"Uncovering Conceptual Practices: Bringing into 'Lived Consciousness' Feminists' Activities on the Toronto Police Sexual Assault Audit and the Follow-up Sexual Assault Audit Committee" in Canadian Women Studies, 28 (1)
[Sarah Ahmed], in her discussion of how documents get taken up as signs of good performance and as expressions of "commitment," found that those responsible for compliance in the institution often "perform an image of themselves as doing a good job" (2007: 594). She refers to this as "doing the document" instead of "doing the doing." The Chief of Police may have already begun "doing the document" while "we," the women on the Steering Committee, were "doing the doing," only to have our work shut down before the process was over because "our doing" was taking longer than the time line arbitrarily set by the TPSB and the TPS. The Chair ends his letter by thanking "us" for our valued participation on the Steering Committee. From our point of view, however, the implementation process was not complete. Nor did a similar notice of closure of the committee go out to TPS members on the SAASC. This signaled to "us" that some other process might be utilized that would not require any actual "doings." We soon learned that there would be new "bodies" in the form of an "action group" appointed to "perform doings" - "doings" the SAASC chair has already reported to the TPSB as "done." Can or should feminist anti-violence activists ever hope to engage in state processes without having our "doings" transformed and suppressed at the institutional level? [Dorothy Smith] tells us that we always run the risk of disappearing in the givens of institutional discourse. But there is fluidity that exists in language that in the moment of dialogue has the potential to shift the coerciveness of institutional discourse. While the power that pervades the institution is regulatory, our position as "experts" and our expertise in the area of sexual assault of women in the context of the SAASC allowed us to engage in a dialogic struggle that resulted in small changes regarding police sexual assault warnings (community alerts). Traditionally the warnings have read, "women [or more commonly, "people"] should be vigilant about their surroundings." Police committee members were in agreement that such alerts should read "women must continue to be aware of their surroundings." This statement recognized that women were already "doing" this "doing." However, it must be noted that there is no policy or protocol to guide this new "warning" practice. Its realization depends on the individual police officers who generate the alert and players from the media who do - or do not - report it.
Beverly Bain is an antiracist, queer feminist scholar in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research includes Caribbean and Black queer feminist organizing, gender, transnationalism, colonialism, and anti-capitalism.
Other publications from this author include: