CANON Vol. 1

Page 1




Executive Editors Alexandra Trnka Meg Shields

Publisher Jacob Baker-Kretzmar

Editors & Reviewers Paisley Conrad Emma Renaerts Rachel Colquhoun Melina Zaccaria

CANON is an interdisciplinary undergraduate academic journal published by Students Advocating for Representative Curricula (SNARC) at the University of King’s College in K’jipuktuk (Halifax), Nova Scotia.

SNARC acknowledges that all of the scholarship at King’s, including all of the work that went into CANON, takes place on unceded and unsurrendered Mi’kmaq territory, and in English, a language of colonialism and oppression. The Peace and Friendship Treaties struck between the Mi’kmaq and British nations are unique in that they grant uninhibited use of land resources to First Nations, rather than outlining a surrender of land. Canada continues to violate the spirit— peace and friendship—and letter—resource use for the Mi’kmaq Nation—of these treaties. For more information on these treaties visit, and to support Indigenous rights continent-wide see

CANON Editors c/o Students Advocating for Representative Curricula University of King’s College Halifax, NS B3H 2A1

Cover: Romaine Brooks, La France Croisée, 1914. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (gift of the artist).

Printed in K’jipuktuk (Halifax), Nova Scotia by etc. Press Ltd.

Contents Foreword

7 Meg Shields

The Shubenacadie Residential School Jacqueline Smith


Liberated Female Sexuality Emma Renaerts


Stripping Female Clothing and Identity Julia Kennedy


Rewriting Normative Gender Bronwyn McIlroy-Young & Jonathan Brown Gilbert


Hurrican Katrina and Humanitarian Violence Gwendolyn Moncrieff-Gould


Standing With the Stateless Zoe Luba


The Ordinary Method Charlotte Scromeda


When ‘No’ Means ‘Yes’

117 Angela Hou

‘Every woman adores a Fascist’ Julia Schabas


To Make Each Other Feel Good Pat Van-Vixen



151 Alexandra Trnka

The word canon derives from the Greek κανών, meaning “rule,” or “measuring stick.” The oldest use of the word that resembles its modern sense is biblical: the set of authoritative texts regarded as accepted scripture, as opposed to the non-canonical Apocrypha.

Apocrypha originates from the medieval latin apocryphus, meaning “secret,” and from the Greek ἀπόκρυφος and ἀποκρύπτειν, “obscure,” “to hide away.”

Foreword: A Note on Hard Work If we keep on speaking the same language together, we’re going to reproduce the same history. Begin the same old stories all over again . . . if we keep on speaking sameness, if we speak to each other as men have been doing for centuries, as we have been taught to speak, we’ll miss each other. — Luce Irigaray (When Our Lips Speak Together) Romaine Brooks (née Beatrice Romaine Goddard) painted La France Croisée in 1914. As the work’s title suggests, the windswept figure is a personification of France: stoic, defiant, and resolute. At once she is both a Red Cross nurse and a crusader. While France Croisée is not a portrait, Brooks’ model resembles the Russian actress Ida Rubinstein, Brooks’ lover at the time. Reproductions of France Croisée were later sold to raise money for the war effort, and Brooks received the Cross of the Legion of Honour for her fundraising. By the 1960s Brooks was largely forgotten, dismissed for her overly conservative style. In the 80s, the revival of figurative painting coupled with a new interest in gender expression and sexuality led to a reassessment of her work. Brooks’ portraiture has since been exonerated as a “sly celebration” of non-binary dress and praised for creating “the first visible Sapphic stars in the history of modernism.”1 In her memoir, Brooks’ longtime partner Natalie Barney records that a young woman complained upon seeing her portrait, saying “you haven’t beautified me,” to which Brooks replied, “I have ennobled you.”2 I think Brooks’ distinction between ennobling and beautifying is helpful to keep in mind when we are critiquing canonicity. The project of amplifying voices that are under- or mis-represented in academic spaces is an act of illumination, not manipulation. This undertaking is incredibly difficult. When I am presented with content that is authored by someone other than an old dead white dude I am overjoyed. This content is precious to me. My heart sinks when I am told that it is 1 2

Michael Duncan, “Our Miss Brooks,” 2002; Melanie Taylor, “Peter (A Young English Girl): Visualizing Transgender Masculinities,” 2004, 13. Natalie Barney, Aventures de l’Esprit, quoted in Karla Jay, The Amazon and the Page, 1988, 30.

problematic, broken, imperfect. I leave claw marks on this content—I feel guilty about this. Many scholars think that Brooks’ friendship with the Italian politician Gabriele D’Annunzio and the romantic individualism of her paintings indicts her as a fascist. They might be right. I want infallible heroes. I want to put their work on pedestals. I want them to shine so brightly that they can contend with their canonical contemporaries. This is an impossible request; we are ennobling, not beautifying. Sometimes, illuminating and dignifying under- or mis-represented voices means attending to the ways in which these voices fall short. While this might seem like obvious accountable scholarship (it is), it can still hurt to admit the flaws of our heroes when it feels like we have so few. That there is tension and contradiction across the work of these thinkers is to be expected, they’re only human. Brooks is no less complex. While scholarship condemns her as a fascist, after 1943, her diary describes with great pathos how she and her partner Natalie Barney, who was a quarter Jewish, were at risk of being sent to a concentration camp. Letting this tension rest, attending to these voices as they are not as we would beautify them, is ennobling. Illuminating under- or mis-represented perspectives in academia also means discussing topics that are painful. Space must be made for the pain of those affected directly by these topics, for whom discussion becomes academic as well as emotional labour. Others must embrace accountability for the ways in which they might have, and might continue to be culpable for perpetuating this pain. Ceding space is an uncomfortable and necessary act of care and responsibility. The authors of this journal are engaged in challenging work; they illuminate heroic figures that ultimately prove human, they call attention to wounds that have been neglected, they ask that space be ceded. This project of attending to gaps, to tension, to hurt, is ongoing. I thank the authors for their hard work, for their defiance and their resolve. I thank them and our readers for the hard work to come. With philia and solidarity, Meg Shields, Executive Editor

The essays that follow confront topics that are not often discussed within academic discourse. The content of this journal may be uncomfortable for some, as the authors of CANON deal with topics that have largely been underor mis-represented within academic settings, including depictions of violence, sexually explicit content, and the overlap between them. Discomfort can be a necessary aspect of de-normalizing oppressive content, and there is a specific advisory at the beginning of relavent essays. Please interact with CANON on your own terms.

The CANON team would like to thank everyone who made this publication possible. We are indebted to the financial support of the King’s Students’ Union, the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group, and the Early Modern Studies Society. In particular we would like to extend our gratitude to the faculty members of the University of King’s College who support us by attending our events, reading our work, and otherwise demonstrating their solidarity.

The Shubenacadie Residential School The History and the Legacy


I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that this country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone. That is my whole point. Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department and that is the whole object of this Bill. – Duncan Campbell Scott, 19201 The Indian Residential School System is one of the most horrific yet unknown parts of Canada’s history. Established through the Indian Act in 1876, these residential schools saw over 150,000 Indian children go through their doors until the final school closed in 1996. Today, 80,000 of these children are still living. These schools were unacknowledged by the federal government for some time, but awareness is finally being raised about the history of these schools, what occurred behind their doors, and how the lasting effects are still felt by the First Nations population today. Recent events, such as the federal government’s official apology for the schools in 2008 and the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (TRC) in 2015, have shown that progress is being made and that hidden truths are coming to light. The effects of these schools changed a population, and although the Indian Residential School System no longer exists, its legacy is a reality for the First Nations of Canada as they continue to live with the trauma experienced at these schools. Approximately 130 residential schools existed in Canada, but only one in Atlantic Canada, the Shubenacadie Residential School, which was open from 1

Duncan Campbell Scott, quoted in E. Brian Titley, A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada, 50.



1929 to 1967. This paper will explore the residential schools in Canada since Confederation in 1867, drawing on the Shubenacadie Residential School in particular as a source of information as to what happened in these schools and the effects that it had on the Mi’kmaq children who attended as well as the following generations. When the Indian Act was introduced in 1876, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald argued that removing the “Indian” child completely from their native surroundings, and particularly from the influence of other “Indians,” was essential to ensure complete assimilation into White culture. MacDonald claimed: When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write . . . Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.2 The schools were established and the enrolment rate grew. Initially, a parent’s written approval was required for enrolment, but as time went on this requirement was easily waived and as a result, children were attending the schools against their parents’ wishes.3 As ‘wards of the Crown,’ First Nations had no say over their affairs, including education, and were not protected by any of the laws protecting White Canadian citizens from possible victimization by the hands of the state.4 Therefore, should a parent express reluctance over sending their child to a residential school, they would have to face legal consequences. Through coercion, threats, and fear, Indian children continued to 2 3 4

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,” 2. Martha Walls, “‘Part of That Whole System’: Maritime Day and Residential Schooling and Federal Culpability,” 371. Daniel Paul, We Were Not the Savages: A Mi’kmaq Perspective on the Collision between European and Native American Civilizations, 258.



be ‘enrolled’ in residential schools. Initially, many parents willingly enrolled their children, believing that it was in their child’s best interest to receive an education and learn the English language. However, they never predicted the emotional and physical abuse that the children would suffer. The abuse rarely became known to the parents, as written correspondence was censored and visits were supervised and conducted in English so as to avoid the child communicating the reality of their experience in the schools in a language incomprehensible to the supervisor.5 Drawing on Marilyn Millwood’s work, Daniel Paul’s text notes the particular case of one mother who hoped to keep her child home from the Shubenacadie School after vacation and who discovered that “it wasn’t her decision to make,” demonstrating how little power parents had over their children’s affairs and well-being.6 Instead of the education that both children and parents were led to believe would be available at residential schools, the average day for a child consisted of half a day of labour and half a day of school work, with labour taking priority.7 Any education the children did receive was provided by the nuns rather than trained teachers and was supervised by a priest who acted as principal. Consequently, the children were not improving or reaching the standards their parents had expected. One student who attended the Shubenacadie School for two years claimed: I was in the 8th grade when I arrived at the school in February 1930 and in the 8th grade when I left in 1932. What had I learned in those 28 months? How to darn a sock, sew a straight seam on the sewing machine, and how to scrub clothes on a washboard. Educationally, how to parse and analyze a sentence.8 Martha Walls explains that although the Shubenacadie Residential School offered a curriculum through to grade eight, over half of the students were at a third grade level or below, 36 percent of the students were at the level of grades four to six, and only 11 percent 5 6 7 8

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “The Survivors Speak: A Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,” 99. Paul, 261. TRC, “The Survivors Speak,” 79. Paul, 260.



were working above grade six. These failings of the educational aspect of the residential school speak to the dismal educational options for the Aboriginal students in Atlantic Canada, as parents continued to enroll their children in the school despite their shortcomings.9 Structurally, the Shubenacadie School was built for a student residence of 125. However, it was not unusual for the school to exceed this amount. The first year it was open, 1930, saw an enrolment of 146 students.10 In 1938 that number had reached 175. It was not surprising that those who ran and benefitted from the school (the Church, the priest, and the nuns) continued to exceed their quota, if possible. Higher enrolment meant more income from the federal government, which was an important factor in determining whether the school would continue.11 Despite the overcrowded building, children felt lonely. As Shubenacadie School survivor Alan Knockwood explains: “I was surrounded by people all the time, but I was alone.”12 This feeling of isolation from the other children in the school, as well as the isolation from their families, prevented the children from experiencing and learning about the familial and friendly bonds normally cultivated throughout childhood. In recent years, the physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse that many children endured at these schools has come to light, usually decades after attending and suffering in silence. In 1990, Phil Fontaine, the then leader of the Assembly of First Nations, was among one of the first residential school survivors to bring awareness of the abuse to a national level. As he shared his experience of the physical and sexual abuse that he suffered with the country, he encouraged other survivors to share their stories as well. Since Fontaine’s speech, the number of survivors who have publicly spoken about their own experiences with abuse in the residential schools has risen, and it has become undeniably evident that stories like Fontaine’s were not unusual for these schools; rather were the norm. A brief and basic explanation of the abuse at these schools would 9 Walls, 374. 10 Chris Benjamin, Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School, 98. 11 Ibid. 12 TRC, “The Survivors Speak,” 112.



acknowledge the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse the students suffered. However, in reality this description is too general to properly describe the magnitude of effect that these schools had, not only on the children who attended them but on an entire indigenous population. In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found Canada guilty of committing cultural genocide, defined as “the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group.”13 As they sung lyrics about Christopher Columbus who “sailed across the sea and found this land for you and me,” the children were taught to idealize Western and White ways while viewing their Native culture as “backwards, uncivilized, and . . . dying.”14 Although these attempts at assimilation were unsuccessful, as First Nations have retained their indigenous identity and culture in Canada, they were nevertheless severely detrimental to the well-being of First Nations as they continue to face gaps in terms of education, health, and social welfare when compared to other Canadians. Although there was food in the residential schools, primarily a bland diet such as bread, potatoes, beef, and milk, most survivors recall the “hunger that never went away.”15 A more recent discovery surrounding the experiences at the Shubenacadie School includes the shocking although not surprising food experimentations to which the students were subjected between 1942 and 1952, according to an article published by food historian Ian Mosby. Examinations and tests such as “medical and dental examinations, blood tests, and intelligence and aptitude tests, as well as collection of menu and dietary records from each of the schools,” were run in order to determine which experimentation the school would undergo.16 The research determined that the food provided at the Shubenacadie School had led to a diet that was deficient “in the intake of vitamins A, B, and C, iron, and iodine.”17 Additionally, winter months showed an increase in gingivitis and 13 14 15 16

TRC, “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future,” 1. Benjamin, 110, 109. Benjamin, 115. Ian Mosby, “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942-1952,” 161. 17 Ibid.



low levels of ascorbic acid. This led researchers to design a study that would require the children to take ascorbic acid tablets daily in order to measure the effects on the gums and haemoglobin.18 The experiment required half the children to take an ascorbic acid tablet daily, while the other half took a placebo.19 The Shubenacadie School was nearly subject to a second experiment involving Newfoundland Flour, “a product that could not be legally sold outside of Newfoundland under Canada’s laws against food adulteration because it contained added thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and bonemeal,” and had been determined to cause anemia.20 In addition to the poor quality of the food being fed to the children, drinking water was withheld from the children as a means to prevent bedwetting at the school. According to Knockwood, children were so thirsty at night that they would sneak out of bed to go to the bathrooms just to drink water out of the toilet bowl or tank. The punishment for getting caught was being “dragged out of the room by the hair or ear and sent back to bed.”21 One student even recalls the bathrooms being locked at night.22 William Herney attended the Shubenacadie Residential School and explained that survival at the school was dependant on learning the routine: “Within those [first] few days, you had to learn, because otherwise you’re gonna get your head knocked off. Anyway, you learned everything. You learned to obey.”23 Living in fear was just one of the negative effects that was passed down through generations.24 The complete separation between parent and child meant that the children experienced a lack of affection while growing up. Recalling her time at Shubenacadie, Joanne Morrison remembers that “nobody ever told us they loved us.”25 Even after the school closed, survivors had a fear of “touching or being physically close to other people” and 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Mosby, 162. Ibid. Ibid. Isabelle Knockwood, Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi’kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, 36. TRC, “The Survivors Speak,” 61. Ibid., 109. Ibid., 226. Ibid., 113.



marvelled at the way people showed physical displays of affection outside of the school.26 Without a traditional parental figure in their life during their upbringing, many survivors did not know how to parent their own children when the time came, and the recent TRC report found that 80 percent of survivors spoke of hurting their own family members.27 Overall, approximately two thousand students were enrolled at the Shubenacadie School.28 Generally, students left the school when they were sixteen and had ‘graduated.’ However, some left due to the school closure in 1967. Not all of the experiences at the Shubenacadie School were seen as negative, as some former students have spoken of being grateful for having the opportunity to learn English and to develop skills that migh have helped them progress in the nation’s workforce. However, the majority of students had profoundly negative experiences with lifelong impacts.29 They faced difficulties with their sense of belonging and identity after leaving the school, following years of being taught that White culture was superior to their native origins. Even those who were welcomed back into their communities lost a significant connector to their community because they had lost the ability to speak Mi’kmaq.30 As a result, many survivors were stuck in limbo between the White culture they were taught but still not accepted by, and their native culture, which was difficult to identify with after years of being away from the community as well as being taught that their culture was inferior.31 Today, it is impossible to try and undo the tragedies of the past, but acknowledging the history and legacy of residential schools, as well as the strength of the survivors who are speaking out, will help Canada towards a future of reconciliation.

26 27 28 29 30 31

Knockwood, 161. Benjamin, 180. Ibid., 177. Knockwood, 159. Knockwood, 160. Benjamin, 177.



Bibliography Benjamin, Chris. Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School. Halifax, NS: Nimbus Publishing, 2014. Knockwood, Isabelle. Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi’kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, 4th ed. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing, 2015. Mosby, Ian. “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942-1952.” Histoire sociale / Social history 46, no. 91 (May 2013): 145-172. Paul, Daniel. We Were Not the Savages: A Mi’kmaq Perspective on the Collision between European and Native American Civilizations. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing, 2000. Titley, Brian E. A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 1986. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. “The Survivors Speak: A Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015. Walls, Martha. “‘Part of That Whole System’: Maritime Day and Residential Schooling and Federal Culpability.” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 30, no. 2 (2010): 361-385.


Liberated Female Sexuality Manipulations of the Gaze in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride”


In this paper I will explore the uses and manipulations of the gaze in Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride,” two feminist fairy tales from her collection The Bloody Chamber. Through an exploration of the presentations and manipulations of gaze in these two stories, I will evaluate Carter’s success in achieving her goal of liberating female sexuality and subjectivity in her writing. To do this I will examine the presentations of gaze in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride,” followed by an analysis of how this does or does not present a free female subject in the two works, with reference to works by E. Ann Kaplan and Merja Makinen. At the outset, it is important to note briefly that this consideration of the liberating ability of Carter’s work and the power of the gaze in subject/object relations in society fails to consider a diverse world of gender identities and sexualities. This paper, and the texts it considers, are both cis-centric and heteronormative. A further exploration of the political gaze possessed by and enacted upon other gender identities, and within relationships that are not heteronormative or monogamous, is a very compelling and worthwhile topic for thought and research. For the purposes of this paper, however, I am responding only to the heterosexual and cisgender relationships depicted by Angela Carter in The Bloody Chamber. To begin this project, it is important to consider first what gazing and political sight are, and what they mean in the context of these fairy tales. E. Ann Kaplan, a feminist film theorist, dedicates much time to considerations of the gaze, its origins, and its power in society. In Women & Film: Both Sides of the Camera, Kaplan presents an excellent definition of the gaze, and its role in society and art. Kaplan’s analysis of the gaze is conducted largely within film theory. She thus examines gazing in the context of cinema, suggesting that there are three different kinds



of “looks” in a film context.1 These three looks are that of the camera, that of the spectator, and those within the film through the gazes of male characters which are directed at women.2 There are clear parallels between these three manifestations of gazing in film with gaze in literature, making this analysis relevant to the current topic. The camera becomes the author, who inserts their gaze and ideology through what they choose to represent and say to the reader. The spectator is like the reader of the piece of literature. The gazes implicit within the film are similarly also present in the relationships between characters shown to us in the content of the novel. There is also a unique gaze inserted by the narrator in a first person narrative. Kaplan points out that the gaze is often specifically male within our patriarchal society, and is thus used in patriarchal projects, which involve “dominating and repressing women through its controlling power over female discourse and female desire.”3 The male gaze is also involved in processes of “defining and dominating woman as erotic object.”4 According to Kaplan, this patriarchal subject/ object construction is partially founded in the Freudian theory of the Oedipal complex. Kaplan explains the Oedipal roots of this position when she discusses melodrama, a genre of film which focusses on familial relationships. She asks: “why is it that women are drawn to melodrama? Why do we find our objectification and surrender pleasurable?”5 Her answer is founded in an understanding of Freudian theory and the adoption of this theory by the patriarchy. Kaplan explains that women are drawn to melodrama because of the female Oedipal complex where, “assigned the place of object (lack), she is the recipient of male desire, passively appearing rather than acting. Her sexual pleasure in this position can thus be constructed around only her own objectification.”6 A woman’s construction in Freudian theory as one who is missing a phallus confines her to passivity. However, Kaplan is quick to assure us that there is a possibility for freedom through melodrama, or its literary equivalent, when she says that: 1 2 3 4 5 6

E. Ann Kaplan, Women & Film: Both Sides of the Camera, 14. Ibid., 14-15. Ibid., 2. Ibid. Ibid., 26. Ibid.



Melodrama serves a useful function for women who lack any coherent culture of oppression. “The simple fact of recognition has aesthetic importance,” she [Mulvey] notes; “there is a dizzying satisfaction in witnessing the way that sexual difference under patriarchy is fraught, explosive and erupts dramatically into violence within its own private stomping ground, the family.”7 Being able to name what is done to us, and the ways that the gaze and its Freudian origins affect this object position, may lead to a woman’s ability to escape from this position in society. Kaplan’s understanding of the gaze is well accepted within feminist theory, and is therefore an important tool in our exploration of the gaze and its deviations from the norm within Carter’s writing. In order to consider how the presentations and manipulations of the gaze influence female sexuality in Angela Carter’s writing, it is necessary look at how the gaze is presented and manipulated by Carter in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride.” In “The Bloody Chamber,” a retelling of Bluebeard, the male gaze is overwhelmingly present. The narrator constantly describes how her husband, the Marquis, watches and assesses her like a piece of meat.8 The narrator describes one such occurrence saying, “I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting a slab of meat.”9 In this moment, the narrator is the object of an erotic yet detached gaze. Furthermore, this is not the only instance in which the Marquis’ gaze is magnified, through mirrors or his monocle, demonstrating the overdetermining and objectifying power of his gazing. Carter demonstrates in this way that gazing is not normal sight, but possesses additional objectifying power. Carter deliberately refers to these acts of looking as instances of the gaze when, through the voice of the narrator, she says: “my heightened, excited senses told me he was

7 8 9

Kaplan, 26. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber, 6. Ibid.



awake and gazing at me.”10 Carter also repeatedly inserts the female gaze into “The Bloody Chamber.” This is largely achieved through her use of the female narrator; whose gaze is implicit in the narration. There are several instances where the female protagonist, in addition to being aware of the gaze of her husband upon her, actively gazes on her husband and the blind piano tuner. She often makes visual assessments of her husband and regularly compares him to lilies, which are waxy and represent death.11 The mirrors that magnify the gaze of the Marquis also bring the narrator’s powers of sight into the story. The protagonist, in her descriptions of being gazed upon, always frames this experience within her own visual perception of his gazing. This is enabled by the mirrors that he insists on filling the house with. She frequently says “I saw him watching me,” and, “I saw myself suddenly, as he saw me,” inserting her powers of sight into the narrative.12 It is only the narrator’s sight in this narrative that enables us to become aware of the male gaze. Male gaze is therefore complicated and subverted through the filter of female sight. The narrator also visually assesses the blind piano tuner in a distorted version of the unequal gaze between male subject and female object. The inequality of sight in their relationship is eloquently expressed by the narrator who says, “he raised his head and stared at me with his blind, shuttered eyes as though he did not recognize me.”13 Here the narrator possesses the power of sight which is denied from the piano tuner. This inverts the gendered relationship of the gaze. The unequal nature of their ability to look is reminiscent of the gaze, which is a one-way relationship between subject and object. The female narration also serves to disrupt the male gaze from within as the narrator describes how the man gazes at her, clearly exposing the gaze to us and challenging its objectifying power through her awareness of it. The narration of the Marquis’ gazing makes it fully present to us, allowing us to see its erotic nature and dangerous potential for objectification. 10 11 12 13

Carter, 7. Ibid., 4. Ibid., 6, 7. Ibid., 38.



“The Tiger’s Bride,” a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, similarly makes the gaze manifest and manipulates it in interesting ways. As in “The Bloody Chamber,” the female protagonist is also the narrator of her own story. The narrative of “The Tiger’s Bride” includes many descriptions of male gaze. The narrator, Beauty, describes one example, saying, “the still mask that concealed all the features of the Beast but for the yellow eyes that strayed, now and then, from his unfurled hand towards myself.”14 Male gaze is also clearly present in the Beast’s sole request of Beauty: to look at her naked, virgin skin.15 The presentation of the male gaze, however, is significantly different from “The Bloody Chamber.” There are fewer descriptions of male gaze in general, and the female narrator focusses much more on her own powers of sight than on the Beast’s. The Beast notably refuses to meet her eyes when she looks at him, and she often describes herself in the act of looking.16 She describes how, while watching her father and the Beast play cards, “the mirror above the table gave me back his [my father’s] frenzy, my impassivity.”17 The mirror here, as in “The Bloody Chamber,” enables us to witness the sight of the narrator from within the narrative. The narrator also describes several other instances of her own looking. She sees herself in a hand mirror, and gazes on the Beast before he ever gazes on her nude form because, as the valet explains, “‘if you will not let him see you without your clothes—’ I involuntarily shook my head—‘you must, then, prepare yourself for the sight of my master, naked’.”18 This leads us to a discussion about the emphasis on the reciprocity of gaze implicit in this fairy tale. The reciprocity of the gazes of Beauty and the Beast is evident in two major ways. The first is the aforementioned scene in which the narrator gazes upon the Beast’s nude form before he ever gazes on her own. This is particularly significant because once Beauty does reveal herself to the Beast, on the grounds of this reciprocity, she does not feel herself objectified but empowered. Beauty’s narrative demonstrates this clearly when she says, “I felt I was 14 15 16 17 18

Carter, 61. Ibid., 70. Ibid. Ibid., 61. Ibid., 72, 76-77.



at liberty for the first time in my life.”19 Their reciprocity is also affirmed by Carter, who suggests that “the tiger will never lie with the lamb; he acknowledges no pact that is not reciprocal.”20 Their reciprocity therefore exists, at least in part, because “Milord” is not a man at all. He is a tiger who “acknowledges no pact that is not reciprocal.”21 Gazing is therefore challenged and manipulated by the figure of the Beast. When contrasted with “The Bloody Chamber,” the role of man versus beast can become a fruitful point of discourse in relation to female sexuality. The distinction between the Marquis, a man, and the Beast, an animal, may suggest that gaze is a social and political, rather than natural, force. This presents a potential for the undermining or eradication of objectifying gaze as something which is socially constructed. In addition to the depictions of the gaze in these two fairy tales, the gaze is also notably subverted and made absent in the two narratives. Both stories present human interconnectedness to the reader through the other senses of smell, touch, hearing, and so on. In “The Bloody Chamber” this is made most explicit in the character of the blind piano tuner and in the narrator’s reliance on the other senses in relation to her husband. The narrator regularly describes how she smells her husband before she sees him. The narrator describes his distinctive smell saying, “my nostrils caught a whiff of the opulent male scent of leather and spices that always accompanied him.”22 This scent is sometimes all the narrator needs to identify her husband. She explains this phenomenon when she describes how during their courtship he liked to surprise her while she played piano but, “that perfume of spiced leather always betrayed him; after my first shock, I was forced always to mimic surprise, so that he would not be disappointed.”23 His unique scent is one of the key ways the narrator relates to her husband. The narrator’s relationship with the blind piano tuner represents a more blatant subversion of sight. It is characterized in part by the narrator’s fixation on his blindness; the manifest absence of sight. Their relationship is also founded on her piano playing, and his enjoyment of the sounds 19 20 21 22 23

Carter, 78. Ibid., 77. Ibid. Ibid., 3. Ibid.



she makes. This relationship, which is founded on the absence of sight, presents a strong commentary on the gaze of the Marquis and its inherent sexual violence. While the Marquis represents a real and violent threat to the narrator, the piano tuner is incapable of a similar assault. This is most clearly expressed through his blindness. In “The Tiger’s Bride” there are similar examples of a turn away from sight. The narrator’s awareness and use of other senses is made present in her narrative. The description of her fixation on the smell of the beast is strikingly similar to the ways that the narrator of “The Bloody Chamber” relates the Marquis’ smell to us. The narrator of “The Tiger’s Bride” says,“my senses were increasingly troubled by the fuddling perfume of Milord, far too potent a reek of purplish civet at such close quarters in so small a room. He must bath himself in scent, soak his shirts and underlinen in it.”24 Beauty also describes the sensation of the room where her father and the Beast play cards saying, “the chill damp of this place creeps into the stones, into your bones, into the spongy pith of the lungs.”25 Sensory perceptions other than sight contribute to the reciprocity that grounds the relationship between Beauty and the Beast. In the final scene of “The Tiger’s Bride” when the Beast turns Beauty into a tiger, touch is the necessary element of their relationship and equality. Sight and gazing are not central to the narration in any way. Beauty describes the scene saying: Each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shining hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops of water off my beautiful fur.26 In this moment, Beauty is transformed not into an object of the gaze, but into a tiger through the touch of the Beast’s tongue. We know that this experience is founded on reciprocity because tigers only enter into reciprocal relations with others.27 Furthermore, her freedom from the 24 25 26 27

Carter, 63. Ibid., 61. Ibid., 81. Ibid., 77.



objectivity of being gazed upon is intimately related to her becoming a beast, and from senses other than sight. This again affirms the claim that the gaze is a social and political force, and allows us to consider the interesting ways in which the turn to nature may grant us subjectivity. Having now considered the presences and absences of the gaze in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride,” we may begin an analysis of the potential for a liberated female sexuality through these manipulations of the gaze. A continued reading of these two fairy tales, along with the thoughts of E. Ann Kaplan in Women & Film: Both Sides of the Camera, and of Merja Makinen in her article “Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and the Decolonization of Feminine Sexuality,” will be particularly useful for this project. There is a possibility that a liberated feminine sexuality, “decolonised” from its patriarchal construction, is the same as the complete liberation and creation of the feminine subject.28 At the very least, each is the condition for the other. Woman as object, within the patriarchal male gaze, is an inherently eroticized but passive sexual figure that exists for the pleasure of men.29 In this way a woman’s sexual freedom is constituted on her liberation from the gaze through becoming an active subject in the world. E. Ann Kaplan is particularly useful to this discussion because of her considerations of a specifically male gaze, the Oedipal complex of Freud, and the genre of melodrama in film which has comparable qualities to certain forms of literature and narrative style. As was previously mentioned, Kaplan turns to an exploration of the genre of Melodrama, which “serves a useful function for women who lack any coherent culture of oppression,” and enables women to come to an awareness of their position in a misogynistic society.30 Angela Carter’s presentation of the dominant form of patriarchal culture and gaze in her fairy tales may similarly create a sense of freedom and satisfaction in the reader who is now able to name what is being done to them. In the obvious depictions of patriarchal gaze and misogyny in these stories, the problems inherent in these constructions are made visible, 28 Merja Makinen, “Angela Carter's ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and the Decolonization of Feminine Sexuality.” 29 Kaplan, 2. 30 Ibid., 26.



and therefore destructible, to the reader. Kaplan also presents another way Carter’s writing may be liberating when she states that “sensual/ physical experience can ‘break through’ patriarchal discourses, leaving open the possibility for change.”31 These liberating physical and sensual experiences are present in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride” through the turn to other senses in the place of sight. This use of other senses could lead to this same act of breaking through the patriarchal discourse and confines.32 Merja Makinen’s text is also useful material for the consideration of Carter’s success in liberating feminine sexuality. Makinen conducts a specific exploration of the stories in The Bloody Chamber in her article. She is particularly interested in how Carter’s re-writing of classical fairy tales presents the possibility for a liberation of feminine sexuality to the reader. Makinen makes a case for the power of the re-written fairy tale when she suggests that when using the fairy tale, as Carter does, to critique the original patriarchal ideology implicit in it,“the form is subtly adapted to inscribe a new set of assumptions.”33 In the case of the fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber, the tales “do not simply ‘re-write’ the old tales by fixing roles of active sexuality for their female protagonists— they re-write them by playing with and upon (if not preying upon) the earlier misogynistic version.”34 The ways that Carter both presents and disrupts the dominant patriarchal forms of relationships and sexuality enables us to see their problems while also considering the ways they may be subverted. Makinen also comments on the importance of reciprocity for the liberation of the female sexual subject in Carter’s writing. She suggests that this equality between partners enables an “active, sensual, desiring, and unruly” female sexuality.35 This is especially the case for the relationship in “The Tiger’s Bride,” which is explicitly reciprocal.36 Makinen argues, however, that reciprocity is insinuated in “The Bloody Chamber” because it is actively denied when the protagonist withdraws 31 32 33 34 35 36

Kaplan, 3. Ibid. Makinen, 5. Ibid. Ibid., 9. Carter, 77.



her consent from the Marquis.37 Reciprocity, or denial of it, in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride” frees the female narrators from their patriarchal confines. In “The Tiger’s Bride,” Beauty’s reciprocal relationship with the Beast is founded on their mutual exposition, and gives her “power, strength and a new awareness of both self and other.”38 In “The Bloody Chamber,” her ability to retract consent is a symbol of her active subjectivity, and marks a turn from problematic masochism within the narrative.39 While this analysis does not often explicitly concern the gaze, it remains relevant to the discussion of this paper through its considerations of the reciprocity of gaze in “The Tiger’s Bride,” and because the free feminine sexuality Makinen is trying to find in Carter’s works is grounded in freedom through an equality, reciprocity, and sensuality that liberates the woman from her position as object of the gaze.40 Both Makinen and Kaplan also reveal how these manipulations of the patriarchal gaze open up not just the concept of a liberated feminine sexuality but also the potential for a new understanding of the feminine freed from the confines of its historical position. Makinen suggests that “until we can take on board the disturbing and even violent elements of female sexuality [. . .] we will be unable to recognize the representations of drives so far suppressed by our culture.”41 Kaplan backs up this claim through her consideration of the thought of Julia Kristeva, asserting that “it is impossible to know what the ‘feminine’ might be, out of male constructs.”42 It is possible that through the ten different tales of feminine sexuality and expression in The Bloody Chamber, and in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride” alone, Carter is presenting possible forms of “the ‘feminine’” that is, as yet, unknown to us.43 The sheer diversity of female sexuality and subjectivity in her writing is itself a liberation of the female sexual subject in the opportunities and ways of being that it opens up to us. 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

Makinen, 13. Ibid., 10. Ibid., 12-13. Ibid., 10. Ibid., 14. Kaplan, 33. Ibid.



Based on this exploration of how the gaze is presented and manipulated in “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride,” combined with an analysis of the ways in which this may or may not liberate feminine sexuality, we can now present an evaluation of the successes of both texts in this feminist project of liberation. “The Bloody Chamber” appears to be the less successful fairy tale. The gaze of the Marquis seems to successfully limit the protagonist’s sexuality within his masochistic and misogynistic control. She describes his gazing on her, and begins to experience herself and see herself as he does.44 Her freedom from this gaze, furthermore, does not appear to be founded on equality or reclamation of sight, but in its lack—signified by the piano tuner. However, as Makinen wisely reminds us, “The Bloody Chamber” is only one of ten stories in The Bloody Chamber. Moreover, it importantly brings violence and anger into a narrative of female sexuality. These qualities are often overlooked or ignored in considerations of female sexuality, which, as Carter may have wanted to suggest to us, put women back in the position of “Victorian angel in the house,” demure and passive.45 Makinen also asserts, as previously mentioned, that while the protagonist is at first complicit in her objectification to the point of experiencing pleasure from it, once her life is threatened she withdraws consent and empowers herself to become an active agent in her life.46 “The Tiger’s Bride” seems to present a less problematic form of liberation for women. Makinen points out that other feminist scholars have had their qualms with Carter’s portrayal of Beauty and the Beast’s relationship in this story, describing how some thinkers have gone so far as to describe the relationship between Beauty and the Beast as “the ritual disrobing of the willing victim of pornography.”47 Makinen, however, makes an excellent case for the ways in which this is a glaring misreading of the text. She suggests that we “read the beasts as the projections of a feminine libido” to understand how the beasts “become exactly that autonomous desire which the female characters need to recognize and re-appropriate as part of themselves (denied 44 45 46 47

Carter, 7. Makinen, 9. Ibid., 12-13. Duncker, quoted in Makinen, 12.



by the phallocentric culture),” allowing women to re-appropriate their sexuality.48 In many ways this re-appropriation of libido is a re-appropriation of libido out of Freud’s hands. The female Oedipal complex of Freud, which constitutes woman as a passive and lacking object who is incapable of gazing on others, is a harmful misogynistic creation.49 Beauty’s relationship with the Beast frees her from this objective passivity through their reciprocity of sight, as well as through a turn to other senses, because freedom of sexuality and agency in women is constituted in freedom from the position of being gazed upon without ever gazing. The Beast in this context represents the potential for a relationship that is not trapped within male patriarchal culture, something altogether new and ‘inhuman.’ “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride” are excellent examples of the ways in which Carter plays with the gaze and patriarchal ideology to expose its dangerous nature to us, and to challenge and subvert it by depicting a diverse spectrum of female subjectivity and sexuality. Through an examination of the ways the gaze is presented and subverted in the two fairy tales, I have attempted to show the diverse ways that Carter has successfully presented a possibility for a liberated female sexuality on the grounds of a woman’s freedom from her position as an object of the gaze. These fairy tales, in the success of their project, are therefore invaluable for beginning a discussion about how to overthrow the patriarchal determinations of our current culture.

48 Makinen, 12. 49 Kaplan, 2.



Bibliography Carter, Angela. “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride.” In The Bloody Chamber, 4-45, 61-81. New York: Penguin, 2011. Kaplan, E. Ann. Women & Film: Both Sides of the Camera. London: Routledge, 1991. Makinen, Merja. “Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and the Decolonization of Feminine Sexuality.” Feminist Review 42 (1992): 2-15.


Stripping Female Clothing and Identity The Male Gaze at Work in Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror


Woman with a Mirror by Giovanni Bellini is an oil painting on wood that portrays a nude woman seated in front of a window, gazing at her reflection in a small handheld mirror. She holds the artist’s and the viewer’s desiring gaze, her diverted eyes allowing them to look at her without being seen. She is anonymous, and Bellini provides no clues as to who she is besides her geographic location. Idealized in her beauty but lacking an identity, Bellini’s subject exists only to be looked at and desired, which effectively erases her humanity. Bellini’s relation to his subject is therefore inherently biased and objectifying, as it erases her identity and makes her nothing more than a symbol of physical beauty, shaped by the artist’s perspective and existing only to be looked at. Despite her unnaturally flawless body, its colours are still made up from a palette that matches the natural world of the outdoors. Pale yellow light streams in through an open window and reflects upon her shoulder, causing the viewer to draw parallels between the shade of the sky and the tone of her skin. This links her to the outside world while she is simultaneously confined within the private sphere of a room. In other words, although she seems to be a part of nature, she is only connected by the scenery through the open window, reinforcing her artificiality. Additionally, the window’s openness destroys the privacy of her nudity, putting her on display to anyone outside. This reinforces her as an object to be seen because it adds yet another potential vantage point from which to view her naked body. The potential Peeping Tom joins the painter, the viewer from both outside the frame and from the mirror, and the subject herself, creating a network of five different views from which to gaze upon her form. Beside her on the bed is a small folded piece of paper, and its seemingly haphazard placement makes it look like it was dropped, waiting to be reopened. It is inscribed in Latin, and translates to



“Giovanni Bellini was making [this] 1515.”1 By inscribing his name on the paper placed beside the woman’s nude form, Bellini directly inserts himself into the frame without being depicted. He becomes the only person whose identity is directly asserted, which privileges his personhood over his subject’s, reminding the viewer that she is meant to be unidentifiable. Behind her, outside of the window, is a rolling landscape that mimics the curves of her body, with soft-edged mountains on the horizon and rolling clouds resting above. The hourglass vial that rests upon the windowsill is also reminiscent of the shape of her body, and provides another visual clue to the true subject of this painting: the idealized female form. By depicting his subject as possessing ideal, flawless beauty, Bellini reveals the motivations that underlie the portrait. His gaze is confirmed, and so is the intended perception of the woman by the viewer. Bellini objectifies her, and consequently erases her identity entirely. First and foremost this is achieved through her literal anonymity: the woman is unnamed, and besides the Venetian landscape outside of her window, she is virtually unidentifiable. Unlike many portraits of this period, there are no signifiers as to who she is, and “the patron and the circumstances of commission of the Woman with a Mirror are unknown” so the viewer “must rely on evidence provided solely by the painting.”2 Unfortunately for anyone interested in gleaning knowledge of anything more than the woman’s physical appearance and geographical location, Bellini gives us nothing. Woman with a Mirror provides no evidence of anything but an idealized female form and the identity of the painter. Even the painting’s title is nothing more than a simple statement of fact: it portrays a woman holding a mirror. In “Reflections of Pliny in Giovanni Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror,” Sarah Blake McHam claims that “the painting’s indeterminate title reflects the difficulty of deciding what this beautiful female nude is intended to represent: a real woman, the mythological goddess Venus, a Christian allegory of vanity or luxury, or all three at once.”3 However, this attempt 1 2 3

Sarah Blake McHam, “Reflections of Pliny in Giovanni Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror,” 157. Ibid. Ibid., 158.



at interpretation rests on the assumption that Bellini intended this woman to represent anything at all. McHam states that “Bellini may never have intended a straightforward single meaning for his female nude but instead deliberately structured ambiguity into the depiction.”4 Regardless, McHam still seeks to understand Bellini’s intent throughout the course of her article, unsatisfied with understanding ambiguity to be his intention. Despite McHam’s attempts to justify Bellini’s lack of clarity, it is possible that his ambiguity is actually the solution to the problem of his subject’s anonymity. He could have easily included indications of her identity (if she existed at all) within the piece, but his decision to exclude them suggests that she is not meant to be an identifiable, particular person, but simply a symbol of female beauty. One can ponder endlessly about who is represented in this portrait, but it is ultimately how she is perceived that truly identifies her. This anonymous nude woman is nothing but exactly that: anonymous and nude. She exists only to be viewed: by the painter, by the viewer, and by herself through the mirror. In addition to intentionally leaving the woman unidentified to make her a symbol rather than a person, there are numerous other aspects of Bellini’s painting that serve as a means to this end. Besides the woman herself, the other titular aspect of this painting is the mirror which she holds. She looks at her reflection, but her disengaged expression indicates that she feels no pleasure in experiencing her own beauty. Rather, it reinforces the placid tenderness of a body that exists only to be painted. McHam describes the woman’s expression as “her psychological remove,” which helps us to understand the woman’s face as more than simply blank.5 The blankness reveals her psychological remove and self-perception. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger acknowledges the meaning behind the trope of nude Renaissance women being portrayed holding a mirror by directly addressing the painter, saying: “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for 4 5

McHam, 159. Ibid.



