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.
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.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Mala Htun & S. Laurel Weldon, The Logics of Gender Justice: State Action on Women's Rights Around the World (Cambridge Univ. Press March 2018)
When and why do governments promote women's rights? Through comparative analysis of state action in seventy countries from 1975 to 2005, this book shows how different women's rights issues involve different histories, trigger different conflicts, and activate different sets of protagonists. Change on violence against women and workplace equality involves a logic of status politics: feminist movements leverage international norms to contest women's subordination. Family law, abortion, and contraception, which challenge the historical claim of religious groups to regulate kinship and reproduction, conform to a logic of doctrinal politics, which turns on relations between religious groups and the state. Publicly-paid parental leave and child care follow a logic of class politics, in which the strength of Left parties and overall economic conditions are more salient. The book reveals the multiple and complex pathways to gender justice, illuminating the opportunities and obstacles to social change for policymakers, advocates, and others seeking to advance women's rights,
I'm pleased to announce the publication of the new book by my former co-editor here at the Gender & Law Prof Blog, John Kang.
John Kang, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Fixations of Manliness (Routledge 2018)
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. has been, and continues to be, praised as America’s greatest judge and he is widely considered to have done more than anyone else to breathe life into the Constitution’s right of free speech, probably the most crucial right for democracy. One indeed finds among professors of constitutional law and federal judges the widespread belief that the scope of the First Amendment owes much of its incredible expansion over the last sixty years to Holmes’s judicial dissents in Abrams and Gitlow.
In this book, John M. Kang offers the novel thesis that Holmes’s dissenting opinions in Abrams and Gitlow drew in part from a normative worldview structured by an idiosyncratic manliness, a manliness which was itself rooted in physical courage. In making this argument, Kang seeks to show how Holmes’s justification for the right of speech was a bid to proffer a philosophical commentary about the demands of democracy.
He previewed part of the book in a prior article, John Kang, "The Solider and the Imbecile": How Holmes' Manliness Fated Carrie Buck, 47 Akron L. Rev. 1055 (2014)
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
#TBT in honor of Women's History Month:
I've developed this list over the last decade with what I think are the seminal articles and books on particular topics, used in connection with my own research and for teaching a Women's Legal History seminar.
This foundational work is critical to filling in the gendered gaps of the conventional history, and it is also just plain interesting. It's interesting that Florence Kelley was responsible for the Brandeis brief and the use of social science in legal argument; that abortion in the first trimester was not illegal for a century until 1865; that some leading women’s rights advocates like Elizabeth Cady Stanton pushed for no-fault divorce in the 1860s and that feminists in the 1970s were largely absent from the no-fault divorce reform; that women lay lawyers invented legal aid lawyering and problem-solving courts; that female advocates and reformers challenged the marital rape exemption 100 years before need for change first “discovered” in the 1970s. The list goes on and on.
My scholarly goal is that one day these "women's" topics will be mainstreamed into traditional wisdom as embodied everywhere from constitutional law texts to high school history books. But for now, at least, the history is being recovered and analyzed, and the transmission of that discovery has been started.
