Each month, we feature a professor from the Faculty who supports and contributes to feminist legal thought.
Interviewed by: Ida Mahmoudi
IM: What was your first job ever?
JB: My first job ever?! My first job ever…my parents loved to renovate houses and they employed me in the summer to paint.
IM: Amazing! And what was your favourite thing about that job?
JB: That it was creative!
IM: You’ve obviously come a long way. How exactly did you become a professor? We know you were a litigator for 6 years and then pursued an LLM. How did you know that being a professor was the right “fit” for you?
JB: When I went to law school, I always thought I’d be a law professor. Some students I felt were not as kind as they could be to professors who never practiced, so I would defend against that by practicing for 3 years. I went into practice and was a litigator at Torys. I stayed there for over 6 years because I really loved it, beyond what I expected. Then things started to change in my life and I met up with a friend who reminded me, “Hey, what ever happened to your 3-year plan?” I thought, “Yeah! What ever DID happen?”
At the time, I was working on an Internet hate speech case. A lot of issues around hate on the Internet, and regulation of speech online had arisen, and they weren’t necessarily the kind of issues that were relevant to the litigation, or that had to be dealt with in the litigation. I then realized I had a project for graduate school. I did my Masters at the University of Toronto, focusing on the regulation of Internet hate speech, and came for an interview here at uOttawa. I met Ian Kerr and the rest is history once you meet Ian Kerr…so here I am! One of my friends from practice told me that she was glad to see me “returning to the mothership.” So yeah! I feel like I belong here, but I really value what happened in my practice and some of my best friends are still my friends from practice.
IM: What has been the biggest challenge when conducting your research about women’s rights online? What’s really struck you about this field?
JB: I think what strikes me most about anything dealing with women’s rights is the abject frustration I feel about the constant repetition of the same kinds of attacks on women, attacks on their sexuality, attacks on their autonomy, no matter the medium, no matter the era. All of these restrictions, and how they can self-represent, and what they’re allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do, and so to see patterns repeating time and again historically is a serious challenge. I also worry that there has been a lot of ink spilled as between feminists and we haven’t necessarily capitalized on all of the work that’s been done historically. So those would be the challenges I think.
IM: Absolutely. On a happier note, what is the best thing about being a professor at uOttawa?
JB: There are so many good things about being a professor here. I mean I’m so proud of what a social justice profile we’ve built in this Faculty. My colleagues are absolutely unbelievable people, brilliant people doing such a wide variety of amazing things, and of course we, I think in part thanks to this reputation we’ve built, attract these amazing social justice oriented students, which gives you a really positive feeling about the future of the legal profession.
IM: And…what about your free time?!
JB: Free time! So in my free time, I’m a freelance taxi driver for my two daughters, and you know what? I don’t even mind that. They’re teenagers, so their lives are starting to take off in terms of independence, so facilitating that is a pure joy of mine. Other than that, I like to cook and I LOVE watching food TV…and doing yoga of course! Hot yoga.
IM: Last but not least, if you had one piece of advice for incoming or current law students what would it be?
JB: Don’t let go of who you are. Bring who you are and everything you know to the study and practice of law. Even when you feel like sometimes it’s not relevant, be assured that it is. It’s this rich diversity of perspectives that I think is the key to making social justice change.