your own pleasure.”6 In other words, by depicting the woman holding a mirror, Bellini attempts to displace the pleasure being experienced by himself and the viewer onto the woman whom he has painted, but her expression reveals that this was unsuccessful. This is therefore a thinly veiled attempt to disguise the painter’s motive and pleasure in painting, and the viewer’s motive and pleasure in looking. Perhaps the most easily identifiable source of visual pleasure in this work is the woman’s physical body, ideal in its flawlessness. Her figure is round and soft, her lips are small, and her hair is a deep goldenrod, suggesting that Bellini was attempting to evoke Petrarchan idealized beauty, “particularly the type addressed to a woman’s mirror which the poet rhetorically envies for its privileged vision of her pulchritude.”7 While the poet may envy the mirror’s privileged perception of the woman’s beauty, in this painting the mirror cannot possibly achieve as complete a view as Bellini’s brush offers the viewer. In fact, the viewer sees more of the woman’s body than she can see herself. This erasure of a realistic female body practically mythologizes this unnamed woman, further alienating her as a subject and forcing her to exist solely to be viewed. In her landmark article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Laura Mulvey identifies this type of idealization as “fetishistic scopophilia,” which she claims works to “[build] up the physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying in itself.”8 In Woman with a Mirror, the object is the woman, and her physical beauty is undoubtedly satisfying to the viewer in and of itself, fetishized in its ideality. Although the woman in Woman with a Mirror is nude, she is not naked. Her body is carefully draped in the same coral fabric that covers the bed upon which she sits, and it weaves around her body. The cloth covers her genitals and one of her breasts, concealing them while simultaneously drawing attention to them. The placement of the fabric is key in understanding the difference between nakedness and nudity. Berger claims that “nakedness reveals itself ” while “nudity is placed on display,” and that “to be naked is to be oneself ” while “to be nude is to 6 7 8

John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 51. McHam, 157. Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” 14.



be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself.”9 In order to understand Woman with a Mirror as inherently objectifying, the woman must be considered nude and not naked. The placement of the fabric places her body on display by drawing attention to her breast and her genitals, guiding the viewer’s eye towards the parts of the female body most obviously associated with sexuality. She is turned towards the viewer while her eyes look away, making it seem as if she is unaware of the eyes that fall upon her. Berger emphasizes that “a naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude,” and this woman’s body is undoubtedly perceived as such.10 As we see the woman looking at herself through a mirror, we must consider her self-awareness and autonomy in being painted by Bellini. While it is certainly not problematic for a woman to display herself as a source of sexual visual pleasure, it is the way that a male painter has made her anonymous that must be further discussed. McHam claims that the fact that “the woman is oblivious of the artist’s and viewer’s physical proximity is implied by Bellini’s compositional device of truncating her legs: she is absorbed in contemplating her reflection in a mirror she holds.”11 While she does appear to be unaware of the painter’s presence, this unawareness is artificially employed by Bellini in order to create a voyeuristic vantage point from which to gaze at her without having to consider her personhood. The way she looks into the mirror suggests that she is oblivious to the painter or the viewer’s presence, and yet her body is still turned outwards, existing solely to be recreated, and reinforcing the reality that she knows that she is a subject. Berger addresses this self-awareness of the female subject, arguing that “she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman” because “her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another.”12 Thus, by holding a mirror, the subject literally “joins the spectators of herself.”13 This 9 10 11 12 13

Berger, 54. Ibid. McHam, 157. Berger, 46. Ibid., 50.



ultimately reveals that the true function of the mirror is “to make the woman connive in treating herself as, first and foremost, a sight.”14 The effects of positioning woman as sight spill out from the painting and into the wider frameworks of female identity. Mulvey and Berger both claim that women have always been historically portrayed differently than men. Berger suggests that “women are depicted in a quite different way from men—not because the feminine is different from the masculine—but because the ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.”15 Painted by Bellini, a man, Woman with a Mirror is imbued with his biased perspective of femininity. Mulvey eloquently supports this argument by stating that: In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female figure which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.16 It is at the very foundation of this argument that the woman in Woman with a Mirror exemplifies Mulvey’s idea of “to-be-looked-at-ness.”17 She exists in this painting not as an autonomous individual but as a creation of Bellini, exhibited as the passive female whose body is on display. Scopophilia, as explained by Mulvey, is the pervasive fetishistic aspect of this painting.18 Bellini’s piece is defined by its “erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as object,” as the woman has been objectified in order to portray ideal standards of beauty as opposed to her true likeness.19 14 15 16 17 18 19

Berger, 51. Ibid., 64. Mulvey, 11. Ibid. Ibid., 9. Ibid. While it may be possible that this woman did truly look exactly as she is portrayed, it is ultimately irrelevant. Her beauty exists to Bellini and the viewer as



By examining Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror through the lens of the male gaze, the pervasive and inherent sexism of this piece becomes apparent. It exemplifies the historical portrayal of women by men, who time and time again have ignored female reality in favour of idealized beauty created for consumption. McHam acknowledges that Woman with a Mirror was painted one year before Bellini’s death, “one of a few non-religious subjects in a long, distinguished career famous for altarpieces and other devotional works.”20 It is curious that he would choose to imbue one of his final pieces with such a superficial approach to his subject, as if he were approaching beauty simply for beauty’s sake. Although we can never know Bellini’s true intent in her depiction or the woman’s own opinion of the piece, we must draw conclusions from the work’s visual cues. These cues point towards the objectification of a woman whose physical beauty is prioritized over her identity, thus creating a portrait of a body and not of an individual. Through stripping the woman of her identity and her clothing, Bellini allows the viewer to take pleasure in looking at her idealized female form without considering her personhood, thus effectively dehumanizing and objectifying her without consequence or thought.

nothing more than for show. It exists to be displayed, not to say anything meaningful about her humanity. 20 McHam, 157.



Woman with a Mirror, Giovanni Bellini.



Bibliography Bellini, Giovanni. Woman with a Mirror. 1515. Oil on wood, 62cm x 79cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin, 1973. McHam, Sarah Blake.“Reflections of Pliny in Giovanni Bellini’s Woman with a Mirror.” Artibus et Historiae 29, no. 58 (2008): 157-71. Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen 16, no. 3 (1975): 6-18.


Rewriting Normative Gender Narrative and Feminist Epistemology in Trans Identities and Experiences

McIlroy-Young & Brown Gilbert

Introduction This paper explores how the lived experiences of gender minorities challenge and transform the discourses within which gender identity is constituted. Through this discussion, we aim to deepen understanding of how the dominant binary conception of gender is upheld, and in doing so identify opportunities for subverting its normative force. We look to Sandy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto” for a historical account of the medical discourse that informed early “sex-reassignment” clinics—in particular, how those clinics sought to regulate the bodies, narratives, and identities of trans women according to a binary conception of gender.1 Stone, a trans woman and founder of trans theory, seeks to reveal the workings of this limiting medical discourse in order to transcend it and open up space for trans people to identify and live beyond the binary. We then turn to Rae Spoon’s multi-media-performance-turned-book, Gender Failure, to investigate the epistemic potential of the identities forged in the discursive space gestured towards in Stone’s work.2 Our analysis is grounded in the gender theory of Judith Butler and the strategies she presents for disrupting normative gender discourse. We investigate how Butler’s call for the visibility of lesbianism is taken up by Stone in her own call for the visibility of trans identity. We move forward to open a dialogue between Butler’s idea of the performatively constituted gendered subject and Rae Spoon’s concept of “gender as narrative.”3 Spoon’s work is analyzed with specific attention to the epistemic effects of the social positioning of the gendered subject. Finally, we speak to Spoon’s claim of “gender retirement” in relation to Butlerian performativity theory to explore the space for identity at the outermost 1 2 3

Sandy Stone, “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto,” 150. Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote, Gender Failure (book). Ibid., 239.



limits of discursive control.4 Looking to theory, history, and accounts of personal experience written by gender minorities, we find tools and strategies for resisting and transforming limiting gender norms and gender discourses. We illustrate how the challenging of totalising gender discourses and the increase of available epistemic resources serve as the basis for an emancipatory gender politics that aims at expanding the field of performative possibilities, gender narratives, and gender identities. Before proceeding, we wish to make explicit the relevance of our own social positioning in approaching this topic. As two cisgender people, who are allied with but by no means immersed in LGBT* communities, we are not writing from a position of lived experience of the identities discussed in this work. We attempt to avoid misrepresentation by approaching the discussion through, and with direct reference to, the writing of the individuals to which it refers. Additionally, we personally contacted Rae Spoon to have them verify that the conclusions we drew from applying epistemological theory to their writing are, in fact, consistent with their lived experiences and knowledge. With that in mind, we acknowledge that authors’ identities and social positionings invariably impact their writing. We are wary of the long tradition of inflicting discursive violence on the oppressed by equating privilege with neutrality, and encourage you to interpret our work with full consideration of the biases entrenched in our social positioning. Judith Butler: Gender Performativity With her famous declaration in The Second Sex, “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman,” Simone de Beauvoir draws a firm distinction between sex and gender.5 For de Beauvoir, sex is understood to be a given facticity while gender, far from being its natural expression, is cast as a kind of social achievement compelled by normative cultural forces. Indeed, de Beauvoir argues that “within the human collectivity nothing is natural, and woman, among others, is a product developed by civilization.”6 In “Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex,” 4 5 6

Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 249. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 283. Ibid., 761.



Judith Butler sketches the bridge between de Beauvoir’s existentialist feminism and Butler’s own theory of gender performativity.7 Butler takes up de Beauvoir’s project, providing theoretical resources for the further denaturalisation of hegemonic gender. For Butler, gender “is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time—an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts.”8 For Butler, to be a gender involves not merely conformity to a set of received cultural norms, but an ongoing repetition of performative acts. Butler argues that these performative acts, “bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.”9 To the extent that gendered subjects continue to repeat their scripts, they are afforded the benefits of a socially coherent identity, while the gender ideals they cite are maintained through these rearticulations. It is through this repetition of performative acts, the double-articulation of gendered subject and gendered ideal, that normative gender is reproduced. Butler points to the vulnerability of this configuration and the possibilities it opens for the subversion of the binary categories. Since both the gendered subject and the hegemonic ideal are constituted through the repetition of performative acts, “the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts, in the possibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking or subversive repetition of that style.”10 Butler’s task “is to examine in what ways gender is constructed through specific corporeal acts, and what possibilities exist for the cultural transformation of gender through such acts.”11 Butler sees this project of denaturalising hegemonic gender as the starting point for an emancipatory politics of transformation.

7 8

Judith Butler, “Sex and Gender in Simone De Beauvoir’s Second Sex,” 35-49. Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” 519. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., 520. 11 Ibid., 521.



Sandy Stone: Towards a Posttranssexual Personal Narrative Sandy Stone begins her “Posttranssexual Manifesto” with a brief history of early biographical narratives of trans women in the West and the context of their emergence within medical discourse.12 Stone, a trans academic, recounts the stories of Lili Elbe, Hedy Jo Star, and Christine Jorgensen, directing our attention to the consistency with which “they go from being unambiguous men, albeit unhappy men, to unambiguous women. There is no territory in between.”13 Stone observes that each of these stories “reinforces a binary, oppositional mode of gender identification [. . .] each constructs a specific narrative moment when their personal sexual identification changes from male to female.”14 Stone looks to the conditions under which these early transitions took place in order to challenge this strictly binary articulation of trans identity.15 Stone identifies the clinics that performed early sex reassignment surgeries as sites at which gender was strongly regulated and its binary formulation rearticulated. In the clinic, Stone writes, “we can locate an actual instance of the apparatus of the production of gender.”16 Stone recalls how “candidates for surgery were evaluated on the basis of their performance in the gender of choice,” and how, for those who were accepted for surgery but whose performance was deemed inadequate, “the clinic took on the additional role of ‘grooming clinic’ or ‘charm school’.”17 For the clinics, Stone argues, the goal was “to produce not simply anatomically legible females, but women.”18 The clinics made every effort to ensure that those who underwent surgery could later be submerged within the cisgender population and disappear.19 12 13 14 15

16 17 18 19

Stone. Ibid., 5. Ibid. Stone will use the term “transsexual”. She is writing in 1987, specifically about the experience of trans women who have had sex reassignment surgery, and she is intentionally mirroring the language of medical discourse and Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire (1979), in order to transcend it with her own language of “posttranssexualism”. Stone, 8. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.



Stone traces the policies of the early sex-reassignment clinics back to Harry Benjamin, who was the first to theorise trans identity within Western medical discourse. His textbook The Transsexual Phenomenon was the sole authoritative reference for all early clinics, and thus his account of trans identity—most notably, the sense of being in the “wrong body”—provided the criteria used in assessing candidates for surgery.20 Stone tells us that Benjamin’s book became well-known among trans individuals seeking surgery, who then faithfully reproduced his criteria at their clinical evaluations, and thus, a medically authorised definition of the “transsexual” was constituted and reified.21 At the site where the account of trans identity enters medical discourse, Stone asks the following: “Who is telling the story for whom, and how do the storytellers differentiate between the story they tell and the story they hear? One answer is that they differentiate with great difficulty.”22 Benjamin’s account was reinterpreted as natural law, and while access to surgery improved, and the sense of being in the “wrong body” may have articulated well the experiences of many, at the same time, Stone argues, “emergent polyvocalities of lived experience, never represented in the discourse but present at least in potential, disappear.”23 In other words, medical discourse legitimated one particular form of trans identity, while through the same process rendering all other potential identities and ways of living illegitimate and invisible. Stone argues that medical discourse exerted narrative control over the lives of trans individuals in order to produce gendered subjects intelligible to the binary, thus mitigating the threat they might pose to the binary’s exclusive claim on gender possibilities. Stone seeks to counter the hegemony of medical discourse with her own discourse of “posttranssexualism.”24 As Foucault writes, “discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumblingblock, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy.”25 However, Stone argues that the clinics’ foreclosure of alternative trans 20 21 22 23 24 25

Stone, 10. Ibid. Ibid., 8-9. Ibid., 10. Ibid., 4. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, 101.



narratives was successful in making many trans people invisible. This complicates her project, for “it is difficult to generate a counterdiscourse if one is programmed to disappear.”26 One must appear within discourse if one is to generate a counterdiscourse. The invisibility of trans individuals enforced by the binary gender discourse of the clinics denied those individuals any position within discourse from which they might speak as trans. Stone writes that “for a transsexual, as a transsexual, to generate a true, effective and representational counterdiscourse is to speak from outside the boundaries of gender, beyond the constructed positional nodes which have been predefined as the only positions from which discourse is possible. How then, can the transsexual speak?”27 Binary gender discourse does not recognise trans people as trans, and does not afford them a position within its terms. How then, to launch an opposing strategy? In “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” Butler emphasises the power of “errors of classification” as sites of discursive disruption, confusion, and rallying points for resistance.28 Of lesbianism, she writes, “it is one thing to be erased from discourse, and yet another to be present within discourse as an abiding falsehood. Hence, there is a political imperative to render lesbianism visible.”29 On Stone’s account: Butler introduces the concept of cultural intelligibility, and suggests that the contextualized and resignified “masculinity” of the butch, seen against a culturally intelligible“female” body, invokes a dissonance. [. . .] The lesbian butch or femme both recall the heterosexual scene but simultaneously displace it.30 Following Butler, Stone calls for the visibility of trans experience. To be “out” as a trans person, Stone argues, is to occupy a position not recognisable to binary gender discourse, to resist the very terms of being situated within that discourse, to take up Butler’s call “to be present within discourse as an abiding falsehood.”31 Stone seeks 26 27 28 29 30 31

Stone, 11. Ibid., 12. Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” 123. Ibid., 127. Stone, 13. Butler, “Imitation,” 123.



“to deconstruct the necessity for passing,” a radical move that begins with trans individuals “[taking] responsibility for all of their history, [and] rearticulat[ing] their lives not as a series of erasures [. . .] but as a political action begun by reappropriating difference.”32 Stone calls on trans individuals “to be consciously ‘read,’ to read oneself aloud—and by this troubling and productive reading, to begin to write oneself into the discourses by which one has been written”. 33 A Posttranssexual Manifesto encouraged trans people to understand their identities and experiences in a new light. In this way, Stone’s work functioned as an epistemic resource for gender minorities. Epistemic resources are used to construct knowledge. They can be understood as a lens through which we view the world, or as conceptual tools to be applied to our experiences to make their meaning intelligible. Exposure to new epistemic resources creates the potential for entire new formations of knowledge, as Stone writes: This is a treacherous area, and were the silenced groups to achieve a voice we might find, as feminists theorists have claimed, that the identities of individual, embodied subjects were far less implicated in physical norms, and far more diversely spread across a rich and complex structuration of identity and desire, than is now possible to express.34 The phrase “than is now possible to express” implies a profound epistemic potentiality—finding meaning in realms that were, at the time of its writing, unintelligible. Stone’s manifesto cleared the way for discourses of trans identity beyond the options previously made 32 Stone, 14. 33 Ibid. Stone acknowledges that this project is not without great difficulty, for it would entail that trans individuals present themselves as more visibly trans to those who might respond with violence. Stone herself is no stranger to this, having lived as an out trans person in the 1980s, and having been publicly targeted by Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire (1979), and other Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists who issued threats on her life. It should also be acknowledged that many trans individuals have no desire to politicise their identities, and we affirm that choice. It is in no way the intention of this essay to challenge the choices or identity-claims of trans individuals, including those who seek to “pass”. On the contrary, this essay seeks to provide historical and theoretical support for all non-normative gender identities and expressions. 34 Stone, 13.



available by medical institutions. Her work allowed for the lived experiences of transgender people, which already overflowed the limiting categories and expectations supplied by medical discourse, to be legitimized and consolidated as a distinct genre of identity. While it is difficult to determine the precise extent of her manifesto’s impact, Stone’s work broke open the totalizing discourse that would have been incapable of imagining the diversity of the disruptive gender identities embodied today. Rae Spoon Rae Spoon is a trans musician and author who grew up in Calgary, Alberta. Their embodiment of multiple disruptive identities and current relationship to gender would have been incomprehensible to the dominant gender discourse prior to Stone’s disruption. Spoon experienced perpetual dissatisfaction with normative gender. They have explored multiple gender identities throughout their life, in each instance struggling to define themself in relation to the binary. Spoon was assigned female at birth and raised as a girl within a Pentecostal family—“a tradition that still separated gender and gender roles along a strict divide.”35 Spoon’s “attempts at being a girl failed epically [. . .] but [they] had never considered it would be something [they] would be allowed to change.”36 For the first 19 years of their life, Spoon felt trapped in their gender and the rigid expectations as to how it was to be performed: “my gender was like an amusement park ride that I couldn’t escape from.”37 After leaving their hometown and taking on the identity of a trans man, Spoon’s relationship with the gender binary shifted significantly but remained an unsatisfying one. They felt dysphoria in their identity—comfortable with some aspects of their chosen gender, but alienated by many of the expectations as to how it was to be performed. Spoon also found themself being forced to convince others of the reality of their gender. The public rejection of their identity was largely caused by Spoon’s choice to not change their body with hormones or surgery. For Spoon, “the absurdity of the struggle to be accepted [as a man] 35 Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 43. 36 Ibid., 17. 37 Ibid., 27.



made gender seem more like a comedy than a fact.”38 Spoon eventually decided to “retire” from the gender binary altogether, instead choosing to identify as gender neutral.39 Rae Spoon’s Gender as Narrative Spoon has spent over a decade performing as a musician both within and outside of queer spaces. In 2012, in collaboration with trans author Ivan Coyote, Spoon began work on a multi-media performance piece that “directly addressed trans issues and realities.”40 The show was eventually developed into a book, Gender Failure, co-authored by the two artists. Gender Failure is a collection of short stories and essays that “attempt to trace [their] life story with gender” and “express how [they] have felt throughout [their] life in [their] various identities.”41 In their book, Spoon describes how in all their transitioning between identities and across contexts they lose track of the “truth behind [their gender].”42 While each new gender and sexual identity they took on reconciled some of the inadequacies of their previous identity location, it simultaneously denied the existence of essential aspects of their former self. Spoon explains how traditional notions of gender continuity break down as they transition across identities: When I decided to retire from the gender binary, the narrative that I had about being man stuck in a woman’s body didn’t make sense anymore, unless I was a gender-neutral person who’d been stuck inside a man’s body stuck in a woman’s body all along.43 Instead of focusing on the “reality” of their sex, gender and sexuality, Spoon comes to understand them as a “fluid narrative [. . .] constructed based on the options that [they] were given” at the time.44 Spoon’s presentation of gender as narrative, through and within their storytelling, is a powerful approach to understanding one’s identity, and 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote, Gender Failure (performance). Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book). Ibid., 12. Ibid., 18-19. Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (performance). Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 241. Ibid., 242.



