 allows a court to delay sentencing to allow an offender the opportunity to participate in and complete a Drug Treatment Court Program, and possibly to avoid the mandatory prison term, this clause will be of little assistance to many women caught by these new laws. This is a significant problem for African-Canadian women convicted of drug trafficking because many of these individuals will not fall within the substance abuser category: “Situated at the intersections of the North and the South are the women from poor countries and the poor women from rich countries who work as couriers, carrying small quantities of prohibited drugs from source and transit states into those in which consumers reside.” 70 It seems evident that the new mandatory minimum sentences will augment the number of women currently imprisoned, with African-Canadian women and their children feeling the worst effects.

Conclusion: Should Bill C-15 become law, offenders who may have received compassionate sentences such as a conditional imprisonment or suspended sentences, will be imprisoned. Prisons will be filled, and will have to increase in size. The federal government has already doubled its budget for prison construction and maintenance to prepare federal institutions for an influx of inmates resulting from its new crimes bills, including the mandatory minimum sentencing laws.71

Bill C-15 will have financial and social costs that are not justified by corresponding benefits. All evidence suggests that mandatory drug sentencing laws in the US have “imprisoned mostly low-level, non-violent offenders,” and that “treatment-oriented approaches are more cost effective than harsh prison sentences.”72 More and lengthier jail terms will not only raise prison maintenance costs will increase those associated with supporting children whose parents are incarcerated and reintegrating offenders after incarceration. Fewer resources will be allocated to education, social welfare and social programs such that the root causes of crime, such as poverty, unemployment, and social marginalization will be flourish. Sadly, Bill C-15 will lead to more drug crime, not less.

Elizabeth Sheehy, LLB, LLM, LLD

UPDATE:

Posted in Exploitation of Immigrant Populations, Exploitation of Indigenous People, Exploitation of Racial Minorities, Exploitation of Women, Law | 2 Comments