Category Archives: Contributor

A Tale of Two Sex Crimes: Douglas, Ghomeshi, and Process in Sexual Assault

By Esther MendelsohnPrison Massacre

T’was the best of times for sexual predators, t’was the worst of times for the women upon which they prey.

A female judge faces removal from the bench for an incident involving nude photos which were shown and distributed online without her knowledge or consent. She has been the subject of a pernicious and protracted inquiry for over two and a half years. Meanwhile, in the Twitterverse, Jian Ghomeshi’s fans and supporters are decrying the supposed lack of due process in his termination from the CBC.

Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas has been at the centre of a nude photo scandal that has rocked the Manitoba judiciary for over four years. Her trespass? Allowing her husband to take nude photos of her. Her husband, Jack King, who was also a lawyer and has since passed away, then showed the photos, without her knowledge or consent, to a male client in a bid to entice him into having sex with his wife—again, unbeknownst to her. After Justice Douglas was appointed to the Manitoba bench, the client claimed Mr. King’s actions constituted sexual harassment and filed a $67 million law suit and a formal complaint with Canadian Judicial Council, but settled for $25, 000 with a promise to destroy and never distribute the photos. He then proceeded to distribute the photos.

Before the scandal broke, and leading up to her appointment, Justice Douglas duly disclosed the existence of the photos to the appointment committee. In fact, it was a well-known secret. She is now being accused of not disclosing this fact and of altering her personal diary when she learned of the inquiry.

The inquiry, set up by the CJC, has been plagued with accusations of bias and mass resignations. The new panel consists of three senior judges—all male. Delays and debates about costs have characterized the inquiry, and there seems to be no end in sight. Even though the panel has admitted that the allegations are weak, they insist on marching on.

Now the panel wants to see the photos. To show them again, even to the panel members alone, would be a gross infringement on her privacy, a fresh violation of her sexual integrity, and utterly irrelevant to the matter at hand. The main problem with her conduct, ostensibly at least, is that she allegedly tried to cover up the existence of the photos. (Even if she did, she did so in the context of a society which devalues women’s work, misunderstands and misrepresents women’s sexuality, and simultaneously sexualizes and objectifies women while demanding they remain chaste.) Seeing the pictures will not elucidate any proof of whether or not Justice Douglas disclosed their existence.

d94c413b2ec88423f558371620452b62   The chill effect is glaringly obvious. How are we supposed to have a representative bench (and bar) if a female judge is being lambasted for things she chooses to do in her private life which harm no one and have absolutely no bearing on her ability to adjudicate cases? 

Can we not trust a woman who takes nude photos? Why not? If the issue is framed as being whether the public believes this judge can decide a case impartially, we are essentially harnessing women’s success to their sexuality and our perception of their abilities to their personal choices. We are once again putting women’s lives and careers at the mercy of society which still has an overwhelmingly distorted view on women, their sexuality, their abilities, and their collective character (as though such a thing exists). 

Every day, brutal sexual assaults go unreported or under-punished, perpetrators often acquitted on technicalities or because of society’s distorted view of women. But when a female judge is linked to nude photos (leaving aside the troubling fact that she is the victim of cyber sexual harassment/assault), the system will leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of “justice”.

To be sure, the standards to which judges are held are higher than those to which media personalities are held, and that is just as it should be. It is also true that the type inquiry of which the still Honourable Justice Douglas has been the subject and the criminal proceedings which could face Ghomeshi are quite different. The point of comparison, however, is the extent to which processes are used and abused when the subject of the process is a sexual offence.

While the inquiry into Justice Douglas’s personal life has been marred by prejudice and driven by discriminatory beliefs, Ghomeshi has set the agenda even before any charges have been laid. Ghomeshi, in a show of keen media acumen, got everyone talking about BDSM. Only those  familiar with BDSM and those familiar with the issues surrounding sexual assault were able to see the Facebook diatribe for what it as—a distraction. He has also been using litigation to silence his victims and confuse and pressure the CBC into ignoring allegations against him.