Butler’s theory can be enriched by considering their insights. Gender as Narrative in Relation to Butler’s Performativity For Butler, gender does not flow from a stable inner truth that preexists its cultural situation and performative expression. Rather, Butler argues that “bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.”45 Spoon’s lived experience of the transition points between different gender identities lends them valuable insight into how gender is constituted: When I came out as transgender, I started to tell myself that I was a man. I had the same body and the same history, but this changed everything. It made my difficulty at performing a female role make sense to me, but it also cancelled out the fact that I believed that I was a girl all along. I would say I had never been a girl.46 Here Spoon identifies what was, at the time, a tension in their own attempts to theorize their transitions in identity. For Spoon to now identify as a trans man seemed to necessitate retroactively denying the legitimacy of their previous identity as a girl. Butler’s gender theory affirms both sides of Spoon’s gender identity transitions. For Butler: The origin of gender is not temporally discrete because gender is not originated at some point in time after which it is fixed in form. In an important sense gender is not traceable to a definable origin precisely because it is itself an originating activity incessantly taking place.47 By temporalizing performativity Butler provides an answer to the problem of maintaining a cohesive subject that persists across transitions in gender identity. The gendered subject is never rendered determinate, a stable product of its “body” and “history.” Rather, body and history are understood as discursive elements in the constitution 45 Butler, “Performative Acts,” 519. 46 Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 239-240. 47 Ibid., 39-40.



of a gendered subject that is worked and reworked by its incessant performance. Spoon reconciles the same issue by understanding their gender as a “fluid narrative [. . .] constructed based on the options [they] were given.”48 Epistemic Resources as Tools for Narrative The stories we tell about ourselves are limited by our exposure to pre-existing narratives. Spoon justifies their compliance with female identity in their childhood as follows: “When I was assigned female, I told myself that I was a girl because that was the only information that I was given. There was no other option, so it was the only way.”49 What Spoon is describing is a void in the epistemic resources required to adequately understand their experience. Without exposure to more progressive conceptions of gender, sex and identity, Spoon was unable to interpret their discomfort with their assigned gender as anything other than a personal failing. After leaving the sheltered community of their childhood, Spoon (knowingly) meets a trans person for the first time. The interaction is eye-opening: “Suddenly choice came crashing in like a great wave. It was right in front of me, embodied by my new friends.”50 Soon after Spoon starts binding their chest and transitions to he/him pronouns. Spoon simply “didn’t know [. . . they] could [transition] until [they] saw it.”51 Exposure to trans identity provided Spoon with a new way of interpreting their own experience, and revealed to them the possibility of transitioning. Epistemic resources, as embodied by exposure to varied genders and gendered ways of living, function as tools with which new gender narratives are constructed. Spoon’s first hearing about a person who identifies as neither male nor female also carried huge epistemic significance for their relationship to gender. “It was humbling, and made me re-think everything else I knew,” Spoon writes.52 They begin, again, to reflect on the function and effects of hegemonic gender, this time armed with the conceptual 48 49 50 51 52

Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 242. Ibid., 239. Ibid., 102. Ibid., 103. Ibid., 201.



resources supplied by knowledge of non-binary ways of being. Spoon quickly turns this knowledge perspective onto their own experiences of gender. Having previously assumed that “being a man was the only way [they] could move away from [their] assigned sex,” this new knowledge of people who reject binary gender altogether is pivotal for Spoon.53 Soon after their exposure to non-binary individuals, Spoon themself makes the transition to a neutral gender. The trajectory of Spoon’s gender narrative, through more obscure and nuanced identities over time, is mirrored by their expanding access to epistemic resources. Rae Spoon and Socially Situated Knowledge Each transition between gender and sexual identity undergone by Spoon marks a significant shift in their social location. According to socially situated knowledge, these changes in the social circumstance are highly relevant to Spoon as an epistemic agent. Socially situated knowledge is a theory within epistemology claiming that our knowledge perspective is permanently entrenched in our identities and experiences.54 The differences in knowers attended to by socially situated knowledge “are not random or idiosyncratic, but are socially structured and systematic, with the potential to be major influences on people’s lives.”55 Gender is often cited as a feature of knowers with significant epistemic consequences; however, it only remains an “epistemically relevant category of social location [. . .] as long as the society under consideration is structured along the lines of gender.”56 In this instance, each experience of the world invoked by Spoon’s various gender presentations gives rise to the epistemic advantages of a distinct social location. Furthermore, a subject undertaking the same performance of gender will occupy a different social location depending on the context in which their performance is situated. Spoon’s occupation as a musician involves them traveling across the country to play in a variety of venues, thus exponentially increasing the contexts in 53 Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 201. 54 Lorraine Code, “Is the Sex of the Knower Epistemologically Significant?” 55 Heidi Grasswick, “Feminist Social Epistemology.” Within epistemology, the human individual, or subject, is referred to as the “knower” to place specific emphasis on their relevant feature: what they know and are capable of knowing. 56 Grasswick.



which their various genders are performed and interpreted by others. As a result, Spoon “[finds themself ] explaining [their relationship to the gender binary] on a daily basis, whether to people [they] meet or to the media.”57 In this way, Spoon’s “failure” to comply with gender norms, in combination with their lifestyle, forces a constant awareness of their own gender. It could be said that Spoon’s position in relation to hegemonic gender lends them an advantageous standpoint in discussions of gender. Standpoint theory is a concept embedded within certain interpretations of socially situated knowledge. It states that those who are subject to oppression by dominant groups are often epistemologically privileged in some crucial aspects.58 The acquisition of an epistemically privileged standpoint is not an automatic benefit of occupying a marginal social location, rather it is contingent upon “a political engagement that makes clear to the socially underprivileged the shared nature of their experiences of oppression and reveals the systematic structure of power relations.”59 Spoon’s heightened consciousness of their gender is made apparent through the sophisticated articulation of their experiences in Gender Failure. Spoon’s forced awareness of their own gender lends them unique insight into the constraints of the gender binary and the mechanisms by which those constraints are policed. Spoon’s conscious struggle to defend their place within or outside the gender binary necessitates an intense focus on the origins and effects of hegemonic gender. This resulted in the acquisition of knowledge that is less accessible to those whose dominant social position never necessitates critical engagement with the social systems from which they benefit. Spoon and Butler: Complicating “Gender retirement” To the extent that Spoon’s notion of “gender retirement” is interpreted as an “opting-out” of gender altogether, it cannot be adequately accounted for within Butler’s theory. For Butler there is no 57 Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 18-19. 58 Alison Wylie, “Why Standpoint Matters,” 26-48. It is notable that the term “epistemic privilege,” when used within social epistemology, is completely distinct from other forms of privilege. It is precisely because of the ways in which marginalized persons are socially disadvantaged that they acquire the potential for an epistemic privilege. 59 Grasswick.



cultural space prior to or outside of gender, no way to inhabit one’s body in ways that do not already bear the mark of gendered signification. For Butler, we are always within the terms of gender citation, “actors are always already on the stage, within the terms of the performance.”60 In our reading, Spoon does not claim to transcend gender altogether, situating themself outside of its terms. Their performance of gender is still constituted through the citation of received norms, but it is now a conscious project, a consensual embodiment and rearticulation of the normative and not-so-normative (i.e. queer) gender ideals to which they have been exposed. After decades of migrating across various intersections of gender and sexual identity—“a heterosexual man, heterosexual woman, a lesbian, [. . .] a gay man ”—Spoon describes their gender retirement as a “‘greatest hits’-style experience.”61 In Butler’s terms, Spoon “acts [their] part in a culturally restricted corporeal space and enacts interpretations within the confines of already existing directives.”62 Spoon’s recognition that their “retirement” still constitutes an ongoing performative engagement with gender does not undermine it as an emancipative achievement, both personal and political. Spoon takes up their gender as an ongoing personal project of critically situating themself in relation to surrounding cultural possibilities, and makes that project all the more visible through their musical performance and writing. In doing so, Spoon offers an idealised example of the claiming of difference and authorship called for by Butler and Stone. For Butler, one’s position as a subject is one’s own precisely to the extent that one “replay[s] and resignif[ies] the theoretical positions that have constituted [them], working the possibilities of their convergence, and trying to take account of the possibilities that they systematically exclude.”63 Reflecting, Spoon writes, “after all that has changed for me, I’m more inclined to leave the narrative open for myself than I have been in the past.”64

60 61 62 63

Butler, “Performative Acts,” 526. Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 242. Butler, “Performative Acts,” 526. Judith Butler, “Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism’,” 9. 64 Spoon and Coyote, Gender Failure (book), 242.



Conclusion Butler’s gender theory opens up a discussion of how discourse imposes hegemonic constraints on liveable gender possibilities. In Stone’s account of the discursive violence enacted against trans individuals, we find an understanding of non-normative gender positionings as sites of counter-hegemonic resistance. In retiring from the gender binary and identifying themself as a non-binary trans person, Spoon takes up Stone’s call, voicing a gender narrative that exceeds the limits of the binary and speaking from outside the boundaries of the subject positions it authorises. In doing so, Spoon succeeds in writing themself into, and thus transforming, the discourses that have attempted to delegitimise their experience and erase them from existence. Epistemic resources, acquired through an exposure to a diversity of genders and gendered ways of living—a diversity that hegemonic discourses attempt to conceal—can function as narrative tools, expanding and enhancing personal gender stories. The social location of a subject, as constituted by their gender and specific social context, gives rise to a unique epistemic perspective. In the case of Rae Spoon, Sandy Stone, and others whose gender identities do not fit neatly within the limiting categories authorised by dominant gender discourse, their marginalised social location can give rise to an enlightened epistemic standpoint. In these instances, knowers often attain a superior understanding of their own gender, as well as the hegemonic mechanisms of gender discourse, and strategies for their subversion. The autobiography and theory offered by Spoon and Stone resonate deeply with Butler’s theory. Together, they contribute to a project of challenging hegemonic constraints through a reconstitution of gender discourse that opens up new possibilities for identifying and living beyond the binary.



Bibliography de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. New York: Vintage, 2011. Butler, Judith. “Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism’.” In The Postmodern Turn: New Perspectives on Social Theory, edited by Steven Seidman, 3-21. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” In The Judith Butler Reader, edited by Sara Salih, 119-137. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal 40, no. 4 (1988): 519-531. Butler, Judith. “Sex and Gender in Simone De Beauvoir’s Second Sex.” In Yale French Studies No. 72. Simone De Beauvoir: Witness to a Century, 35-49. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986. Code, Lorraine.“Is the Sex of the Knower Epistemologically Significant?” In What Can She Know: Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge, 267-276. Ithaca: Cornell University, 1991. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. New York: Vintage, 1980. Grasswick, Heidi. “Feminist Social Epistemology.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, Spring 2013 ed. feminist-social-epistemology Spoon, Rae, and Ivan Coyote. Gender Failure. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014. Gender Failure. Live performance by Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote. 27th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, London, UK, 21 March 2013. Stone, Sandy. “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto.” Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 10, no. 2 68


(1992): 150-76. Wylie, Alison.“Why Standpoint Matters.” In Science and Other Cultures: Issues in Philosophies of Science and Technology, edited by Robert Figueroa and Sandra Harding, 26-48. New York: Routledge, 2003.


Hurricane Katrina and Humanitarian Violence


When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, it was responsible for close to two thousand deaths and rendered countless others homeless.1 A few days after the hurricane, New Orleans had been occupied by sixty-five thousand troops and was under martial law.2 In their discussions of social triage and the biopolitics of disposability, Simmons, Casper, and Giroux examine government led-humanitarian responses to Hurricane Katrina as creating rather than alleviating violence. Picking up the narrative of purposeful neglect, all three authors outline the sacrificing of New Orleans’ most impoverished and racialized communities in the face of this disaster, focusing not on natural forces but on the systemic and structural violence they argue was perpetrated by the government of the United States. Through these understandings of the US response to Hurricane Katrina as violent, it becomes clear that the hurricane itself was not to blame for the entirety of the suffering that followed in its path. As opposed to those like Fassin, who argues that humanitarian interventions necessitate risking the lives of those acting to save others while creating a clear demarcation between humanitarian and military actions, this essay will argue that the US government’s militarized response to Hurricane Katrina was both humanitarian and violent, continuing the persecution and sacrifice of racialized and impoverished bodies while simultaneously attempting to rescue them.3 Building on Asad’s conception of military humanitarianism and Redfield’s essay concerning humanitarian triage, the essay will further argue that New Orleans was recreated as outside US sovereignty in order to permit the United States to continue its active neglect and abuse of the city’s 1 2 3

John L. Beven II et al., ANNUAL SUMMARY: Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2005, 1140. Henry A. Giroux, “Reading Hurricane Katrina: Race, Class, and the Biopolitics of Disposability,” 177. Didier Fassin, “Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life,” 501.



population, allowing for this violent humanitarian intervention to take place. Though it was not a traditional armed conflict, Hurricane Katrina, along with many other recent natural disasters, was considered a humanitarian crisis, and offers of aid poured in accordingly.4 The government’s response to the storm was ostensibly humanitarian, as it worked to save the lives the hurricane had endangered, but the delays in response and lack of preventative measures rendered the government complicit in the severity of the destruction caused in part by the storm. The narrative that emerged after the hurricane was not one of forces of nature but of human negligence. It was argued that the government of the United States had failed to adequately prepare for the hurricane and care for its own citizens once it had hit; New Orleans’ population had been effectively earmarked for sacrifice before the storm began.5 As international and local humanitarian aid organizations mobilized to help those affected by the storm, the United States government became embroiled in its own bureaucracy, unable to navigate the rules it had created to respond to these types of disasters. Government funding for disaster prevention, including the maintenance of the levees that broke shortly after the storm, had been cut significantly in preceding years, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) itself had been placed under Homeland Security, directing it towards terrorism deterrence rather than natural disaster mitigation.6 Rather than a simple administrative failure, the systemic inaction was itself a form of sacrificial violence, ignoring the needs of residents in New Orleans to create savings in government budgets.7 Humanitarian intervention in New Orleans was not fighting a Foucauldian sacrifice meant to make others live, but a capitalist sacrifice that would enrich government. In his discussion of humanitarianism as a politics of life, Fassin provides a compelling understanding of humanitarianism that seemingly excludes natural disasters as sites for interventions. He 4 5 6 7

Daan van der Linde, “The Politics of Disaster: a study into Post-Katrina international aid,” 2. Giroux, 174; William P. Simmons and Monica J. Casper, “Culpability, Social Triage, and Structural Violence in the Aftermath of Katrina,” 676. Giroux, 185, 175. Giroux, 174; Simmons and Casper, 679.



defines humanitarian interventions as presupposing the risking of others while “making a selection of which existences it is possible or legitimate to save” among those who have been sacrificed, and demarcates humanitarianism from military interventions through risk.8 Saving the lives of victims is, for Fassin, humanitarian, while risking lives of enemies is militaristic.9 The response to Hurricane Katrina did not require that lives be risked to save others, and yet was considered a humanitarian crisis by academics and aid organisations alike.10 Médécins Sans Frontières, with whom Fassin served as Vice-President, had treated the tsunami in 2004 as a humanitarian crisis, and continues to list natural disasters as one of the forms of crises they intervene in.11 While the US response to Hurricane Katrina necessitated prioritization of lives to be saved, particularly as government intervention was repeatedly delayed, it did not risk those sent in to aid recovery from disaster, removing it from Fassin’s definition of humanitarian intervention. This disconnect between Fassin’s definition and the reality of Hurricane Katrina does not indicate that the storm was not followed by a humanitarian intervention, but rather that the government response to Katrina was not purely humanitarian in nature. In “Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life,” Fassin considers the military and humanitarian worlds as separate. In later writings, however, Fassin finds that while military and humanitarian actions continue to be clearly separated from one another, they do operate within the same state of exception, and are both embedded in a global logic of intervention.12 The divide between military and humanitarian action is also blurred in the case of Hurricane Katrina, where military groups were among the first responders sent by the government to provide humanitarian relief. New Orleans was treated by the occupying military force as something approaching a foreign territory; martial law was established when the regular rule of law was perceived to have failed, 8 9 10 11

Fassin, “Politics,” 501. Ibid. Simmons and Casper, 680. Peter Redfield, “Sacrifice, Triage, and Global Humanitarianism,” 211; Médécins Sans Frontières, “Natural Disasters.” 12 Didier Fassin and Mariella Pandolfi, “Military and Humanitarian Government in the Age of Intervention,” 14, 15, 10.



and camps were set up to incarcerate anyone deemed to be suspicious, usually without any semblance of due process.13 Fassin’s examinations of humanitarian interventions focus on non-governmental organisations, but it is in this example of government and military led humanitarian intervention that the potential for humanitarian missions to become violent becomes apparent. In using military forces to provide aid after Hurricane Katrina, the United States of America invoked both punitive and saviour-type powers, colliding the role of the sacrificial body with that of the enemy. In their discussions of humanitarianism and social triage, Asad and Redfield discuss the link between humanitarian intervention and violence, exploring the duties of sovereign states and the consequences of their failure to fulfil them. Systemic racism and other forms of discrimination were entrenched in New Orleans for years, and Simmons and Casper argue that Hurricane Katrina served to unveil this discrimination, albeit only briefly.14 While under normal rule of law, the United States had been able to hide this chronic abuse of its own citizens, but when the hurricane hit the extreme poverty and lack of government support was revealed to the world; images of dead bodies floating in streets or left on airport baggage carousels circulated widely despite government attempts to suppress them.15 The UN Responsibility to Protect demands that sovereign states have the ability to protect their populations, and Hurricane Katrina revealed that the United States was unable to do just that, calling their sovereignty over the area into question.16 When a sovereign state is unable to protect its own people, it falls to the international community to intervene; in order to avoid this, the United States had to commit to a strong humanitarian response to Hurricane Katrina.17 Redfield further expands the duties of the state to include actively fostering life, neglect to do so being a violation of political responsibility.18 Critics claimed 13 Giroux, 177; Sarah Tuberville, “From New Orleans’s Flooded Streets: Lawyers Who Made a Difference," Human Rights Magazine 33.4 (2006). 14 Simmons and Casper, 677. 15 Ibid., 681. 16 Talal Asad, “Reflections on Violence, Law, and Humanitarianism.” 17 Ibid. 18 Redfield, 201.



the government failed in this sense, allowing systemic discrimination to prevent aid from reaching New Orleans. The militarized aspect of the United States’ response, the institution of martial law and the mass incarceration of residents, contributed another violent dimension to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The severity of the storm and the failure of established agencies and procedures took the United States by surprise, and it resorted to creating a state of exception to regain control of the city. Several levels of government officials, including the mayor, went on record stating that New Orleans had been overrun by drug addicts and rapists, creating a false narrative of lawlessness that justified military intervention in the city.19 Simmons and Casper argue that the perception of New Orleans as a kind of Hobbesian state of nature allowed for the abandonment of the humanitarian intervention effort, and Giroux marks the shift from cries for help from residents to pleas from refugees.20 Both demonstrate the ‘othering’ of New Orleans, as its citizens were declared refugees on American soil, rather than American citizens in their own right. By redefining New Orleans as outside of its own control, the United States abdicated its duty as sovereign to promote life within the city, redefining residents of New Orleans as already sacrificed, and able to be saved under the right circumstances, rather than absolutely saveable. The use of military forces to provide humanitarian aid was redefined as a violent exercise, meant to punish a population at fault for supposedly breaking conventional law, and for failing to flee the city that was then declared outside of US jurisdiction.21 Residents of New Orleans were redefined as the enemy, potentially violent themselves, and thus no longer worthy of humanitarian aid. The United States’ decision to institute this state of exception and use a militarized form of humanitarian intervention was a part of the triage it performed in the aftermath of the storm. Contrary to Fassin’s explanation of triage as a decision hinging on the risk posed to those intervening, triage after Hurricane Katrina involved saving state

19 Simmons and Casper, 680. 20 Simmons and Casper, 680; Giroux, 177. 21 Simmons and Casper, 681.



coffers instead of populations.22 Giroux argues that Katrina revealed the privileging of financial rewards and the criminalization of the concern for the welfare of marginalized people.23 Racialized populations were fully declared disposable as “one of society’s most basic covenants—to care for the helpless”—collapsed, and the state’s duty to intervene was replaced by a sacrificing of human lives for economic gain.24 Asad points out that the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ is founded on pragmatism, and thus does not require any justifications of what is achievable or who can be saved by the state. Triage after Katrina, then, did not need to be justified beyond reassurances that the government was doing all that it could to contain the situation, and the public narrative soon shifted to assign the blame to residents rather than the military or bureaucracy.25 This form of triage without justification allowed the government to perpetuate structural violence, excusing inaction under the assumption that those who died were beyond saving in the first place. Dave Eggers’ account of the storm, Zeitoun, details one man’s decision to stay and perform his own humanitarian intervention; he is summarily detained by the authorities and held without trial or charges after having been found paddling around New Orleans in a canoe, bringing supplies to stranded residents.26 This story is one that was repeated countless times in the aftermath of Katrina, as the authorities sent in to provide aid instead enforced martial law. As it attempted a humanitarian aid effort, the United States simultaneously enforced the structural violence that had helped to destroy New Orleans in the first place, blurring the lines between victim and enemy, and between humanitarian and military intervention. Hurricane Katrina provides an example of humanitarian aid without risk, with government organisations able to intervene without fear for their own safety. In the absence of physical risk, it became the financial repercussions of intervention that the United States feared, performing triage in the name of capital rather than saving lives. Rather than forcing the United States to address the systemic violence visited on New Orleans’ 22 23 24 25 26

Fassin, “Politics,” 501; Giroux, 174. Giroux, 175. David Rhode et al., “Vulnerable, and Doomed in the Storm.” Simmons and Casper, 680. Dave Eggers, Zeitoun.



racialized and impoverished residents, Hurricane Katrina instead gave the government an excuse to escalate this violence, rewriting New Orleans as a city filled with criminals, rather than humans in need of support. Today, New Orleans continues to strive to recover from the effects of the hurricane, but is still weathering the structural violence that has plagued it for decades.



Bibliography Asad, Talal. “Reflections on Violence, Law, and Humanitarianism.” Critical Inquiry. University of Chicago. Beven, John L. II, Lixion A. Avila, Eric S. Blake, Daniel P. Brown, James L. Franklin, Richard D. Knabb, Richard J. Pasch, Jamie R. Rhome, and Stacy R. Stewart. ANNUAL SUMMARY: Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2005. Miami: Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, 2008. Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2009. Fassin, Didier.“Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life.” Public Culture 19, no. 3 (2007): 499-520. Fassin, Didier, and Mariella Pandolfi. “Military and Humanitarian Government in the Age of Intervention.” Introduction to Contemporary States of Emergency: The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions, 2-28. New York: Zone, 2010. Giroux, Henry A. “Reading Hurricane Katrina: Race, Class, and the Biopolitics of Disposability.” College Literature 33, no. 3 (2006): 71-96. Médécins Sans Frontières. “Natural Disasters.” Accessed March 3, 2015. Redfield, Peter. “Sacrifice, Triage, and Global Humanitarianism.” In Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics, edited by Michael N. Barnett and Thomas G. Weiss, 196-214. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2008. Rhode, David, Donald G. Mcneil, Reed Abelson, and Shaila Dewan. “Vulnerable, and Doomed in the Storm.” The New York Times. 18 September 2005. Simmons, William P., and Monica J. Casper. “Culpability, Social Triage, and Structural Violence in the Aftermath of Katrina.” Perspectives on Politics 10, no. 03 (2012): 675-86. Tuberville, Sarah. “From New Orleans’s Flooded Streets: Lawyers Who Made a Difference.” Human Rights Magazine 33, no. 4 (2006). 80


van der Linde, Daan.“The Politics of Disaster: a study into Post-Katrina international aid.” Disaster Diplomacy: 2008.


