GEND 1006 Webnotes

 Scroll down for more webnotes for Introduction to Gender, Power and Justice.


April 3 2017
Global Politics: Women, tourism and trafficking

Today’s class with approximate times:

  1. Course evaluations 12:30-12:55
  2. Lecture on the readings 12:55-1:40
  3. Break 1:40-2:00
  4. Film: Hope in Heaven (45 minutes) plus discussion of film 2:00-3:00
  5. Distribution of exam study guide 3:00-3:15
  6. Return all papers 3:15-3:20 (review the attendance recorded on your paper and contact me if you believe an error has been made)

Course evaluations! Remember that these evaluations are completely anonymous and will not be returned to your professors until long after the final grades are posted. Also, there are no labs / seminars in this class, so those questions are not applicable to this class.

Objectives and goals:
1. to develop an understanding of the roles that power, privilege and poverty play in travel and tourism (example: the all-inclusive resort)
2. to have a sense of how vulnerable tourism is as a primary income generator for a country
3. to make connections between single, White women’s “adventures” in colonial territories, the transformation of Victorian ideas of femininity, and European women’s roles in furthering British imperialism
4. to have an understanding of debt bondage
5. to have a growing familiarity with the phenomena of sex tourism and so-called “romance tourism”

These readings are intended to take a look at how some privileged women and men get to travel while others cannot afford to travel and may end up serving those who can. This is to get us thinking about how people are connected on a transnational or global level where sometimes one person’s privilege and pleasure comes at the expense of another person’s disadvantaged position. This is most extreme and obvious in the case of sex tourism, but is arguably true of many forms of travel and tourism.

Often the argument is made that those of us who can afford to travel are “helping” the people in the country that we are visiting.

Jamaica Kincaid reminds us that “Most [people] in the world cannot go anywhere… They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go…”

81_Patong_wideweb__430x285 q23

While people who lived in Thailand, for example, were dealing with the “reality of their lives,” and generally couldn’t afford to escape, others travelled there to enjoy themselves and relax.

The tourist does not need to worry about local problems, and as Kincaid says, “That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain.”

Many Canadians travel to all-inclusive resorts and the readings for today are pointing us to think about the power dynamics inherent in tourism. We might ask what is included and who / what is excluded in an all-inclusive resort?

Often the tourists’ fantasy of leisure, safety and fun is premised on: others’ low wages, especially women; these men and women’s inability to travel as a result of their low wages; their exclusion from spaces within their own countries; and even their poverty. Often one person’s ability to travel is premised directly on another person’s poverty.

Cynthia Enloe points out that travel has been gendered in the sense that in many societies being feminine has been defined as sticking close to home. Masculinity, in contrast has been the passport to travel and men are often seen as being truly manly only once they move away from home and strike out on their own. Women who travel are often transgressing against these gender norms.

Enloe describes the history of travel by discussing White European and North American women’s “adventures” in colonial territories. White women travelling abroad was highly unusual and these “adventurers” were simultaneously transforming Victorian ideas about femininity by leaving the domestic sphere, while their travels were used to further the cause of British imperialism. Can anyone remember what these women did to promote colonialism and imperialism?

Enloe writes on page 391, that “the stay at home listeners would develop a sense of imperial pride as they heard another woman describe her travels among their empire’s more ‘exotic’ peoples. And they could expand their knowledge of the world without risking loss of that feminine respectability which enabled them to feel superior to colonized women. Their imperial curiosity, in turn, helped the [white women adventurers] finance [their] breaking of gendered conventions.”

In selling these fantasies of travel, you may have noticed that women are featured quite prominently in tourism ads.

Trade-Decision-M1848_A_X1a jamaica_woman_0

Not only is travel gendered, but tourism advertising often uses women’s bodies to entice the would-be traveler. The copy in this advertisement reads in part, “Women, especially women of Montego Bay, have always helped make our land desirable.” They go on to say that many inns are run by women who will “pamper” you and act as “mistresses.”

These tourism ads are often about selling a tourist destination as seemingly having a “simpler,” more natural way of life that tourists believe that they do not have access to where they are from. Often these ads seem to suggest that the local women are somehow more available and inviting to the tourist than perhaps women in their own country.

In the same way as many travellers justify travelling to poor countries by saying that the locals “need” the money, sex tourists may also have similar ideas that they are “doing a favour” for people who need the money.

In the second article about prostitution in Thailand, Kevin Bales explains “debt bondage.” What is debt bondage? 

How do you get out of debt bondage? 

Why do poor families agree to sell their daughters? 

What else stood out for you in that article?

Growing phenomenon of “romance tourism” for Western women (female sex tourism):

How might the Western gender norm of the “respectable” White middle-class woman fit with female sex tourism or romance tourism? 

What are the gender, race and class implications of “romance” tourism?

Female_Sex_Tourism_Map TIP-Routes-USA-Child-Sex-Tourism-2013

As tourists we often can’t see our pleasure as a product of power where our leisure is often highly dependent on another’s labour and poverty. In reaction to the notion that tourism creates more equality, Cynthia Enloe makes the argument that travel and tourism often actually prop up and maintain inequalities of gender, race, class and nation.

Note: Video is disturbing, especially the section on the casas
Screening: Hope in Heaven, DVD can be found in the Nipissing Education Library Call # TEMP 1476. 43 minutes.

Comments? Discussion.

Distribution of exam study guide. In Section two, question six, “Drawing on Bale” should read “Drawing on Bales…”

Return all papers. I will put all papers that have not yet been picked up in a paper bag hanging from my office door.

March 27 2017
What’s in a label? The gender politics of global production

Announcement: The GESJ Student Collective invites you to go bowling at Partners on Main Street. The event is tomorrow, Tuesday March 28th at 6:30. Bowling is $11.50 (shoes included) as it is an all you can bowl evening. If you will be joining us, please email Fun!

Objectives and goals:
1. to have an understanding of working conditions and workers in free trade zones and in garment factories generally, including: hours of work; health of workers; age of workers; working conditions; and the preference for young, women workers
2. to comprehend how trade liberalization (“free trade”), as well as social, economic and political forces, all play significant roles in escalating violence in Ciudad-Juarez
3. to have a growing understanding of globalization, free trade zones, manufacturing and “the race to the bottom”
4. to have a growing understanding of what maquiladoras are
5. to have a growing sense of how people organize and resist violence, exploitive working conditions and corruption
6. to have a growing understanding of the dangers of working in these factories and the relative benefits that can be gained from working in them.

Let’s start by thinking a bit about our own clothing.

When we check clothes for tags what are we looking for?

What does the label actually tell you?

What else might we want to know that’s not on the label?

We need to think about what the labels don’t tell us, and what we are content not to know.

Today’s readings are concerned with the garment / clothing industry, but we could just as easily ask these questions of any other area of production – food, car manufacturing, children’s toys, computers, and so on.

Dangerous working conditions:

asia-bangladesh bdnewzzz

Human labour made cheap / labour intensive production


What is a global factory?
Examples: The Gap and Apple

Aren’t these factory jobs “better than nothing”?

How is it that labour is so cheap in “developing” countries?

