Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Elizabeth McCuskey, The Body Politic: Federalism as Feminism in Health Reform, 11 St. Louis J. Health L. & Policy 303 (2018)
This essay illuminates how modern health law has been mainstreaming feminism under the auspices of health equity and social determinants research. Feminism shares with public health and health policy both the empirical impulse to identify inequality and the normative value of pursing equity in treatment. Using the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance reforms as a case study of health equity in action, the essay exposes the feminist undercurrents of health insurance reform and the impulse toward mutuality in a body politic. The essay concludes by revisiting — from a feminist perspective — scholars’ arguments that equity in health insurance is essential for human flourishing.
The documentary "RBG," co-produced by CNN, has made $13.5 million at the box office, according to comScore, and will be broadcast next month on the network. Oscar nominee Felicity Jones will play her in a feature film, "On the Basis of Sex," in December.The justice said recently that she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court at least five more years, when she'll be 90. She has survived two bouts with cancer, colorectal in 1999 and pancreatic in 2009.Ginsburg's celebrity might not have been predicted when President Bill Clinton chose her for the high court in summer 1993. Then a 60-year-old federal appellate judge, she was not Clinton's first choice. He was looking for a flashier appointee and initially tried to woo former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to the bench.Ginsburg, with her large-rimmed glasses, hair tied back in a short ponytail, presented the picture of seriousness. She spoke of taking "measured motions" as a jurist. Supporters portrayed her as a night owl who spent hours hunched over law books and legal briefs, tepid coffee and prunes at hand. Her daughter created a little book titled "Mommy Laughed," chronicling the few times it happened.Once on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was a sharp questioner and meticulous opinion-writer. She leaned in but without the attention-getting style of the first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, or gregarious longtime pal Antonin Scalia.She was hardly a liberal in the mode of contemporary justices on the left: William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall or Harry Blackmun. But as the court changed over the years and became more conservative with each retirement, she found herself carrying the banner for the left.
A new study says that women lawyers who display anger, assertive behavior, or self-promotion are going to be seen more negatively than a male lawyer seen acting the same way.
The findings come from a new survey by the Center for Worklife Law together with the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.
The full report, a survey of nearly 3,000 lawyers, is slated for release in September but a detailed article in the ABA Journal laid out the specifics of the survey’s finding that emotions displayed by women lawyers receive different treatment than those of their male counterparts.
Survey results found that fewer women than men felt free to express anger at work when it’s justified.
Only 44 percent said they were free to do so compared to 56 percent of white men who felt that they could. Even fewer women of color – only 40 percent – felt they could show anger at work on an appropriate occasion.
The report is called “You Can’t Change What You Can’t See: Interrupting Racial & Gender Bias in the Legal Profession.”
The authors declined to comment on the report until its release date, but the anger display findings dovetail with other studies that show women lawyers persistently receive different treatment in similar circumstances.
Two years ago, the ABA addressed the frequent use of words like “honey” and “darling” directed at women lawyers in work settings such as depositions and courtrooms. The lawyers’ association adopted an ethics rule that it is professional misconduct to discriminate against or another lawyer in the course of practicing law.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
New Zealand will grant victims of domestic violence paid leave from work, in a move that activists say will give people the time to move out and seek shelter for themselves and their children without losing their jobs.
Members of Parliament approved a bill allowing the change by a vote of 63 to 57 on Wednesday night, giving domestic abuse survivors, as well as those caring for young victims, 10 days off from work in addition to their regular paid vacations.
The measure, known as the domestic violence victims’ protection bill, will take effect next April, making New Zealand the second country in the world to pass such legislation, after the Philippines. * * *
New Zealand gave all women the right to vote in 1893, the first self-governing country in the world to do so, and its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern — currently on parental leave — is the third woman to hold the job. But its domestic and sexual violence rates are among the highest in the world.
A 2011 United Nations report said that 30 percent of women in New Zealand had suffered domestic abuse in the previous decade, with 14 percent experiencing sexual violence. A 2017 report in The New Zealand Herald said that the country had “the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world,” estimating that 525,000 New Zealanders were harmed every year.
New Zealand has passed legislation granting victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow them to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children.