Standing With the Stateless International Solidarity Movements as a Means for Palestinian Liberation?


Movements from global civil society to support and amplify the voices of Palestinians are largely censored or delegitimized by the international community. Although these solidarity movements have the potential to push for emancipatory human security for an oppressed community, they have been unable to do so because of the way Israel has co-opted the ideologies of “Western democracy” and “anti-racism,” making it more difficult for the international community to criticize the regime. Additionally, supporters of the Israeli regime are quick to assume all Jewish people are Zionists and therefore anyone who criticizes the Zionist movement of Israel is labeled antiSemitic or as a self-hating Jew. Contributing to the complexity of the issue, Zionism was a response to pervasive anti-Semitism, and was a movement that allowed Jewish people to push back against this ethnic discrimination. These themes demonstrate that issues of racism and ethnic discrimination are central to international Palestinian solidarity movements, and demonstrate how they prevent international solidarity movements from improving the lives of Palestinians. Theoretical Framework: South African Apartheid Analytical Comparison Framing Israel as an Apartheid state can be a useful tactic, and has been gaining traction in the international sphere, taking into account that “a new language of anti-racist opposition to Israel’s oppressive policies has been introduced through analogies with the apartheid system of pre-1994 South Africa.”1 Abu-Laban and Bakan’s use of the term ‘anti-racist’ in this assertion is noteworthy because it recognizes the role that racism, in particular anti-Palestinian racism, plays in the Israeli regime. Further justification for using the term ‘Apartheid’ to 1

Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Abigail B. Bakan, “The Racial Contract: Israel/Palestine and Canada,” 642.



describe the Israeli regime comes from its recognition in international law. Moreover, the United Nations Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid has defined Apartheid as a crime in internal legal frameworks. Although this convention was established with specific reference to South Africa, it can be extended to include any country that falls into the standards set by South Africa. Apartheid is therefore defined as “a policy framework consistent with racialized and/ or ethnic exclusivity: one that can be legitimately challenged, debated, and also, importantly superseded.”2 Additionally, Apartheid has been recognized by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity.3 There are many similarities between Apartheid rule in South Africa and the current Israeli occupation in Palestinian territory. Framing the ongoing war in Palestine/Israel as an “Apartheid regime” is consequently an important and worthwhile distinction to make. Groups of multiple identities around the world make this comparison; it is not an idea that solely Palestinians perpetuate.4 Abu-Laban and Bakan highlight the benefits for using the case of the South African Apartheid regime to analyze the situation in Palestine and Israel, arguing that “the case for an apartheid analysis is about the value of the comparative method in relation to real world states, as well as expanding our collective political imagination when it comes to thinking about change in Israel/ Palestine.”5 Using an Apartheid analysis to discuss the Palestine/Israel conflict is therefore advantageous because it allows for the comparison of states grounded in the real world, as opposed to abstract analogies. Additionally, it allows for one to consider the possibility of change in the region, and entertain the notion that the BDS movement in Israel/Palestine could achieve the same success of the International Divestment movement against South African Apartheid. Although South Africa is still plagued by poverty and racism, the Apartheid regime is no longer in place and this is significant.6 Further support 2 3 4 5 6

Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Racial Contract,” 338. Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Abigail B. Bakan, “‘Israel/Palestine, South Africa and the One-State Solution’: The Case for an Apartheid Analysis,” 337. Ibid., 331. Ibid., 347. Ibid., 332.



for framing the situation in Palestine through an apartheid analysis is the premise that by focusing the conversation on “Apartheid,” there can be more collaboration and cooperation between those supporting a one-state solution and those who back a two-state solution.7 Using an Apartheid frame of analysis can therefore allow for the possibility of invaluable, honest and sustainable change to be made in the region by unifying conflicting opinions. Additionally, the foundations of each regime share comparable settler-colonial backgrounds. In both South Africa and in Israel/ Palestine, the settlers expelled indigenous communities, seizing their properties and lands, and legally discriminated against any indigenous people who remained in the region.8 As in South Africa, discrimination against Palestinians is state-sanctioned and legally mandated, and consequently this institutionalizes race-based discrimination. Under martial law, which has been in place in the region since 1948, Palestinians are consistently regarded as terrorists, and this discrimination is supported by the legal system through a series of laws and practices mandated in the name of ‘security,’ which are focused on ‘combatting terrorism.’ These laws enable actions such as administrative detention, which often leads to the imprisonment of Palestinians without charge.9 Apartheid conditions enable state-sanctioned lawlessness; in the case of Israel/Palestine there is no civil law protecting freedom of speech.10 This means Palestinians and Muslim Israelis are unable to defend themselves upon persecution for expressing their religious views. Apartheid conditions are mandated within the school system as well. Arabic and Jewish students are segregated throughout elementary and high school. Exacerbating this division is the unequal wealth distribution between the schools; Arabic schools are chronically under-funded. Upon reaching college or university, Arab and Jewish students are reunited, but the inequality and ethnic hierarchical system is sustained because the admission process disproportionately favours 7 8

Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Apartheid Analysis,” 336. Leila Farsakh, “Independence, Cantons, or Bantustans: Whither the Palestinian State?” 232. 9 Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Apartheid Analysis,” 334. 10 Ibid., 344.



Jewish students.11 Territorial separation is also another discernible similarity between South Africa and Palestine/Israel. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip resemble South African Bantustans. Apartheid South Africa was strongly based on land segregation. White-ruled areas made up 87 percent of the country, including the large cities and most of the land suitable for agriculture. The Bantustans, which were land reserves that Black South Africans were mandated to live in, made up the remaining, less fertile land on the outskirts of the country. This division closely resembles the situation in Israel, where the state of Israel covers 78 percent of the original British Mandate territory, while Palestine makes up the remaining 22 percent.12 Although the Bantustans were established under the guise of allowing Black South Africans to have self-determination, the residents of the Bantustans continued to have their economic well-being and self-determination marginalized by an economy and land-ownership system which favoured White South Africans.13 This dependency is mirrored in the Palestine/Israel case. Palestinian workers have become dependent on Israelis for employment, and hope for economic livelihood.14 This situation has been exacerbated since the 1967 war. The Oslo process later that century led to further “Bantustanization” of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.15 The Oslo accords did not guarantee the end of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, nor did they affirm the superiority of international law over Israeli law, which had occupied Palestinian territories since 1967.16 As Farsakh makes clear, this agreement kept all of the power and control in the hands of Israel, just as the Bantustan system kept all of the power in the hands of White South Africa: “the Oslo accords did not reverse this fragmentation but rather institutionalized it. They explicitly recognize sole Israeli jurisdiction over Israeli settlements and settlers, both from a 11 12 13 14 15 16

Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Apartheid Analysis,” 344. Ian Urbina, “Analogy to Apartheid,” 58. Farsakh, 234. Urbina, 60. Farsakh, 237. Ibid., 238.



territorial as well as from a functional point of view.”17 Correlations can also be made to international divestment movements that have been focal points of activism in both cases. As Urbina makes clear, industries targeted by the South African divestment movement are also focuses of BDS movements against Israel.18 However, there are limits to the comparison between Israel and South Africa, and it is important to take note of some of the differences between the two cases. In Apartheid South Africa, Black South Africans had a majority while in post-1948 Israel Palestinians were the minority. Due to their numbers, therefore, the Black working class had greater influence through labour unions and strike action.19 The Israeli government tried to create a structural dependency in which Palestinians were forced to depend on Israelis. This was feasible because Palestinians were in the minority. In South Africa however, Black South Africans made up 2/3 of the labour force, so the efforts of the Apartheid government to cultivate economic dependency had to be much more concerted.20 Another key difference between the two regimes can be demonstrated through their ideologies. Farsakh elaborates upon this point and notes that, “ideologically, Zionism sought the land without the people while South African apartheid sought the land with the people,” thus demonstrating how Zionism and the Israeli regime were predicated on the forced departure of Palestinians, while in South Africa, the White ruling class wanted to harness Black South Africans for their labour.21 Because the Israeli regime wanted Palestinians expelled from the region, they do not give Israeli citizenship to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza strip. The White South African ruling class, by comparison, allowed Black South Africans to have South African citizenship, mainly because they needed to use their labour.22 The way people viewed territorial separation also differed quite substantially. In South Africa, the idea of creating two separate states never reached 17 18 19 20 21 22

Farsakh, 241. Urbina, 61. Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Apartheid Analysis,” 345. Farsakh, 232. Ibid., 234. Ibid., 236.



dominant discourse, while in Israel and Palestine the two-state solution has been discussed ever since 1948.23 These territorial, social, cultural and economic differences between Apartheid South Africa and Israel/Palestine cannot be used as the sole justification as to why the international BDS movement has not been able to liberate Palestinians, while the global divestment movement from South Africa went down in history as one of the most successful examples of transnational activism and international solidarity. They do not adequately explain why international solidarity movements have been censored and ignored. The international community is largely unaware of the technicalities of population size differences and ideologies surrounding land segregation within the Israeli regime. The international reputation Israel has given itself is clear to global civil society, and has acted as a blockade against the BDS movement in Israel as well as all international solidarity movements with Palestinians. The way in which the Israeli regime has hidden its racism and manipulated the perceptions of the international community, in particular the Western world, has been staggering. As Bakan and Abu-Laban assert: The post-World War II positioning of Zionist ideology in the West presents within a framework of claimed ‘anti-racism.’ This is clearly different than the more widely recognized racist position presented by proponents of apartheid in South Africa.24 Israel presents itself as ‘anti-racist,’ and has positioned itself in a similar position to Canada on the international sphere. Israel portrays itself as a ‘progressive’ state embodying ‘Western values’ by claiming a multicultural identity.25 This ‘multicultural’ re-branding has gone hand in hand with a full reconception of Israel as a state that is not only multicultural and anti-racist, but also tolerant of sexual diversity and other citizenship rights. These are all key components that build up a white liberal multicultural democratic image.26 This image makes 23 Farsakh, 237. 24 Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Apartheid Analysis,” 345. 25 Mary-Jo Nadeau and Alan Sears, “The Palestine Test: Countering the Silencing Campaign,” 19. 26 Ibid., 20.



it much more difficult for global civil society to critique the state, as opposed to Apartheid South Africa which was much easier for the international community to rally against and condemn as racist. Thus, although it is necessary to develop an impactful and effective anti-apartheid movement and support Palestinians, a firmly anti-racist deconstruction of the Zionist hegemony is needed.27 Emancipatory Security One way to push for such an anti-racist deconstruction is to use an emancipatory security framework, taking into account that “emancipation, not power nor order, produces true security.”28 Only by taking a firmly anti-racist stance with international solidarity can one truly bring security to Israel/Palestine. Booth asserts that the concept of emancipation should be given precedence when we think about security as opposed to traditional focuses.29 These traditional focuses are informed by US perspectives, and emphasize issues surrounding nuclear weapons and arms control rather than examining social issues and societal cleavages.30 There needs to be a shift in perspective. International solidarity movements can play a central role in pushing for this revolutionary change. Some of this shift may already be taking place: it has become evident that even policy makers who are on the more conservative side of discussions are recognizing that the current world order requires political and social justice to be considered.31 This gives validity to the assertion that anti-racism needs to be discussed in international solidarity movements with Palestine. International solidarity movements may be the push that some thinkers need to include issues of social inequality and systemic oppression in their discussions about security policy-making. Emancipatory security is directly tied to the notion of liberty, and in particular an egalitarian concept of liberty.32 Liberty is tied to the notion of the reciprocity of rights. The concept that we are not free until everyone is free is a key 27 28 29 30 31 32

Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Apartheid Analysis,” 346. Ken Booth, “Security and Emancipation,” 319. Ibid., 324. Ibid. Ibid., 322. Ibid.



underlying motivation for international solidarity movements. How to translate this sentiment into concrete action has been a constant struggle for theorists and thinkers pushing for emancipatory security. International Solidarity movements can offer an imperative element of tangibility to this dilemma. International Solidarity Movements: An Overview Often when international solidarity movements come from the West, they can inadvertently do more harm than good, and speak over, rather than amplify the voices of those they are trying to support. A Western-based solidarity movement acts as a testimony, aiming to tell the stories of those who are facing oppression. Findlay highlights the potential benefits and dangers of this concept of testimony, saying: Testimony, in its wary intimacy and vulnerable oneness, speaks to the scandalous homogeneity of the human, the very possibility of which—outside sentimental and paternalistic versions of it—offers hope of discursive justice that might tie testimony, beyond efforts at recognition and advocacy, to redress and redistribution.33 Western-based testimonies can be sensationalizing and present the Western organization or state as a saviour, but also can be a very powerful way of drawing attention to pressing issues, leading to concrete liberation. Student Activist Groups The university is a sphere in which international solidarity movements are common. Although the university is essentially “an institution that remains crypto-imperialistic even in its most progressive national settings and faculties,” it is often university students who are the most vocal members of international solidarity movements.34 The group “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR)” has a strong presence on university campuses and aims to uphold the rights of the Palestinian People in the face of human rights violations, discrimination, 33 Len M Findlay, “Can the Institution Speak? The University as Testimony in Canada Today,” 13. 34 Ibid.



misinformation and misrepresentation.35 SPHR campus groups and other Palestinian solidarity groups have faced considerable censorship and policing. A campaign these solidarity groups often partake in that has garnered substantive controversy and criticism is known as “Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW),” which has occurred in the first week of March in universities across Canada every year since 2005. IAW is an attempt to push back on the mainstream media canon and offer a perspective that is not biased towards the Israeli regime.36 It attempts: To raise awareness of the apartheid nature of the state of Israel and support the call issued by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against apartheid Israel, inspired by the call from the African National Congress to boycott the apartheid South Africa regime.37 However, as violence in the Gaza strip has escalated in the years following the initiation for this trans-campus campaign, so have efforts to silence activists involved. In February and March of 2009, the poster for IAW was prohibited from four different campuses in Ontario.38 Additionally, at the University of Toronto, a student group called “Students Against Israel Apartheid (SAIA) were prevented from holding a conference focusing on Solidarity with Palestine, and were subject to enormous criticism and censorship.39 A similar attempted censorship of a Palestinian Solidarity event took place at York University, targeting a conference entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping the Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace” in 2009.40 Leading up to the conference, the organizers were subject to an increasing amount of protest by pro-Israel advocates and soon the Federal Minister of State for Science and Technology intervened and designated that 35 SPHR Mcgill. 36 Findlay, 24. 37 Ryan Hayes, “Student Struggle/Student Rights: International Solidarity Campaigns and the Right to Education,” 7. 38 Nadeau and Sears, 8. 39 Ibid. 40 Penni Stewart, “Academic Freedom in these Times: Three Lessons from York University,” 55.



the SSHRC, who had previously issued a grant to SAIA, re-review the funding application. Eventually, after a battle between the federal minister and the York University administration the conference the conference was allowed to go on as planned. Palestinian solidarity activism at Concordia University has also faced ample condemnation and caused extensive controversy. In 2002 there was a lecture scheduled at the university by former Israeli Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but the lecture was cancelled after a group of Palestinian solidarity activists held a demonstration and the situation escalated as student activists clashed with the riot police that were set up inside. Organizers of the speech had screened ticket sales, selling them directly to Hillel, a pro-Israel campus group, so as to ensure a ‘friendly’ audience. This overt and unfair bias in turn angered Palestinian solidarity activists. The demonstration was portrayed in mainstream media both in Canada and globally as a “deplorable attack on freedom of speech,” and as overly angry and unnecessarily antagonistic.41 However, Palestinian solidarity activists have continued on in their activism and recently their undergraduate student union passed a motion in support of BDS.42 The University of California at Berkeley has also been a location of international solidarity Palestinian activism, and students there have faced similar challenges to those that students at Canadian schools have faced. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has been active on campus since 2000, advocating for the university’s board of regents to divest from companies that do business with Israel.43 When SJP activists put on a demonstration in which they ‘occupied’ an academic building, it was the first time that the university administration officially banned a group from campus activity, despite a long history of student activism and political demonstrations at the university.44 This demonstrates that Palestinian solidarity activism is facing particularly harsh criticism and policing as compared to other forms of student activism. A common theme in all the criticism student activists have 41 42 43 44

John Dirlik, “Canada Calling: Montreal Protesters Prevent Netanyahu Speech,” 51. Montreal Gazette, “Concordia undergrad students vote in favour of Israel Boycott.” Urbina, 59, 46, 59. Ibid., 59.



undergone is the label of ‘anti-Semitism.’ This is connected to a larger societal shift that has reframed criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.45 As Nadeau and Sears outline: Casual inclusion of Palestine solidarity with antiSemitism is an unfounded attempt to discredit campus Palestine activism by suggesting it is fundamentally grounded in anti-Jewish hatred. It risks discrediting activity to defend Jewish human rights on campus by putting genuine incidents of antisemitism under the same heading as everyday expressions of Palestine solidarity.46 They explain that equating Palestine solidarity with anti-Semitism is a false accusation, and it risks discounting actual incidents of antiSemitism on university campuses. Butler elaborates upon this danger, asserting that: To say that all Jews hold a given view on Israel or are adequately represented by Israel or, conversely, that all acts of Israel, the state, adequately stand for the acts of all Jews, is to conflate Jews with Israel and, thereby, to commit an anti-Semitic reduction of Jewishness.47 This demonstrates that the conflation of anti-Israel and anti-Zionism sentiments with anti-Semitism is particularly problematic. It is possible to have perspectives that oppose Zionism and critique the Israeli regime without being anti-Semitic.48 Criticism of Zionism and Israel should never be based upon derogatory stereotypes of Jewish people. In addition to Palestinian campaigns being called anti-Semitic, they are also often accused of being overly violent and uncivil, as Nadeau and Sears highlight.49 For example, the York University Report of the Presidential Task Force on Student Life, Learning and Community that was filed following the controversy surrounding the Palestinian 45 46 47 48 49

Nadeau and Sears, 8. Ibid., 14. Judith Butler, “No, it’s not anti-Semitic,” 20. Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Racial Contract,” 640. Nadeau and Sears, 16.



Solidarity conference at York focuses quite heavily on civility.50 In general, Palestine solidarity activism is generally critiqued for being too intense, angry, and disturbing a peaceful campus climate, while activism for Israel is treated as freedom of expression.51 This double standard comes to a head when university administrations react to the behaviour of activists. It is of course difficult to deal with the idea of regulating student activism, and it is beyond the breadth of this paper to discuss what constitutes freedom of speech and productive solidarity activism.52 Limitations on Research Along with Palestinian solidarity groups, academics are harshly policed and censored when critiquing the Israeli regime. This has led to a substantial research gap. Just as activists are criticized, if academics critique Israel they are labeled anti-Semitic. This is because “scholarly criticism of Israel is often assumed to be criticism of its ostensibly ‘Jewish’ character, rather than the particular policies, political structures, historical traditions or ideologies of the state.”53 This unwarranted and unfounded criticism is coupled by a tendency for the academy to downplay and discount how much of an impact racism and radicalization have had on the world post-9/11.54 Policy Implications Although I have demonstrated that claims of racism and ethnic discrimination play a substantive role in silencing activist groups, the issue at hand is more complicated. Because both Arabic people and Jewish people have been subject to racial discrimination and have been classified ‘outside the breadth of the ‘Caucasian race’,” both groups have faced oppression.55 This makes the situation a lot more complex than South African apartheid, as perpetuated and demonstrated by the fluidity of the term ‘Victim.’ Butler explains: “‘Victim’ is a quickly transposable term: it can shift from minute to minute, from the Jew killed by suicide bombers 50 51 52 53 54 55

Nadeau and Sears, 16. Ibid., 17. Stewart, 54. Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Racial Contract,” 638. Ibid., 637. Ibid., 645.



on a bus to the Palestinian child killed by Israeli gunfire.”56 The Zionist movement emerged, in part, as a response to rampant anti-Semitism in Europe. Despite its strong colonialist and imperialistic ties, it is more difficult to critique Zionist ideology knowing it was used at one time to push back against oppression itself.57 As Anti-Semitism grew in Europe, Jewish people gradually lost the ‘whiteness’ they had at one time possessed, and for many Jewish people adhering to Zionism was a way to re-claim this whiteness, and identify with European colonial powers, putting themselves on the side of global hegemonic power.58 Thus, it can be asserted that the real enemy here is not Zionism. Instead, the ideology of Western-based whiteness it was based on is at fault. It is important to note that Jewish Israelis are racially and ethnically diverse. For Ashkenazi Jews, who are of European and American backgrounds, it is much easier to adopt whiteness than for Mizrahi Jews who come from North African and Middle Eastern regions.59 Ethiopian Jews in particular face immense racism within Israel despite being Jewish. Additionally, compounding the complexity of the situation is the notion that anti-Semitism remains pervasive today, and Zionism emerged partially as a response to this ethnic discrimination. Clearly, the impacts of race and ethnicity add to the complexity of the situation. Conclusion It is imperative to consider race and racism when speculating as to why Palestinian solidarity movements have been unable to mobilize global consciousness about Palestinian suffering. The Israeli regime and its supporters have manipulated ideas surrounding race and racism to project an image of Israel that simultaneously hides its human rights abuses and international law violations, while silencing those who critique it. We need to redirect the conversations surrounding Israel/Palestine away from the constructed binary between the two populations. Instead, we must deconstruct what has had an equally insidious yet different impact on both groups: whiteness. Whiteness has allowed Israelis to grasp world power and acceptance while 56 57 58 59

Butler, 20. Abu-Laban and Bakan, “Racial Contract,” 644. Ibid., 646. Ibid., 649.



remaining out of reach for Palestinians, leaving them either condemned or ignored.



