Author Archives: heburley

*Sixteen Women*

*Sixteen Women* is an online exhibition by Nlaka’pamuxand Diné artist Cherry Smiley that seeks to give women survivors of sexual violence a platform to speak back to the man or men who have attacked them. A photo of a survivor and her words, directed to the man or men who have raped or sexually assaulted her, will be released each day of the 16 Days of Action Against Violence Against Women, from November 25 – December 10, 2014.

You can see more of Cherry’s work here and contact her at

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Upcoming Event: Beyond Work Life Balance – Legal Ethics & Equality for Women Lawyers

1CBL CFLS logoConsider attending this upcoming panel, co-sponsored by UBC Law’s Centre for Business Law and Centre for Feminist Legal Studies.  The promotion of equality for women in the legal profession is part of the ethical and professional responsibilities of all lawyers. Much attention to this issue has been focused on the important question of the retention of women in private practice, which is usually linked to challenges in balancing the demands of practice and family responsibilities. While these are important issues, they are not the only issues facing women lawyers throughout their career paths.

The panel will consider other ways in which opportunities for women lawyers are impacted. Practical strategies and problem-solving will be emphasized.  Among the panelists is UBC Law professor and CFLS Faculty Director Janine Benedet.  The event is *free* for UBC Law students and faculty but registration is required.

WHEN: Friday November 28th, 8:30am-11am

WHERE: Metropolitan Hotel, 645 Howe Street

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Professor Isabel Grant to be Awarded Goyer Memorial Award for Distinguished Service

Isabel Grant photo

Professor Isabel Grant

The CFLS wishes to congratulate UBC Law Professor and CFLS Steering Committee member Isabel Grant who has been named as the recipient of the Georges A. Goyer, QC Memorial Award for Distinguished Service for 2014!

The Goyer Award is the highest honour given by the CBABC Branch. It is a memorial to Mr. Georges A. Goyer, QC, who was a distinguished member of the Canadian Bar Association and a leader of the Bar of this province. He was also director of the faculty’s Legal Clinic and an adjunct professor at the faculty.

The 2014 award recognizes Professor Grant’s contributions to jurisprudence and the development of the law in BC and in Canada through her work as a scholar, teacher, advocate and contributor to faculty governance at UBC Law.

Professor Grant is one of Canada’s leading criminal law scholars. She has made significant contributions to the areas ranging from sexual assault, to homicide, to the legal approach to nondisclosure of HIV infection.  Professor Grant’s publication record includes substantial articles leading Canadian and international journals. Her work has been acknowledged and cited by academics, advocates and the courts.

Moreover, Professor Grant has contributed to the development of criminal law in Canada through mentoring students and colleagues. Professor Grant is a well-regarded and committed teacher.  Professor Grant’s inspiring combination of high standards and genuine concern for her students make her a model colleague and collaborator who is known for both her wisdom and generosity. She is a pioneer in an area of increasing importance in education, leading the law school in developing flexible learning opportunities. She has also been a long time supervisor of the Gale Moot and has worked closely with over 100 moot students throughout her career.

Professor Grant has been involved in advocacy since the beginning of her career. Through her work with organizations like the Woman’s Legal Education and Action Fund, the HIV-AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian Association for Community Living, she has been involved in numerous Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada interventions. Her work as a patient representative, and then a Chair, of the BC Mental Health Act Review Panel contributed to the development of mental health law in this province.

Finally, it is important to note Professor Grant’s contributions to faculty governance, where she has received recognition as a leader within the Faculty.  She has served as the Chair of several committees, and has been an active, insightful and conscientious participant across the full range of Faculty governance and administrative processes.  Professor Grant has played a key role in building an active and engaged law school that serves the profession and public.   She was recently acclaimed as the UBC Faculty of Law’s Senator; her willingness to take up this role speaks to the exemplary leadership she has demonstrated within the Faculty.

Professor Grant will be recognized at the Bench and Bar Dinner on November 6.

Congratulations to Professor Grant for this well-deserved recognition of her many accomplishments!

