IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

H&M’s 2016 Autumn Collection: a step forward for feminism?

Begüm Elif Yılmaz, University of Manchester

A recent H&M film advertisement for the fashion company’s 2016 Autumn Collection has been the centre of attention for feminists on the web in recent weeks. The ad seems perfect on the surface. With the song “she’s a lady” playing in the background, it is made up of footage of a host of ‘real’ women enjoying their lives. The apparent aim of the advert is to challenge people’s understanding of what being a lady really means and to celebrate those women who do not conform to the gender standards of society. In short, the advertisement highlights the important idea that all women are still women regardless of what they look like, where they come from, what they do and how they do it. It includes a trans woman, a woman in a restaurant picking her teeth with her fingers, a curvy woman in her underwear comfortably admiring herself in the mirror, a woman with an unshaven armpit enjoying junk food, a woman with a shaven head, a strong executive directing a meeting, a proud androgynous woman who would traditionally be ridiculed for her so-called “masculinity”, an older woman and a woman in an empty subway spreading her legs. These women come from various backgrounds, making the advertisement not just a feminist one, but also one that adds a broader diversity element to the conversation. Challenging the societal norm that women can and ought to only have a specific look and possess a certain collection of traits, this advertisement seems to reflect a deeply progressive presentation of modern women. Almost all women have been warned at least once in their lives for doing something “inappropriate” because it is “unladylike”, and as such the new advert’s overarching theme seems to be largely positive.

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IB imageXiyu Zhu and Adeline Chow are two undergraduate students at Durham Law School. Here they review a seminar given by Professor Alex Sharpe in May 2016.

Professor Alex Sharpe from Keele University addressed sexual offence prosecutions based on “gender fraud” in the context of cis-trans sexual intimacy in her recent talk at Durham University. In the seminar, organized by GLAD (@DurhamGLAD), she discussed successful sexual offence prosecutions brought against young transgender men over the last four years. In these cases, the female cisgender partners, allegedly, were unaware of the defendants’ gender histories. Sharpe challenges the legitimacy of “gender fraud” prosecution, questioning the underlying cisnormative assumptions that ground it, and critiques criminalization as a legal response. Continue Reading »

YRYvette Russell is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol. 

On July 13, 2016 Nottinghamshire police became the first force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime.  Hate crime is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic’. In practical terms, this means that in Nottinghamshire police can record reported incidents such as wolf whistling, verbal abuse, taking photographs without consent, and using mobile phones to send unwanted messages with an additional ‘flag’ or qualifier on their incident log as hate crime.  It appears that the move is largely symbolic, as gender animus is not a relevant aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing under relevant UK ‘hate crime’ legislation,[1] and does not create any new criminal offences.  However, the initiative has been supported by the force working in partnership with the Nottingham Women’s Centre and has involved the specialised training of officers to better identify and respond to the public harassment of women by men. Continue Reading »

Alex Sharpe i10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_ns Professor of Law at Keele University.

The Conversation blog recently published an article authored by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper of Warwick University, titled: Why self-identification shouldn’t be the only thing that defines our gender.[1] They then invited me, as a Trans woman, to offer an alternative perspective. However, the Conversation were not happy to publish my article as written, because, as they put it, it takes the form of a ‘take-down.’ Instead, they encouraged me to rework the article as a stand-alone piece. To be fair, they had been clear about this from the outset. However, having read Reilly-Cooper’s article which, in my view, possesses neither of the Conversation’s cornerstones, academic rigour or journalistic flare, I  considered a ‘take-down’ to be the only appropriate response, other than, of course, simply ignoring it. Anything else, in my view, would confer legitimacy on a position I consider to be both politically and ethically bereft. Continue Reading »

10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_nAlex Sharpe is Professor of Law at Keele University.

Over the last couple of years, I have written a series of articles addressing the issue of so-called ‘gender fraud,’ and opposing criminal prosecution on this basis. As recently as December of last year, I sought to take this prosecutorial practice to task in the context of the conviction of trans man, Kyran Lee, and before that Gayle Newland, whose eight year sentence shocked the nation.

I concluded the Kyran Lee piece with an ethical call, a plea for cisgender people to protest more vociferously regarding state intrusion into the lives of trans and gender queer people on the basis of a deception claim. I entertained the hope that the next witch hunt waiting to happen might be averted. Sadly, that hope has proved forlorn. Instead, it would seem that we are, much like Bill Murray, caught in a perpetual Groundhog Day – a cis and heteronormative ground zero. Continue Reading »

erikar-SmAr8J0Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley

Over the last few years, we have become very familiar with the term ‘revenge porn’ to describe the growing phenomenon of vengeful ex-partners distributing private, sexual images without the consent of their former partners. In recognition of the humiliation, distress and real pain this practice causes, countries across the world, including England & Wales, have introduced new criminal laws to try to deter and punish such behaviour. And Scotland is currently debating whether to reform its law.

However, while the language of ‘revenge pornography’ has certainly worked to secure the attention of the media and policy-makers, it’s time for new terminology: image-based sexual abuse.

Image-based sexual abuse better captures the nature and harms of the non-consensual creation and distribution of private sexual images. Unlike ‘revenge porn’, it captures both the broad range of practices being challenged and to convey the nature and extent of the harms suffered by victims.

What’s in a name? Continue Reading »

IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

Civil Partnerships Denied to Opposite Sex Couples

Catherine Ravenscroft, Durham University

The High Court has decided against a couple seeking judicial review to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.A civil partnership is a relationship between two people of the same sex, formed when they register as civil partners of each other. It was originally intended to remedy a perceived gap in the law which denied formal legal protection to same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships. Yet, since the enactment of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the status has been a contentious issue. Primarily, as identified by the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, this is because same-sex couples are now perceived to be granted additional protection beyond that available to heterosexual partnerships. A same-sex couple can choose to either marry or register their civil partnership, yet a heterosexual couple is limited only to marriage.

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