Bibliography Abu-Laban, Yasmeen, and Abigail B. Bakan. “‘Israel/Palestine, South Africa and the One-State Solution’: The Case for an Apartheid Analysis ” Politikon 37 (2010): 331-351. Abu-Laban, Yasmeen, and Abigail B. Bakan. “The Racial Contract: Israel/Palestine and Canada.” Social Identities 14, no. 5 (2008): 637-660. Atshan, Sa’ed, and Darnel L. Moore. “Reciprocal Solidarity: Where the Black and Palestinian Queer Struggles Meet.” Biography no. 37 (2014): 680-705, 721. Booth, Ken. “Security and Emancipation.” Review of International Studies 17, no. 4 (1991): 313-326. Butler, Judith. “No, it’s not anti-Semitic.” London Review of Books (2003): 19-21. Campbell, Horace. “Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism in Africa.” Monthly Review 67, no. 3 (2015): 98-113. Dahlberg Grundberg, Michael, and Simon Lindgren.“Translocal Frame Extensions in a Networked Protest: Situating the #IdleNoMore Hashtag.” IC - Revist Cientifica de Informacion y communicacion 11 (2014): 49-77. Desjarlais, Peige. “The Violence of Representation: The (Un) Narration of Palestine in Public Discursive Space in Canada.” Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository: 2014. Dirlik, John. “Canada Calling: Montreal Protesters Prevent Netanyahu Speech.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 21, no. 9 (2002): 51. Farsakh, Leila. “Independence, Cantons, or Bantustans: Whither the Palestinian State?” Middle East Journal 59, no. 2 (2005): 230-245. Findlay, Len M. “Can the Institution Speak? The University as Testimony in Canada Today.” Humanities Research 25, no. 3 (2009): 11-26. Hamdon, Evelyn, and Scott Harris. “Dangerous Dissent? Critical 99


Pedagogy and the Case of Israeli Apartheid Week.” Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry 2, no. 2 (2010): 62-76. Hayes, Ryan. “Student Struggle/Student Rights: International Solidarity Campaigns and the Right to Education.” 2009. Montreal Gazette. “Concordia undergrad students vote in favour of Israel Boycott.” Montreal Gazette. 5 December 2014. Nadeau, Mary-Jo, and Alan Sears. “The Palestine Test: Countering the Silencing Campaign.” Studies in Political Economy 85 (2010): 7-33. Olwan, Dana M. “On Assumptive Solidarities in Comparative Settler Colonialisms.” Feral Feminisms 4 (Summer 2015): 89-102. Omer, Atalia. “‘It’s Nothing Personal’: The Globalisation of Justice, The Transferability of Protest, and the Case of the Palestine Solidarity Movement.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 9, no. 3 (2009): 497. Seitz, Charmaine. “ISM At the Crossroads of the International Solidarity Movement.” Journal of Palestine Studies 32, no. 4 (2003): 50-67. Stewart, Penni. “Academic Freedom in these Times: Three Lessons from York University.” Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry 2, no. 2 (2010): 48-61. Urbina, Ian. “Analogy to Apartheid.” The Middle East Report 223 (2002): 58-61.


The Ordinary Method Subverting Tradition in Jane Sharp’s The Art of Midwifery


In her Art of Midwifery Jane Sharp begins her description of reproductive anatomy by stating that “because it is commonly maintain’d” that men are worthier than women, in order “to be understood by the meanest Capacity,” she will write first on male, then female anatomy so as not to “forsake the ordinary method.”1 Sharp’s self-awareness of her relation to the tradition of midwifery manuals is noteworthy, given that her very authorship deviates from this tradition: at the time, “midwifery manuals [. . .] were almost all written by men,” and not by female midwives, who would have had first-hand experience of birthing.2 However, it is worth examining how much Sharp’s actual content deviates from male-written early modern midwifery manuals. As the above example illustrates, even when Sharp points out the biases of her masculine contemporaries, suggesting here that only those of “the meanest Capacity” would favour men over women, she still places men before women in her examination of reproductive anatomy.3 Indeed, it is characteristic of Sharp in her introduction to write subversive quips, only to remain consistent with “the ordinary method” in practice.4 Similarly, in treating the anatomy itself she at times deviates from her male-written sources, both early modern and ancient, while at other instances echoes their prejudiced models. I argue, regarding both its handling of sources and of male and female anatomical structures, that while Sharp’s Art of Midwifery subverts some elements of male-written midwifery textbooks, in many ways the book remains consistent with the pre-established, patriarchal tradition. Much of Sharp’s short introduction concerns her sources and the use of knowledge for midwives. While Sharp, unlike her contemporaries, 1 2 3 4

Jane Sharp, The Midwives Book, Or the Whole Art of Midwifery Discovered, 13. Elaine Hobby, introduction to The Midwives Book, Or the Whole Art of Midwifery Discovered, by Jane Sharp, xvi. Sharp, 13. Ibid.



argues for midwives as a source of midwifery knowledge separate from male-dominated academic knowledge, in practice she draws considerably on this same masculine tradition. Given that Sharp herself is a midwife, it is not surprising that she makes use of her “above thirty years” of midwifery practice when writing her book.5 It is also an important departure from tradition: before Sharp, midwifery manuals were mostly written by “medical practitioners acquainted with medical books,” who may have never, like Nicholas Culpeper, actually “attended a delivery.”6 Sharp, however, is proud to “offer [her] own Experience” and occasionally demonstrates the importance of this experience; in response to those who argue that the womb contains seven different cells, she answers that “none that ever saw the womb can think so.”7 More importantly, Sharp briefly seems to argue that midwives are a source of midwifery knowledge existing separately from and even exceeding scholarly masculine knowledge. She explains that in addition to women’s natural aptitude for midwifery, “farther knowledge may be gain’d by a long and diligent practice, and be communicated to others of our own sex.”8 Here, Sharp recognizes the presence of a tradition of practical knowledge passed on from midwife to midwife, the existence of which many male authors were loath to acknowledge; “in male-authored books, ‘most Midwifes’ are ignorant.”9 She goes one step further in suggesting that this knowledge unique to midwives is even better than that of university-educated men, writing that “where there is no Men of Learning” and “none but women to assist [. . .] the women are as fruitful, and as safe and well delivered, if not much more fruitful, and better commonly in Childbed.”10 It is not clear whether Sharp is contradicting herself here. Earlier in the same paragraph, she argues that a midwife’s knowledge “must be twofold, Speculative; and Practical” and notably, in her letter to midwives, she states that a common failing in midwives is their lack of “skill in Anatomy,” a theoretical—that is, 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sharp, 1, 3. Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xviii. Sharp, 3, 57. Ibid., 12. Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxiii. Sharp, 11, 12.



speculative—discipline.11 But if women are perfectly good midwives— or even better midwives—without the assistance of men, it naturally follows that the knowledge they “[communicate] to others of [their] own sex” must be complete—both speculative and practical—or else the midwives would be severely lacking.12 If this is indeed what Sharp is arguing here, then her text is extremely radical. At a time when midwifery books often existed “to teach women the limits of their permitted competence” before they should ask for a man’s assistance, Sharp suggests that midwives may have sufficient knowledge within their own tradition, without the need to rely on men or their universities.13 Unfortunately, in practice, Sharp draws significantly on her male-written sources and despite her fine words and their implication of a female-specific and self-sufficient body of knowledge, she in this way remains firmly within the tradition of male-written midwifery textbooks. Like most of her male contemporaries, Sharp depends heavily on other midwifery textbooks, “[borrowing] extensively from Culpeper’s Directory, Sennert’s Practical Physick, and The Compleat Midwifes Practice, as well as from other works.”14 Thus, Sharp is unable to “reverse men’s dominance over learned interpretations of women’s medicine,” given her reliance on these theories for a large part of her text.15 Sharp herself acknowledges the importance of men’s universitybred knowledge for midwives at multiple times in her discussion of anatomy, in a manner that is perhaps at odds with her previous statements. Her recommendation of “a little Book” on “the motion of the Muscles” as “well worth the Reading” and her reference to what Columbus “tells us [midwives]” would seem to contradict her earlier assertion that “men [. . .] imploy their spare time in some things of deeper Speculation than is required of the female sex.”16 Rather, it seems that this “deeper Speculation” and complex theoretical knowledge from 11 12 13 14 15

Sharp, 11, 3. Ibid., 12. Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxiii. Ibid., xix. Monica H. Green, Making Women’s Medicine Masculine: The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern Gynaecology, 290. 16 Sharp, 28-29, 13.



men is very useful to midwives, and even required for good midwifery.17 Furthermore, Sharp directly references “physicians”—universityeducated men—to back up her claims, at several instances.18 Thus, Sharp is not monumentally reversing the knowledge base of midwifery textbooks, despite some interesting and surprising rhetoric that emphasizes the knowledge of female midwives. Where Sharp will prove interesting, however, is in the ways that she“substantially rework[s] her sources” instead of simply translating or copying them, as did many of her contemporaries.19 Various critics note how—particularly in her section on anatomy—Sharp “remake[s]” her sources “in novel ways.”20 Thus, it is necessary to examine the first book of the Art of Midwifery, which deals with anatomy, to explore just how much Sharp deviates from her sources and from the masculine tradition. Sharp is subversive in her descriptions of male and female anatomy separately, often deviating substantively from her sources. However, where Sharp compares male and female bodies, she is largely consistent with traditional attitudes. Sharp refuses to give the same veneration as her male contemporaries to the frequently praised areas of the testicles and penis. Bicks argues that Sharp’s description of the testicles downplays their importance and characterizes them as disease-prone.21 This is in tension with Sharp’s sources’ treatment of the testicles, or the stones, “as the key anatomical site of masculinity’s production,” ascribing to them the power to “witness one to be a Man” and “give strength and courage to Mens bodies.”22 While Sharp does note their place “amongst the Principal parts for the Generation and the preservation of mankind” she does not here link them to virility or manliness like her sources.23 Bicks also claims that Sharp’s chapter title—“Of the Cods, or rather the Stones contained therein”—“removes [the testicles] from their central position” by “foreground[ing] the cods, 17 18 19 20

Sharp, 13. Ibid., 44-5, 17. Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xix. Green, 290; see also Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xix; Caroline Bicks, “Stones like Women’s Paps: Revising Gender in Jane Sharp’s ‘Midwives Book’,” 6. 21 Sharp, 10-13. 22 Bicks, 10, 2; Elaine Hobby, “Gender, Science and Midwifery: Jane Sharp, The Midwifes Book (1671),” 151. 23 Sharp, 17-18.



or scrotum,” a less important area that Culpeper’s Directory, one of Sharp’s sources, fails to discuss entirely.24 Moreover, in her description of the area, Sharp “transforms the cod into a shaky and fragile container reminiscent of [. . .] early modern female bodies,” repeating “watry”—a word usually associated with weaknesses in women—three times in one sentence, and emphasizing how the “diseases and distempers” of the scrotum affect the testicles.25 Thus, Sharp, deviating from her sources, turns a part of the male body “that connected early modern man’s virility to his ability to breed and take his place as patriarchal figurehead” into an organ prone to sickness, disconnected from masculine ideals.26 Likewise, Sharp does not engage in the “phallus-worship” found in contemporary books, particularly The Compleat Midwifes Practice, which thoroughly discusses the strength and “just length” of a penis.27 Indeed, “Sharp writes relatively little on the topic of penis size,” and then, mostly practically: “too long [. . .] may be as bad as too short.”28 A joke also undercuts her only real praise of the penis: directly after noting that penises give men “a pre-eminence above all other creatures,” she quips that “[s]ome men, but chiefly fools, have Yards [penises] so long that they are useless for generation.”29 Thus, a consideration of the penis’s dominating power is transformed into a joke about penis size. Furthermore, while other manuals often emphasize the “exquisite sense” of the penis, Sharp characterizes it as a “sickly and unpredictable organ.”30 Sharp, then, is radical in her description of the qualities and abilities of two important parts of the male reproductive system, cutting the testicles and the penis, as it were, down to size. While Sharp reworks parts of the description of the male reproductive system to reduce the praise often heaped upon it, her revisions of the female body are more positive, celebrating especially female pleasure. For instance, though Sharp’s contemporaries deplore the clitoris—writing that it “suffers erection” or that it is “the breeder of 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Sharp, 17; Bicks, 10. Bicks, 11-12; Sharp, 17. Bicks, 2. Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxviii. Sharp, 25. Ibid. Hobby, “Gender, Science and Midwifery,” 151.



the most deadly poison”—Sharp explains that it is “the chief pleasure of loves delight in Copulation.”31 Sharp also praises the female body in her account of the labia; according to Hobby, Sharp “delights in the accuracy with which the goddess-like nymphs (labia) direct urine,” so that it does “not so much as [wet] the wings of the Lap as it goes along.”32 While Sharp here echoes a male-written manual, she does not “vigorously edit the passage” as did her male contemporaries.33 Finally, while Sharp asserts that the womb “is subject to all diseases,” she also, as Bicks remarks, shows that a woman can lose her womb, an area traditionally seen as the marker of womanhood, and remain a sexual being.34 Sharp not only fails to preserve this link to womanhood, but also recounts the story of a woman whose womb was cut out and afterwards, “kept company with her husband, and cast forth Seed in Copulation, and had her monthly courses as she was wont to have before.”35 Thus, the author emphasizes the sexual delight a woman may find in her own body, even when she is disconnected from her “successful reproduction of her husband’s children and of patriarchy at large,” a prescribed signifier of womanhood, and praises areas of the female body largely ignored by contemporaries.36 In parts of her section on anatomy, then, Sharp subverts traditional attitudes towards certain important male and female anatomical structures, deviating significantly from her sources. The author transfers the normally aggrandizing descriptions of the testicles and penis to the labia and clitoris; she also cuts the ties between the testicles and masculinity, and the womb and femininity, suggesting “a fundamental shift in the way in which sexuality and gender are conceptualized.”37 However, while these changes are impressive, when Sharp compares male and female anatomy, her subversion largely disappears. By upholding the conception of women as imperfect men 31 Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxvi; Hobby, “Gender, Science and Midwifery,” 154; Sharp, 41. 32 Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxvi; Sharp, 39. 33 Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxvi. 34 Bicks, 19-20. 35 Bicks, 19-20; Sharp, 37. 36 Bicks, 20. 37 Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxviii.



and by using the male body as a model for measuring the female, Sharp remains consistent with the male-dominated tradition. Despite praising certain areas of the female body, Sharp still upholds the “ancient analogy” drawn from Galenic anatomy that “the whole Matrix [. . .] is like to a mans Yard and privities, but Mens parts for Generation are compleat and [. . .] womens are not so compleat.”38 While she initially appears to take Galen’s one-sex model literally, describing how a penis may be “thrust inward” to make a “Matrix,” she later clarifies that this is simply an analogy, and that “the difference is so great that they can never be the same;” according to Hobby, Sharp’s contemporaries take a similar attitude towards Galenic anatomy.39 What Sharp does not correct from Galen is his conclusion that “a woman is not so perfect as a Man.”40 Interestingly, the second time that Sharp raises the topic of imperfection or incompleteness, she immediately counters it: “but the Man can do nothing without the woman to beget Children.”41 While Sharp’s emphasis on women’s importance during conception is quite notable, it does not nullify her assessment of women as incomplete men.42 Sharp upholds this model in her description of the clitoris; although, as previously argued, she regards it as wondrous, she also describes it as a “counterfeit Yard,” suggesting that the female source of sexual pleasure is nothing but a poor replica of the male, as all female organs must be, following this traditional Galenic attitude.43 In fact, throughout her description of the female reproductive system, Sharp continuously compares female anatomy to male anatomy, thus confirming that men’s bodies are the standard from which women are derived. In this supposedly female-centric section, Sharp compares female stones to male stones, spending almost an entire chapter entitled “Of Women’s stones” on this comparison; the womb’s connection to the bladder to that of men, the labia to the foreskin; the clitoris to the yard; the “substance” of “the neck of the womb” to that of a penis; the “Seed vessels” in women to those in men; the size of a “Bason” in women to 38 39 40 41 42 43

Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxviii; Sharp, 35. Sharp, 37, 67; Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxviii. Sharp, 37. Ibid. Hobby, “Gender, Science and Midwifery,” 152-3. Sharp, 40.



that in men; the muscles that “hold up the womb in women” to those that hold men’s stones; and the size of a part of the womb to the size of the “Nut of the mans Yard.”44 This multitude of comparisons is hardly found in Sharp’s treatment of the male reproductive system, excepting a brief comparison concerning the “Perinæum.”45 However, both Hobby and Bicks argue that Sharp “turns the parallelism the other way.”46 Hobby gives examples of Sharp describing men as subject to traditionally female conditions—men may lose a virginal membrane, suffer from priapism as women suffer from hysteria, or become physically aroused through the imagination.47 It is nonetheless worth noting that Sharp does not directly compare these male conditions to corresponding female ones. Bicks highlights Sharp’s comparison of men’s stones “to the kernels of womens paps,” an analogy that might be more startling, were it not common in male-written midwifery textbooks.48 Either way, instances of male-to-female comparisons are relatively rare, despite the many instances in which Sharp measures women’s bodies by men’s; it is thus clear that she upholds the ancient model that derives imperfect women from men, and that her section on anatomy cannot be called wholly subversive. The Art of Midwifery both subverts the standards of contemporary male-written midwifery manuals and remains consistent with contemporary textbooks and ancient traditions. In the book’s introduction, Sharp appears to promote midwives as a credible source of knowledge, independent from the academic male-dominated tradition, only to rely heavily on male-written sources for her own work. In her description of reproductive anatomy, Sharp subverts conceptions of several areas of male and female bodies, yet she still presents female bodies as counterfeit and underdeveloped male bodies, only comprehensible in relation to the latter. However, it would be unfair to blame Sharp for any unwillingness “to forsake the ordinary method,” just as it would be incorrect to attempt to prove that she always either 44 45 46 47 48

Sharp, 34, 51-3, 36, 39-41, 46, 47-9, 54, 55-56, 64. Ibid., 24. Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxix. Hobby, Art of Midwifery, xxix; Sharp, 28, 25, 23. Sharp, 17; Bicks, 13.



conforms to or rejects this “ordinary method,” when it comes to her sources of knowledge or her writing on anatomy.49 While Sharp was no doubt “aware [. . .] of the prejudices and preconceptions of medical thought,” especially those found in male-written midwifery manuals, it is not surprising how many of these preconceptions she upholds, given that women were barely beginning to enter the field of medical literature.50 A close study of the Art of Midwifery reveals that holding Jane Sharp and her contemporary midwives and writers to current feminist standards of gender equality can only result in confusion: we cannot force her into our modern-day moulds. Instead, by examining the inconsistencies imbedded in the work, we may come to better understand the natural contradictions in our own thoughts—especially beliefs established along patriarchal standards.

49 Sharp, 13. 50 Hobby, “Gender, Science and Midwifery,” 154; Green, 290.



Bibliography Bicks, Caroline. “Stones like Women’s Paps: Revising Gender in Jane Sharp’s “‘Midwives Book’.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 7, no. 2 (2007): 1-27. Green, Monica H. Making Women’s Medicine Masculine: The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern Gynaecology. New York: Oxford University, 2008. Hobby, Elaine. “Gender, Science and Midwifery: Jane Sharp, The Midwives Book (1671).” In The Arts of 17th-Century Science: Representations of the Natural World in European and North American Culture, edited by Claire Jowitt and Diane Watt, 146159. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002. Hobby, Elaine. Introduction to The Midwives Book, Or the Whole Art of Midwifery Discovered, by Jane Sharp, xi-xxix. New York: Oxford University, 1999. Sharp, Jane. The Midwives Book, Or the Whole Art of Midwifery Discovered. Edited by Elaine Hobby. New York: Oxford University, 1999. First published 1671.


When ‘No’ Means ‘Yes’ BDSM in Canadian Sexual Assault Law


This essay includes graphic references to sexual violence.

