Scottish Feminist Judgments Project exhibits at the Scottish Parliament
The works on show included Sofia Nakou and Becky O’Brien’s ‘To Sophia Jex-Blake’, a piece of performance art that works to address the gap in representation of women in public spaces; Jay Whittaker’s poems (‘Provocation’, ‘The Institutional Writers’, ‘Not Here’ and ‘Fragment’), inspired by the provocation by ‘sexual infidelity’ case Drury v HMA; Jo Spiller’s ‘A Fair Field and No Favour’ – a response to the Edinburgh 7 case that comprises portraits of project co-ordinators Chloë Kennedy and Sharon Cowan; Jill Kennedy-McNeill’s ‘Crime, Victimisation and Violence’, which uses the technique of anamorphosis to create a visual metaphor for the idea of ‘perspective’ in judging; and Rachel Donaldson’s ‘Look Back, Look Forward’, a series of illustrations that build on the idea of looking back to inform future decision making.
We were fortunate to be visited by a good number of MSPs and parliament staff (see our Twitter feed @Scottishfemjp for more details), including former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie, the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf.
Amongst the various conversations we had with these visitors, we discussed:
- what it means to be a feminist and whether a commitment to gender equality is enough (yes!)
- the point of the project and who we seek to engage through the work (see https://www.sfjp.law.ed.ac.uk/about/)
- what gives the project legitimacy (is it its association with two prestigious universities?)
- whether rewriting these judgments implies that the original judgments were wrong (not necessarily – it implies that alternative outcomes and / or reasoning were possible)
- whether we sought to highlight problems with the law or with its application (both)
- the fact that provocation by infidelity still provides a defence in Scotland (yes, we think it’s shocking too)
- what we can do to better represent women in public spaces (are statutes and portraits the only possibilities?)
- what we can do to better recognise and promote women artists (e.g. did you know that the statue of David Livingstone in East Princes St Gardens was sculpted by Amelia Paton Hill, one of the few 19th C women sculptors?)
- the proportion of women in different sections, and at different stages, of the legal profession, including the judiciary (too small!)
- what judicial creativity means for the rule of law (something unique in light of the Scottish legal tradition?)
- what the project might mean for other non-dominant groups (a lot – the lessons about situated judging and contingency of outcome go beyond gender)
We were really grateful for all these stimulating discussions and are looking forward to continuing our series of public engagement events with exhibitions in South Block Gallery, Glasgow (11/02/19 – 14/02/19); Mount Florida Studio and Gallery, Glasgow (24/04/19-28/04/19); Glasgow Women’s Library (November 2019) and Lighthouse Books, Edinburgh (November 2019). We have a number of other events in the pipeline too, so please keep an eye on our Twitter feed for further details.