Through trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), global factories are facilitated through reduced tariffs and production infrastructure like Free Trade Zones.

What is “the race to the bottom”?

Most famous of the Free Trade Zones are the Mexican Maquiladoras and the Border Industrialization Program. Maquiladoras were introduced in the mid 1960s to industrialize the border between Mexico and the US. Who owns the maquiladoras? 

Who tends to work in maquiladoras?

Why are these particular workers chosen over others?

In some factories, women are routinely given pregnancy tests. Why is that?

Keeping consumers and workers disconnected from each other is partly the job of marketing, and it is an important feature of branding.

Branding provides us with a whole set of associations with the product that don’t have anything to do with their materiality. Materiality refers here to how and where products are made, by whom, under what conditions.

Brands want to keep us focusing on the brand identity and not on the profits or working conditions.

The relationship between the labourer and the product is also disconnected. How so?

Ciudad-Juarez in Mexico is part of the Border Industrialization Program. The article and film outline a range of issues brought on by globalization, decreasing wages for workers post-Free Trade, low wages for police which leaves them ripe for corruption, no unions, laws against marijuana outside of Mexico, the sexualization of female workers in the maquiladoras, domestic violence as it relates to missing and murdered women, and also the range of men and women who are actively organizing against the exploitation and murder of women within “the global assembly line.”

Juarez is well known for “femicide;” the murder of women because they are women. More than 400 women have been murdered and another 4000 more have gone missing in Juarez since Canada, the United States and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.

In terms of gendered violence, I urge you to pay attention to how and why young women are being sexually assaulted, their bodies mutilated and then they are murdered, while men are being killed in gun crimes related to the drug trade. As Paul Farmer pointed out in his article on Haiti, we see gendered violence with poverty at its root.

What comes through in the video and not in the reading is that men who resisted violence against women were punished.

The number of murders in Juarez is declining rapidly from 3,115 in 2010 (an average of 8 a day), to 2,086 in 2011, to 750 in 2012. Journalists report that this is due to the end of a gang war, a new chief of police, a new mayor in 2010, and the addition of three new high schools and sports facilities:

But the murders continue:

The readings and the film tie the murders of young women in Ciudad-Juarez, in part, to the maquiladoras.

Caution, the video is quite disturbing.

Screening: Hise, S. (Director). (2006). On the Edge: Femicide in Ciudad Juarez. Illegal Art (58 minutes).

Garwood writes, “The sexual violence in Juárez is… embedded in the various linkages between different types of social, economic, and political violence at various levels” (p. 21). What are some of the “social, economic and political” factors that are contributing to the violence in Ciudad Juarez?

Garwood writes, “Maquila workers are a diverse and heterogeneous group faced with complex and often contradictory ways in which the maquiladoras shape their lives. They gain from wages and new forms of independence, while suffering from multiple forms of exploitation” (p. 9). Describe how maquiladora workers gain independence but within highly exploitive conditions.

“Although the rapes and murders in Ciudad Juárez are widely denounced by politicians and police departments, they are done so in a way as to separate them from the daily violence many women endure in their own homes” (p. 13). “Focusing only on public acts of violence allows men who perpetrate gender violence at home (which still constitutes the majority of sexual violence) to distance their own actions from the sexual violence portrayed in the newspapers” (p. 13).

“The creation of ‘sexual subjects’ in the maquiladoras, Salzinger argues, is not distracting from production (as sexual harassment is often assumed to do), but is rather an integral part of the production process” (p. 15). How is sexualization “an integral part of the production process”?

How are women and men organizing in resistance to the murders?

March 20 2017
Nature/Nurture: Sex/Gender Differences in Science and Pop Culture

Dr. Sal Renshaw will join us today to discuss the material presented in “The Gender Trap.” Come prepared to discuss and debate the content of the podcasts.

Take notes and come prepared to discuss:
the biological foundations of sex differences;
sex difference research as presented in popular culture;
neuroplasticity and gender differences;
Kathy Witterick and David Stocker’s decision not to share Storm’s sex with more than nine people in their lives;
and the media “storm” that followed.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Please note that I write your attendance (to date) at the top of your assignments. I calculate them manually and could make a mistake. If you believe an error has been made, please know that I keep all of the signed attendance sheets and we can easily confirm if I have miscalculated.

Assignments to be returned at the end of class.

Learning objectives:
1. to be able to give at least two concrete examples of research into the biological foundation of sex differences that, on closer examination, yields contradictory results which overstate the meaning of those differences e.g. Simon Baron-Cohen and the infant mobile / face recognition experiments; Louann Brizendine’s claims about the biological foundation for why there aren’t more women in politics.
2. to explain why scientific publishing and popular culture tend to pick up on sex difference research that finds innate differences between girls and boys
3. to recognize the ways in which the gendering and marketing of toys is, arguably, an example of “gender apartheid” (The Gender Trap part 1) and teaching different emotional, cognitive and motor skills to boys and girls
4. to have a basic understanding of current arguments relating to “neuroplasticity” and gender differences
5. to have a deepening understanding of the way scientific research is enculturated and reinforces cultural stereotypes about gender
6. to be able to explain three reasons why Kathy Witterick and David Stocker decided not to share Storm’s sex with more than 9 people in their lives



Sex: the categories of male and female; the biological characteristics and properties of bodies placed in these categories.

As we discussed last week, does everybody fit neatly into the categories of male and female?

Gender: the assignment of masculine and feminine characteristics to bodies in cultural contexts.

In cultural contexts” recognizes that different cultures have differing ideas about what is “properly” masculine and what is “properly” feminine, and these characteristics may change within a culture over time.

At the Drag 101 Workshop organized by the student-run Equity Centre we learned about this:

And then this happened…

Lance Bass and “Pants Bass”

“Pants Bass” and “Jenny Fatone” (Jen Gordon) from Pretty NSYNC perform gender, as we all do every day.

What does the podcast tell us about research that says that males and females have different brains?

What are the gender differences seen in babies’ behaviours that scientists now agree appear to be innate?

What are some of the critiques that Lise Eliot raised in relation to Simon Baron-Cohen’s infant mobile / face recognition experiments?

What are some of the critiques that have been leveled against research such as Louann Brizendine’s claims about the biological foundation for why there aren’t more women in politics?

According to the podcast, why are scientific journals more likely to publish research that finds innate differences between girls and boys than research that does not find a difference?

And according to the podcast, why does popular culture tend to pick up on these studies that find innate differences between boys and girls?

What is some of the research presented that asserts gender differences are learned?

Gendered toys and products: Start with some examples


What are the emotions that are cultivated through boys’ toys?

What are the emotions that are cultivated through girls’ toys?

What are the motor co-ordination skills that are cultivated through boys’ toys?

What are the motor co-ordination skills that are cultivated through girls’ toys?

What are the cognitive skills that are cultivated through boys’ toys?

What are the cognitive skills that are cultivated through girls’ toys?

Mediascope, a nonprofit media awareness group, did a study of Saturday morning toy commercials and found that 50 percent of commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness, while none of the commercials aimed at boys referred to appearance.

