the legal defense as moral bankruptcy
December 13, 2013
Not too long ago, transmisogynist org ‘vancouver rape relief” had super-transmisogynist ‘janice raymond” speak at an even they held to perpetuate radfem violence against sex workers… this event was hosted at the vancouver public library (vpl).
vpl defended the event and allowed it to continue because, as they claim:
At VPL, we use the B.C. Human Rights Code and Criminal Code of Canada as our litmus tests for the limits of free speech because we have to make space for all ideas in our community as per the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – even those ideas we personally or institutionally disagree with because, as a society, we are better off when we all have free speech – not just those people who agree with us.
Which is such a fascinating take on the entire thing, and an approach often taken by organizations to defend heinous actions.
To remind ppl, it is not a debate on whether or not janice raymond”s views count as hate speech:
In 1980 Dr. Raymond wrote a paper entitled Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery, for the US Government. This not well publicized tome discussed the topic of federal aid for trans people seeking rehabilitation and health services.
This paper effectively eliminated federal and state aid for indigent and imprisoned transsexuals. It has forced incarcerated trans people to file federal court cases to get back trans related medical treatment they lost as a result of Raymond”s transphobic pen.
Okay, since this event took place in canada, we are going to make clear what canadian courts consider hate speech,as written in a recent decision:
First, courts must apply the hate speech prohibitions objectively. The question courts must ask is whether a reasonable person, aware of the context and circumstances, would view the expression as exposing the protected group to hatred. Second, the legislative term “hatred” or “hatred and contempt” must be interpreted as being restricted to those extreme manifestations of the emotion described by the words “detestation” and “vilification”. This filters out expression which, while repugnant and offensive, does not incite the level of abhorrence, delegitimization and rejection that risks causing discrimination or other harmful effects. Third, tribunals must focus their analysis on the effect of the expression at issue, namely whether it is likely to expose the targeted person or group to hatred by others. The repugnancy of the ideas being expressed is not sufficient to justify restricting the expression, and whether or not the author of the expression intended to incite hatred or discriminatory treatment is irrelevant. The key is to determine the likely effect of the expression on its audience, keeping in mind the legislative objectives to reduce or eliminate discrimination. In light of these three directives, the term “hatred” contained in a legislative hate speech prohibition should be applied objectively to determine whether a reasonable person, aware of the context and circumstances, would view the expression as likely to expose a person or persons to detestation and vilification on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
Yes, this is a long fucking legal quotation, but it is necessary. I”ll try share my understand on of these three points.
First, “a reasonable person, aware of the context and circumstances” this one phrase contains a great deal of useful information and implication for vpl”s defense of raymond. It is pretty clear that vpl knows neither the context or circumstances of, well, anything that is going on around this issue. This was clear by the (now edited) use of ‘transgenderism” to refer to raymond”s ‘controversial ideas.” They did not take even a moment to look into the history and context of this, which damages their claim to ‘objectivity,” since to the extent that this is possible, it is impossible without adequate information about the facts.
Second. The definition of hate as that which ‘incite[s] the level of abhorrence, delegitimization and rejection that risks causing discrimination or other harmful effects,” is sort of laughable since vancouver rape reliefe, itself, stands as an example of how raymond”s hate speech as led to discrimination (state sanctioned in this case). vancouver rape relief does not serve trans women. they only aid ‘women born women” or whatever the fuck. this denial of service, in addition to the ongoing legacy of raymond”s ‘medical ethics” and the broad, widespread loss of medical care to trans women seems to clearly fit the bill of ‘causing discrimination or other harmful effects.”
Third. ‘whether it is likely to expose the targeted person or group to hatred by others,” um, well. Okay. By opposing the decriminalization of sex work, I”m pretty fucking unclear as to how this doesn”t expose sex workers to hatred (particularly state violence in the form of police).
The wiggle room that vpl has here is in the last sentence “the expression as likely to expose a person or persons to detestation and vilification on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.” Since, neither trans women (or trans ppl) nor sex workers constitute a ‘ground of discrimination” as of yet.1 The other bit of wiggle room is that raymond, for the most part, appears to have focused on inciting institutional hate and discrimination, which is a lot more difficult to point out. Since, we end up in the situation whereby we have to point to how she has incited state violence against trans ppl and/or sex workers to the state. Not a very winning prospect, esp. since it is the state itself perpetuating and enacting systemic violence.
And here we reach the meat of this post: why using legal frameworks as your ethical and/or moral defense is essentially fucking meaningless. It is also lazy and, largely, unethical.
the vpl wishes us to see them as a champion of free speech. they claim this as a moral ground by stating that they are following the bc human rights code (which, again, doesn”t even explicitely protect on the grounds of gender identity or do much for sex workers). They also invoke freedom of speech without mentioning hate speech, is patently absurd since hate speech laws are intended to protect the free speech of marginalized groups:
Hate speech is an effort to marginalize individuals based on their membership in a group. Using expression that exposes the group to hatred, hate speech seeks to delegitimize group members in the eyes of the majority, reducing their social standing and acceptance within society. Hate speech, therefore, rises beyond causing distress to individual group members. It can have a societal impact. Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable groups that can range from discrimination, to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide. Hate speech also impacts on a protected group’s ability to respond to the substantive ideas under debate, thereby placing a serious barrier to their full participation in our democracy.
Note that word… ‘in the most extreme cases, to genocide” which is interesting given the view of raymond and radfems in general that trans women should cease to exist.
But, moving beyond the laws of a illegitimate settler state, this is also a classic example of how laws and legal frameworks are explicitly used to oppress ppl. Like, the vpl seriously thinks that by operating within this legal framework that they aren”t morally complicit in the continued oppression of trans woman and/or sex workers. This would be false.
Especially since this event was about sex workers and the violence they face. Given that, at this point in canada, sex work is still illegal and a criminal activity… well, okay, clearly protecting free speech is more important than ensuring the basic safety of sex workers.
It isn”t an accident that raymond et al. keep their sites on very very vulnerable communities. It isn”t an accident that they are able to gain and maintain institutional support (via the vpl and the judicial system).
Not an accident. And this is, ultimately, one of the ways we know that radfems aren”t just ‘misunderstood.” Rather, complicit in this white supremacist hetero patriarchy.