Women’s Legal History: A Reading List
Tracy A. Thomas
Tracy Thomas & Tracey Jean Boisseau, Eds., Feminist Legal History (NYU Press 2011)
Linda Kerber, No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship (1999)
Joan Hoff, Law, Gender & Injustice: A Legal History of US Women (1994)
Felice Batlan, Engendering Legal History, 30 Law & Soc. Inquiry 823 (2005)
Understanding Feminist Legal Theory
Martha Chammallas, Introduction to Feminist Legal Theory (2d ed. 2003)
Nancy Levit, Robert Verchick, & Martha Minow, Feminist Legal Theory: A Primer (2006)
Joan Williams, Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to do About it (2000)
Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (1987)
Louise Michele Newman, White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States 5 (1999)
Tracy Thomas, The Beecher Sisters as Nineteenth-Century Icons of the Sameness-Difference Debate, 11 Cardozo Women's L. J. 107 (2004)
EEOC v. Sears, 628 F. Supp. 1264 (N.D. Ill. 1986), 839 F.2d 302 (7th Cir. 1988)
Haskell & Levison, Historians and the Sears Case, 66 Tex. L. Rev. 1629 (1988)
Mary Beth Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of America Society (1997) (Anne Hutchinson trial, jury of matrons)
Kristin Collins, “Petitions Without Number”: Widows’ Petitions and the Early Nineteenth-Century Origins of Marriage-Based Entitlements, 31 Law & History Rev. 1 (2012)
Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2003)
Jane Campbell Moriarty, Wonders of the Invisible World, 26 Vt. L. Rev. 43 (2001)
Peter Hoff, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (1997)
Coverture, Marital Status in the Family, Marital Property
William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Law of England, Of Husband and Wife (1769)
Norma Basch, In the Eyes of the Law: Women, Marriage, and Property in Nineteenth Century New York (1982)
Richard Chused, Married Women’s Property Law:1800-1850, 71 Georgetown L.J.1359 (1983)
Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (2016)
Reva Siegel, Home as Work: The First Woman’s Rights Claims Concerning Wives’ Household Labor, 1850-1880, 103 Yale L J. 1073 (1994)
Ariela R. Dubler, Governing Through Contract: Common Law Marriage in the Nineteenth Century,” 107 Yale Law J.1885 (1998).
Jill Hasday, Contest and Consent: A Legal History of Marital Rape, 88 Cal. L. Rev. 1373 (2000)
Naomi Cahn, Faithless Wives and Lazy Husbands: Gender Norms in Nineteenth-Century Divorce Law, 2002 U. Ill. L. Rev. 651
Ken Burns, Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony (video)
Declaration of Sentiments, July 1848
History of Woman Suffrage, v.I (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds)
Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (2014)
Nancy Isenberg, Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America (1998)
Ellen DuBois, Feminism & Suffrage: The Emergency of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (1978)
Ellen DuBois, Outgrowing the Compact of our Fathers: Equal Rights, Woman Suffrage, and the US Constitution, 1820-1878, 74 J. Amer. History 836 (1987)
Doug Linder’s Famous Trials Website, The Trial of Susan B. Anthony (including trial documents)
Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1974)
Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (1998)
Iron Jawed Angels (2004) (video)
Reva Siegel, She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family, 115 Harv. L. Rev. 945 (2002)
Felice Batlan, Notes from the Margins: Florence Kelley and the Making of Sociological Jurisprudence, in Transformations in American Legal History: Law, Ideology, and Methods (Daniel Hamilton & Alfred Brophy 2010)
Nancy Woloch, Muller v. Oregon: A Brief History with Documents (1996)
Muller v. Oregon, 208 US 412 (1908)
Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 US 525 (1923)
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Article, 7 Green Bag 2d. 397 (2004)
Leigh Ann Wheeler, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (2012)
Mary Ziegler, After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (2015)
Reva Siegel, Reasoning from the Body: A Historical Perspective on Abortion Regulation and Questions of Equal Protection, 44 Stan. L. Rev. 261 (1992)
James Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (1979)
Tracy A. Thomas, Misappropriating Women’s History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev.1 (2013)
Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (2000)
Linda Greenhouse & Reva Siegel, Before Roe v. Wade (2010)
Sarah Grimke, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women in The Feminist Papers (Alice Rossi, ed. 1973).
Fred Strebeigh, Equal: Women Reshape American Law (2009)
Serena Mayeri, A New ERA or a New Era? Amendment Advocacy and the Reconstitution of Feminism, 103 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1223 (2009)
Serena Mayeri, Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution (2011)
TJ Boisseau & Tracy Thomas, 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 (Lee Ann Banaszak & Holly J. McCammon, eds.)
