Five women from the Faculty of Law are making waves in the legal community and engaging with important feminist topics that are often forgotten about, or taken for granted. In their blog, Ms. Suffragette, they encourage us to remember hard working feminists that came before us, as well as meditate on current cultural discourse with a critical lens.
Ms. Suffragette is the collective pen name that Kate Andress, Leri Koornhof, Venessa Korzan, Kathleen O’Driscoll and Nicole Watt write under. These five students are enrolled in a Faculty of Law course called Law and Social Media, where they are responsible for creating and maintaining a daily blog about a topic of their choice.
They chose feminism: writing about the efforts of past feminists that paved the way for a continual fight for equality to this day. Kate Andress discusses that they selected Ms. Suffragette because they wanted to celebrate the commemoration the 100-year anniversary of the first several provinces permitting women to vote, as this is a pinnacle landmark for the occurrence of feminism in Canada.
She explained that four women and her have the freedom to write on any topic pertaining to feminist rhetoric: they’ve written about historical topics such as the Magna Carta that occurred 800 years ago, or more contemporary topics such as the Jian Ghomeshi trial and the internet prevalence of Roosh V — an extremist, misogynistic man that started an internet movement to legalize rape on public property.
“We hope to grow public awareness about groups in society and to create conversation, or to at least get people to take away a bit of information they didn’t know,” explains Andress.
Address elaborates that although substantial progress has been made since the time of the Suffragette’s, there are still significant, damaging sexism and gender assumptions that still exists.
“It’s damaging when people say ‘we don’t need it anymore.’ They see that in law, women have achieved equal status and they think that it translates that women are treated equally — end of story — but protective legislation can only go so far.”
Ms. Suffragette seeks to diversify their selection of content by engaging in the intersectionality of feminism, and unveiling discrepancies within Canada that are not often talked about. Andress criticizes the government and their legislation that treated Aboriginal men and Aboriginal women as different classes.
“Women who lost their Indian Status through the Indian Act faced more barriers getting that status back. And First Nations women who married a white man lost her status, whereas First Nations men who married white women, held onto their status and the women gained status as well,” Andress says.
One of the most prominent topics that Ms. Suffragette seeks to address is self-reflection, and garnering an appreciation for the hard work for women’s rights that came before us by the women of the Suffragette movement. She discusses how it is important to not forget that Suffragettes fought for decades to get the right to vote. She points out that if you look at the dates, it was only 100 years ago when women were enfranchised women in those provinces; or that in Quebec, women did not receive the vote until 1940.
“It is not a relic of the past as much as people think, and it is absurd that only 100 years ago, the most fundamental democratic necessities was not given to half of the population,” Andress says.
Andress reinforces that as people, we must push for positive social change and acknowledge the change that must occur in present day.
“Rape and gender myths that are still held by people today, educated people. We really need to be aware of them and talk about them if we want to push for change like Suffragette’s did 100 years ago.”