Thursday, February 20, 2014
From Nancy Leong (Denver), Discursive Disparities, Fla. Int'l L. Rev. (2013)
Both within and beyond the legal profession, men write more than women. Men publish more books; the books men write are reviewed more often in the most widely read forums; men write more of the reviews; men dominate the opinion pages of major news outlets; men write more of the articles in the most widely read magazines; and more men blog on the most widely read websites. Even on Wikipedia — widely hailed as a cyber-utopia open to anyone — more than 85% of entries are primarily authored by men. This is true also in the legal realm. Men write more judicial opinions. Men author more legislation. Men write more briefs — both for parties and as amici — before the Supreme Court. Men write more law review articles, and their articles are published in more prominent journals. Indeed, the disparity in legal scholarship begins in law school, where men publish a disproportionate percentage of student notes.
This Essay begins by suggesting several explanations for the gender disparity in the amount of discursive space men and women occupy. It then examines the consequences of that disparity. It first emphasizes the harms to women that the disparity causes, with an emphasis on the legal profession. Such harms include economic loss, damage to career, and diminished public influence. These harms are serious in themselves. Perhaps more importantly, however, the discursive gender disparity means that men’s words dominate public discourse, and to control discourse is to control reality. When men’s words, thoughts, ideas, and arguments constitute the overriding public narrative, the result is that men determine the texture of daily life on matters both trivial and grave. The result of the discursive disparity is that male discourse exercises a disproportionate influence on our collective consciousness.