How might you combine this research on toys cultivating different emotions, motor co-ordination and cognitive skills for boys and girls with contemporary research on neuroplasticity? In other words, what might these different lessons do to our brains?

The gendering of products takes place not only in the dividing up of different items as masculine and feminine, but it also relates to dividing up the same or similar items as masculine and feminine.









And for adults too:















What is neuroplasticity?

What evidence exists that gender differences may arise from a combination of genetics, behaviour and environment (neuroplasticity)?

“One major distinction neuroscientists make clear is the assertion that ‘Brain differences are indisputably biological, but they are not necessarily hardwired. The crucial, often overlooked fact is that experience itself changes brain structure and function. Neuroscientists call this shaping plasticity, and it is the basis of all learning and much of children’s mental development’ (22). Therefore, if we look to the different ways parents raise boys versus girls, we can begin to highlight the significant differences in how their brains develop” (Feminist Philosophy at Rhodes).

How might these arguments inform your understanding of current debates about sex-segregated schools? Are they catering to sex differences between students in helpful ways or creating sex differences between students that may not be helpful?

In relation to the podcasts, what are your thoughts on sex segregated schooling? Or the “crisis” in boys’ education?

What is the story of Storm, the baby?

What are some of the anecdotal examples given in the podcast for how parents, teachers and children have responded to the gender performances of Witterick and Stocker’s three children?

What evidence do Witterick and Stocker provide to support their parenting decisions? 

How do they describe and defend their parenting decisions?

What evidence is mobilized to oppose their parenting decisions?

What evidence does the podcast provide for different sides of this issue?

What evidence do you find compelling and why?

And the media “storm” that followed:

Why did the media focus on gender-neutral parenting? What are the concerns here? What do Storm’s parents say about gender-based bullying?

According to the podcast why are boys targeted for gender-based bullying? And girls? 

You don’t have to look very far to see the effects of gender expectations and homophobia in our society. In Canada, close to 1 out of 3 lesbian, gay and bisexual youth drop out of high school because of homophobic harassment.

A 2009 survey of 1700 students shows that queer youth feel unsafe at school.

Gay and lesbian youth are 3-7 times more likely than straight youth to commit suicide than straight youth.

31% of queer youth say that they are teased or bullied all the time. This is twice the percentage of any other group of marginalized youth that are teased or bullied all the time.

An additional 31% of queer youth experience teasing or bullying most of the time. = 62% of all queer youth!

1/3 of gay students are physically harassed.

1 in six gay youths is beaten badly enough to need medical attention.

Gay teens are 4 times more likely to be threatened with a weapon than straight teens.

What is your sense of the state of homophobia in high schools in Canada these days?

In class screening: Put This On the Map (34 minutes), 2011

Your thoughts on the video?

What terms or ideas about gender presented in the video are new to you?

What about the word queer? What does this word mean to you? Do you feel comfortable using this word? Why or why not?

Were you surprised or not surprised by the stories that you heard? Why?

Coming out is not always a one-time experience. What are some of the various places and people one might have to come out to over time?

Have I taken attendance?

Return papers from last week! At this point in the term, I notice that the excellent papers:
1. demonstrate detailed understanding of the course materials;
2. synthesize the material in relation to other course materials, as in making connections between Newman and Vickers, for example;
3. are often succinctly written and under two pages in length.

March 13 2017
Fixing Sex / Sexing Bodies

Guest Speaker: Dr. Sal Renshaw

No webnotes today! Do the readings!

Jen Gordon and I have worked hard to bring you some great events for International Women’s Week 2017. Please promote these events and put them in your calendars! Everyone is welcome.


Award-winning media and cultural studies scholar, Dr. Amy Hasinoff (Communications Department, University of Colorado, Denver), will deliver the 2017 International Women’s Week annual keynote address from 7-9 pm on Thursday March 9 at Nipissing University in the small cafeteria. The title of the talk is “How to Have Great Sext: Sexting, Privacy and Consent.” Hasinoff is the recipient of the 2016 National Communications Award for her 2015 book Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy and Consent. She analyzes the cultural politics of gender, race, class and sexuality as related to privacy, criminalization and the surveillance of youth sexuality via social media and new communication technologies. Further information about her work can be found at The keynote is open and free to the public, and will be of interest to students, staff, faculty and community members. Book sales and signing will be available after the talk.


In partnership with North Bay Film, we invite you to a screening of the “Best Picture” Academy award-winner Moonlight at the Galaxy Cinemas on Wednesday March 8 at 7:30 pm. This film chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a poor neighborhood in Miami. The official trailer for the film can be seen here: Residence Life has organized a bus for students leaving from the Residence Buildings and Nipissing University main entrance starting at 6:45 pm. The Equity Centre is subsidizing a limited number of $2 student tickets that are available at Residence Front Desks and the Equity Centre (A244a). At the Galaxy, student tickets are $6 and non-student tickets are $10. These can only be purchased on the night of the screening. Given that this is a recent Academy award winner, it is very likely that this event will sell out so come early.

The student-run Equity Center has organized two events for IWW including an Intro to Drag Workshop on Tuesday March 7 at 6:30 pm in A250. This workshop is free and open to anyone, but you need to register at On Friday March 10 at 8:00 pm, The Equity Center will host a Drag King Performance at the White Water Gallery. The performance will feature Canada’s Capital Kings from Ottawa. Sliding scale ($5-$10) tickets are available at the door and all proceeds go toward supporting QTPride on Campus and the GESJ Student Collective.

We hope to see you at the events! Click here for a full listing of IWW 2017 events and here for the poster: 1617 IWW Modern Love LOW RES 23 Feb17

March 6 2017
Introducing Human Rights and Structural Violence

IMPORTANT: Your reading for next week by Newman is at the very end of your reader. It is the only one that is out of order. Next week, we have the return of Sal Renshaw!

I will return your midterms at the end of class. Good work, btw. 

Goals and Objectives

1. to understand the concept of “structural violence”
2. to have a sense of the increasing gap between rich and poor in Canada and its relationship to the “accessibility gap”
3. to have a sense of recent decreases in the numbers of people living in extreme poverty
4. to establish a clear connection between structural violence and poverty
5. to have a sense of how the axes of gender and race intersect differentially with the issue of structural violence and expose certain people to particular risks
6. to be able to answer the question – “What is the world’s greatest killer?”
7. to have a sense of the value of statistics and qualitative research in efforts to work for social justice
8. to have an understanding of all six factors that Farmer suggests are necessary in analyzing and predicting violence and suffering (Farmer, pp 42-43)

Your thoughts on the reading?

Farmer explains how political and economic forces within a country can put its citizens at great risk for poverty, HIV, racism, tuberculosis, high infant morality, low life expectancies, torture, rape and other forms of suffering.

“Social medicine”


structural violence: refers to structural inequalities that deny some people their basic needs. Mary K. Anglin (2010) writes, “Through structural forms of violence persons are socially and culturally marginalized in ways that deny them the opportunity for emotional and physical well-being, or expose them to assault or rape, or subject them to the hazards that can cause sickness and death” (145). 

Citation: Anglin, M.K. (2010). Feminist perspectives on structural violence. Identities, 5 (1): 145-151.

