Feb. 2, 2018

Why does law need feminism?

Students, faculty and staff explore underlying issues in legal profession through photography-based campaign.
Law Needs Feminism Because
Photographer Adrian Shellard captures student Matt Hammer and his contribution to the campaign Madeleine Natale

"No one ever asks my male classmates 'How will you balance a career and a family?'"

"I'm tired of having my opinion validated when a man repeats it."

"The world needs more leaders."

On Jan. 25, students, faculty, staff and community members from the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary participated in a social media campaign to raise awareness and spark discussion about gender and equality issues within the legal profession. Called #LawNeedsFeminismBecause, the campaign aims to highlight the idea that although the practice of law can be challenging in many ways, the challenges faced by legal professionals should never be the result of their gender.

This social media campaign was first developed by McGill University law students Rachel Kohut and Vanita Sachdeva in 2016. When they released their first portraits, they immediately went viral and sparked broad interest from the legal community across Canada. The campaign has now developed into a countrywide movement to create awareness of diversity and equality issues that exist in the legal profession. In 2017, the movement took another step forward with its first National Forum, which took place in Montréal to great success. The 2018 National Forum will be hosted in Ottawa on March 3.

The law school became involved in this project through the joint organizational efforts of Madeleine Natale, one of the law school's career advisors, and second-year student Selina Sahota.

Students in the campaign

Students, faculty and staff participated in a photo shoot for the #LawNeedsFeminismBecause campaign

Adrian Shellard

UCalgary first Prairie university to participate

"Universities from Halifax to Vancouver had already set up campaigns, but no law faculty from the Prairies had participated yet. This gap needed to be filled, as part of the power of #LNFB is bringing together voices from across the nation," says Natale.

With the guidance from Kohut, Melanie Anderson, Asha Young, and the support of the faculty and the Calgary Women Studying Law Association, the school hosted a photography session where 25 people were able to express their opinion on a poignant feminist issue in the legal profession. Having flown in for the event, Kohut notes that, "It was great to be able to pop in on the day of the shoot and meet all the wonderful people who worked behind the scenes to make this happen. Knowing the students at UCalgary Law were engaging in the campaign just like we did at McGill almost two years ago reminded me just how much this initiative has grown. To give you an idea, by March, we anticipate to have almost 1,000 portraits!"

Photographs emphasize human aspect to feminist issues

Using portraits as the medium to portray feminist messages in law creates visibility for the campaign and emphasizes the human aspect to feminist issues in law. The face of feminism in law is diverse, but in these photographs the support for positive movement toward equality is singular.

The goal for these photographs, as Sahota sees it, is that, "These photographs address the issue of feminism in law in a new, accessible form. They get people thinking and speaking about this topic, which is so important to the issue."

Check out the portraits of members of University of Calgary's legal community and their messages of #LawNeedsFeminismBecause.