Deborah Brake, Revisiting Title IX's Feminist Legacy, 12 Am.U.J. Gender, L.& Soc. Pol.462 (2004)
Deborah Brake, Title IX as Pragmatic Feminism, 55 Clev. State L. Rev. 513 (2008)
Deborah Brake, Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women's Sports Revolution (2010)
Jill Hasday, Fighting Women: The Military, Sex, and Extrajudicial Constitutional Change, 93 Minn. L. Rev. 96 (2008).
Cleveland Board of Ed. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)
Deborah Dinner, Recovering the LaFleur Doctrine, 22 Yale J.L. & Fem. 343 (2010)
Tracy Thomas, The Struggle for Gender Equality in the Northern District of Ohio, in Justice on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the Northern District of Ohio (Paul Finkelman & Roberta eds. 2012)
Pauli Murray, Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII, 43 G.W. Law Rev. 232 (1965)
Emma Coleman Jordan, Race, Gender and Social Class in the Thomas Sexual Harassment Hearings, 15 Harv. Women's L.J. 1 (1992)
Carrie Baker, The Woman’s Movement Against Sexual Harassment (2007)
Gillian Thomas, Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work (2016)
Joanna Grossman, Nine to Five:How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace (2016)
Women in the Courts
Marina Angel, Teaching Susan Glaspell's A Jury of Her Peers and Trifles, 53 J. Legal Educ. 548 (2003)
Holly McCammon, The U.S. Women's Jury Movements and Strategic Adaptation: A More Just Verdict (2012)
Joanna Grossman, Women's Jury Service: Right of Citizenship or Privilege of Difference?, 46 Stan. L. Rev. 1115 (1994)
Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863-1945 (2015)
Felice Batlan, The Birth of Legal Aid: Gender Ideologies, Women, and the Bar in New York City, 1863-1910, 28 Law & History Rev. 931 (2010).
Viriginia Drachman, Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History (2001)
Bradwell v. State, 83 U.S. 130 (1872)
In re Lockwood, 154 U.S. 116 (1894)
Women’s Legal History Biography Project, at http://wlh.law.stanford.edu
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Professor Alex Sharpe is a Law Professor at Keele University and a human rights barrister at Garden Court Chambers, London. She is a social and legal theorist, legal historian, and gender, sexuality & law scholar.
She has been cited by the European Court of Human Rights as well as by a series of courts in domestic jurisdictions. She sits on the International Legal Committee of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health and has sat on Amnesty International’s Expert Committee on the Criminalisation of Sexual and Reproductive Conduct.
Q: What influenced you to write this book?
A: In 2012, 17 year old Gemma Barker was convicted of sexual offences on the basis that she failed to disclose her gender identity to female complainants prior to sexual intimacies. She was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life. This was the second case of its kind in the UK. The first was prosecuted over 20 years earlier (R v Jennifer Saunders  unrep). However, unlike the Saunders case, Barker proved to be the beginning of a disturbing pattern of successful prosecutions. In 2013, convictions were sustained against Chris Wilson in Edinburgh and Justine McNally in London. In 2015, Gayle Newland and Kyran Lee were convicted in Chester and Lincoln respectively, and in 2016, Jason Staines was convicted in Bristol. Most recently, in 2017, Gayle Newland was reconvicted in Manchester after the Court of Appeal found her original conviction unsafe and ordered a retrial.
Prior to Barker’s conviction, I had already been researching the legal requirement placed on transgender people to disclose their gender histories prior to marriage, lest the marriage be declared a nullity (see, for example, my article in the Modern Law Review (2012) 75(1) 33-53). With the Barker case, the stakes had suddenly been raised for transgender and other gender non-conforming people. I was shocked that these kinds of prosecutions were being brought and after the 2013 cases decided to write this book both as a critical analysis of the issues involved and as a political intervention. The book is resolutely against prosecution.
NYT, "Scarlet A" Wants Less Shouting About Abortion and More Talking, reviewing Katie Watson, Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion (Oxford Press 2018)
Certain issues have become so noisy and stigmatized that they seem to be all-consuming and invisible at once. Abortion is one of them, and Katie Watson wants to change how Americans talk about it — when, that is, they deign to truly talk about it at all.