Windsor Law’s Professor David Tanovich suggests in a piece published by The Globe and Mail that if lawyers suspect a lawsuit is frivolous or an abuse of process, they are precluded from taking it on, as per the Law Society’s Rules of Professional Conduct. Ghomeshi is represented by a union and any disputes with his employer must therefore go to arbitration, so money, restoring his good name, or being reinstated cannot possibly be his end game in filing suit. Rather, by suing the CBC, he is attempting to silence victims and any manager who dares to intervene in workplace sexual harassment. 

Much of the discussion surrounding the Ghomeshi scandal and the still-unfolding sexual harassment scandal emanating from the Hill, has coalesced around the question why don’t victims come forward

The question is predicated on the assumption that there is a process for redress and that this process is just. But the process can be manipulated. Despite decades of reform, the old tropes can still be found in judgments and in the media’s dissection of a case. Everything from the point of reporting communicates to victims that they should never have reported in the first place. The knowledge that the police will likely not believe you, the embarrassing examination in chief, the excruciating cross examination, the abysmal conviction rate, the farcical sentences, the demonization for being the person who ruined his career—there are plenty of reasons not to report. And if those reasons are not enough to dissuade victims from reporting, the fact that the process itself can be abused to suit the ends of the perpetrator probably will.

Society’s distorted view of women and sexuality allows people to use the system for ends utterly counter to our notions for justice. Ghomeshi using a lawsuit to silence victims and prevent intervention by managers, a blackmailer suing the victim of cyber sexual assault, a judicial inquiry conducting a witch-hunt against a victim and attempting to dictate the acceptable gamut for women’s private lives are just a few recent examples. There is certainly a process in sexual assault cases, but it seems to serve the perpetrators, not justice.

(Since this article was originally published, ACJ Douglas agreed to retire early in exchange for the CJC staying the inquiry. An open letter was written by the author of this article and was signed by hundreds of law students, professors, and lawyers across Canada and the US:

 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1k4iXC46yKCK0ZeLord7pvWFCNsuT1wAIiZ-S8TgDg54/viewform?edit_requested=true

The CJC issued a response which can be found here:

https://www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca/cmslib/general/Douglas_Docs/CJC%20letter%20to%20Ms%20Mendelsohn%202014-12-10.pdf

This article was originally published in The Orbiter Dicta . Esther Mendelsohn is a second-year student at Osgoode Hall Law School.)



Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Sexual Assault and the Law in Canada

by Esther Mendelsohn 

College-Rape-Petition-Image_-via-genderuniversity

One in every four women in North America will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime. Only six percent of assaults are reported to police, less than half of those result in criminal charges being laid, and only one quarter of those end in a conviction.[1] And yet, the myths surrounding rape persist, and it is all too easy to forget that behind every statistic is a victim whose world has been shattered.

The Conundrum

In Canada, the laws pertaining to rape have evolved over the years, becoming among the most progressive in the developed world. Canada is the only country to have a rape shield law which includes the complainant’s sexual history with the defendant (in other words, a victim’s sexual history with the accused does not exempt the latter from prosecution). In 1983, The Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) was amended to include marital rape. By that time, there were already limits vis-à-vis the cross examination of rape victims, particularly as it pertains to sexual history, and requirements for informal corroboration and recency were also abolished. In the 1991 Seaboyer case, then Supreme Court Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé noted in her reasons that evidence that a complainant was a prostitute is irrelevant and prejudicial. In 1992, Parliament clarified the definitions of “consent” and “mistake of fact”, and expanded the list of circumstances when consent does not exist as well as defences which do not apply, such as extreme intoxication.[2]

