I profiled Nancy Ruth -- then known as Nancy Jackman -- back in 1993. She was no Canadian senator then, but rather the hand-picked candidate of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party (R.I.P.) in the Toronto riding which included the gay village. The opposing New Democratic Party aspirant at the time said: "I'm the only openly gay candidate."
Admittedly, this profile of Jackman-Ruth is now 11 years old, but she was no youngster coming to terms with her politics: By then, her opinions were firmly entrenched. Here are some excerpts from that profile.
"Nancy Jackman doesn't like drag queens. Jackman sat on the founding board of directors of Casey House, the hospice for people with AIDS. But in 1988, when drag queens proposed a fundraiser, Jackman stepped down. 'From my own understanding of feminism, cross-dressing from a position of power -- that is, male -- is a problem. I made no move to stop the board, but I felt uncomfortable. My time had come -- so I left.'
"Jackman says she still supports Casey House, even though drag shows have become one of the hospice's biggest sources of cash, giving Casey House some $250,000 over the years."
She traveled with the World Student Christian Federation, was a United Church minister for a time, and created a charitable foundation, Nancy's Very Own, which exclusively focuses on women's projects. (She later sponsored a youth site, Cool Women.
) "But she's perhaps best known for helping found and fund the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
(LEAF). 'What the LEAF experience did for me is to understand the importance of laws,' she says. 'The other side of litigation is to legislate.'
"LEAF is now under the gun for its role in the Butler decision,
in which gay male SM porn was shown to Supreme Court justices [as a way to shock and disgust them]. LEAF spokespeople said that this would help the justices understand the degradation of women in heterosexual porn." And so the judges actually expanded the definition of obscenity to include written or visual materials that are "degrading and dehumanizing." Definitions, of course, were not provided. Within weeks, a judge declared an issue of the mainstream gay porn mag Advocate Men obscene. And oh yes, lesbian porn got caught, too: Butler was referenced by the judge who declared an issue of the lesbian mag Bad Attitude to be obscene (including a photograph by Canadian photographer Jennifer Gillmor).
"Jackman, who is still involved in LEAF, refuses to discuss censorship.... 'I have no idea,' she says about Butler. 'I've got other things to worry about. I need lawyers from different sides to sit down and teach me.' [Yet] Jackman has lectured on law and litigation for years."
In fact, LEAF suffered years of nasty internal battles over the Butler mess. Some thought dyke porn was gross, others did not. Eventually, the good gals won, and LEAF sheepishly issued a sort of apology.
In 1999, LEAF staff lawyer Kim Buchanan said: "We did not expect or intend for obscenity legislation to target lesbians and gay men. That's what ended up happening."
But what to do? The Butler decision was already enshrined -- nothing could be done in the immediate. So LEAF tried to create a loophole, arguing that lesbian porn should be viewed differently than straight porn, that the historical inequalities between men and women were irrelevant in lesbian porn. The courts didn't buy it. And neither did Nancy Ruth (Jackman), who denounced
the organization she helped found. And during the court case, Ruth (Jackman) sat next to Catharine MacKinnon -- the noted American anti-porn feminist nutcase.