MPs clapped and cheered as bill passed on Wednesday night with 63 votes to 57. It is the result of seven years of work by Green MP Jan Logie, who worked in a women’s refuge before she became a politician.
Massachusetts wants to ensure that abortion continues to be officially legal in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court after President Trump names a new justice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.
And so, while the procedure is already legal under state and federal law, Massachusetts moved to abolish a 173-year-old law that banned “procuring a miscarriage.”
The bill, called the Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women, or NASTY Women Act, passed in a landslide in the state legislature, gaining unanimous approval from the Senate in January, and passing by 138-9 in the House. It is now expected to be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.
Massachusetts State Senate President Harriette Chandler explained to Timethat the retirement of Justice Kennedy spurred the drive to abolish the law, as “these are strange times we live in.”
Durba Mitra (DM): Today as part of Signs’ Ask a Feminist series, I have the opportunity to speak about sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement with feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, a lawyer, writer, teacher, and activist who is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School and the James Barr Ames Visiting Scholar of Law at Harvard Law School since 2009, and one of the most cited legal scholars in the English language. MacKinnon is the author of numerous books, including the groundbreaking work Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination, published in 1979 by Yale University Press, when Professor MacKinnon was completing her PhD at Yale. MacKinnon went on to write the brief and win, as cocounsel, the landmark Supreme Court case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, which established sexual harassment as discrimination. MacKinnon has authored numerous books on critical issues, including Feminism Unmodified, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, and Are Women Human? I had the opportunity before this interview to read some of Professor MacKinnon’s research related to her landmark first book in an extraordinary resource, her own papers, acquired by the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. Her study, published almost forty years ago, became the basis of transformations not only in sexual harassment law but in wider discourses that shaped the public perception of the very idea of sexual harassment. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cites MacKinnon’s Sexual Harassment as the landmark study, the foundation for legal debates and social understanding on discrimination on the basis of sex.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Believe Me: A call for submissions
Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti — the editors who brought you the groundbreaking anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape — are seeking submissions for a new book.
Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World will ask and answer a question that will change the way we think about sexual violence: What if we believed women?
We are close to a tipping point on trusting women: the explosion of activism inspired by #metoo is just the latest evidence. What Americans need now is to be pushed over the edge.
The need has never been more urgent. In part because of the progress women
have made and are poised to make, we’re living in an age of profound backlash. An unrepentant misogynist, accused many times over of sexual harassment and assault, is our president. The Department of Education is consulting “men’s rights” groups, once rightly seen as the dangerous fringe, as they form education policy around rape. Online harassment is a scourge; misogynists are more emboldened than ever.
While Believe Me will be focused primarily on sexual assault, we are also looking for essays that take the premise and apply it broadly, including (but not at all limited to):
- How race, gender identity, and class impact what kinds of women are believed and how they’re treated.
- How conservative women have co-opted feminism and its tenant to ‘believe women’ in order to roll back women’s rights
- How believing women about their own experience of themselves could transform the fight for trans rights and specifically reduce violence against trans women.
- A vision of masculinity that isn’t defined by power over women.
- How white women’s “believability” has harmed communities of color — in particular men of color accused of violence against white women
- The inherent misogyny of white supremacists and the inherent white supremacy of misogynists.
- What it’s like to not believe yourself about your own experience of sexual violence, and how we can help survivors overcome that internalized disbelief.
- How male victims of sexual violence deal with additional stigmas, including the fear of being feminized
- The link between the rise of marginalized voices on social media and online harassment, and the disinformation campaigns that have radically undermined democracy here in the U.S.
- The many connections between violence against women and our inhumane immigration policies
- How listening to women could change the way we think about justice and consequences for rapists
Essays will be between 2000 and 3000 words.
To submit, please email a short pitch (NOT a complete essay) about what you’d like to write, along with two clips of previous pieces (they don’t have to be published, we’d just like a sense of your writing) to believeme2019 at gmail dot com. All contributors will be paid. The deadline for submissions is September 1.
Absolutely cannot wait for this. (Coming in December). So cool that the costumes (at least in the trailer) closely align with the archival photos.
Jones plays the iconic Supreme Court justice in the upcoming film based on RBG’s life, “On the Basis of Sex.” A new trailer for the film follows a young Ginsburg as she starts law school at Harvard, where she was only one of nine other female students in her class.