To be sure, there have been criticisms of the new laws, especially against the renaming of “rape” as “sexual assault”.[3] Some say that the new nomenclature is watered down, and therefore makes it easier to dole out lighter sentences, even though the purpose of the new terminology was to emphasize the violent nature of the crime.[4] These criticisms, however, are misdirected. It’s not just about what we call it, it’s about how we’re dealing with it—or more to the point, not dealing with it. For some looking on from the sidelines, it would seem that our criminal justice system takes drug offences more seriously than it does sexual assault, despite what the law says.[5]

The Root of the Problem

Defence Attorneys

A successful Ottawa lawyer, speaking at a seminar said that “if you destroy the complainant in a prosecution…you destroy the head. You cut off the head of the Crown’s case and the case is dead. My own experience is the preliminary inquiry is the ideal place in a sexual assault trial to try and win it all… you’ve got to attack the complainant with all you’ve got so that he or she will say I’m not coming back in front of 12 good citizens to repeat this bullshit story that I’ve just told the judge.”[6] It’s no coincidence that the violent imagery in his words mirrors the violent nature of sexual assault, and the scenario he describes traumatizes many survivors and deters other victims from seeking justice. When a complainant is questioned by police and cross-examined on the stand, he or she is forced to relive the trauma of the assault and the feelings of shame and guilt are compounded.  It would seem that while we have enshrined the principle of an accused being innocent until proven guilty, we have also enshrined the opposite principle with regards to victims of sexual assault.

Judges

            When Alberta Court of Appeal Judge John McClung acquitted Steve Ewanchuk of raping a 17 year-old girl, he noted that the defendant’s actions were “far less criminal than hormonal”, adding that the victim “did not present herself [to her attacker] in a bonnet and crinolines”. Ever the crusader for justice and equality for women, Justice L’Heureux-Dubé, found hers being the lone voice decrying McClung’s comments in her reasons for overturning the acquittal. She correctly noted that, by McClung’s logic, men would never be held responsible for sexual assault so long as they could prove they were under the influence of their hormones.[7]

            But Justice McClung did not accept the ruling or the Justice’s comments. In an unprecedented move, McClung wrote an open letter published in the National Post, where he accused Justice L’Heureux-Dubé of a “graceless slide into personal invective”—comments obviously predicated on the notion that women are overly emotional and unable to separate the personal from the professional. It seemed as though McClung himself was sliding gracelessly into personal invective, but he did not stop there. In what can only be called a cruel ad hominem attack, McClung said that the rise in male suicides in Quebec (the province from which Justice L’Heureux-Dubé hails) could be attributed to feminism and opinions such as those held by the former Justice. He claimed not to know that her husband had taken his own life only a few years prior.[8] Our judicial system demands, and indeed, has institutionalized civility amongst lawyers and judges—opposing counsel even refer to one another as “my friend”; Justice McClung’s letter not only exposed his own misogyny and hostility towards women, it also fell short of the standard of civility to which lawyers and judges are held. (This is the same Justice McClung who analogized homosexuality and sexual assault in the Vriend case, and yes, he is related to the Canadian suffragette Nellie McClung, who is, no doubt, turning in her grave.)

            These are sad examples of the problem in our country. The laws are clear, and they are progressive; the problem lies primarily with the bar and the bench. Women are discouraged from reporting sexual assault because they know they may not be believed or that their experience may be trivialized. They know they may be viciously cross-examined—and who could blame them given the fact that defence attorneys feel empowered to metaphorically send the victim to the guillotine on cross examination. They know that convictions are rare, which will only exacerbate the feelings of shame and guilt so common among victims of sexual assault. Female lawyers and judges brave enough to speak out against the underlying sexism amongst some of their colleagues know they will likely be labelled irrational or radical, and the outcry from male barristers and judges is simply not loud enough.

 

Preliminary General Solutions

Having more women on the bar and bench is an important step in creating just laws and just decisions. It is important to recognize, however, that this must happen in tandem with male lawyers and judges standing up and challenging the way in which sexual assault is trivialized in our judicial system.