Rates of abortion may be on the decline, largely because of long-term contraceptive use, but as Watson points out in “Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion,” the procedure is far from a fringe practice. Nearly one in five American pregnancies ends in abortion (a number that doesn’t include “spontaneous abortions,” the medical term for miscarriages). Nearly one in four American women will have an abortion in her lifetime.
Yet silence perpetuates a belief that abortion is atypical, even when the statistics say otherwise. The conversational void is then filled by advocates on both sides, who emphasize what Watson calls “extraordinary abortion.” Abortion rights activists highlight severe fetal abnormalities and pregnant 12-year-olds; anti-abortion activists highlight pregnancies that are terminated after viability. Such cases are all too real, but fixating on them distorts our understanding of what abortion ordinarily is....
Watson, a bioethicist at Northwestern’s medical school and a senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, comes to the debate with her own convictions. Forty-five years ago, with Roe v. Wade, “abortion was correctly identified as a constitutionally protected right, and it must remain legal,” she writes. “That’s not negotiable for me.” What she wants to do is engage directly with the fact that the majority of Americans, even those in favor of abortion’s legality, have deeply ambivalent feelings about abortion itself. “We should be able to acknowledge the complexity of private decision making,” she writes, “without threatening the right of private decision making.”
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Dalhousie law professor Craig’s impeccably researched book, which analyzes how Canada’s criminal justice system contributes to the trauma of sexual assault victims, is an outstanding work that dovetails perfectly with the #MeToo movement. Working from interviews with legal professionals, analyses of problematic judicial decisions, and reproductions of stomach-turning trial transcripts, Craig (Troubling Sex) skewers the still prevalent notion that Canadian sexual assault survivors enjoy a free pass in the courts. By reproducing contemporary accounts of aggressive cross-examinations that “whack the complainant,” unsavory defense strategies intended to intimidate complainants into withdrawing their cases, and reliance on rape myths—revealing clothing, alcohol use, past sexual history—in criminal trials, Craig expertly makes the case that, despite progressive law reforms, the legal system remains predominantly unsafe for survivors. Combining academic rigor with an eminently readable style that is cohesive and fearless (prominent lawyers and judges are pointedly called to account), Craig makes several proposals—including improved education and training for all judicial system participants, public reporting of all decisions, and making courtroom culture less imposing—that would mitigate harm without impinging on the rights of the accused. This is a must-read title for judges, lawyers, politicians, courtroom staff, and anyone concerned about sexual violence.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Danielle Keats Citron, A Poor Mother's Right to Privacy: A Review, 98 Boston J. L. Rev. (forthcoming)
Collecting personal data is a feature of daily life. Businesses, advertisers, agencies, and law enforcement amass massive reservoirs of our personal data. This state of affairs—what I am calling the “collection imperative”—is justified in the name of efficiency, convenience, and security. The unbridled collection of personal data, meanwhile, leads to abuses. Public and private entities have disproportionate power over individuals and groups whose information they have amassed. Nowhere is that power disparity more evident than for the state’s surveillance of the indigent. Poor mothers, in particular, have vanishingly little privacy. Whether or not poor mothers receive subsidized prenatal care, the existential state of poor mothers is persistent and indiscriminate state surveillance.
Professor Khiara Bridges’s book, The Poverty of Privacy Rights, advances the project of securing privacy for the most vulnerable among us. It shows how the moral construction of poverty animates the state’s surveillance of poor mothers, rather than legitimate concerns about prenatal care. It argues that poor mothers have a constitutional right not to be known if the state’s data collection efforts demean and humiliate them for no good reason. The Poverty of Privacy Rights provides an important lens for rethinking the data collection imperative more generally. It supplies a theory not only on which a constitutional right to information privacy can be built but also on which positive law and norms can develop. Concepts of reciprocity may provide another analytical tool to understand a potential right to be as unknown to government as it is to us.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
The U.S. Feminist Judgments Project seeks contributors to rewrite judicial opinions to reflect feminist perspectives, and commentaries on the rewritten opinions, for an edited book collection tentatively titled Feminist Judgments: Employment Discrimination Opinions Rewritten. This edited volume is part of a collaborative project among law professors and other legal specialists to rewrite, from feminist perspectives, key judicial decisions in the United States. The initial volume, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States Supreme Court, edited by Kathryn M. Stanchi, Linda L. Berger, and Bridget J. Crawford, was published in 2016 by Cambridge University Press. Cambridge University Press has published the first volume in the series, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Tax Opinions (2017). Other approved volumes in the series include family law and reproductive justice. Cambridge University Press welcomes proposals for additional volumes in the series that focus on other areas of law.
The Employment Discrimination volume will be edited by Ann McGinley and Nicole Porter. We seek prospective authors for a number of employment discrimination opinions [listed in attached file.] We have selected the cases with the goal of creating a body of cases that can be largely internally consistent and that ultimately would improve employment discrimination law from feminist perspective.
More details here. Download Revised Call for Authors 1.30.18 FINAL
Those who are interested in rewriting an opinion or providing commentary should apply no later than, February 12, 2018, by e-mailing the following information to Ann McGinley, firstname.lastname@example.org and Nicole Porter, email@example.com
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
The feud between Barbie and Bratz occupies the narrow space between thin lines: between fashion and porn, between originals and copies, and between toys for girls and rights for women. In 2010, Alex Kozinski, then the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who presided over Mattel v. MGA, wrote in his opinion that most of what makes a fashion doll desirable is not protectable intellectual property, because there are only so many ways to make a female body attractive. “Little girls buy fashion dolls with idealized proportions which means slightly larger heads, eyes and lips; slightly smaller noses and waists; and slightly longer limbs than those that appear routinely in nature,” Kozinski wrote, giving “slightly” a meaning I never knew it had. But only so much exaggeration is possible, he went on. “Make the head too large or the waist too small and the doll becomes freakish.” I’d explain how it is that anyone could look at either a Barbie or a Bratz doll and not find it freakish, except that such an explanation is beyond me. As a pull-string Barbie knockoff once told Lisa Simpson, “Don’t ask me! I’m just a girl!”
Orly Lobel, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, has recently published “You Don’t Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie’s Dark Side” (Norton). For the book, a hair-raising account of a Barbie Dreamhouse-size Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Lobel interviewed Judge Kozinski over lunch and happened to mention that, when she was a girl, her mother, a psychologist, told her that Barbie dolls were bad for girls’ body image. Kozinski professed astonishment. “The only thing wrong that I saw when I held Barbie,” he said, joking, “is when I lift her skirt there is nothing underneath.” Last month, Kozinski resigned from the federal judiciary after more than a dozen women, including two of his own former law clerks, accused him of inappropriate behavior. Justice is hard! ***
Once told to be hotties, girls were next told to empower themselves by being hot employees, as both the culture and corporations set aside long-standing concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace—abandoning possible societal, industry-wide, or even governmental remedies—in favor of sex-positive corporate feminism. The 2013 publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” marked a steepening in the decline of structural efforts to reform workplaces. Instead of fighting for equal pay, equal work, and family leave, women were told that they needed to empower themselves, one by one, through power dressing and personal exertion. Unsurprisingly, Barbie and Bratz leaned in, too. MGA relaunched Bratz with the latest mindless lingo of corporate-friendly girl power in a box. “We have doctors, lawyers, journalists,” MGA’s C.E.O., Isaac Larian, told Forbes. “Now more than ever before, Bratz empowers girls.” The rebranded dolls, though, had no discernible interests in such careers. Instead, the Bratz, who, like Barbie, started out as teen-agers, now came with hobbies, including yoga and running, and wardrobes newly inspired by study-abroad travel. Mattel ran its own Sandbergian campaign—“When a Girl Plays with Barbie, She Imagines Everything She Can Become”—and promoted Doctor Barbie, who, with her stethoscope, wears stilettos, a miniskirt, and a white lab coat embroidered, in pink thread, “Barbie.”