In relation to structural violence and social inequalities, Farmer argues that wealth, poverty and social class are very strong determinants of health, safety, suffering, HIV and mortality rates. I want to start by placing his analysis in a Canadian context.

During the same time period in the 1990s (1993-1998):
prosperous households + $20,000
lower income households – $1,000

Bottom 90% working more weeks and hours in the paid workforce, on average an increase of 200 hours per year, yet losing ground financially.

See for example:

As the income gap widens, the groups most at risk of living in poverty are women, children, single-parent families most of which are headed by women, racial minorities, immigrants and refugees, seniors, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples.

For those left behind, this growing income gap has serious consequences. For individuals and families, adequate income helps to buy food, clothing and shelter, but it also contributes to our health, security and community involvement. The income gap in turn produces an “accessibility gap.”

In terms of structural violence, poor people and working-class people in Canada have poorer health, shorter life expectancies, higher infant mortality rates and more preventable diseases.

Any thoughts on the consequences of the growing income gap in Canada?

Leslie Thielen-Wilson’s guest lecture reminds us of structural violence facing Indigenous women in Canada. We want to place Canada into its larger global context and we have to do so with an awareness of inequalities within Canada.

“the fourth world”

In comparison to other countries, where do you think Canada – in general – stands globally in terms of relative privilege, poverty and human suffering?

According to UNICEF:

1960 – 20 million children globally died before their fifth birthday because of poverty

2007 – for the first time since record keeping began, the number of deaths of young children has fallen below 10 million a year to 9.7 million

Based on the massive improvements made between 1960 and 2007 economists such as Jeffrey Sachs have argued that extreme poverty could be eliminated by the middle of this century.

To achieve this we have to continue to understand the sources of suffering and poverty in order to better transform them.

Paul Farmer illustrates how some people are structurally placed at much greater risk for suffering, poverty and violence. He recounts for us the lives of two different Haitians, one woman and one man. We are going to talk much more about these lives which are marked by tragedy. 

What are some of the experiences that Acephie endures in her short life?

What are some of the experiences that Chouchou endures in his short life? 

Does Farmer think that these people’s lives / stories are unusual or typical in the context of Haiti? What does he say?

 What are some of the cultural, historical, political and economic factors that made these two individuals vulnerable to violence and suffering?

How might you offer a gender analysis of these two people’s lives?

What role does poverty play in both of their lives? How does their poverty ultimately make them vulnerable?

A phrase that is quite common these days is “the feminization of poverty.” Does that sound familiar to anyone? If yes, what do you think it means?

Farmer says that poverty leads women, especially, into “unfavourable unions” (p. 39).

When talking about Acephie’s relationship with the married soldier, Farmer questions the notion of “consensual sex” on page 39. What is he talking about?

“feminization of poverty”

women and homelessness studies in Canada

Farmer is suggesting that race and sex are important to consider, but that poverty and social class are strongly related to mortality rates. What do you think of his argument?

“Agency”: What does this mean?

How might poverty restrict a person’s agency?

Farmer writes that in order to analyze and predict violence and suffering our analysis must:

  1. be “geographically broad” (42) – What does this mean?
  1. recognize that “extreme suffering… is seldom divorced from the actions of the powerful” (42) – What does this mean?
  1. be “historically deep” – What does this mean?
  1. simultaneously consider how “various social ‘axes’” or identities “play a role in rendering individuals and groups vulnerable to extreme suffering” (43, 42) – What does this mean?
  1. recognize that “social factors” such as gender and race, for example, “are differentially weighted in different settings and in different times” (43) – What does this mean?
  1. be not only quantitative (i.e. statistics), but also qualitative – What does this mean? (i.e. life stories, ethnographies)

This week sets up the need to think globally and to come up with global solutions like human rights that seek to minimize human suffering through international law.

What are human rights?

Human rights refers first to the belief that all human beings should have access to a minimally decent life regardless of race, sex, language, religion, political leanings or whether you are rich or poor. And secondly, the enshrinement of these principles in treaties and law.

Human rights begin as moral and philosophical claims.

Moral claims talk about right or wrong actions, what should or should not happen.

Examples: Moral claims that Farmer makes

Overview of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Human Rights begin as moral philosophical claims about what “ought to be” and then can be translated into legal instruments. For example, the moral claim that “people should live their lives free of torture” is written into a treaty and then countries are invited to sign on, ratify and commit to work within their own country to ensure that people will live their lives free of torture. Ideally these ratified treaties are then integrated into national laws.

In Canada, human rights can be seen in various levels of law and governance: UN international human rights treaties; Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (; and provincial or workplace human rights codes.

Within these human rights responsibilities and duties there are “negative” obligations and “positive” obligations.

In the “negative” category are the expectations that states will refrain from certain actions. What do you imagine states might be asked to refrain from in the context of human rights?

Where “negative” obligations require states to refrain from certain actions, “positive obligations” require the state to act. Such as…?

“Positive” and “negative” here are not related to “good” and “bad” but rather negative duties can be seen as “freedom from” state intervention (first generation rights), and the positive duties can be seen as “freedom to” a minimally decent life (second generation rights).

The United Nations rights framework helped to change the Indian Act in Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada said that that the Indian Act discriminated against Indigenous women, but the Canadian government didn’t do anything. So Indigenous women in Canada went to the UN and the UN put pressure on the Canadian government, and it was only then that the Indian Act was changed for the first time.

Human rights are both making significant and positive changes in the world and they are very gently enforced at this point in time.

Have I circulated attendance? Return midterms!

Midterm grading info

Statement of what grades mean:

“80-100% indicates EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE: comprehensive in-depth knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course, fluency in communicating that knowledge and independence in applying material and principles.

70-79% indicates GOOD PERFORMANCE: thorough understanding of the breadth of materials and principles treated in the course and ability to apply and communicate that understanding effectively.

60-69% indicates SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE: basic understanding of the breadth of principles and material treated in the course and an ability to apply and communicate that understanding competently.

50-59% indicates MINIMALLY COMPETENT PERFORMANCE: adequate understanding of most principles and materials treated in the course, but with significant weakness in some areas and in the ability to apply and communicate that understanding.

0- 49% indicates FAILURE: inadequate or fragmentary knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course or a failure to complete the work required in the course”

(Faculty handbook, “Final Grades:”

SECTION ONE – definitions
6 = 100%
5.5 = 92%
5 = 83%
4.5 = 75% 
4 = 67%
3.5 = 58%
3 = 50%
2.5 = 42%
2 = 33%
1.5 = 25%
1 = 17%
.5 = 8%

SECTION THREE – short answer
20 = 100%
19.5 = 97.5%
19 = 95%
18.5 = 92.5%
18 = 90%
17.5 = 87.5%
17 = 85%
16.5 = 82.5%
16 = 80%
15.5 = 77.5%
15 = 75%
14.5 = 72.5%
14 = 70%
13.5 = 67.5%
13 = 65%
12.5 = 62.5%
.5 = increments of 2.5% (you can figure it out)
10 = 50%
9 = 45%
8 = 40%
7 = 35%
6 = 30%


February 13 2017
Violence against women: From domestic abuse to structural violence

Lecture: 12:30-1:30
Distribution of Midterm Study Guide: 1:30-1:45
BREAK: 1:45-2:05 (Return all marked papers)
Guest speaker, Dr. Leslie Thielen-Wilson: 2:05-3:20

Goals and Objectives

  1. To have some familiarity with first and second wave feminist activism around
    violence against women.
  1. To be able to explain the strengths and limitations of the “gender lens” approach in dealing with violence: “When we look through a gender lens, the focus is mainly on male violence against women and children in intimate relationships” (129).
  1. To be familiar with Vicker’s argument that violence is better understood in terms of unequal relations to power than it is when limited to a gender lens approach which leaves out significant variables like race, class, sexuality and structural considerations.
  2. To be able to challenge some of the most tenacious cultural myths and theories about      violence.
  1. To have a growing understanding of how Aboriginal women in Canada are disproportionately victims of violence and to learn about discussions regarding aPublic Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.