“Protests are important, but changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change,” Ginsburg says to political activist and fellow lawyer Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates) in the trailer.
"On the Basis of Sex" Trailer: Can Felicity Jones Handle Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Accent?" [sic the NYT's headline snark]
A biopic of the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could hardly seem timelier, given the current headlines about President Donald J. Trump’s new nominee for the high court, Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the surprise box-office success of the recent documentary “RBG.” But based on the first trailer for “On the Basis of Sex,” fictionalization may prove stranger than truth in this case.
For two years, Natalie Portman was slated to play Justice Ginsburg, but dropped out in 2017, only to be replaced by Felicity Jones. Ms. Jones was born in Birmingham, England, and initial impressions indicate she may not have nailed Ms. Ginsberg’s distinctive Brooklyn accent.
Special Issue: Public Feminisms
Even as antifeminist and right-wing forces have gained footholds worldwide, feminists have forcefully asserted themselves in the public sphere as key voices of resistance. From the Women’s Marches around the world that took place the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, to the 2012 protests in Delhi, to a new resurgence of writers proudly adopting the moniker, feminists have organized to claim public space and a public voice. It is no overstatement to claim that “the resistance” is being led by women, with intersectional feminism at its core.
Meanwhile, a shifting media landscape has enabled contradictory dynamics: feminists—through innovative uses of social media and online media outlets, as well as mainstream media—have found (and created) platforms to amplify their public voices, yet the pool of public intellectuals and the punditry continues to be largely dominated by white men.
This special issue seeks to address these dynamics through a multifaceted and interdisciplinary discussion of “Public Feminisms.” Signs has sought—through the creation of the Feminist Public Intellectuals Project—to actively advocate for feminist voices in both the scholarly and the public sphere, building a critical mass of public intellectuals who speak with a feminist voice to audiences outside of academia. These multipronged efforts have engaged feminist theorizing and historicizing with the pressing political and social problems across the globe. This special issue seeks to further extend the discourse of public feminisms.
Possible areas of focus might include:
- How have new forms of media enabled new public forms of feminism (or antifeminism)? How does changing media create new risks for feminist discourse or feminist individuals?
- How are feminist publics and public feminisms represented in literature, film, television, theater, dance, or other cultural forms today and in prior moments of resistance? How can these forms of expression be put to feminist use?
- How has feminism either challenged or contributed to the concept of publicness itself? What historical models of publicness has feminism adopted or transformed?
- How has claiming public space related to claiming discursive space, or vice versa? How have feminisms conjured new publics or counterpublics?
- How do race, nation, religion, class, sexuality, and caste structure where and which feminisms tend to become public? How have feminists across time challenged these dynamics?
- How do nonfeminist forces shape what circulates in the name of feminism, and how can feminists combat it?
- What can comparisons among different historical eras, geographical areas, or political climates tell us about the conditions under which public feminisms can emerge?
- To what extent are new languages necessary to shifting public discourses about feminism? How are new conceptual languages or vocabularies adopted as part of public discourse?
Signs particularly encourages transdisciplinary and transnational essays that address substantive feminist questions, debates, and controversies without employing disciplinary or academic jargon. We welcome essays that make a forceful case for why public feminism demands a specific and thoughtfully formulated interdisciplinary feminist analysis and why it demands our attention now. We seek essays that are passionate, strongly argued, and willing to take risks.
The deadline for submissions is September 15, 2018.
Please submit full manuscripts electronically through Signs’ Editorial Manager system at http://signs.edmgr.com. Manuscripts must conform to the guidelines for submission available at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/journals/signs/instruct.
Nermeen Arastu, Janet Calvo, and Julie Goldscheid, What Jeff Sessions' Efforts to Deny Asylum to Domestic Violence Victims Look Like, Slate
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security released a policy memorandum providing guidance on how United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officers should implement Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision last month to do away with asylum for most domestic violence survivors. Sessions’ decision in Matter of A–B–, a case involving a domestic violence survivor’s application for asylum, overturned a prior ruling that explicitly recognized that those fleeing domestic violence may qualify for asylum. With the A–B– decision and accompanying guidance, the administration aims to reject decades of reform by flatly stating that these claims “in general” will not be grounds for asylum relief. These steps confirm the administration’s efforts to thwart our country’s prior commitments to end gender violence and support survivors, and to place the United States outside the global consensus, flouting international law.
