Perpetuating the Cycle of Abuse: Feminist (Mis)Use of the Public/Private Dichotomy in the Case of Nixon v. Rape Relief

Windsor Rev. Legal & Soc. Issues 23 (2007): 27.

21 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2015

Date Written: September 10, 2015

Abstract

This article addresses the human rights case between Kimberly Nixon, a transsexual woman, and Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter (Rape Relief), a women-only collective, by critically analyzing the legal arguments and justifications put forth by Rape Relief and its counsel. Nixon was denied the opportunity to volunteer at Rape Relief on the basis that she was allegedly not born a woman and was not treated as one her entire life. By engaging in a discursive analysis of Rape Relief's oral arguments, Rape Relief's co-counsel Christine Boyle's academic arguments, and the judicial decisions related to the human rights complaint, I argue that Rape Relief exploited the governing assumptions of the public/private divide in its attempt to justify its exclusionary policy against transsexual women volunteers.

As my title suggests, Rape Relief's use of the public/private dichotomy could be understood as perpetuating a cycle of abuse: it appropriated and perpetuated a legal principle that has consistently been used to the disadvantage of all women in society. Ultimately, I posit that Rape Relief's arguments worked against the interests of both transsexual and non-transsexual women.

Keywords: Transgender, Human Rights, Feminism

Suggested Citation

Khan, Ummni, Perpetuating the Cycle of Abuse: Feminist (Mis)Use of the Public/Private Dichotomy in the Case of Nixon v. Rape Relief (September 10, 2015). Windsor Rev. Legal & Soc. Issues 23 (2007): 27., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2658839

Ummni Khan (Contact Author)

Carleton University ( email )

1125 colonel By Drive
Ontario K1S 5B6

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