The readings for this week were lengthy and when combined with the podcast they were emotionally difficult as well.

Vickers says that mainstream second wave Western feminists have tended to focus on too limited an idea of what “violence against women” includes and what causes this violence.

While women are disproportionately the victims of violence, and men are disproportionately the perpetrators of violence, what are some of the limits of focusing on violence “against women”?

Local example:

Vickers says that mainstream Western feminist definitions have tended to apply the “gender lens.” What does that mean? And what gets left out in those definitions?

Another example of the limitations of early second wave feminist thinking is given by Bonita Lawrence within the Vickers article. She talks about not recognizing herself in feminist definitions of “the battered woman” (229).

According to Lawrence, which women are seen as innocent and deserving victims?

And which women are seen as troubled or undeserving victims?

“Gender lens” definitions may also be limited if they do not take into account the structural conditions that prevent women from reporting violence. Examples:

Other forms of “violence against women” include homophobia, transphobia and class-based harassment. Example:


Many definitions of violence or harassment cannot fully address the ambiguity of various situations. I’ll give you two examples (in class) and you tell me, are these always, never, or sometimes sexual harassment?

An overview of theories of why “violence against women” occurs:

Theories that Vickers is critical of are:

Biological / evolutionary explanations – the idea is that male violence is biologically based and, therefore, part of the natural order of things.
Example: Why Men Rape (2000)
Example: Professor at the University of New Brunswick who claimed “date rape is a natural outlet for the sexual needs of modern men” (Toronto Star, Nov. 9, 1993).

Hormonal-bio explanations: This perspective suggests that male violence is caused by raging hormones, specifically the testosterone surge that occurs at adolescence. This theory is related, of course, to the biological theory above.

Vickers supports and points to the limitations of the following theories (see Vickers Figure 8.2):

Imitation Theory: This is the idea that we form ideas about how to behave and how to solve problems through observing influential people in our lives (point 3 in Figure 8.2).

Sex-Role Theory / Social Constructionist: According to sex role theory / social constructionism, cultural messages that little boys and girls receive about appropriate male and female behaviour help to explain why men are often more aggressive and women are often more passive and submissive in their social relations (point 2 in Figure 8.2).

New theorizing on violence tries to integrate some principles from these latter theories, while incorporating the political, economic and social contexts in which individual behaviour occurs (point 1 in Fig. 8.2).

As Vickers points out violence is a continuum or a spectrum and can take many forms. It can be individual, structural, sexual, even medical, as in forced sterilization, for example.

Violence can involve physical, emotional, verbal, financial, sexual and racial abuse, threats, but also poverty, dispossession of lands.

Vickers says that violence can occur in: relations between groups within a nation; in relations between countries; in relations between government and its citizens; as well as in gendered personal relations.

These are all aspects to consider when we ask the question, what is violence? In general, violence is about power and control and the domination of others especially in unequal contexts.

Look at Vickers Fig. 8.1 (p. 236)

Earlier theories of violence could not fully address violence against women in specific historical contexts.

Example: Report by Amnesty International–The report recounts Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing in many Canadian cities, and puts this situation of violence in a social, political and historical context (uses the “gender lens” but also moves beyond it):

Distribution of Midterm Study Guide

Guest Speaker: Dr. Leslie Thielen-Wilson, Assistant Professor in Gender Equality and Social Justice



February 6 2016
“Our home and Native Land”: Colonialism, Families & the Indian Act

Goals and Objectives

  1. To continue to develop familiarity with the effects of colonization on Indigenous Peoples
  2. Develop a clearer sense of the way the Indian Act, as a legal instrument, has helped to define who is and who isn’t considered to be a “status Indian”
  3. To consider the way key issues like self government, health, welfare and education are inflected differently when we bring a gender analysis to bear on them
  4. To consider how these are issues of concern to all Canadians

Your thoughts on the readings?

The shortest history of “contact” and the Europeans’ arrival in the Americas:

The Americas were not empty when Europeans arrived, but the people who lived here didn’t own the land according to European land titles. According to the Europeans, a land that was empty or “belonging to no one” (by their standards) could simply be acquired by “peaceful settlement.”

Brief summary of the fur trade (recall last week’s readings) and the decline of the fur trade.

By the mid 1800s, the fur trade declined. The fur trade had been the main industry for Europeans and First Nations people together, but agriculture became the new economic plan for the Europeans.

Suddenly First Nations people were no longer an asset for European survival and industry and instead they were considered to be an obstacle to the development of agriculture and capitalist industrialization. From the mid-19th c. on, British policies and practices become oriented towards disenfranchising First Nations peoples.

Does anyone recall what’s significant about 1867 in Canadian history?

What were the implications of this “significant event” for First Nations peoples?

The Indian Act defined who was legally an “Indian,” how someone could lose status as an “Indian,” and how “Indians” could be enfranchised – meaning they would no longer be “Indians” but rather fully “civilized” citizens of Canada.

Who is considered “an Indian” under the Indian Act?

How could status be lost?

How was this act unfair to First Nations women in particular?

What contradictions can you see in the Indian Act regarding “Indian blood”?

Bill C-31, which was passed in June, 1985 to amend the Indian Act and make it less biased against Aboriginal women, did not end discrimination against Indigenous women. Does anyone know how it continued to discriminate?

Who is Sharon McIvor?


What did you learn about her this week?

“On December 15, 2010 Bill C-3: Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act received Royal Assent becoming effective January 31, 2011. This bill ensures that eligible grand-children of women who lost status as a result of marrying non-Indian men will become entitled to registration (Indian status).”

What did residential schools do, or try to do, to First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities and cultures?

(Above) Dr. Mike DeGagne, current President of Nipissing University. Dr. DeGagné was the Executive Director of
 Ontario’s Aboriginal Healing
 Foundation, a national Aboriginal
organization dedicated to addressing the legacy 
of Canada’s Indian Residential School System.

What was the “sixties scoop” and how did it relate to the closure of residential schools?

What were some of the reasons that Social Services gave for taking Aboriginal children from their homes and from their people?

Here are some updates. Dr. Cindy Blackstock is the Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFC). “A member of the Gitksan Nation, Cindy Blackstock has worked in the field of child and family services for over 20 years. An author of over 50 publications, her key interests include exploring, and addressing, the causes of disadvantage for Aboriginal children and families by promoting equitable and culturally based interventions.” The FNCFC, “along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint against Ottawa with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in February 2007.”

In January 2016, after many years the Human Rights Tribunal ruled that:

“… the federal government’s funding model and management of its First Nations child and family services ‘resulted in denials of services and created various adverse impacts for many First Nations children and families living on reserves.’ The decision says the government must ‘cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it.’ It calls for the redesign of the child welfare system and its funding model, urging the use of experts to ensure First Nations are given culturally appropriate services. The decision also compares on-reserve child welfare to the residential schools system, where ‘the fate and future of many First Nations children is still being determined by the government.’ It recommends increasing funding and support to allow First Nations to deliver their own child welfare.”

Quotation above from:

Here Cindy Blackstock offers some further updates:

There has been a lot of resistance on the part of First Nations peoples to colonization and cultural genocide. Hunter writes about Aboriginal self-government as a part of that resistance.

Hunter writes: “In its most basic sense, Aboriginal self-government expresses the desire of Aboriginal peoples to control their own destiny.” Contrast this statement with the Indian Act.

Hunter argues that as plans for Aboriginal self-government move forward, patriarchy (i.e. referring here to the hierarchal privileging of males over females) needs to be actively challenged within reserves, bands and new self-government policies.

She says that women need to be considered and more involved in the direction of Aboriginal self-government so that all future policies reflect issues of concern to First Nations women.

As Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said about Sharon McIvor’s fight against the gender discrimination in the Indian Act, “The Anishinabek salute Sharon’s determination and courage, but she is swimming against a very strong tide. Gender discrimination is a way of life in Western societies – women hold few positions of major responsibility and are paid much less on average than men for doing the same work. Other nations can learn from how First Nations are trying to create equality for all our citizens in the laws we want to govern our affairs.”

January 30 2017
Social Justice and Families

Apologies, I had to find a new link for the second article:

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Complicate the notion of ‘family’ in Canada and consider the ways in which this term is implicitly premised on colonial and gendered roles.
  1. Get a clearer sense of how European ideals about family and society have been imposed on Indigenous peoples since colonization: assimilation by marriage and cultural genocide, residential schools, child welfare (but we will focus on this much more next week).
  1. Get a clearer sense of how historical and even current immigration policies manage people’s relationships and our collective understanding of family. Consider the effects and even the economic benefits of these policies which often enshrine cheap or free labour.
  1. Develop a clearer understanding of the notion of systemic discrimination and systemic barriers.

Your thoughts on today’s readings?

The reading relies implicitly on a very traditional Western understanding of the family. Please describe that family.

What is the role of the wife in this model of the family? What is the role of the husband?

Who usually works the “double shift”? (see the charts and graphs on Unpaid Work in your reader)

This domestic labour is so closely tied to the role of females in society that they often perform this work without getting much in the way of acknowledgement, praise or thanks (i.e. “invisible labour”).

In-class example: Wendy moves out – “invisible” labour is revealed

Work that is done in the home is often not considered to be valuable or even skilled, it is “just” the work that women do.

This is not in any way, to undermine the work that “breadwinners” do, but rather to say that they are lucky in the sense that, at the very least, their work is both recognized, valued and compensated. Your thoughts on this analysis of paid and unpaid labour?

The fact that work in the home is often seen as unskilled and this has often translated into poor pay for child care workers or domestic workers, who do so-called “women’s work” for pay.

The reading for today is meant to get you thinking about how the Canadian government has idealized this traditional version of the heterosexual, nuclear family but has worked very hard to limit who can actually have this type of family.

Throughout the 1800s and the 1900s, who was encouraged to have this type of family?

According to das Gupta, what did European Canadian colonizers do that disrupted and prevented First Nations, Inuit and Metis families and communities? (Hint: There are many examples, not just one.)

In keeping with the Europeans’ strong belief in their own superiority, European Canadians wanted to guard Canada against people who might “detract” from, or “lower” the “high standards” of the Western world. It was fine to allow people in to do Canada’s labour, but this did not means that they could stay and make themselves at home.

Under the Canadian immigration act who was prevented or discouraged from having access to this traditional nuclear family? (Again, there are many answers, not just one.)

These are some of the ways in which Canada has tried to interfere with the formation of non-White families in Canada. The reading also doesn’t mention that the Canadian government restricted interracial couples.

We can see how the labour of non-White people has been central to the establishment of Canada. These people were regarded by the state as good enough to build up Canada, but were not always allowed or encouraged to settle here and build families and communities. The Canadian government worked hard to foster White, traditional, two parent families and to make Canada a White country.

Gendered Aspects of Immigration:

Today’s immigration to Canada is based on a point system based on language skills, education and employability. According to Das Gupta: “Most women from the working-class and from racial minority group would never qualify to immigrate on the basis of such criteria as they lack access to the required training. Thus, when women have come to Canada on their own, they have done so as ‘unfree’ labour, as slaves, domestic workers, or seasonal farm labourers” (166).

Because women’s access to money, to education, valued skills, training and employment is restricted in many of their home countries, males have greater currency and social capital with which to apply to immigrate. Women are often forced to marry in order to be able to immigrate, again limiting women’s life choices.

It’s not mentioned in the article, but how have gay and lesbian families been prevented and discouraged?

Often we like to think of “families” as private, having nothing at all to do with the state or the government, but in fact, the family is a significant point of regulation where some families are encouraged and others are prevented from forming.

The Canadian government has actively tried to prevent this “traditional” version of family from even occurring in many Indigenous families, non-White families, and between same-sex couples as well.

Finally, I want you to be aware of the role of gender in immigration where women have been allowed in primarily as wives and daughters, or to do domestic work that is considered specifically “women’s work.” Gender powerfully shapes access to immigration and the opportunities available to newcomers once they arrive in Canada.

Further, for those of you who are planning to go on to jobs in areas related to Gender Equality and Social Justice or to major in GESJ, this article is useful in helping you think about how certain families have been interfered with and prohibited from forming and we still see this legacy today in politics, government policies, immigration, social work, law, education, and newcomer resettlement. If you know this history, you can better understand the present.

Have you signed the attendance sheet?

Next week: Families, the Indian Act and gender equality

Remember that you must use the readings for next week!

Assignment 1
CBC Interview with Dr. Pam Palmater:
Listen to the audio:
AND watch “Child Welfare Unfair to First Nations” interview with Dr. Pam Palmater on The Agenda with Steve Paiken, TVO. 29 Jan 2016.

  1. What impact has losing (and regaining) Indian status had for Indigenous women and their children, both male and female?  What impact has it had on First Nations communities?
  2. How do current and historical practices of the Federal Child and Family Services impact Indigenous families? What other systemic oppression can this be connected to?
  3. What is the government’s goal of “purposeful, chronic underfunding” of First Nations child welfare, according to Dr. Pam Palmater?


January 23 2017
Focus on Early Feminism: Appeals for Women’s Rights and Civil Rights in the 1800s

Events: The Department of Gender Equality and Social Justice and the Office of Student Development and Services present International Women’s Week 2017. 