Empowerment feminism is a cynical sham. As Margaret Talbot once noted in these pages, “To change a Bratz doll’s shoes, you have to snap off its feet at the ankles.” That is pretty much what girlhood feels like. In a 2014 study, girls between four and seven were asked about possible careers for boys and girls after playing with either Fashion Barbie, Doctor Barbie, or, as a control, Mrs. Potato Head. The girls who had played with Mrs. Potato Head were significantly more likely to answer yes to the question “Could you do this job when you grow up?” when shown a picture of the workplaces of a construction worker, a firefighter, a pilot, a doctor, and a police officer. The study had a tiny sample size, and, like most slightly nutty research in the field of social psychology, has never been replicated, or scaled up, except that, since nearly all American girls own a Barbie, the population of American girls has been the subject of the scaled-up version of that experiment for nearly six decades.
Holly J. McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszak, eds., 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women's Political Activism (Oxford 2018)
The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment giving many women in the United States the right to vote. ***
Looking forward to the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, this collection of original essays takes a long view of the past century of women's political engagement to gauge how much women have achieved in the political arena. The volume looks back at the decades since women won the right to vote to analyze the changes, developments, and even continuities in women's roles in the broad political sphere. Ultimately, the book asks two important questions about the last 100 years of women's suffrage: 1) How did the Nineteenth Amendment alter the American political system? and 2) How has women's engagement in politics changed over the last 100 years?
As the chapters reveal, while women have made substantial strides in the political realm--voting at higher rates than men and gaining prominent leadership roles--barriers to gender equality remain. Women continue to be underrepresented in political office and to confront gender bias in a myriad of political settings. The contributors also remind us of the important understanding to be gained from an intersectional perspective to women's political engagement. In particular, several chapters discuss the failure of the Nineteenth Amendment to provide full political rights and representation to African American, Latina, and poorer women. The work also considers women's extra-institutional activism in a wide variety of settings, including in the feminist, civil rights, environmental, and far-right movements. As the volume traces women's forceful presence and limitations in politics over the past century, it also helps us look forward to consider the next 100 years: what additional victories might be won and what new defeats will need women's response?
Including my chapter with TJ Boisseau, After Suffrage Comes Equal Rights? ERA as the Next Logical Step
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Brittney Cooper (professor, Women and Africana Studies,Rutgers University), Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers her Superpower
A professor explores the ways “sexism, and racism, and classism work together to fuck shit up for everybody” and how feminism can begin undoing the damage.
“We [black women] are told we are irrational, crazy, out of touch, entitled, disruptive and not team players,” writes Cooper (Women and Gender Studies, Africana Studies/Rutgers Univ.). But as her feminist foremother Audre Lorde once remarked, this anger was not only legitimate; it was also “a powerful source of energy serving progress and change.” Here, Cooper brings together essays tracing her evolution as a feminist while giving voice to the political (out)rage seething within. The author begins by detailing the difficult journey that led her to “disidentify with [the] whiteness” of mainstream feminism and learn to embrace her “particular Black girl magic.” Her quest for political authenticity meant fighting with white women over racism and black men over sexism. Participating in these separate battles did not blind her to the need for alliances with both groups, however; they only made her more aware of the need for creating solidarity across communities to topple patriarchy. Cooper’s feminist journey also forced her to shed cultural “baggage”—such as the racism of a white society that questioned her movements on American streets and the sexism of black society that sought to control her sexuality through the church—that limited her passage through the world. Once uncovered and focused, however, the rage that inevitably comes from such injustices is of tremendous benefit to all. Cooper points to tennis star Serena Williams, former first lady Michelle Obama, and singer Beyoncé as contemporary black feminist role models. By learning how to channel their rage in their areas of endeavor, they have earned game-changing respect that has transcended race and gender. Sharp and always humane, Cooper’s book suggests important ways in which feminism needs to evolve for the betterment not just of black women, but society as a whole.