On the topic of sexual consent “No Means No” is an oft-repeated mantra. It is the basic premise on which feminist sex-education is taught, as well it should be. Melanie Randall explains that the development of Canada’s laws surrounding sexual assault is based on the premise of consent, and whether a person is capable of giving consent.1 However, when it comes to sexual activities related to BDSM, consent is not as clear-cut.2 Given the power relations inherent to BDSM, there has been widespread disagreement among feminist scholars on the topic. Catherine MacKinnon argues that engaging in BDSM necessarily reinforces an unequal social hierarchy of the sexes.3 On the other hand, Lynn Chancer explains that pro-sadomasochist groups such as SAMOIS have asserted that BDSM is a part of “consensual sexual pleasure,” and in non-heteronormative relations, is actually subverting male domination.4 Given the polarizing views of feminist academics on the topic, the possibilities for conflicting interpretations of law can lead to long-lasting ramifications on sexual assault law in Canada. In this paper, I will first provide an overview of the various feminist viewpoints surrounding sexuality, consent, and BDSM. I will then examine the way in which Canadian sexual assault law engages with the concept of consent surrounding BDSM-related activities. In its entirety, this paper will argue that Canadian jurisprudence has developed an anti-BDSM sentiment that dismisses women’s ability to engage in, and consent to, BDSM activities. As such, the Canadian legal system is culpable in 1 2

3 4

Melanie Randall, “The Treatment of Consent in Canadian Sexual Assault Law.” BDSM is a compound acronym: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism. I will use it generally to refer to sexual activities that incorporate a power dynamic that deviates from the ‘norm.’ See M.D. Weiss, “Mainstreaming Kink.” Catherine A. MacKinnon, “Sexuality, Pornography, and Method,” 315. Lynn S. Chancer, “Pornography to Sadomasochism: Reconciling Feminist Differences,” 83.



actively disempowering women; furthermore, by removing women’s agency in making sexual choices, the State is reinforcing a patriarchal and Judeo-Christian view of ‘good’ sexual relations. Feminism has never spoken with a unified voice. Indeed, discord among feminists has led to disputes and in-fighting, sometimes seemingly threatening the movement itself. However, it is important to note that many would posit the diversity within feminist thinking as beneficial and integral to the movement, rather than harmful.5 The feminist sex-wars of the 1980s and 1990s was one of such disputes. Chancer posits that debate among feminists over sexuality, or more specifically, the expression of sexuality during the sex-wars, was between those who emphasized sexist oppression, and those who emphasized sexual repression. As such, both ‘sides’ of the sex-wars sought to subvert patriarchal norms but approached the topic from polar-opposite viewpoints. Chancer argues that these bitter debates highlighted the “split between sex and sexism” in topics ranging from pornography and sex work, to standards of beauty, and to BDSM.6 Those who emphasized sexist oppression focused on the systems of domination which permeate societal institutions and control the lives of women (and men), namely, the patriarchy. Those who emphasized sexual repression argued that women must focus on achieving individual sexual freedom, where the control of the patriarchy lies in the repression of female sexualities.7 BDSM was one of these polarizing topics. Those on the extremities of the split either thought that BDSM and feminism were mutually exclusive, or that kink can be an essential part of a person’s expression of feminism. MacKinnon, whose feminist anti-pornography scholarship is prolific, also argued that sexual acts in which the exchange of power is prevalent, as it is in BDSM, reinforce the socialization of women to enjoy acts that benefit men and uphold the patriarchy. As such, the power dynamics that play out in BDSM are the ultimate reflection of the submissive socialization of women.8 Pro-BDSM feminist groups such as SAMOIS argued that “sexual practices that 5 6 7 8

Chancer, 86. Ibid., 78. Ibid., 80. This is regardless of the genders of the people involved. Rather, it is the power dynamics, and how these power dynamics are represented.



challenge traditional [forms of sex] became a mode of rebellion and personal politic.”9 As I will outline in the next section, MacKinnon’s argument in her ground-breaking article “Sexuality, Pornography, and Method: Pleasure Under Patriarchy” is used by the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) in their factum intervening in the landmark R v Butler case. As such, the ramifications of this debate live on today in the way in which the Canadian state and sexuality interact. In the Criminal Code of Canada, consent with regard to sexual assault is defined as “the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.”10 The following sections dictate the circumstances in which one is incapable of consenting, and explicitly states that an accused’s belief in consent is an invalid defence.11 In the Canadian justice system, the way in which the law is interpreted by jurists is the way in which it is applied (case law). Thus, precedents set by landmark trials can strongly affect future judges’ ruling in similar cases. In the following section, I will examine two cases in recent Canadian history, R v Butler and R v Welch, which tackle issues related to BDSM and explore the ramifications of the precedents set by these cases. In R v Butler (1992), the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Canada’s obscenity laws.12 Though Canada’s obscenity laws may violate freedom of expression, the Supreme Court found that this violation is justified under Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.13 As such, “undue exploitation of sex” was decided to be a “reasonable limit” on freedom of expression.14 In doing so, the Court also defined what would constitute an “undue exploitation of sex.”15 These are materials “that create a risk of harm to society,” including pornography, or otherwise sexually explicit material, that is degrading, dehumanizing, or contains violence.16 Christopher Manfredi explains 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Chancer, 79. Criminal Code, RSC 1985, s 273.1. Criminal Code, s 273.2. While Butler is not a sexual assault case, and rather a Charter challenge of obscenity laws, it does provide useful insight into the way jurists view BDSM. R v Butler, [1992] 1 SCR 452. Criminal Code, s 163; Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 1. Criminal Code, s 163. R v Butler, 454.



that LEAF lauded the ruling as a feminist milestone in its recognition of pornography’s discriminatory effects on women.17 LEAF’s factum, using MacKinnon’s argument, posited that upholding obscenity laws was a form of harm prevention, rather than opting with a traditional morality approach.18 LEAF supported their argument with the reasoning that depictions of violence in pornography translate to violence against women writ large. However, while the Supreme Court does echo LEAF’s harm-based argument in its ruling, the justification is insubstantial at best. Brenda Cossman and Shannon Bell argue that the Supreme Court’s ruling runs a tautological argument in that it justifies public opinion of harm (in the form of the community standards test) as an alternative to morality, when in reality a collective morality is what informs public opinion.19 Tautology aside, there are other problematic elements of the ruling in R v Butler. Despite not being a sexual assault case, the question of consent, or more specifically, perceived consent, was taken into consideration by the Supreme Court in their review of Butler’s seized videos. The Court concluded that, in deciding “whether material is degrading or dehumanizing, the appearance of consent is not necessarily determinative.”20 The Court is establishing that a woman’s consent to certain sexual acts is irrelevant when determining whether those sexual acts are degrading or dehumanizing. While women are not always the ‘submissive’ partners in BDSM relationships, the harm-based reasoning advanced by MacKinnon, used by LEAF in their factum, and accepted by the Supreme Court, argued that pornographic depictions are 17 Christopher Manfredi, Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court Legal Mobilization and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, 78. 18 Manfredi, 78-79. 19 Brenda Cossman and Shannon Bell, Bad Attitude/S on Trial Pornography, Feminism and the Butler Decision, 4; Manfredi, 79-80. It is also important to note that R v Butler epitomizes Mary Jane Mossman’s (1998) argument on the paradox of feminist litigation, wherein certain feminist groups’ successes with the law can eventually become hindrances to equality. As Brenda and Bell explain, LEAF’s achievements in R v Butler had wide-ranging ramifications for the LGBTQ community as stores (notably, the Glad Day Bookshop and Little Sisters Book & Art Emporium) were targeted by police and subsequently convicted of charges related to obscenity for selling lesbian erotica or pornographic videos depicting BDSM. The courts used the ‘Butler harm test’ both to convict, and to uphold convictions. 20 R v Butler, 454.



obscene only when they show a woman being degraded, not men.21 In outlawing certain depictions of BDSM, R v Butler selectively removed the agency of only women to decide what sort of sexual acts are, or are not, empowering. While R v Butler relates only to materials depicting BDSM and not acts of BDSM themselves, it still remains a strong legal commentary on socially acceptable forms of sexuality, and highlights the repercussions for transgressions against public opinion.22 In sexual assault cases where BDSM-related activities are introduced, the Canadian legal system shows a staggering lack of understanding around the intricacies of consent and agency in a BDSM relationship. In 1995, Jeffery Welch was charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm and forcible confinement. The complainant in the case testified that Welch had tied her up, violently beat her, and penetrated her, while Welch, not denying the aforementioned had occurred, maintained that the activities were a part of consensual BDSM.23 The final decision in R v Welch was decided by the Ontario Court of Appeal (OCA); furthermore, it remains the precedent-setting case when dealing with BDSM-related sexual assault in Canada. In its judgement, the OCA found Welch guilty of the charges as the judges asserted that consent is not a viable defense as “a victim cannot consent to the infliction of bodily harm upon . . . herself unless the accused is acting in the course of a generally approved social purpose when inflicting the harm.�24 The OCA referred to R v Jobidon in their decision for R v Welch: the Supreme Court decided in R v Jobidon that in an assault case the consent of the victim in a fist-fight should be considered irrelevant, and thus be unacceptable as a defence, as a fistfight is not beneficial for society.25 The Supreme Court in R v Jobidon set the precedent that one can only consent to harm in certain socially approved activities, such as rough sporting events or medical surgeries.26 Therefore, in its ruling the OCA determined that the crux of Welch is whether sexual activities involving BDSM should be included among 21 22 23 24 25 26

Manfredi, 78. Or, more specifically, public morality. R v Welch, [1995] CanLII 282, 1. R v Welch, 3. R v Jobidon quoted in R v Welch, 33. R v Welch, 33.



activities that are deemed socially acceptable and thus have social value. The OCA decided that it did not with the following: Although the law must recognize individual freedom and autonomy, when the activity . . . involves pursuing sexual gratification by deliberately inflicting pain upon another that gives rise to bodily harm, then the personal interest of the individuals involved must yield to the more compelling societal interests which are challenged by such behaviour.27 One of the cases cited by the OCA is State v Brown, an American assault and battery case that asserted the need to protect the “moral principles of underlying . . . criminal law” by invoking the arguments set forth in Lord Devlin’s book, The Enforcement of Morals.28 The judges in R v Welch used public morality to justify the exclusion of consent as a defence against sexual assault in terms of the ability of a victim to consent to BDSM, yet never set to find out whether they did consent. This remains the way in which Canadian courts handle BDSM-related assault cases, and is indicative of a State intent on regulating the sexualities of individuals, and most often women. This is not, however, the only issue with judgements made in BDSM-related sexual assault cases. Without understanding how consent is given in a BDSM context, how can one understand when it is revoked? In her analysis of R v J.A., Karen Busby concludes that the Canadian legal system is wholly unprepared to adequately negotiate the intricacies of consent and agency in a BDSM relationship. Canadian jurists prove to be ignorant of safe BDSM practices, including the golden rule of ‘safe, sane, and consensual’ and the complex negotiation involved in establishing and withdrawing consent.29 Busby found that in the majority of sexual assault cases involving BDSM, Canadian courts allowed the admission of evidence based in the past sexual history of the complainant, even though Section 276 of the Criminal Code expressly prohibits the 27 R v Welch, 33. 28 R v Welch, 26. 29 Alex Dymock, “But femsub is broken too! On the Normalization of BDSM and the Problem of Pleasure,” 55.



inclusion of such evidence.30 Moreover, in cases where Section 276 was invoked by counsel, the justification for admitting past sexual history as evidence was based in the idea that participating in BDSM is so sexually deviant and incomprehensible that the inclusion of such evidence is crucial for the jury to understand why one would choose to engage in these acts.31 This justification is weak when there have been extensive studies done on the prevalence of sexual sadomasochistic tendencies in the population, as well as the general ‘normalcy’ of BDSM.32 There are also Canadian academics, many of whom are cited in this paper, and prominent BDSM educators, who are able to testify as expert witnesses, should judge and jury need more information about safe BDSM practices. Busby argues that the precedents set by these judgements ignore the carefully negotiated consent that informs every BDSM encounter and is based in the ignorance of the judiciary on BDSM practices .33 This results in a law that is not only misinformed, but inherently demonizing of alternate sexualities. Cheryl Hanna reminds us that “BDSM involves not only the law of sexual consent, but also the law of violent consent. Sex and violence are separate and distinct paths within criminal law, however, and at their crossroads, the doctrine becomes confused and confusing.”34 To provide a quick overview, the courts have established that consent is irrelevant in certain cases involving BDSM, yet cannot comprehend what consent actually looks like in a BDSM relationship.35 Canadian courts are confused, and have produced jurisprudence that is not only confusing, but harmful to women. By the standard the courts have set, the crime effectively is no longer sexual assault, but the practice of BDSM. It is important to note that it is women who are substantially and predominately disadvantaged by the current anti-BDSM jurisprudence as most BDSM-related sexual assault cases have male perpetrators and

30 Criminal Code, s 276. 31 Karen Busby, “Every Breath You Take: Erotic Asphyxiation, Vengeful Wives and Other Enduring Myths,” 352-353. 32 This is perhaps a controversial statement; however, see Weiss, 103-132. 33 Busby, 352-353. 34 Cheryl Hanna, “Sex Is Not A Sport: Consent and Violence in Criminal Law,” 240. 35 Busby, 358.



female complainants.36 Canadian courts have stripped women of their ability to consent to sexual acts they may enjoy or find empowering; yet, they base their convictions of sexual assault on that inability to consent, rather than attempting to determine whether or not consent was given in the first place. Law does not occur in a vacuum. When placed in its social and historical context, the conundrum of how such convoluted jurisprudence could have developed is made clear. In the tradition of heteronormative, patriarchal dominance, women’s bodies are not their own and alternate sexualities are rejected. Kyle Kirkup states that Canada has “a long and misguided history of using the heavy hand of the criminal law to target non-normative sexualities . . . [and a] historic failure to treat gender and sexual violence seriously.”37 In BDSM-related sexual assault cases, the two historic wrongs come together to create disturbing logical fallacies in jurisprudential judgements. This is not a phenomenon restricted to only those in the judiciary, but as Allison Coudert argues, misogyny and contempt for alternate conceptions of sexuality is strongly rooted in Western thought. Coudert makes the link between female subordination and the dualist thought that emerged from the Reformation and Renaissance, rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. These dichotomies inform the relationship between the sexes well into the modern era and continue to play an influential role in the conceptualization of sexuality; namely, the normalization of heteronormative, male-dominated sexuality.38 As such, we are socialized to equate sexual morality, that is, ‘good’ sexual conduct, with male dominance and female submission. A heterosexual BDSM relationship in which the male is dominant and the female is submissive may physically represent the ideal, but perverts male dominance and female submission as the submissive partner holds the power of consent. Jurists and the public consciousness cannot comprehend women consenting to, and indeed deriving pleasure from, relationships that do not fit into a sanitized ideal. 36 Busby, 341. 37 Kyle Kirkup, quoted in Yamri Taddase, “Courts Need to Reconsider Laws Around Kinky Sex.” 38 Allison P. Coudert, “The Myth of Improved Status of Protestant Women,” 65.



Western morality is rooted in a tradition of thought that is misogynistic and patriarchal. Indeed, that fact may be one of very few that feminists can agree upon. The current pervasiveness of Judeo-Christian morality imbued in legal discourse on sexual assault and BDSM serves only to remove agency from women. While law and morality cannot feasibly be extricated from one another, legal discourse on sexual conduct that affords an in-depth examination of power relations and historical conceptions of sexuality would be a true harm-based approach. In making the argument of BDSM as an alternate, non-normative form of sexuality, parallels can be drawn between the regulation of kink and the regulation of other non-heteronormative sexual behaviours. I conclude here by advocating for more comprehensive sex-education, including in law school, to ensure a complete and holistic understanding of safe BDSM practices within the legal system and judiciary. This is in the hope that perhaps latent misogyny can be eroded by the proliferation of non-normative sex education.



Bibliography Busby, Karen. “Every Breath You Take: Erotic Asphyxiation, Vengeful Wives, and Other Enduring Myths in Spousal Sexual Assault Prosecutions.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 24, no. 2 (2012): 328-358. Chancer, Lynn S. “Pornography to Sadomasochism: Reconciling Feminist Differences.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 571 (September 2000): 77-88. Cossman, Brenda, and Shannon Bell. Bad Attitude/S on Trial Pornography, Feminism, and the Butler Decision. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997. Coudert, Allison P. “The Myth of the Improved Status of Protestant Women: The Case of the Witch Craze.” In The Politics of Gender in Early Modern Europe, edited by Jean R. Brink, Allison Coudert, and Maryanne C. Horowitz, 85-113. Kirksville: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1989. Devlin, P. The Enforcement of Morals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965. Dymock, Alex. “But femsub is broken too! On the Normalization of BDSM and the Problem of Pleasure.” Psychology & Sexuality 3, no. 1 (2012): 54-68. Hanna, Cheryl. “Sex Is Not A Sport: Consent and Violence in Criminal Law.” Boston College Law Review 42, no. 239 (2001): 239-290. MacKinnon, Catherine A. “Sexuality, Pornography, and Method: Pleasure under Patriarchy.” Ethics 99, no. 3 (1989): 314-346. Manfredi, Christopher. Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court Legal Mobilization and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2004. Mossman, Mary Jane. “The Paradox of Feminist Engagement with the Law.” In Feminist Issues: Race, Class and Sexuality, 2nd edition, edited by Nancy Mandell, 180-207. Scarborough: Prentice Hall, 1998. Randall, Melanie. “The Treatment of Consent in Canadian Sexual 128


Assault Law.” The Equality Effect. October 2011. Taddase, Yamri. “Courts Need to Reconsider Laws Around Kinky Sex.” Canadian Lawyer Magazine. 14 November 2014. Weiss, M.D. “Mainstreaming Kink.” Journal of Homosexuality 50, no. 2-3 (2006): 103-132. Cases R v Butler, [1992] 1 SCR 452. scc-csc/en/item/844/ R v J.A., 2011 SCC 28, [2011] 2 SCR 440. scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7942/ R v Welch, 1995 CanLII 282. doc/1995/1995canlii282/1995canlii282.html Statutes Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11. Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46.


‘Every woman adores a Fascist’ Holocaust Imagery and Patriarchal Oppression in Sylvia Plath’s ‘Daddy’


Sylvia Plath’s use of Holocaust imagery in her poem, “Daddy” (1966), can be read as both an effective and inappropriate literary trope. The poem explores themes of pain and suffering from the perspective of a female speaker who is caught in a psychologically abusive, patriarchal relationship. To dramatize this experience, Plath uses images of concentration camps, Nazism, and German language to enhance the brutality and harm inflicted upon the speaker’s psyche. Some see Plath—a white, American, non-Jewish writer—as disrespectfully appropriating the event of the Holocaust within her writing in order to develop and strengthen her experience of patriarchal oppression. Other critics, in contrast, see her use of the Holocaust as a justified way of bringing socio-historical ideas and events from private into public consciousness and discourse. However, it is tenable to read this poem as a combination of powerful imagery with inappropriate intentions by the author. I will explore how Plath uses Holocaust imagery in “Daddy” in terms of its relationship to the poem’s overall theme—the psychological effects of patriarchy on the female mind—and ultimately discuss how her choice to use the Holocaust as a metaphor can be seen as both effective in terms of its shock value, and problematic in her comparison of patriarchy to the atrocities of genocide. Plath writes “Daddy” in London in the early 1960s, which is an important time and place in the ongoing revelations of the Holocaust’s atrocities, in addition to the looming shadow of horror and death in post-War Europe. James E. Young explains that during this period, “the events of the Holocaust broke into the public domain and became not just public knowledge but public memory.”1 For instance, in 1962, Adolf Eichmann—one of the Holocaust’s most villainous war criminals known for his brutal and massive deportations of Jews and Roma to 1

James E. Young, “‘I may be a bit of a Jew’: The Holocaust Confessions of Sylvia Plath,” 128-129.



death camps—is tried in Jerusalem and sentenced to death for his crimes.2 With Hannah Arendt’s report of the trial for the New Yorker, the horrors of the Holocaust and WWII return to the forefront of public consciousness, twenty years following its end. It is crucial that we read Plath’s “Daddy” as a confessional work that deals with the effects and experiences of living under a tyrannical patriarch. Plath’s use of Holocaust imagery functions as an analogy to enhance the brutality of the speaker’s experience, particularly in regard to ideas of imprisonment and victimhood. In the poem’s first lines, Plath immediately creates images of restriction and captivity by comparing the speaker’s psychological confinement to living in a black shoe, “In which I have lived like a foot, / For thirty years, poor and white, / Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.”3 These initial lines indicate a sense of control and limitation imposed on the speaker, but they also establish a striking starting point as the speaker leads up to her eventual feelings of being “through” with her mistreatment and imprisonment.4 Additionally, the speaker repeatedly refers to and speaks to her oppressor, “Daddy”, often highlighting the massive effect he has on her life. She describes him as “Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, / Ghastly statue with one grey toe / Big as a Frisco seal.”5 Her oppressor’s despotic and imposing figure clearly continues to reign over the speaker’s psyche. In spite of his rule, she claims her autonomy over her feelings and chooses to sever her loyalty to this figure when she says, “Daddy, I have had to kill you.”6 This confessional work serves as an outlet for the speaker to take possession over her emotions and experiences that have been controlled by this patriarchal figure, particularly by having to “kill” her oppressor and expel him from her inward thoughts. As Plath establishes the sentiment of imprisonment and surveillance in conjunction with the struggle to break free, the speaker transitions into similes and metaphors of wartime and Holocaust imagery. First, Plath incorporates the use of the German language in the words, “Ach, du,” meaning “Ah, you,” signaling a shift into foreign 2 3 4 5 6

Holocaust Encyclopedia, “Eichmann Trial.” Sylvia Plath, “Daddy,” lines 3-5. Ibid., 80. Ibid., 8-10. Ibid., 6.



and historical territory to prove the severity of the oppression she faces.7 The use of German, which she describes in the poem as an “obscene” language, is repeated when the speaker describes her inability to speak to her oppressor when he was alive.8 Plath writes, “The tongue stuck in my jaw. / It stuck in a barb wire snare. / Ich, ich, ich, ich.”9 With “ich” meaning “I”, Plath likens the speaker’s muteness to a grotesque image of a tongue trapped in the barbwire fence of a concentration camp. Again, this stylistic choice draws upon ideas of confinement and restriction in order to demonstrate the inability to communicate her thoughts. Subsequently, the speaker compares her oppressor to: An engine, an engine Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. I began to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew.10 Here, by drawing on the image of Jewish civilians in their deportations to the death camps, she dramatizes her experience of being ordered and controlled unwillingly. In the simile of speaking “like a Jew,” Plath stresses the notion that the speaker has been silenced, and therefore, associates with a community that has also been treated this way. Finally, in two instances, Plath uses the image of a Nazi solider to describe her oppressor, which in turn complicate each other as one describes her attraction to this figure and the other demonstrates how she must turn away from him. Plath writes, “Every woman adores a Fascist, / The boot in the face, the brute / Brute heart of a brute like you.”11 Here, she draws attention to the problem of women being easily manipulated by authoritative men, and how the speaker herself has fallen into this trap. However, she later contradicts this idea, as she claims she must remove herself from her oppressor by “[making] a model of you, / A man in black with a Meinkampf look / And a love of the rack and the