Educating the Lawyers & Judges

Lawyers are required to complete a certain number of Continuing Professional Development hours each year. Programs which deal with ethics are eligible, but not mandatory. It is my humble submission that courses on ethical lawyering in sexual assault cases should be mandatory for the entire criminal bar. Defence attorneys must understand the legal and ethical limits of mounting a defence in a sexual assault case, and must be held accountable when they cross the line in court. Prosecutors must be able to recognize and effectively deal with inappropriate questioning by defence counsel. Judges must understand the unique nature of sexual assault and its effect on the victim, and the pain of reliving the assault on the witness stand. We must obliterate every rape myth from our judicial system, and work to apply our laws and procedural rules more effectively. Educating lawyers and judges is crucial, and cannot be left up to the goodwill of individual practitioners.

Giving Victims a Voice

Many think that the prosecutor, or the Crown, is the voice of the victim in a sexual assault trial. The Crown must prove the elements of the crime, while the defence, though not legally obligated, usually chooses to raise reasonable doubt as to the Crown’s position. The Crown is not the victim’s lawyer, and is not even officially tasked with securing a conviction, but must rather seek justice and represent the entire public. So who, then, gives the victim a voice in court? Professor Larry Wilson of Windsor Law has suggested that retaining independent legal counsel may encourage more sexual assault survivors to come forward and may mitigate or prevent some of the issues victims face when encountering the system. Legal Aid should be expanded to provide services to victims of sexual assault.[9] Unfortunately, LAO’s (Legal Aid Ontario) coffers are already strapped, but the general notion of giving victims a voice in the proceedings should guide our approach to sexual assault prosecution.

Wilson also notes that victims have come to be seen as mere witnesses, and nothing more; they are no longer parties to the proceedings.[10] Witnesses, although usually integral to each side’s case, simply provide pieces of the puzzle—they tell the police and the court what they saw or know. Parties to proceedings, on the other hand, play active roles and carry the case. While the rationale behind removing the victim as a party to the proceedings (namely that the complainant no longer has to bear the financial burden of prosecuting their attacker nor the burden of proving the elements of the crime, etc.) is understandable, the victim should not be allowed to languish in ignorance as the case proceeds, but rather be kept informed by the police and Crown every step of the way as a matter of policy and not discretion (as would be perfectly legal for police to do, as long as victims of sexual assault are not considered parties to the proceedings). Currently, because victims are not parties to the proceedings, there is no law or rule on informing the victim about developments in the case.[11] Given the nature of sexual assault and that it is essentially an attempt by the attacker to take power away from the victim, victims should be empowered in court and given standing during the proceedings, beyond the passive role of simply testifying and giving a victim impact statement.

A Separate Court Circuit

Christine McGoey, one of the most accomplished and impressive women on the bar, and Toronto’s first female head Crown Attorney, pioneered the domestic violence courts—a court circuit dedicated to domestic violence, where a special team of experienced crown attorneys are assigned to only those cases. A similar model—sexual assault court, may also offer another possible solution. Seasoned and specially trained crowns would handle sexual assault cases and would appear before specially trained judges. Since the evidentiary rules in sexual assault cases are already quite progressive, the specially trained judges would know to apply them without fumbling and would be empowered to balance the rights of the accused with those of claimant. By focusing on the Crown and judges, this approach does not interfere with the ability of the defence to provide answer to the charges against the accused.

Public Legal Education & Access to Lawyers in Times of Crisis

The legal profession is slowly waking up to the fact that maintaining the knowledge and information in the hands of lawyers alone is an untenable situation. To that extent, public legal education initiatives in different areas have emerged, usually in partnership with community organizations, and are, generally, succeeding in democratizing the access to legal information and empowering people to know their rights. Having lawyers on staff at rape crisis centres and women’s shelters would go a long way in empowering survivors to come forward or at least in helping them to make informed decisions. Lawyers doing education programs in high schools might be a good way to nip rape myths in the bud and teach young people about consent and the consequences of sexually assaulting another person. I have outlined several different suggestions which together may provide a solution, because a problem so serious and so complex necessitates a multi-tiered approach.

Concluding Thoughts & Points for Further Reflection

            The justice system should be thoughtful and analytical in its approach to remedying this problem, but thoughtfulness and analysis should not lull us into forgetting the urgency of this problem. It is indeed one of the most pressing issues in our judicial system today. That our society does not prioritize the bodily integrity of women has ramifications for both women and men. For women: we will not be able to fully realize our autonomy as individuals if we continue to live in a society which persists in its adherence to rape myths. We will never be respected as individuals until we are respected as a collective. We will never be able to feel completely safe until our safety and bodily integrity are as important to society as that of men or as that of victims of other crimes. So long as sexual assault victims are suspected of lying, and so long as those suspected liars are primarily women, both the men and women of our society will retain the notion that women have a lesser authenticity and that questioning their honesty is both natural and a prudent course of action. For men, the ramifications may not be as obvious, but they are certainly just as serious. Men cannot hope to be complete, compassionate, and rational individuals unless and until they accept the humanity in the other, in this case, women, and critically examine the fallacies that are rape myths as well as their implications. And neither women nor men can fully trust or respect a society and a judicial system which do not prioritize the bodily integrity of members of a certainsub[u1] group.

I encourage you all to find ways to break the myths surrounding sexual assault and to find the tools and perspectives unique to your profession or academic background which can bring us all towards a more just society. As a law student, I see things through the unique lens of the law, and both my perspective and approach to finding solutions are necessarily informed by legal reasoning. Lawyers enjoy a privileged position in society and have the power to effect change. We have helped create and perpetuate some of these problems, so it is only fitting that we do what we can to fix them. Indeed, lawyers can play a role in all of these solutions, and I call upon my classmates and future colleagues to do just that.

 

 

Special thanks to Professor David Tanovich and to Professor Donna Eansor. Prof. Tanovich inspired me to explore this topic, and taught me much of what I know about the law and perhaps even feminism. Professor Eansor lives feminism every day and leads by example.    


[3] While I have no issue with either term, for the sake of consistency, I will use “sexual assault” almost exclusively from this point on, because it is the current legal term. 

[5] An example of this is the fact that the new mandatory minimums apply mostly to drug-related offences, as well as sexual offences involving victims under the age of 16, but do not apply to the sexual assault of those over 16 years of age. Recently, a disgraced anesthesiologist was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting 21 female patients who were sedated at the time; that is less than 6 months per assault. http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2014/02/25/dr_george_doodnaught_gets_10_years_in_jail_for_sex_assault.html The new mandatory minimum sentences bill imposes a sentence of at least six months imprisonment for growing a certain number of marijuana plants.http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/Parliament/LegislativeSummaries/bills_ls.asp?ls=c10-04&Parl=41&Ses=1#a16

[6] “Victims of Sexual Assault: Who Represents Them In Criminal Proceedings?”. Wilson, Larry.http://www.lsuc.on.ca/media/eleventh_colloquium_wilson.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] Legal Aid does not currently provide services to victims of sexual assault, nor are victims required to retain the services of an attorney. In Ontario and Manitoba, legal assistance is provided for victims making a publication ban (medical and psychological records) application to the court.

[10] Wilson, Larry. “Victims of Sexual Assault; Who Represents Them In Criminal Proceedings?”http://www.lsuc.on.ca/media/eleventh_colloquium_wilson.pdf

[11] Ibid. As Wilson points out, there is a “Victim’s Bill of Rights”, but the “rights” are not enforceable and this is not an actual law, but rather a set of guiding principles. It falls on the individual officer or Crown to keep the victim informed, and unfortunately, these guidelines are not always adhered to, often as a result of heavy caseloads. There is a need for consistency.

It’s A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow! Just Not Today. Never Today.

by Kat Letwin

I know you get asked this a lot, but: I’d like you to picture a timeline that encompasses the entirety of human existence.

Geological_time_spiral

Kinda like this.

