Image from John Woods | The Canadian Press
Uttra Gautam is a 1L student at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Common Law Section)
In 2009, Lori Douglas was appointed as Associate Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division) in Manitoba. In 2010, Justice Douglas’ then husband, lawyer Jack King, uploaded nude photographs of Justice Douglas without her consent or knowledge. These were explicitly sexual photos depicting BDSM style sex between Douglas and King. These photos were uploaded to an interracial BDSM website and were allegedly used to sexually harass King’s client Alex Chapman. The discovery of these photos led to a judicial inquiry into her capacity to be a judge. The two main questions put forward by the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) were 1) whether Douglas should have disclosed her husband’s conduct in her application for judicial appointment, and 2) whether the photos themselves were contrary to the integrity of the judiciary and would undermine the public’s confidence in the justice system. The CJC agreed that she was unfit to be a judge. Rather than continue to put herself through the arduous review process, Douglas retired in 2015.
While Lori Douglas’ case has been discussed ad nauseum among legal and feminist scholars, the concept of the white female body as an oppressive tool is something that is unfortunately glossed over. King had originally posted Douglas’ photos to an interracial fetish website. Alex Chapman was a black man going through a divorce, and had retained King as his counsel. King began to court Chapman to have sex with his wife (Douglas) and directed him to these photos. Chapman subsequently filed a sexual harassment claim against Douglas and King. While Douglas’ photos were posted without consent, feminists seem to ignore that the sexual white female body was used by a white man, King, to the detriment of a black man.
King’s acts of harassment against Chapman were a gross violation of his ethical and professional duty, and the use of his wife’s white body was deliberate. Interracial fetish porn, as well as the subculture, draws on stereotypes of black male sexuality. The common trope of Mandingo, based on the narrative of hyper sexual black men, harkens back to a racist history of portraying black men as predatory and always lusting after white women. King effectively weaponized his wife’s body and used it as a tool to victimize this man, as the bodies of white women have been used since antebellum. White women’s bodies are perceived to be of the utmost of desirability and using racist tropes towards interracial sex, King felt his wife’s body would be enough to entice Chapman into a cuckold.
The racial aspect, including the racialized nature of the website to which Douglas’ photos were posted, is often ignored or purposefully left out of feminist discourse. Most feminist discourse in Canada is overwhelmingly white and often, white women find it difficult to address how their bodies are weaponized, even without their consent. The erasure of Chapman’s pain and suffering shows how black suffering is rarely taken seriously. Black men are especially seen as unfeeling and unhuman. The lacking of this analysis is problematic and sadly evocative of much feminist discourse that discounts the experiences of black people. Anytime Chapman’s name is brought up in the discussion, white women tend to play into racist tropes, such as Christine Blatchford of the National Post who wrote that “… where the ordinary man sees a tree, Mr. Chapman sees shadowy figures behind it and a waiting noose in the leaves.” Blatchford has covered this story extensively for the National Post, taking a very pro-Douglas stance (as anyone with even the slightest feminist inkling should). But in her attempt to defend Douglas, she vilifies Chapman, ignoring that he too, is one of King’s victims. The use of the word ‘noose’ is undeniably a charged term. Where an ordinary man (read: a white man) sees a tree, many black men have seen nooses and have been subjected to hangings and other violence often based on the premise of protecting white female innocence. Blatchford is just one example of white feminism vilifying black men to defend a white woman, showing how the erasure of Chapman’s narrative is intentional and racist.
Likewise, though it is not stated in the CJC’s review, the posting of Douglas’ photos to a hardcore BDSM interracial website was very much the subject in answering whether she had placed the judiciary in a compromised view with the public. This subtext never being brought to light does a disservice to feminist discourse and does not allow for true understanding of all the hegemonic powers at play. Chapman’s narrative, and the racial dynamics at play in the Douglas case, deserves just as much feminist attention as Douglas’s unjust CJC review.