Dear Sir or Madam,
Yesterday, we posted about Federal Court Justice Robin Camp and his 2014 comments during a sexual assault trial. Justice Camp repeatedly called the sexual assault complainant “the accused” and asked the complainant why she didn’t keep her knees together.1 There are also three other Alberta judges currently under scrutiny for applying discredited sexist myths and stereotypes in their sexual assault rulings.2
It’s easy to assume that overt sexism only exists amongst the old guard of judges and lawyers. It does not. The attitudes that grow into judicial misconduct begin in law school and they exist now.
The University of Alberta law students’ newspaper, the Canons of Construction, recently published an article entitled, “Desperate Drunk Girl Finds Self at Hal-LAW-ween”. The article depicts a fictional female law student who enjoys drinking and socializing with her peers and future colleagues. Law students, does this sound familiar?
The article opens, “[w]e all know that one girl who’s been single just a little bit too long,” establishing an ongoing emphasis on this woman finding her self worth through male attention. The article goes on to say how this woman lives at the bar, “all in the slim hope that she finds the one. Because everyone knows that love develops when you’re 10 tequila shots deep and that closing down the bar to swoop in on the dregs of society at the end of the night is the best way to fill that big empty void in your damaged, broken, and very single heart.”
This intelligent woman pursuing higher education is then slut-shamed. “After fearlessly hitting on pretty much all of the 1Ls, some who were clearly attached to partners, word, like herpes, spread at the party.” A woman displaying initiative by pursuing multiple single men? How dare she! Pull out your bonnet and crinolines3 people, we have an abomination on our hands!
The internal dialogue that accompanies the “epiphany of her life” is just as profound as one would expect of a highly educated woman: “What is love anyway? I think I’m getting fat and I might be developing signs of jaundice. Maybe I should learn to teach yoga. Do I have any KD left at home?”. She finally realizes that this law degree business is making her fat, thus diminishing her self worth to men. Her only solution is drop out and refocus on her honing her body rather than honing her mind.
The moral of the story for this tale’s “heroine” is in the article’s concluding paragraph: “The very next day, she quit drinking, put on a chastity belt, dropped out of law school and enrolled at a yoga academy. She finally learned that she don’t need no man to make her happy, and that praising the virtues of fair-trade, organic and environmentally sustainable armpit wax to yuppie moms in her trainee yoga instructor classes is way better than catching gonorrhea for the sixth time.”
In essence, a female law student is desperate if she doesn’t have a boyfriend, yet if she does garner that oh-so-important male attention, she’s shameful and requires a chastity belt. Her epiphany is not that she is an intelligent woman who can pursue a legal career while engaging in an active social life. The moral of her tale is that she only learns of her self worth when she abandons her career and relegates herself to a more feminine arena.
But it’s just a joke, and humour is subjective! The article is supposed to be satire! Humour does not excuse misogyny and shaming your peers.
Good satire exposes a truth through ridicule and irony, but what was the truth being exposed in this article? That women who pursue men are promiscuous? That professional women would be better staying at home, rather than socializing with their peers? Perhaps that women don’t belong in the legal profession in general, given that the “heroine” of this story found self worth only when she quit law school.
Yes, this is fiction. But it speaks to every woman in this program on some level. Every woman who has expressed romantic interest at a bar, every woman who has consumed alcohol in excess, every woman who regularly attends school social events. The solution for these women? According to this article, drop out of school. You aren’t worth it.
The problem is not whether the female in the article is fictional. The problem is that this attitude creates an unsafe environment for all women in this program. Female students should not be afraid to engage in the same behaviour as men for fear that their behaviour will be publicly ridiculed.
Your resident nasty women and men,
Jason Markusoff, Charlie Gillis, Michael Friscolanti “The Robin Camp case: Who judges judges”, Maclean’s. (14 September 2016), online: <www.macleans.ca/news/robin-camp-case-who-judges-the-judges/>.
 Dan McGarvey and Natasha Frakes “4 Alberta judges under scrutiny for sex assault rulings”, CBC News. (16 September 2016), online: <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-judges-sex-assault-trials-myths-1.3765959>.
 R v Ewanchuk,  1 SCR 330, 131 CCC (3d) 481.