My response to the Simone de Beauvoir Institute’s statement on the Bedford decision & on prostitution law in Canada

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University  is “a college of Concordia University dedicated to studying feminisms and questions of social justice.” It is, essentially, the Women’s Studies Department at Concordia University. Following the Bedford v. Canada decision, they released a statementapplauding” the ruling. Here is the response I sent earlier today:

I am beyond appalled that a university Women’s Studies department would take a public position on this issue, never mind such an anti-feminist one. The purpose of academia is to learn, to critique, to further discourse. You are in a position to influence many young women who are perhaps only beginning their foray into feminist theory and it is your job to support them in developing the skills and foundations to come to their own conclusions about issues such as these. It is not your job to tell them what position to take. As academics I would assume you realize this. Releasing a statement such as this is beyond inappropriate and is entirely unethical.Not only that but you are perpetuating misconceptions about how these laws will actually impact women. Moving prostituted women indoors does not make prostitution any safer. This argument has been refuted over and over again.

You are right that this is not a question of morality. It is a question of equality and of human rights. Prostitution exists as a result of patriarchy not despite of it. The notion that, somehow, it is “moral norms” that are responsible for violence that happens against prostituted women is confused, to say the least. It is because of individual men and because of patriarchy that this violence happens. It is because of the objectification and dehumanization of women. It is because men think they will get away with it. How you would come to the conclusion that a solution to this is to further entrench male access to female bodies is beyond me. You have framed prostitution as though it is somehow the route to women’s liberation, just like “pants” and the freedom to have children outside of marriage. What a twisted, manipulated vision of women’s liberation you have presented.

Opposition to full decriminalization comes from feminists and from progressive men who believe in true equality, liberation, and respect for women. We are not moralists, we are not the church, we are not the religious right.

This case is not about morality. This is about women’s equality.You state that “The decision protects the Charter rights of individuals marginalized and stigmatized through their work in the sex trade.”This decision has, in effect, thrown the most marginalized women to the wolves. Nothing has been done to protect or support women working the streets. NOTHING has been done to address the violence or the perpetrators of the violence.It is not the responsibility of women to protect themselves from rape, murder, and abuse. This is victim blaming at its best.You state: “The decision means that women working in the sex trade will be able to protect themselves against violence in their work. The ruling means that women can work together to increase their safety. As such, this decision encourages women’s collective efforts and their solidarity. We celebrate legal rulings that remove juridical barriers to women’s collective organizing.”

The way that women will be protected from violence is by putting systems into place that ensure men are not able, encouraged, and protected when they commit violence against women. Where in your statement do you address the perpetrators? The idea that, perhaps, what we might do in order to address violence against women is to criminalize those who commit violence?

If you truly support “legal rulings that remove juridical barriers to women’s collective organizing,” then why have you so readily abandoned women and abandoned the founding principles and goals of the feminist movement? Feminism is about ending patriarchy. Not normalizing misogyny. Not perpetuating the idea that women exist to provide sexual fulfillment for men.

Beyond the extremely problematic statement you have made here, it is your responsibility, as academics and as a Women’s Studies department to open, not close the debate.

Sincerely,

Meghan Murphy
MA Candidate, Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University

You can find some other responses to the Bedford decision from some Canadian women’s/feminist organizations here:

From The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution: http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/learn/news/equality-seeking-women%E2%80%99s-groups-will-continue-demand-change-laws-prostitution

From Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW): http://tinyurl.com/ctcrgjn

From the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC): http://www.nwac.ca/media/release/29-03-12

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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