A timely and provocative book that shows “what you build is infinitely more important than what you tear down.”
Friday, December 8, 2017
What is misogyny? How is it different from sexism? And why does the male-dominated status quo seem to persist?
A new book by Cornell philosophy professor Kate Manne has answers. She argues that misogyny is not about male hostility or hatred toward women — instead, it’s about controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance. Misogyny rewards women who reinforce the status quo and punishes those who don’t.
In this interview, we explore how sexism and misogyny are different, how misogyny is embedded in our customs and institutions***
One way of looking at it is we have these patriarchal social structures, bastions of male privilege where a dominant man might feel entitled to (and often receive) feminine care and attention from women.
I think of misogyny and sexism as working hand-in-hand to uphold those social relations. Sexism is an ideology that says, “These arrangements just make sense. Women are just more caring, or nurturing, or empathetic,” which is only true if you prime people by getting them to identify with their gender.
So, sexism is the ideology that supports patriarchal social relations, but misogyny enforces it when there’s a threat of that system going away.
A prior post on Prof. Manne's book, Down Girl: A Theory of Misogyny is here.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Thanks to Prof. Mary Block for this review of my book:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a woman far ahead of her time with regard to her advocacy for women’s rights within the family. Tracy A. Thomas, Professor of family law and a feminist legal historian, argues that Stanton believed a radical challenge to family law was vital to the woman’s rights agenda. Stanton asserted that four institutions: government, church, family, and industry acted symbiotically to keep women in a subordinate status. The public and private spheres were not separate, but intertwined and they operated in myriad ways to discriminate and hinder women and stifle equality. Thomas states that Stanton and many other nineteenth-century women’s rights advocates had a fluid notion of feminism, one that embraced both the sameness and differences between men and women. Women were equal not inferior to men, but women were different because they could procreate while men could not so in addition to the vote, Stanton also promoted rights that extended to women as mothers. The greatest hurdle to achieving equal rights for women was that too many people confounded differences with inferiority. The rest of the populace was apathetic. The solution to the problem of women’s inequality was complete formal legal equality. The question was how best to achieve it.
Stanton’s feminist attack on the oppressive structures of marriage was radical in that she framed women’s inequality as systemic victimization. Marriage laws sexualized women and created a sanctuary for male lust through protection of the husband’s marital right, a vestige of coverture that shielded men who raped their wives. At the Tenth Annual Convention, Stanton said marriage was legalized prostitution, a claim intended to shock her audience. Women give up everything when they wed while men gave up nothing. Marriage was analogous to slavery in many ways. Man was the master and woman had to obey him. Upon marriage woman’s identity became submerged into that of her husband and she literally no longer existed in the eyes of the law. Stanton lauded Lucy Stone who kept her maiden name after she wed Henry Blackwell. Stanton herself demanded she be called Elizabeth Cady Stanton rather than Mrs. Henry Stanton to express her independent identity. This was less radical than Stone, but still radical for her time.
By the end of Stanton’s life, family law had changed, but not as radically as Stanton had desired. It would not be until the last quarter of the twentieth century and the second women’s rights movement that nearly all of her recommendations came to fruition. She truly was a woman far ahead of her time. Tracy Thomas has thoroughly documented Stanton’s radicalism on matters of marriage and the family and has shown just how significantly one woman’s feminism affected family law for the betterment of women.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Claire L'Heureux-Dubé: A Life by Constance Backhouse
From the publisher:
Both lionized and vilified, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé has shaped the Canadian legal landscape – and in particular its highest court. The second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and the first Québécoise, she was known as “the great dissenter,” making judgments that were applauded and criticized in turn.
