Romita Sur is an intersectional feminist and believes that solidarity within community is important to bring about change. Romita is studying law at McGill University and is a member of the Feminist Collective of McGill Law. Previously, Romita was the faciliator of McMaster University’s United in Colour , a support and advocacy group for students of colour that uses a Black Feminist framework.
SACHA interviewed Romita about the Feminist Collective’s campaign #LawNeedsFeminismBecause.
How did the campaign #LawNeedsFeminismBecause start? What the goals of the campaign?
About 2 years ago, two women of color started this campaign at McGill Law called “I am a feminist and…”. People spoke about a variety of things. This year at a team meeting in October, we thought about our goals as the Feminist Collective and making the group more intersectional. We realized the lack of female scholars, people of color, and Indigenous peoples in our readings. So we thought, why not talk about why Law needs feminism. From there two students (Rachel Kohut and Vanita Sachdeva) who had connections with professional photographers took on the project and brought all these quotes and photos to life.
The goal of the campaign is the challenge the notion of law as a whole. At McGill, we learn two systems of law, the common and civil law and we see more and more that it is very calculated and does not always take into account other aspects of peoples’ lives. The launch of the event was also right after the Ghomeshi trial which I think highlighted even more why feminism is so needed in law.
What are you looking forward to about the campaign growing in support?
I think it is bringing many people hope to see that there are law students who are challenging the system and thinking about reform. Not just with respect to law, but law schools, jobs, etc. If you see all the quotes, they speak to a whole range of issues from intersectionality, tokenism, power, oppression, and visibility.
What inspired you to study law?
My interest law actually comes from my background in social work. My third year placement at the Women’s Centre of Hamilton, in the legal advocacy unit is what really motivated me to pursue law. I saw countless cases regarding domestic violence that truly shocked me about how there is a lack of access to justice for people, especially women from marginalized backgrounds. How law is often used as an oppressive tool. I wanted to learn more about it and how to do more social movement and social justice lawyering through my education.
Sexual violence has been in the media a lot in the last two years. How did McGill Law Feminist Collective Respond to the Ghomeshi trial and verdict?
The Ghomeshi trial created a huge, toxic, and unhealthy debate at McGill law and I think it is just very recently that people are starting to feel somewhat safe again. On the day of the verdict, we held a support network for everyone feeling down. In the law school atrium, we set up tables where people could color and talk, just vent their feelings. We also had a day where everyone wore black to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault in the faculty. Also, our faculty has its own newspaper called Quid Novi, we spoke to the editors and had a special Quid on sexual violence and people submitted either as themselves or anonymously about their experiences of assault and how the trial and the discussion at McGill law made them feel. People wrote reflections, poems, what male allies should be doing.
What has the response to the campaign been? How has it changed your experience as a law student?
The response to campaign has been very positive. I think having numerous women from different backgrounds, men, and professors have really reached out to many people. It is also challenging people. I had someone ask me about my quote and what intersectionality means. I provided them with readings by Kimberle Crenshaw so at least its helping people explore other forms of feminism.
My outlook on law has changed drastically being in law school because the law isn’t what it portrays. It’s a legal system, not a justice system, and it is far from perfect. This campaign has really made me hopeful because I’ve witnessed people challenging the law and the systems that are in place. It has sparked discussion amongst students and I think as future lawyers, this type advocacy starts with us.