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Key Themes & Insights: “Men’s Groups: Challenging Feminism”

A Report on the recent conference at the University of British Columbia, May 26 -27 2014

On May 26–27, 2014, feminist and pro-feminist scholars in multiple disciplines from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, the United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden, and Taiwan gathered at UBC’s Peter Wall Institute, to participate in a workshop titled “Men’s Groups: Challenging Feminism”. The workshop was organized by Susan Boyd, Professor of Law and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies at the UBC Faculty of Law, and was generously sponsored by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, the Faculty of Law at Allard Hall, the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies, and the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law.

MRA conference group

The conference delegates enjoying the sunshine and view

The objective of the workshop was to explore a key source of resistance to feminism: organizations acting in the name of men’s and fathers’ rights and interests, which argue that men are discriminated against in relation to law (especially family law), education, and government funding. Another objective was to provide an opportunity for self-examination, update, and creativity in order to support the advancement of feminist theories and strategies. Key questions explored included: (a) how men’s group actions in different countries discursively construct feminism, (b) lessons for the feminist movement, nationally and globally, historically and currently, from the growing legitimacy of men’s groups, and (c) how to avoid an oppositional approach to gender in men’s rights and feminist discourses.

The workshop was divided into six panels over two days, along with a keynote speech and a concluding discussion. At the first panel, “Men’s Reaction to the Rise of Feminism”, Francis Dupuis-Déri discussed the historical and contemporary discourse of “crises of masculinity”, and its connection to feminism as a political threat to men’s power. Michael Messner discussed the role of both pro-feminist and anti-feminist men’s groups in moments of historical gender formation, suggesting concern over how the participation of male feminist allies may mix with the reduced radical potential of feminism flowing from its institutionalization and professionalization. Finally, Michael Salter commented on how the traditional concerns of men’s rights activists have been rearticulated using the language of men’s health needs, and how this has moved anti-feminist discourse from the fringes to the political centre. At the second panel, “Global Perspectives”, Marsha Freeman and Ruth Halperin-Kaddari discussed the feminist potential of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), looking at the use of international law processes by both women’s and men’s groups. Marilou McPhedran and Susan Bazilli then examined how alliances between women’s and men’s groups may actually undercut gender equality. At the third panel, “Men’s Groups in Context”, Chao-ju Chen considered why there was no formal men’s rights movement in Taiwan. Katarzyna Wojnicka then looked at several different men’s organizations that reflect the mainstreaming of gender inequality and anti-feminism in Poland. In the keynote public lecture at the close of the first day, “Martyrs of Marriage?: Men’s Rights Activists, Law, and Feminism”, Srimati Basu spoke about her Fulbright research on the men’s rights social movement in India.

On the second day, at the panel “Men’s Groups and Violence Against Women”, Lise Gotell started by discussing the ways in which men’s groups have challenged and attacked anti-rape activism. Monica Burman then examined anti-feminist discourse in Sweden, suggesting ways of understanding Swedish conceptions of men, gender equality, and feminism. Finally, Elizabeth Sheehy discussed defending battered women in public spaces, both looking at the challenges of doing so and making suggestions on how to better use the mainstream media to support feminist goals. At the following panel, “Family and Children”, Molly Dragiewicz considered the prevalence of family studies literature conflating post-separation joint or shared custody with the best interests of the child, the absence of family studies literature that takes domestic violence into account, and the need for greater integration of cross-discipline research. Next, Ana Jordan presented a typology to help situate anti-feminist and post-feminist movements, and suggested that in addition to openly hostile anti-feminist activism, ambivalent post-feminist discourse should also be a cause for concern. Finally, Vivienne Elizabeth outlined how separated fathers have been presented in the New Zealand media. At the final panel, “Silencing Strategies”, Ruth Mann discussed how the dismantling of Status of Women Canada and the Family Violence Initiative demonstrates the synergy between anti-feminist backlash and the “new right” neoliberal agenda. Next, Maria Edstrom spoke about Nordic experiences of sexualized hate speech post-Behring Breivik. Finally, Daphna Hacker looked at how divorced Israeli men have used international and transnational legal processes as a part of their anti-feminist strategy.

Several key themes and insights emerged from the presentations and open-floor discussions. The first is that the form of organized resistance to feminism has shifted, at least in North America. Earlier resistance took the form of fathers’ rights groups, which suggested that family law had pandered to women’s interests and was biased against men. More recently, feminist work on violence against women and sexual assault/rape has been challenged by men’s groups. In some cases, this has taken the form of vitriolic attacks on feminist scholars via the media and online. Other anti-feminist resisters have framed themselves as the “true” defenders of equality, using a focus on men’s rights to balance out the supposedly unfair amount of resources and attention dedicated to women’s rights.

A second key insight is that, although there are many similarities internationally in the strategies of men’s activists and the experiences of feminists, the form of resistance to feminist activism varies significantly from country to country, jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As for similarities, fathers’ rights lobbying for shared parenting and their criticism of feminists who suggest limits on such a norm (e.g. in cases of domestic abuse) is common to many jurisdictions. Perhaps most notably in terms of differences, Taiwan has not witnessed an organized men’s movement to date, whereas anti-feminism is part of the mainstream political and cultural discourse in Poland.

A third important insight is that conservative men’s rights activists have recently invoked the language of men’s “health” and men’s “needs” to promote their platform, to some extent leaving the language of men’s “rights” behind.

A fourth insight is that funding cuts to non-profit organizations around the world affect the nature of, and relationships between, feminist and pro-feminist organizations. For instance, it is more likely now that a women’s-rights-oriented non-profit group is led by a good fundraiser rather than a feminist political organizer. Moreover, in a context where various organizations are competing for scarce funding, men’s groups that identify as pro-feminist and that engage in anti-violence work may actually inhibit front-line service-oriented women’s organizations if they are awarded the limited available funds instead of women’s groups.

Innovative approaches to dealing with the media when discussing issues such as violence against women were brainstormed, as well as ways in which feminist academics can translate their scholarly work into more accessible formats for the general public. There was also discussion regarding what kinds of new research feminist family lawyers would find useful to their work. For example, feminist lawyers working in the area of child custody stressed the importance of concrete data references regarding the prevalence of domestic abuse and its impact on custody. Finally, the conference emphasized collaborative, interdisciplinary work, a method of scholarship that has been underdeveloped in the field of law.

The presentations elicited vibrant, interdisciplinary conversation about the nature and impact of men’s rights activism, particularly in relation to its impact on feminism. At least two special issues of refereed journals will emerge from the research presented. The workshop opened the door to collaborative work across disciplines, and an international research group studying Anti-Feminist Movements has been established to facilitate the sharing of research and future collaboration.


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Lecture: “Martyrs of Marriage?: Men’s Rights Activists, Law and Feminism”

The Peter Wall Institute presents this public lecture, co-sponsored by the CFLS

MARTYRS OF MARRIAGE?: Men’s Rights Activists, Law and Feminism

Speaker: Professor Srimati Basu, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Anthropology, University of Kentucky

From faint beginnings in scattered solitary actions in the 1990’s, Men’s Rights Activists have emerged in India as a well-organized social movement, with careful political outreach through social media, legislative lobbying and street action.  They represent a range of ethnic and religious groups, include several prominent women leaders, and reflect some diversity of class positions. Their common target is the cynical misuse of civil and criminal laws relating to marriage and domestic violence, in particular the simultaneous deployment of multiple laws.

This presentation focuses on their understandings of law and legal process, and the range of gender identities they create in response to law. It is all too easy to dismiss the claims based on their frequent blatant misogyny, but some of their arguments raise fundamental questions for feminists about power, process, responsibility and subjectivity. Prof. Basu will explore some of the ways in which these discourses disturb notions of gender equity,
gender neutrality and female agency normalized in law, and the reflexive concerns for politics and accountability in feminist legal theory.

MONDAY, 26 May @ 3:30 – 5:00 PM

Room 104, Allard Hall (1822 East Mall)

Click here to view event poster (pdf).

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