Caroline Bettinger-López and Rachel Vogelstein, Sessions' Draconian Asylum Decision, Foreign Affairs Mag.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a radical decision that will undoubtedly result in death or significant harm to some of the world’s most vulnerable women: victims of domestic violence who live in countries that do not, or cannot, protect them from their abusive partners. Over the past two decades, the United States has provided a safe haven to many of these women through its asylum laws. In a heartless move that flouts established U.S. law and international human rights standards, Sessions found that a domestic violence victim from El Salvador—perhaps the most dangerous country on earth in which to be a woman—would not qualify for asylum, even though her own country had utterly failed to protect her.
In previous years, whether the United States was under a Republican or Democratic president, such a decision would have been unthinkable. The State Department’s human rights reports routinely criticize other countries for their lack of protections for domestic violence survivors, and U.S. asylum laws have evolved over the years to account for the multiple forms of persecution that victims may suffer—including persecution at the hands of a private actor—when their governments fail to provide protection.
Asylum protections for victims of gender-based violence have been well established for decades—not only in the United States but also under the international human rights system. The United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention established the right to claim asylum on the basis of gender-based persecution and crimes. Historically, nations treated domestic violence as a private matter to be resolved between partners and families. But in modern times, violence against women has come to be understood as a human rights violation—a form of gender-based discrimination that subordinates and oppresses women.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Deborah Epstein has spent her professional life fighting for victims of domestic violence. But protecting such victims is also what Epstein says led her to step down from a commission meant to tackle the issue of domestic violence in the National Football League.
The NFL's Players Association Commission on Violence Prevention was formed after several NFL players were accused of violence against their domestic partners, including Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, who knocked his fiancée unconscious in an elevator.
In 2014, Epstein, director of the Georgetown University Law Center's Domestic Violence Clinic, was asked to serve on the commission. She and research psychologist Lisa Goodman were authorized to conduct a national study of players' wives, collecting the women's suggestions for handling domestic violence and supporting its victims.
As she tells NPR, her decision to resign came after troubling "pattern emerged" in her communications with the NFLPA.
"I brought a number of ideas to the commission about ways in which they could deal with the domestic violence problem in the NFL," she says. The report compiled short-term and long-term recommendations.
The NFLPA heard her out, she says, but since filing the report in June 2016, "it has sat on the shelf."
"The Player's Association contacts that I have would welcome those ideas, tell me they were eminently doable, but that they had to get kicked down the road because 'It was the Super Bowl, it was the draft, it was the season,' " she says. "And I would come back and reiterate my suggestions, and eventually I found that communication would just die on the vine."
"I realized very little, if anything, was going to happen."***
Esptein, who signed a confidentiality agreement with the NFLPA, says she can't divulge what recommendations she provided in the report. Ostensibly, the confidentiality protects the anonymity of spouses and partners of NFL players from retribution, allowing them to speak freely.
In a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month, Epstein says, "I simply cannot continue to be part of a body that exists in name only," and what, she believes is "a fig leaf."
On May 30, Illinois became the 37th state to pass the Equal Right Amendment (ERA), which says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Next, advocates aim to secure the final state needed to ratify the amendment. They will probably target Virginia, North Carolina or Georgia.
True, the deadline to ratify the ERA came and went in 1982. But that may not be a dealbreaker. Some legal strategists argue that since other amendments had no time limit for ratification, the ERA should not have had one, either. Others argue that Congress simply needs to extend the deadline.
Suddenly, almost a century after it was first proposed, the ERA might be within reach.
The law is overdue, culturally and legally. Many Americans assume that the United States already has gender-equality rules. After all, the Civil Rights Act, Title IX and the Equal Pay Act all offer protections against discrimination. But these are pieces of legislation. New laws and Supreme Court rulings can diminish their power.