7 8 9 10 11

Plath, 15. Ibid., 30. Ibid., 25-27. Ibid., 31-35. Ibid., 48-50.



screw.”12 Plath illustrates the varying sides of seeing one’s tormentor on one hand as an image of complete terror in the eyes of the victim, while on the other, the alluring, submissive factors of being involved in such a relationship. The images and descriptions of obscenity, obvious abjectness, and the complicatedness of her relationship to authoritative figures contribute to the poem’s overall mood of discomfort and horror. By using the Holocaust as a way to dramatize the speaker’s experience of oppression and victimhood, Plath equalizes the speaker’s suffering and psychological damage to an event of atrocity and mass murder. This notion raises speculation as to whether Plath places more importance on the poem’s shock value than on preserving the memory and respecting the real lived experiences of Holocaust survivors. To an extent, Plath’s decision to use graphic images and metaphors of the Holocaust ultimately makes “Daddy” an effective poem in its ability to create a sentiment of astonishment for the reader. This choice demonstrates Plath’s attempt to connect the speaker’s own psychical pain with the suffering and torment felt by millions of people two decades before her. Young contends, “Plath may have found that rather than merely projecting her pain outward through such public figures, she has actually injected them into the matrix of herself, turning her inner life into a ‘concentration camp of the mind’.”13 In “Daddy”, Plath evidently uses extremes to illustrate the speaker’s emotions, which allegedly share many similarities to Plath’s own experiences with male figures such as her father and ex-husband. By calling on these vivid and severe images of barbed wire and deportation trains, Plath brings an unimaginably atrocious event closer to the experience of the speaker, and consequently amplifies the horrors and atrocities she faces of her own exposure to patriarchal oppression. Young claims, “because the suffering of the Holocaust was not like anything else, it became a referent standard, by which all subsequent suffering was then measured.”14 However, Plath’s decision to use metaphors and similes of mass-deportation, murder, and suffering in relation to patriarchal 12 Plath, 64-66. 13 Young, 136. 14 Ibid., 141.



abuse, ultimately raises questions as to whether this is an appropriate and respectful choice in her writing. It is reasonable to argue that Plath’s use of Holocaust imagery in conjunction with the themes and ideas of patriarchal oppression in “Daddy” demonstrates her manipulation of the inconceivable atrocities of the Holocaust, in order to understand an instance of oppression that is, in reality, conceivable. In other words, one might ask whether the comparison of an imaginable event—that being patriarchal oppression—can in fact be likened to that of an unimaginable event— the Holocaust. Young believes, “the Holocaust exists for [Plath] not as an experience to be re-told or described, but as an event available to her (as it was to all who came after) only as a figure, an idea, in whose image she has expressed another brutal reality: that of her own internal pain.”15 As a poem that seeks to uncover the hurt and suffering of a woman trapped under a tyrannical patriarch, this idea is, in reality, imaginable and relatively active within everyday consciousness, and regrettably, everyday life. The atrocities of the Holocaust, however, were largely hidden from social consciousness, acts of terror were kept behind the closed gates of death camps and ghettos, and consequently, millions of innocent people silently perished. At the time Plath writes this poem, the Holocaust is put under investigation in order to comprehend what had happened and why it happened. In this sense, the experience of the Holocaust and its victims of the death camps and massive deportations is not an event that can be equalized to that of patriarchal abuse. Nevertheless, the Holocaust imagery in “Daddy” allows Plath’s poem to become a powerful, effective work through its ability to instill a sense of discomfort in its use of highly graphic and disturbing imagery. However, though it may be a striking poem at face value, the ways in which Plath borrows from the Holocaust and equalizes its horrors to those of patriarchal oppression is also disrespectful; one cannot possibly find ethical, common ground to relate the atrocities of the Shoah to contemporary, domesticized forms of oppression. This tension at play in “Daddy”, however, calls attention to the fact that poetry, in certain cases, does not have to be respectful or appropriate in order to be effective; in fact, perhaps Plath is aware of this notion while she writes “Daddy”, 15 Young, 128.



and it is through this awareness that she intentionally chooses to create such a tension. Approaching such imagery from a differing source of oppression—that of the patriarchy—perhaps tests the reader’s own psyche as to whether the Holocaust is something one can imagine today, or whether it is an event one can only attempt to understand.



Bibliography Holocaust Encyclopedia. “Eichmann Trial.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 20 June 2014. en/article.php?ModuleId=10005179 Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Edited by Nina Baym. New York: Norton, 2013. 1421-1423. Young, James E. “‘I may be a bit of a Jew’: The Holocaust Confessions of Sylvia Plath.” Philological Quarterly 66, no. 1 (1987): 127-147.


To Make Each Other Feel Good The Trans-Exclusive Sexual World of Futabu!!


This essay includes graphically sexual text.

The Japanese pornographic animated series Futabu!! belongs to a genre of hentai called futanari, vaguely defined as featuring “Chicks with Dicks.” Works belonging to the futanari genre often depict persons who I read as intersex or transgender. To counteract the ways those bodies are stigmatized and misunderstood in both academia and online, I will explore the many definitions of the futanari genre before analysing the first episode of the second series of Futabu!! The series’ use of stylistic choices common to hentai, such as broadly defined characters, shifting between different perspectives, excessive and ridiculous amounts of cum and the use of still images, creates an animated world that empowers trans women in the face of their ongoing dehumanization. To define what the futanari genre is I looked to the website where the series Futabu!! is hosted, Hentai Haven. For the page on the genre, the description is simply “Chicks with Dicks.”1 Comments on the video page for Futabu!! differ from this matter-of-fact explanation. User O_O asks, “wait what is a futanari is it a fake dick?”2 with user100 responding by writing, “No its real. Its sort of a hermaphrodite.”3 The short conversation between these users highlights the two conflicting understandings of what the futanari genre is—are these trans women, meaning chicks with dicks, or intersex people, meaning people with ambiguous genitals? Urban Dictionary, a website where users can freely post their own definitions for slang words, has several definitions of futanari, all of which make use of the slurs “tranny” or “hermaphrodite.”4 On the futanari Wikipedia page it is defined as “the Japanese word for hermaphroditism, which is also used for a broader sense for androgyny.”5 1 2 3 4 5

Hentai Haven, “Futanari.” O_O, September 2015, comment on Hentai Haven, “Futabu!!” User100, October 2015, comment on Hentai Haven, “Futabu!!” Urban Dictionary, s.v. “Futanari.” Wikipedia, s.v. “Futanari.”



Even in academic writing on hentai the question of what futanari means remains open in discussions of non-cisgender subject matter. Marianna Ortega-Brena makes use of both “hermaphrodite” and “imaginary transvestite” in “Peek-a-boo, I See You: Watching Japanese Hard-core Animation.”6 The former is a slur for intersex people, the latter a slur for transgender people.7 In examining the responses to futanari online and to gender-variance in academia, there is no single definition of the genre besides a shared and perhaps unintentional hostility towards trans and intersex people. I have decided to analyze Futabu!! by treating its characters as trans women due to my personal experience as a white, North American queer trans woman. My experience is my bias and affects how I view works of Japanese origin with transgender themes. The word futanari being Japanese and the show being produced in Japan, my analysis will only be from my own Western perspective. With the characters of Futabu!! being read by some commentators as trans women, I will write my analysis of the show by treating them as if they were. I will use trans women instead of “transvestite” and intersex people instead of “hermaphrodite.” There is potential for the series to be analyzed through an intersex perspective, but as a trans woman I will leave that to viewers who are themselves intersex. Futanari, then, will be defined as Hentai Haven defines it, as being about “Chicks with Dicks.” With my personal definition of futanari established, I will argue how Futabu!!, in the first episode of the series’ second season “The Field Trip to the Manra Hot Springs,” uses the stylistic choices common in hentai to create an animated world exclusive to and shaped by trans women. The extent to which Futabu!! does so is obvious in its narrative and its cast of characters, who are nearly all futanari. The plot of the series revolves around the adventures of the Futa Club, a group of futa girls— Ai, Mao, Aya and Sumika—plus their cisgender friend, Akane. Each futanari character has a large penis, but with a vulva underneath instead of testicles. In the first season Akane acts as the audience surrogate who grows to know the other girls. She remains the only non-futanari 6 7

Marianna Ortega-Brena, “Peek-a-boo, I See You: Watching Japanese Hard-core Animation,” 28. GLAAD, “GLAAD Media Reference Guide 7th Edition”; GLAAD, “GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Issues.”



person on the show, but has her friends build her a robotic penis for her to be a futa herself. In “Field Trip” the club visits the hot springs to investigate the Manra festival, which club president Mao suspects is related to futanari. Soon enough, Chie, the master of the hot spring, is revealed to be futanari, taking the semen of the Futa Club to spray on a shintai, an object of worship, to bring about a prosperous harvest. The majority of the dialogue and sex occur between several futa characters, allowing them to have aural and bodily conversations without diegetic questioning or discrimination. Their bodies and genitals, while hidden for dramatic effect in Chie’s case, are for futa people only. As Sumika tells the nervous Chie as she strokes her penis, “our penises exist to make each other feel good.”8 This episode of Futabu!! supports Sumika’s comforting words by making the stigmatized bodies of the characters normal and desirable within a world of those who share the same bodies. The design of the characters in Futabu!! are similar to those in other hentai. Ai, Mao, Aya, Sumika and Akane all feature small noses, large but blank eyes, colourful hair and builds that emphasize their breasts. Their characterizations differ only by broad strokes: for instance, Mao is short and reserved while Aya is tall and boisterous. Ortega-Brena theorizes that “the animated body in general is markedly ‘less human’ than a live film body and therefore far less individualized, wide open to imaginary possession and inscription.”9 In creating characters who are differentiated only by superficial means, viewers can easily immerse themselves in any character. Throughout the episode, point of view shots are used to place viewers directly into the bodies of the futa characters. Chie’s viewpoint is shown most frequently, the narrative focusing on her embrace of girls with dicks just like her. Through her eyes, we see Sumika performing oral sex on her, as well as her spying on the Futa Club having sex in the hot springs. The pleasure Chie and the others feel is announced aloud, making the various sexual acts both aurally and visually present. While their breasts rub together, filling the entirety of the frame, Chie says “Sumika-san’s boobs . . . it’s like they’re sucking onto me” and Sumika 8 9

Hentai Haven, “Futabu!!” Ortega-Brena, 18.



says “Chie-san’s penis is . . . so hot . . .” granting the sexual act power in both senses of sight and sound.10 By presenting their points of view visually and aurally, the potential for viewers to engage in the material is increased. Watching hentai allows viewers to immerse themselves in multiple characters through regular changes in perspective. “While some shots situate us in the privileged positions of spectators,” OrtegaBrena writes, “others give us the perspectives of the participants themselves looking at their own bodies, or shift viewpoints from one character to another.”11 The extent to which Futabu!! can let viewers into the heads and bodies of different characters is limited, however, by most characters being futanari. During a threesome sex scene between Akane, Aya and Mao the sensations of each character are made overt. Various close-up shots of their breasts rubbing against each other’s backs are shown as the characters tell each other of the orgasmic feelings they are experiencing. The individual shots of each character’s genitals, mouth or breasts give multiple viewpoints for how they have and enjoy sex. With the exception of Akane, all the characters in the episode have large penises, so shifting from one character cumming to another shows only the minor character differences between them. With mostly futa characters, sex in Futabu!! is not as diverse as in the hentai Ortega-Brena cites—it is largely for futanari. Furthermore, futanari characters are portrayed as the owners of the spaces each sex scene takes place in, which is demonstrated by the show’s exaggerated use of their semen to drench the frame in white. Often the foaming, titanic power of cumming over the animated world is emphasised through a burn to white. In the previously mentioned threesome, the screen is split in two as the futanari girls’ faces are shown as they moan. Akane is then covered in semen, the force of the cum propelling her backwards from the foreground. The screen burns to white before returning to the scene to show the only cisgender character covered in the futa girls’ white semen. Another burn is used when Sumika makes Chie ejaculate all over the politely decorated interior of the hot springs’ building. The matching whiteness of the transitions and 10 Hentai Haven, “Futabu!!” 11 Ortega-Brena, 18.



the futanari’s cum shows their influence over the diegetic and the nondiegetic elements of the series. Futanari semen in Futabu!! is powerful, both coating the spaces they inhabit and matching the transitions used between scenes. To emphasise its own interest in the futanari characters’ sexualities, Futabu!! uses a storytelling technique common to hentai: the x-ray shot. The x-ray shot, itself a genre on Hentai Haven, is when the inside of a character is shown during a sexual act. Often a penis is shown moving in and out of a vagina before cumming. By showing internal sexual activity in addition to external cues, like characters moaning and covered in semen, a sense of realism is created. Although the characters appear two-dimensional, through an x-ray shot they can be understood to have an outside and inside like our own bodies. In the episode, an x-ray shot is used at the climax of the final sex scene, where Sumika penetrates Chie’s vagina with her penis. When the two cum simultaneously, Sumika’s semen visibly shoots and fills Chie’s vagina as Chie’s cum shoots into Sumika’s penis. Although the movement of Chie’s cum into Sumika’s penis is unrealistic, its visual realisation by an x-ray shot adds a dimension of believability to the imaginary transgender futanari. Additionally, still images are used in Futabu!! to punctuate the sex scenes with concrete examples of the futanari’s comfort in their world. Twice in the episode, photos of the Futa Club pause the action. These transgender-like characters appear shown smiling and having fun in their swim suits, and appear without narrative context. A more audacious still image of the futanari’s domination of their world closes the episode. Bird’s-eye angles of the hot springs dissolve between each other, the audience’s perspective moving above the setting before a visual gag is revealed: the surrounding area creates the voluptuous outline of a woman with the springs themselves creating the shape of a penis in the middle of this woman’s lap. Through this visual gag, the grand extent to which the futanari’s world is shaped to reflect and comfort them is revealed. While the greater audience—both academic and online—are distracted by whether futanari are more akin to transgender people or to intersex people, through my trans woman perspective I have found 147


a trans-centric animated world in Futabu!! The shifting perspectives, exaggerated sexual acts and still images used to depict these “chicks with dicks� all produce a series offering uncommon safety for women with dicks. Put simply, Futabu!! is porn that makes trans women like myself feel good.



Bibliography GLAAD. “GLAAD Media Reference Guide 7th Edition.” New York: Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, 2007. GLAAD. “GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Issues.” Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Accessed December 18, 2015. Hentai Haven. “Futabu!! – Episode 1: The Field Trip to the Manra Hot Springs.” Hentai Haven. Accessed December 18, 2015. http:// Hentai Haven. “Futanari.” Hentai Haven. Accessed March 27, 2016. Ortega-Brena, Marianna. “Peek-a-boo, I See You: Watching Japanese Hard-core Animation.” Sexuality & Culture 13, no. 1 (2009): 17-31.


Afterword: A Consideration of Language and Nuance One step, or two. No more. No exuberance. No turbulence. Otherwise you’ll smash everything. The ice, the mirror. — Luce Irigaray (When Our Lips Speak Together) Academic settings are a realm of remarkably slow change; these institutions idolize and preserve the Western canon and often impose patriarchal values in faculty hierarchy. The dissolving of “academic freedom” is a widely cited fear within the academic community when the power structures within are challenged. This claim insinuates that academia was free to begin with. Free to whom? There is a potent worry of losing the “good days” of higher education. What exactly was so good about those days? And what was so good as to justify the effect of rigid power dynamics that leave so many voices without representation or space within academic dialogue? The nostalgia for academic freedom is itself patriarchal, reflecting a wish to maintain the structure and status of academic institutions that are not free to all, but only to a privileged few. I recognize that I write from a privileged position. I can write these words and work on this journal because I occupy a space that allows me to do so, and because others with essential insight into these discussions have been excluded from the dialogue. From their inception, post-secondary institutions were spaces for privileged white men to study and teach the ideologies of privileged white men. While this status has shifted over the centuries, contemporary institutions are all too similar to their past, as challenging this core of academia is always slow and always met with resistance. These claims have received the feedback from a professor of being too bold, too exaggerated—but I stand behind them. I’ve been told that if I want to have my words and thoughts published I should be more nuanced. My fear here is that nuance can be an effective tool for protecting “the ice, the mirror” that existed for Irigaray more than two decades ago and that still exists for us now; that nuance can effectively maintain the power dynamics that undeniably operate within academic settings to privilege certain voices while continuously disregarding and misrepresenting

others. As someone who spends what feels like most of my time writing (papers, letters, emails) I spend a great deal of time thinking about a conscientious use of language: how I say things, how what I say is perceived by others, how to be polite; how to be self-aware of my words, my thoughts, and how I express myself. I spend a great deal of time wording and rewording my claims, padding them with nuance to avoid being perceived as angry, bossy, or dramatic. While I spend time worrying about the intricacies of language and communication, dialogues that are integral to confronting the systemic oppressions within academia are ignored. While I worry about how to speak in a way that makes all of my professors and peers comfortable, dialogue privileging the underprivileged continues to fall by the wayside in terms of which discussions are deemed important in academic settings. There are countless reasons why this journal exists. This journal exists because when marginalized voices are under- and mis-represented, we notice. This journal exists because at King’s you can take a class on Kant or Hegel without learning about their vicious racism; you can take a seminar on Heidegger without hearing mention of his antiSemitism. This journal exists because certain voices and experiences are constantly privileged over others while this pattern itself is downplayed and ignored. This journal exists because of the cultural process whereby “feminist issues” are continuously removed from the larger framework of academia and relegated to specific disciplines, such as Gender & Women’s studies, while in reality these issues affect all disciplines and should be confronted within a multitude of academic spaces. This journal reminds me that others are also actively combatting nuance and making their voices heard. This gives me hope. The authors of this journal remind me that I’m not alone in making people uncomfortable in order to express things that have to be expressed. Alexandra Trnka, Executive Editor

Contributors Jacqueline Smith is a fourth-year student at Dalhousie University in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She is a double major in History and French and a minor in Canadian Studies. She is from The Pas, Manitoba, and is a band member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Emma Renaerts is a third-year student at Dalhousie and King’s. She is a combined honours student in Contemporary Studies and Sociology, and came to Halifax from Vancouver, BC. As a member of SNARC and the King’s Feminist Collective, Emma spends a lot of time thinking about issues of representation in society and in academia, and is passionate about working against oppression in its many forms. Julia Kennedy is a third-year undergraduate student at Dalhousie University from St. John’s, Newfoundland. She is pursuing a combined honours degree in English and Gender & Women’s Studies, and the crossover between these two subjects has greatly informed her understanding of each, particularly in approaching English literature through an intersectional feminist lens. Bronwyn McIlroy-Young is a third-year student at the University of Waterloo. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in a transdisciplinary program called Knowledge Integration, with a minor in Cognitive Science, and is currently attending the University of King’s College as a visiting student with a focus on Contemporary Studies. Bronwyn’s research interests include gender theory, Feminist Epistemology, and clinical psychology. She writes in the hopes of supporting academia as a tool for social progress. Jonathan Brown Gilbert began his studies in the Department of Knowledge Integration at the University of Waterloo, and is now in his third year pursuing a joint honours in Contemporary Studies at the University of King’s College and Gender & Women’s Studies at Dalhousie University. Jonathan’s research interests include queer theory and continental political thought. He seeks to produce work that supports grassroots social movements.

Gwendolyn Moncrieff-Gould is a fourth-year student at the University of King’s College, majoring in Contemporary Studies and Political Science. Her research focuses on persecution, violence, and genocide, both in Canada and around the world. Gwendolyn currently lives in Halifax with her partner and cat, but still calls Toronto home. Zoe Luba, having grown up in North Vancouver, BC, moved across the country to Sackville, New Brunswick to attend Mount Allison University looking for a change of pace. She has since gone on to (almost) complete an Honours degree in International Relations and will be graduating this spring. She struggles to reconcile her love of learning with the confining, problematic nature of the Ivory Tower, and thus is really glad that publications such as CANON exist. Charlotte Scromeda is enrolled in her second year at the University of King’s College to complete a double honours degree in German and Early Modern Studies. In 2015, she won the Dr. Kathleen Margaret Heller Memorial FYP Prize. Scromeda is currently particularly interested in the connections between philosophy and social history, especially relating to gender. Angela Hou is a third-year International Development Studies and Political Science student at Dalhousie University. She’s from Vancouver BC, and has always had a passion for social and gender justice. She is highly interested in the machinations of the international system and the implications for global civil society in this new age of “development.” She will be continuing into the Honours program in IDS next year and is looking forward to delving into thesis writing. Her research interests are varied, including the relationship between sex-trafficking and the military industrial complex, state regulation of sexual morality, and feminist legal advocacy. She’s also a self-proclaimed feminist killjoy who is unafraid to challenge the status quo. Julia Schabas is in her fourth and final year in the English Honours program at Dal and King’s. Originally from Toronto, next year Julia will pursue her Master’s degree in English at Dalhousie. She is humbled to have her work published in CANON, and is pleased to contribute to the much-needed conversation around gender and religion in art and literature. Julia remains ever impressed and grateful

for the valiant and groundbreaking work achieved by the members of SNARC. Pat Van-Vixen is a film student at the University of King’s College. They are @commonthey on Twitter.


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.