On the left-hand side  of the timeline is the appearance of Homo habilis (2.3 million years ago), the “yesterday’s classics” to “today’s hits” in the KISS 92 FM world of human evolution. I once saw a silverback gorilla that looked hauntingly like my paternal grandfather, so I’m picturing that as Homo habilis, even though it’s not scientifically accurate to do so. On the right-hand side of the timeline is us, today, right this very second. I’m picturing us, today, right this very second, and it’s scientifically accurate to do so.

It was only 200,000 years ago that archaic Homo sapiens, inventors of fire and more fire, gave way to anatomically modern humans, inventors of Motown and physics. In the context of the timeline, that’s so close to the present moment, it’s like we became people just about a decade ago. Which means women were legally recognized as people (in Canada) about a second ago. Which means we, as collective ten-year-olds, are flailing like ragecrying idiots while trying to adjust.

Let’s delve deeper into the timeline; let’s get waist deep in 12th century England. Now, I’m no historian, but here’s how I’m pretty sure it would go down if you were a woman:

One night, your dad and some guy named Snug the Joiner, who he met at the local tavern last week, run into each other at the local tavern after a hard day of being a dad and a Joiner, respectively. They get drunk together. Your dad starts gambling, which he knows he shouldn’t do because the drought’s been wreaking havoc on the crops. Your dad quickly starts to lose, because he never learned how to play dice, and he never wants anyone to find out. He gets further and further in debt to Snug. Your dad offers the farm. Snug is not interested in the farm, because it’s the worst farm in town. Your dad gets an idea and blacks out for a couple hours. The next morning, your dad and Snug barge into the room you share with your brothers and sisters, whom you’ve taken care of since your mother died last spring in a birthing accident. Just before your father pukes all over little Seamus slumbering away by the cookpot, your dad tells you,

“Myne dotter! myne Progenie! Thou shalt be joiynt to this -”

And he points to Snug the Joiner, but starts laughing pretty hard when he remembers Snug is a Joiner and he just said joined, and then the vomit comes with a bracing force. You don’t say anything, but it’s not just because Snug is the worst Joiner in town, it’s because someone has to get all that vomit off Seamus before the stench of pure alcohol seeps into his pores. You worry about who will be there to do that once you’re given away. Snug smiles at you, but smiling can wait – after all, you have your whole life ahead of you to figure out how to smile at your new husband.

That doesn’t happen so much when you go back to the future, or “Back…to the FUTURE!” as Christopher Lloyd once said during his guest appearance on Spin City. Upon returning to 21st century (in Canada), things are markedly better for women as a whole: we vote, we have access to birth control, we can keep our money, and we’re far less likely to die of anything plague-related. Yet, despite such progress into the furthest reaches of the right-hand side of the timeline, the idea of women being in control of their own bodies is still, to us, today, right this very second, kind of mind-blowing.

For fourteen years, I went to Catholic school in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, and Catholicism – as we all know – is firmly rooted in humanity’s past. It’s not uncommon to hear the Bible referred to as an historical text, and in a sense, I do believe they’re right. I think the Bible captures the time period in which it was written in a stunning fashion. In any other book, I would simply find this fascinating and leave it at that; but when we’re dealing with a text that purports to be the perfect word of God, then the social norms of millenia ago– especially those regarding gender– take on a real world, present day immediacy.

Every year’s curriculum, junior kindergarten to the very last year of high school, included mandatory religion classes. From Gr. 1 until Gr. 8, Family Life classes introduced us to the idea of sex and marriage. The two classes were inextricably intertwined. I was taught that marriage was a sacrament, a holy bond between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation. I was taught that fallopian tubes were called fallopian tubes, the vagina was called a birth canal, and the clitoris was called absolutely nothing at all. I was taught that I was expected to marry a man. I was taught I was expected to bear children. I was taught that God wanted me to make this prospective man and these prospective children the centre of my life. Above all, I was taught that I could never fulfill God’s plan for me if I didn’t save my virginity for my husband like it was the last shrimp on the cocktail glass.