For more on the legal and social history of the ERA as well as the current movement, see my book chapter with historian TJ Boiseau, After Suffrage Comes Equal Rights? ERA as the Next Logical Step in 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women’s Political Activism (Holly McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszak eds.) (Oxford Univ. Press 2018)
Gerald Magliocca, Buried Alive: The Reboot of the Equal Rights Amendment
This Article addresses the recent effort to revive the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. Following ratifications by Nevada (2017) and Illinois (2018), the ERA stands close to the three-fourths vote in the states required for ratification under Article Five. But these recent ratifications are of uncertain validity, as Congress imposed a deadline for the ERA's ratification that expired in 1982.
The paper argues that Congress can waive the expired ratification deadline but should not do so until should not do so until there is no doubt that 38 states have voted for ratification.There is room for doubt on that score because five states rescinded their ratification votes in the 1970s. Congress is free to disregard these rescissions on the ground that a state may not repeal its ratification of a proposed constitutional amendment. Ignoring these state rescissions in addition to waiving the ratification deadline, though, would raise substantial concerns about the ERA’s legitimacy and may lead a future Congress to attempt the reversal of that recognition.
Thus, the wise course is for Congress to refrain from taking action on the ERA until 38 states can be counted as yes votes without the five rescinding states. If Congress decides to include these five states as part of the ratification total, then at least two-thirds of the Senate and the House of Representatives should be required to support that decision—in accord with a precedent established by Fourteenth Amendment--to quiet the doubts about the validity of the ERA’s ratification.
In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision blocked a California law that required “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide information about abortion.
The decision written by Justice Thomas and joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, and Gorsuch is here at NIFLA v. Becerra. Concurrence by Justice Kennedy. Dissent written by Justice Breyer.
Commentary on the decision:
Mary Ziegler, Wash Post, The Supreme Court's Big Abortion Hypocrisy
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a California law regulating antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers, which are Christian counseling centers that try to persuade women to continue their pregnancies. California had required pregnancy centers with a medical license to tell women that the state provided free or low-cost services, including abortion, to low-income women. If a center wasn’t licensed, the facility had to post a sign saying so.
For all the justices, the case boiled down to a question of fairness. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas accused California of discriminating against Christians. After all, the state demanded that crisis pregnancy centers — and no similar facilities — post notices about other services. Justice Stephen G. Breyer argued that the discrimination actually ran the other way: The Supreme Court had upheld laws requiring abortion providers to recite a state-mandated script but wouldn’t do the same when antiabortion activists made their case.****
But the court’s decision to treat crisis pregnancy centers as religious institutions has created two contrasting sets of rules when it comes to free speech on abortion. While abortion providers have their speech rights curbed — they are required by law to say certain things to their patients — the majority seemed to suggest that crisis pregnancy centers are different.
Emma Green, The Atlantic, The Supreme Court Hands a Win to the Pro-Life Movement
These radically different readings of the case suggest that the Court is still wrestling with how it thinks about abortion: as a medical procedure, an act with heavy moral consequences, or both. Looking ahead, the Court’s decision in NIFLA may be most consequential as a boundary line for the way the government treats pro-life groups. In this respect, Kennedy’s concurring opinion is most telling, wrote Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, in an email. “He is concerned about freedom of thought and religion for conservative Christians, and he thinks the fact Act shows evidence of bias against believers who work in [crisis-pregnancy centers],” she said. “This may turn out to be the most significant part of the opinion.”
Volokh Conspiracy, NIFLA v. Becerra and Speech Compulsions
Caroline Corbin, Compelled Disclosures, 65 Alabama Law Review 1277 (2014)
One of the centerpieces of the Supreme Court’s First Amendment decisions is that the Constitution does not permit “viewpoint discrimination.” The government may, in certain limited cases, enact laws that place restrictions on speech — but discriminating between two opposing sides of a debate is a big no-no.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court created an “except when we do it” carve-out to this rule. When you boil down the opinion’s rhetoric, the holding of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra is that abortion opponents enjoy the full force of a robust First Amendment, while abortion providers must accept a watered-down right to free speech.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Senators from both parties expressed frustration and concern on Wednesday about the US judiciary's response to sexual harassment in federal courthouses.
Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley complained that judicial officials, who studied the problem for six months after claims of misbehavior against US Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski became public, produced only a "vague" report with no assessment of how widespread abuse might be.Grassley, an Iowa Republican, warned that it might be time for an independent inspector general to oversee misconduct -- a proposal judicial officials have long fought as being unnecessary and a potential violation of the Constitution's separation of powers.James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, insisted that judges are sufficiently addressing sexual misconduct."It's not as prevalent as it is in other workplaces," Duff said.When Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, pressed him to be more specific and use a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being "off the charts" sexual offenses, Duff further hesitated but answered, "By comparison to the other workplaces, it's probably ... maybe ... whatever I say ... it's just a guess, maybe a 3 or 4."The Judiciary Committee hearing offered the first forum for examining the third branch's response to sexual harassment claims and broader misconduct issues since complaints against the California-based Kozinski emerged in December. The Washington Post, which first reported on Kozinski, highlighted an account from a law clerk who said the judge had asked her to look at pornographic images on his office computer.A CNN special report in January, examining about 5,000 judicial orders arising from misconduct complaints over the past decade, found that courthouse employees and others with potentially valid complaints against judges rarely use the complaint system, or get no relief when they do. Judges overseeing the system seldom find that a claim warrants an investigation or that a judge should be disciplined.
This open statement on sexual harassment law by leading law scholars includes 10 principles important to understanding sexual harassment as well as concrete proposed reforms tailored to each principle.
Law Professors Rachel Arnow-Richman, Ian Ayres, Susan Bisom-Rapp, Tristin Green, Rebecca Lee, Ann McGinley, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Nicole Porter, Vicki Schultz, and Brian Soucek
We, the undersigned legal scholars and educators with expertise in employment discrimination law, seek to offer a new vision and agenda for eliminating sexual harassment and advancing workplace equality. We are inspired by the #MeToo movement: The courage and sheer number of people who have come forward to report harassment and abuse, the cross-race, cross-class solidarity among activists, the media’s in-depth and sustained coverage, and the public’s willingness to hear and believe so many victims all suggest this is a watershed moment for change.
Inspired by recent events and renewed activism, we wish to contribute to the current momentum by broadening the conversation about the law. We know that law alone cannot create change. Yet we know also that change rarely occurs without the law. For over forty years, employees, activists, educators, and policymakers have looked to the legal system to address sexual harassment in the workplace. These efforts have produced important theories and information, steps forward and setbacks, that yield important lessons for the future. Title VII and other existing laws against discrimination provide an important tool in the fight against sexual harassment, one that will require continued leadership from enforcement agencies. But broader reforms are needed to address the conditions in which harassment flourishes and to make the legal system more responsive to employees. To reduce sexual harassment and move toward a fairer, more inclusive workplace and society for people of all sexes and genders, we offer the following principles and proposals for reform gained from years of working for change within the law.
Ten Principles for Addressing Sexual Harassment
Principle #1: The problem with workplace harassment is sexism, not sexual desire.
Principle #2: Harassment includes many forms of sexism and abuse, not just sexual misconduct.
Principle #3: Sexual harassment is directly linked to sex segregation and inequality.
Principle #4: Same-sex harassment and LGBTQ harassment are prohibited sex discrimination, too.
Principle #5: Race-based harassment and intersectional race/sex harassment and discrimination against women and men of color must be specifically addressed.
Principle #6: Broader occupational and other structural vulnerabilities must be reduced.
Principle #7: Banning all sexual behavior is not a solution and can even be harmful to the cause of eliminating harassment.
Principle #8: Protection against retaliation for victims of harassment and people who stand up for them must be strengthened.
Principle #9: Victims of harassment should have the same recourse to the legal system as other victims of discrimination.
Principle #10: Prevention and remedies must move beyond punishing individual wrongdoers to encourage systemic institutional change.
Leading Law Scholars on MeToo and Sexual Harassment Law in Joint Collaboration of Yale and Stanford Law Reviews
The #MeToo movement has prompted a national dialogue about sexual harassment. This Companion Collection, launched in collaboration with the Stanford Law Review, aims to draw lessons from the #MeToo movement for activists, scholars, policymakers, lawyers, and judges. Across the two journals, the Collection offers twelve scholars’ insights on the ways sexual harassment produces and is produced by broader forms of inequality. Companion Essays can be found at the Stanford Law Review Online.