The annual Gender Equality and Social Justice Lecture for 2017 is titled How To Have Great Sext: Sexting, Privacy and Consent and will be delivered by Dr. Amy Hasinoff, Department of Communication, University of Colorado / Denver on Thursday, March 9, from 7-9 pm. Location: TBA

Learning outcomes

1. Introduce the “first wave” of the Western Women’s Movement / Feminism
2. Provide an analysis of how race operated within the “First Wave” of feminism in the U.S.
3. Contextualize historically: the Enlightenment, Colonialism / Imperialism, the rise of Western science, the rise of Liberalism (not the political party)
4. Consider the intersections of race and sex in equality movements particularly through Truth, hooks and Douglass.

A few quick callbacks from last week:

1. Bell writes, “Identifying unmarked and unacknowledged norms that bolster the power position of advantaged groups is an important strategy for examining … forms of oppression” (7). What does it mean to identify unmarked and unacknowledged categories?
Example: white

2. Bell points out how categories tend to group together people who may have very little in common. In relation to Latino/as in the United States, she writes: “On one level, they thus could be said to share a common group experience of oppression in a historical U.S. context, and, indeed, this is often the basis for political organizing across different groups self-named as Latino/as. On another level, their experiences are so divergent as to have little in common at all except when compared to the experiences of non-Latino/as” (9).
Example: LGBTQ people

3. In relation to race, she writes: “The concept of racial formation has become an important analytic tool (Omi & Winant, 1986). This concept is useful for thinking about the ways in which racism is constructed and reconstructed in different contexts and periods. It works against the tendency to to essentialize current social relations as given and encourages ideas about alternative ways to frame and understand human relations against systems of oppression” (7). What does this mean? How does it relate to the word “racialized”?
Example: categories of race shift and change over time

4. An important measure of class is cultural capital. What is cultural capital?
Example: education; travel; language; food

5. Bell uses the word “trannies” on page 10 and this is an example of in-group language that those outside of the group are discouraged from using.

6. Allies: Bell reminds us that “[t]hose advantaged by the system have an important role to play in challenging oppression as well. Throughout our history, there have always been advantaged people who used their power to actively fight against systems of oppression … those who are advantaged need to understand the role they play in maintaining the system and contend with the high moral and societal costs of privileged status in an unequal system” (13). Understanding our own privilege is essential to social justice.



Bell stresses the importance of understanding history in order to better envision and strive toward social justice. Today’s readings offer one such example.

Your thoughts on the readings for today?

Today’s readings offer four different views of the “First Wave” of Western feminism. What are the four different perspectives?

These four perspectives can help us piece together an understanding of the early Women’s Movement in the US.

We need to start with some history leading up to today’s readings:

The Enlightenment and the Rise of Western Science –

“The Age of Discovery” –

The “Great Chain of Being” and the “science” of race and sex –

What does it mean to colonize?

settler-states / settler colonialism

What kinds of “scientific” evidence were used to create this hierarchy of beings? What do you think about this science?

Western thought was defined by dualisms / binaries that were implicitly hierarchical:
self / other
white / non-white
man / woman
civilized / savage
rational / emotional or irrational
culture / nature

What does it mean to say that Western scientists used science to “naturalize” beliefs they already held about women and non-White peoples?

What are the main beliefs of Liberalism?

We can see these Liberal ideas represented in documents such as the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…” and so on.

Liberalism and the Declaration of Independence put forth ideas about individual rights and freedoms, equality and justice. But, in practice, these ideas of all men being created equal really just applied to who?

The theory of Liberalism did not fail women and non-White people, but rather the practice did, and as we see in the readings today these marginalized groups eventually used the ideas of Liberalism to argue that they too were entitled to individual rights, freedoms and equality. We see these Liberal ideas come up in the first feminist collective declaration arguing for the rights of women – The Seneca Falls declaration, and later in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

As you may know from your readings, one of the first collective documents of first wave Western feminism is the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions from the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. What inspired this declaration?

Were these women using the language of Liberalism? If yes, how so?

These women were especially concerned with “suffrage”? Does anyone know what suffrage is?

What other rights were these women looking for when they met at Seneca Falls?

When these women were saying, we believe that “all men and women are created equal,” which women do we now know they were referring to?

While these White suffragettes used this rather misleading approach they didn’t invent it. Where else was this approach used, where saying “all men are created equal” never really meant all men?

What was going on in 1776 that might tell us that the U.S. government didn’t really believe that “all men are created equal”?

Similarly, when these White women stepped up at Seneca Falls and said “all men and women are created equal,” we can see that many of them didn’t really mean that either. How do we know that they didn’t really mean it?

These women were passionate about White, middle-class women’s oppression, and they were also passionate about White women’s superiority over non-White men and women. Modelling themselves off the already hypocritical use of the Declaration of Independence, these women used their Whiteness to try and gain rights. Rather than saying genuinely “all men and women are created equal” they were actually trying to use their privilege to say White men and women are created equal, and we need to stand together at the top of the hierarchy with Black men and women, “foreigners” below “us.” Any comments on this strategy?

How does the second article by Frederick Douglass demonstrate a very different approach to the same issue?

Which approach would you say is preferable?

It is important for us to realize that hypocrisy–saying one thing and doing another–is probably present in every social justice movement that has ever occurred.
Ex. When “women” won the vote in Canada.
Ex. The signing of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

No Social Justice movement is without contradiction, but they still accomplish great things. In learning about these histories we can choose to use coalitional approaches like Douglass and Truth, rather than competitive approaches like the White suffragettes.

What are your thoughts on the article describing the speech by Sojourner Truth?

Truth’s speech pointed out how White women and Black women were treated very differently in society, and then asked the question, “Ain’t I a woman?” Like Douglass, Truth is fighting for women’s rights, but seeing them in a broader matrix of power that sees Black women as women.

Below is a link to actress Alfre Woodard reading Truth’s speech:

bell hooks says that White women who worked against slavery, may well have been racists. According to hooks, how does that work – being a racist who opposes slavery? What do you think about that claim?


She argues that even after “manumission” in the U.S., which means the end of legal slavery, White women still sought to differentiate themselves from Black women. What does she mean by that? How did White women seek to differentiate themselves?

Recall Bell and the concept of “internalized dominance.”

The hooks article gives examples of “internalized oppression” as well.

 These articles, and this history, offers us an important practical lesson by reminding us that we always need to pay attention to these moments where asking for individual rights means stepping on someone else’s back to get there.

My friend Derek Neal in History bought me this book…


Next week sex and gender within families and the role of families in the formation of Canada.

January 16 2017
Equality and Social Justice: Definitions, Perspectives & Examples

Sal will be here for the whole class. Yay.
No high school students. Tear.
Leanne Simpson coming to campus! What what?

The overall goal for today is to familiarize you with some of the theory (and the language that goes with that theory) that shapes academic understandings of power and privilege, and then to give you the opportunity to put that theory to work by applying it to actual practices in the world.