“What if I don’t get married?” I asked my Gr. 7 teacher.

“Then I guess you’re never having sex.”

“But why?”

“It’s in the Bible.”

It was a tiresome answer to a pressing question. Since I considered myself to be a full human being with a fundamental right to the truth about my body and sexuality, I ignored what I was taught and decided to learn on my own. My school’s library in both elementary and high school had very little in the way of non-religious resource material, which wasn’t a huge surprise, so my parents helped me purchase what amounted to a personal library over the course of several years. I had books about puberty, sex, feminism, queer positivity, and erotica; this was balanced by books about the history of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and atheism. I discovered that what I was being taught in my Catholic school was rooted in a dense, tangled history of misogyny and oppression, and that the Word of God could change drastically depending on the kind of Bible one read (for reference, my school always used the popular and problematic King James Bible, which was first published in 1769). If there was no definitive Bible, and if we were all talking about the same God when he was called Yahweh or Allah, then how could I silently accept “It’s in the Bible” as an answer? I said as much in class. I also said that what we were being taught about our lives and our bodies was wrong. I was told, more than once, I was going to hell.

I suppose I wasn’t too surprised when questions from my classmates – shy questions, curious and scared questions – started popping up like so many newly discovered boners that tented the pants of their religious upbringing. Here are some of the answers I remember giving:

1. No, your vag won’t stretch and sag if a dick’s been in it. No, not even if it was big.
2. No, not every girl is born with a hymen, and some girls naturally break their hymens doing crazy things like gymnastics. Or horseback riding. Or standing there and watching your friend’s brother try and fail to do an ollie for like twenty goddamn minutes.
3. No, you can’t get pregnant from a dildo, unless it is leaking with viable semen, which I’m genuinely hoping isn’t the case.
4. No, girls don’t orgasm from putting in a tampon. Girls tend to orgasm if you rub her clit the way she likes it.
5. No, you didn’t “ask for it” if you didn’t ask for it. Oh my God, that’s never the case.
6. No, abortions aren’t more likely to kill you than heroin. But giving birth is more likely to kill you than an abortion.
7. No, your vag isn’t disgusting. Your vag isn’t a flower. Your vag is a vag, and it’s awesome thpompiere way it is, and whatever has (or hasn’t) happened in there doesn’t affect your worth as a human being.
8. No, I’m not promoting sin.
9. No, you’re not a slut.
10. Yes, you’re a good person.

And these, but for the grace of small rebellions, were not a part of our education.Because human progress is slow. Maddeningly slow. It can feel like a sluggish, inexorable slog towards the future of spaceships and holodecks and complete and total egalitarianism we’ve all been writing fanfiction about, but let’s put it this way: in the context of the timeline you imagined at the beginning of this whole thing, women have only been people for a second, and already we’ve done some incredible things to push ourselves away from the bulk of history that precedes us. For example, I wasn’t stoned to death in the hallways of my high school, nor did my dad sell me into sexual slavery for a minor profit before I caused too much trouble. Which is great! It’s nice to not be killed or enslaved, I think most people can agree on that.

But does that make us equal? Does that mean we did it, we finally did it, and we’re totally all on the same playing field?

Hell no. The thing about experiencing the timeline as we humans do – day to day, month to month – is that we’re still enduring the residual effects of hundreds of thousands of years of both externalized and internalized oppression. It’s an almost incomprehensible amount of time and discrimination to digest and shit out of our collective butts, because human society is constipated with kyriarchy. Things are better now than they were, but how long can we be content with finding true equality tomorrow? Tomorrow isn’t today. Tomorrow is never today. It’s not too much to ask. The fight for freedom from stigma and oppression continues – and must continue – until our timeline finally breaks even.

Kat Letwin sometimes writes and mostly performs theatre and comedy in Toronto, ON. Follow her on Twitter (@letwinka) if you’d like to know when her friends are doing cool stuff.