Articles in Yale Law Journal
Vicki Schultz, Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment, Again
The #MeToo movement has spurred a renewed focus on sexual harassment. But often, the narratives that emerge overemphasize sexualized forms of harassment at the expense of broader structural causes. This Essay builds on Schultz's previous work to explore those institutional drivers of harassment.
Brian Soucek, Queering Sexual Harassment Law
Rachel Arnow-Richman, Of Power and Process: Handling Harassers in an At-Will World
Angela Onwuachi-Willig, What About #UsToo?: The Invisibility of Race in the #MeToo Movement
Tristin K. Green, Was Sexual Harassment Law a Mistake? The Stories We Tell
Essays in Stanford Law Review
The CAL state senate passed a bill that would require public companies with "principal executive offices" in CAL to have a minimum of one woman on their corporate board. That increases to two women in the second year of the bill, and three women in the third year for boards of more than 6 people.
The full text of the bill is here: SB-826: Corporations: Board of Directors
"[F]ive other states (MA, IL, PA, OH and CO) have already passed precatory resolutions encouraging corporations within their states to promote gender diversity in the boardroom." See California State Senate Passes Bill That Would Impose Gender Quotas on Public Company Boards
For my thoughts and legal analysis in support of gender quotas, see Tracy A. Thomas, Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harv. J. L. & Gender (online) (Nov. 2017).
Sunday, June 17, 2018
The messaging isn’t subtle, either. Some cards are very clear about which parent is considered more important. “Happy Mother’s Day to a woman who does it all!,” read one card. “You work. You cook. You clean. You nurture … You crazy?!” But the woman on the inside of the card has a happy enough expression, even though each of her limbs is engaged in a different task. A month later I found a Father’s Day card that said: “Father’s Day is in June … Because about a month after Mother’s Day, somebody went ‘Hey, wait a minute!’” (In reality, it took much longer. President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national U.S. holiday in 1914; it wasn’t until 1972 that President Nixon made Father’s Day official.)
A more scientific study of the themes of Mother’s and Father’s Day cards looked at a batch in 2010. The researchers, Carol Auster and Lisa Auster-Gussman (who, fittingly, are mother and daughter) came to this conclusion: “Ritualized holidays tend to support the status quo, and traditional ideologies of motherhood and fatherhood,” of mothers as nurturers, and fathers as providing more utilitarian support. “The portrayal of motherhood and fatherhood on the greeting cards is important because these cards may act as agents of socialization, shaping individuals’ perceptions, regardless of whether the cards reflect the reality of parenting,” the study goes on to say....
In terms of content, Father’s Day cards emphasized supporting the family economically, imparting practical lessons, and being the best—far more “Number One Dad” or “Best Dad Ever” sort of cards than mothers had. “It was like they needed an award, but there wasn’t a lot of depth in what they were achieving,” says Auster-Gussman, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of Minnesota.
In contrast, Mother’s Day cards focused a lot more on what the mothers were doing for their children. The cards in the study that mentioned “the little things you do” were, without exception, Mother’s Day cards, and cards that talked about making a child feel loved were much more likely to be for moms, too.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
20th Century Trailblazing Women Lawyers In 2005, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession initiated oral history interviews with 100 senior women lawyers including former Attorney General Janet Reno and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Legal historian Jill Norgren discussed her book, “Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law,” which is based on the transcripts from these interviews. The Wilson Center and National History Center co-hosted this talk
And the book: Jill Norgren, Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers (NYU Press 2018)
In Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers, award-winning legal historian Jill Norgren curates the oral histories of one hundred extraordinary American women lawyers who changed the profession of law. Many of these stories are being told for the first time. As adults these women were on the front lines fighting for access to law schools and good legal careers. They challenged established rules and broke the law’s glass ceiling.Norgren uses these interviews to describe the profound changes that began in the late 1960s, interweaving social and legal history with the women’s individual experiences.
In 1950, when many of the subjects of this book were children, the terms of engagement were clear: only a few women would be admitted each year to American law schools and after graduation their professional opportunities would never equal those open to similarly qualified men. Harvard Law School did not even begin to admit women until 1950. At many law schools, well into the 1970s, men told female students that they were taking a place that might be better used by a male student who would have a career, not babies.