Learning outcomes:

  1. To have a working definition of social justice
  1. To be able to identify and explain the key features of oppression. Specifically, the following:

a. Pervasive
b. Restrictive
c. Hierarchical
d. Complex, Multiple, Cross-Cutting Relationships
e. Internalized
f. Shared with Distinctive Characteristics of ‘isms’

  1. To begin to identify and explain the categories of oppression used in your readings including racism, sexism and classism.
  1. To begin developing an understanding of key concepts and ideas related to social justice and equality.
  1. To have the opportunity to apply the theory to an analysis of the podcast by Jim Gates and the film Crash. 

To set the stage for social justice as a response to oppression, I will to start this class by talking about the Civil Rights Movement in the US. This movement was inspired by social movements against imperialism globally and – as explained in the reading – it inspired many other social movements in the West. This is also the larger context into which our theoretical physicist and storyteller, Jim Gates, is speaking.

What do you know about the Civil Rights Movement in the US?

What does the article for today tell us about the Civil Rights Movement in the US?

Black and White Segregation


Working definition of social justice drawn from Bell:

As Bell writes, social justice is both a goal and a process. This is another way of saying that social justice is a theory and a practice (praxis).

One of the goals “is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs” (p. 1).

Another goal of social justice education is “a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable” (p.1).

Another principle is that all people “are physically and psychologically safe and secure” (p. 1).

Social justice also often envisions a society where “individuals are both self-determining” and “able to develop their full capacities” (p. 1).

Being self-determining is one thing, that is being free to make decisions for yourself, but social justice education also hopes that individuals will also be “interdependent.” This means that they will be “capable of interacting democratically with others” (p. 1).

Does anyone know what the word “agency” means in this social justice context?

To bring this back around to where we started, a goal of social justice is self-determination and another way of saying that is the ideal that we would all “have a sense of [our] own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others” and the society as a whole (p. 2).

Switching now to some aspects of the process for attaining the goal of social justice, many theorists agree that a “power with” approach should be used, rather than a “power over” approach (p. 2).

These are some of the goals of social justice and we will continue to learn about them throughout the course.

Toward being able to identify and explain the key features of oppression:

DEFINITION OF OPPRESSION: A system that maintains advantage and disadvantage based on stereotyped social group memberships. Operates on individual, institutional, and social / cultural levels.

Why does Bell prefer the term “oppression rather than discrimination, bias, prejudice, or bigotry” (3)? 

IN HER ARTICLE BELL SUGGESTS THAT: Oppression results in disadvantage for targeted groups and privilege for advantaged groups.

Privilege = Unearned, unasked for, often invisible benefits and advantages not available to members of targeted groups. Examples? 

She goes on to explain that OPPRESSION IS PERVASIVE:

Levels of social injustice:
1. Individual acts of prejudice, ignorance, hatred (intentional and unintentional)
2. Institutional policy, practice, norms (intentional and unintentional)
3. Cultural assumptions, norms, practices (intentional and unintentional)

Where can we see examples of this in the podcast?

OPPRESSION IS RESTRICTIVE – Where can we see this in the podcast?



Bell writes, “Identifying unmarked and unacknowledged norms that bolster the power position of advantaged groups is an important strategy for examining … forms of oppression” (7). What does it mean to identify unmarked and unacknowledged categories? 

Bell points out how categories tend to group together people who may have very little in common. In relation to Latino/as in the United States, she writes: “On one level, they thus could be said to share a common group experience of oppression in a historical U.S. context, and, indeed, this is often the basis for political organizing across different groups self-named as Latino/as. On another level, their experiences are so divergent as to have little in common at all except when compared to the experiences of non-Latino/as” (9).

In relation to race, she writes: “The concept of racial formation has become an important analytic tool (Omi & Winant, 1986). This concept is useful for thinking about the ways in which racism is constructed and reconstructed in different contexts and periods. It works against the tendency to to essentialize current social relations as given and encourages ideas about alternative ways to frame and understand human relations against systems of oppression” (7). What does this mean? How does it relate to the word “racialized”? 

An important measure of class is cultural capital. What is cultural capital? 

Bell uses the word “trannies” on page 10 and this is an example of in-group language that those outside of the group are discouraged from using.

OPPRESSION IS COMPLEX, MULTIPLE AND CROSS CUTTING (see above): If I were to ask you to identify where you fall within this matrix, the vast majority of you will find yourselves falling into categories that are privileged and categories that are oppressed.

Where can we see this in the podcast?


Dominant groups may internalize their own dominance (for example, they may come to believe that they are more intelligent) and marginalized groups may internalize their own oppression (for example, they may come to believe that they are unintelligent). Examples? 

Where can we see internalized oppression in the podcast?

Allies: Bell reminds us that “[t]hose advantaged by the system have an important role to play in challenging oppression as well. Throughout our history, there have always been advantaged people who used their power to actively fight against systems of oppression … those who are advantaged need to understand the role they play in maintaining the system and contend with the high moral and societal costs of privileged status in an unequal system” (13). Understanding our own privilege is essential to social justice.

SHARED AND DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF “ISMS” – While Bell is generalizing about “shared characteristics” (they are all pervasive, restrictive, etc) of “isms” (racism, classism, etc), she is also pointing out that each “ism” is distinctive from the others. They are not interchangeable.

Any questions or thoughts on these characteristics of oppression? 

In understanding these “defining features of oppression” we can be more informed and begin to have a shared framework and language for understanding and talking about oppression. We can also see that advantage and disadvantage are not innate to a group, but rather are created and re-created in our daily lives and our social institutions.

As Bell explains, oppression depends on socialization into systems of belief that mask injustice and promote “common sense” rationales for accepting social injustice as part of the natural order, the result of meritocracy, hard work, or individual talent.

The claim above reflects the theory of hegemony that Bell discusses on pages 10 and 11 of her article. She writes, “Gramsci put forth the idea of hegemony to explain the way in which power is maintained not only through coercion but also through the voluntary consent of those who are subjugated by it … Through hegemony, a dominant group can so successfully project its particular way of seeing social reality that its view is accepted as common sense, as part of the natural order, even by those who are in fact disempowered by it … Hegemony helps us understand power as relational and dynamic, something that circulates within a web of relationships in which we all participate, rather than as something imposed from top down … Through hegemony we understand that power operates not simply when persons or groups unilaterally impose their will on others, but rather through ongoing systems mediated by well-intentioned people who, usually unconsciously, act as agents of oppression by merely going about their daily lives” (10). Let’s try to figure out what this means. If you don’t understand it today, do not worry. It will become clearer over the term. 

key elements: power of dominant group is maintained; non-coercive and not imposed from top down; voluntary consent of non-dominant groups; power operates through ideas that circulate and get naturalized, even accepted as “common sense.”

Importantly, hegemony is never complete. Ideas can always be changed.

Finally, Bell outlines some assumptions she and other social justice theorists make about social justice education:

1. Determining a hierarchy of oppressions is not helpful.
2. All forms of oppression are interrelated.
3. Challenging oppression benefits everyone.
4. Fixing blame helps no one.
5. Challenging oppression is everyone’s responsibility.
6. Challenging oppression is painful and joyful.
7. We can each help to effect social change in our spheres of influence.
8. The more we know about ourselves, the more effective change agents we can be.