In 2005 the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession initiated a national oral history project named the Women Trailblazers in the Law initiative: One hundred outstanding senior women lawyers were asked to give their personal and professional histories in interviews conducted by younger colleagues. The interviews, made available to the author, permit these women to be written into history in their words, words that evoke pain as well as celebration, humor, and somber reflection. These are women attorneys who, in courtrooms, classrooms, government agencies, and NGOs have rattled the world with insistent and successful demands to reshape their profession and their society. They are women who brought nothing short of a revolution to the profession of law.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday made it all but impossible for asylum seekers to gain entry into the United States by citing fears of domestic abuse or gang violence, in a ruling that could have a broad effect on the flow of migrants from Central America.
Mr. Sessions’s decision in a closely watched domestic violence case is the latest turn in a long-running debate over what constitutes a need for asylum. He reversed an immigration appeals court ruling that granted it to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her husband.
Relatively few asylum seekers are granted permanent entry into the United States. In 2016, for every applicant who succeeded, more than 10 others also sought asylum, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. But the process can take months or years, and tens of thousands of people live freely in the United States while their cases wend through the courts.
Mr. Sessions’s decision overturns a precedent set during the Obama administration that allowed more women to claim credible fears of domestic abuse and will make it harder for such arguments to prevail in immigration courts. He said the Obama administration created “powerful incentives” for people to “come here illegally and claim a fear of return.”
Asylum claims have expanded too broadly to include victims of “private violence,” like domestic violence or gangs, Mr. Sessions wrote in his ruling, which narrowed the type of asylum requests allowed. The number of people who told homeland security officials that they had a credible fear of persecution jumped to 94,000 in 2016 from 5,000 in 2009, he said in a speech earlier in the day in which he signaled he would restore “sound principles of asylum and longstanding principles of immigration law.”
“The prototypical refugee flees her home country because the government has persecuted her,” Mr. Sessions wrote in his ruling. Because immigration courts are housed under the Justice Department, not the judicial branch of government, he has the authority to overturn their decisions.
“An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances,” he added. “Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”
His ruling drew immediate condemnation from immigrants’ rights groups. Some viewed it as a return to a time when domestic violence was considered a private matter, not the responsibility of the government to intervene, said Karen Musalo, a defense lawyer on the case who directs the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
“What this decision does is yank us all back to the Dark Ages of human rights and women’s human rights and the conceptualization of it,” she said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently issued a ruling denying asylum to female victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. His decision, which ruled against a Salvadoran woman who had been severely abused by her husband, concludes that such victims "generally" don't qualify for asylum under a federal law that grants asylum to any refugees who is "unable or unwilling to return to [her home country], and is unable or unwilling to avail . . . herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." The decision overrules two prior Justice Department Board of Immigration Appeals decisions, which granted asylum to female victims of domestic abuse in Guatemala and El Salvador. Sessions' ruling is legally problematic. But, perhaps even more importantly, it highlights the arbitrary injustice of a policy that denies asylum to victims of horrible persecution as bad as that which falls within the scope of the rules.
The key legal question in the case is whether Salvadoran victims of domestic violence qualify as people with "a well-founded fear of persecution" based on their "membership in a particular social group." The phrase "particular social group" is far from precise. But, as Sessions recognizes, courts have generally defined it as a group "composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, (2) defined with particularity, and (3) socially distinct within the society in question." It should be obvious that women qualify as a group that shares "a common immutable characteristic," and that they are also a group that is "socially distinct" and "can be defined with particularity." It is true that gender is not completely immutable in an age of sex change operations. But it is surely sufficiently so to qualify under the rules. And you don't have to be a radical feminist to recognize that, in highly sexist societies like El Salvador and Guatemala, which have a "culture of machismo and family violence" (as one of the BIA decisions overruled by Sessions puts it), domestic violence against women flourishes in large part because of gender bias. And such bias helps account for the failure of the authorities to effectively curtail such abuse. Recognizing that does not require us to assume that all Guatemalan and Salvadoran men are sexist or violent, or that all law enforcement officials in those countries are misogynists, merely that such attitudes are sufficiently widespread in those countries that they account for much of the danger faced by female victims of domestic violence.