Who was this energetic, risk-taking woman? L’Heureux-Dubé stands out as one of the most dynamic and controversial judges on a controversial court. Did she consciously position herself for success in a discriminatory milieu, or was she oblivious to power?
L’Heureux-Dubé anchored her innovative legal approach to cases in their social, economic, and political context. Constance Backhouse employs a similar tactic. Rather than focusing exclusively on jurisprudential legacy, she explores the rich sociopolitical and cultural setting in which L’Heureux-Dubé’s career unfolded, while also considering her personal life.
This compelling biography covers aspects of legal history that have never been so fully investigated. Changing gender norms are traced through the experience of a francophone woman within the male-dominated Quebec legal profession – and within the primarily anglophone world of the Supreme Court. Claire L’Heureux-Dubé enhances our understanding of the Canadian judiciary, the creation of law, the Quebec socio-legal environment, and the nation’s top court.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
It's Halloween... which for law and gender means time to remember the Salem Witch Trials.
Most of the victims of the trials were women. And most of the accusers. Scholars have talked about the trials as misogyny and at the same time as women's assertion of agency and power. They also suggested the lax evidentiary standards allowed social judgments about women to be determinative of legal guilt.
Stacy Schiff, The Witches: Salem, 1692 (2015)
Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (1998)
Jane Moriarty, Wonders of the Invisible World: Prosecutorial Syndrome and Profile Evidence in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, 26 Vermont L. Rev. 43 (2001)
Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2003)
Peter Hoffer, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (1997)
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Kate Manne, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Oxford Press. Nov. 2017)
From the publisher:
Misogyny is a hot topic, yet it's often misunderstood. What is misogyny, exactly? Who deserves to be called a misogynist? How does misogyny contrast with sexism, and why is it prone to persist --or increase-- even when sexist gender roles are waning? This book is an exploration of misogyny in public life and politics, by the moral philosopher and writer Kate Manne. It argues that misogyny should not be understood primarily in terms of the hatred or hostility some men feel toward all or most women. Rather, it's primarily about controlling, policing, punishing, and exiling the "bad" women who challenge male dominance. And it's compatible with rewarding "the good ones," and singling out other women to serve as warnings to those who are out of order. It's also common for women to serve as scapegoats, be burned as witches, and treated as pariahs.
Manne examines recent and current events such as the Isla Vista killings by Elliot Rodger, the case of the convicted serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw, who preyed on African-American women as a police officer in Oklahoma City, Rush Limbaugh's diatribe against Sandra Fluke, and the "misogyny speech" of Julia Gillard, then Prime Minister of Australia, which went viral on YouTube. The book shows how these events, among others, set the stage for the 2016 US presidential election. Not only was the misogyny leveled against Hillary Clinton predictable in both quantity and quality, Manne argues it was predictable that many people would be prepared to forgive and forget regarding Donald Trump's history of sexual assault and harassment. For this, Manne argues, is misogyny's oft-overlooked and equally pernicious underbelly: exonerating or showing "himpathy" for the comparatively privileged men who dominate, threaten, and silence women.
Monday, October 2, 2017
This book is sitting near the top of my pile of books-to-read.
Linda Greenhouse, Who Killed the ERA?, NYT Book Review, reviewing:
Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics, by Marjorie J. Spruill
Marjorie J. Spruill’s Divided We Stand is the most recent effort to probe the feminist/antifeminist struggle of the 1970s for what it might tell us about today’s polarized America. It’s an ambitious book, built around a close study of an event that Self treats in only a few pages and Mansbridge in a single passing reference: the congressionally mandated, federally funded National Women’s Conference that took place in Houston in November 1977. The conference was organized by the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year, set up by the Ford administration in 1975 to coordinate American participation in the United Nations–sponsored Decade for Women. From May to July 1977, some 130,000 people—all but a few hundred of them women—took part in state-level meetings to select delegates and debate the conference’s agenda. The idea was to come up with a “plan of action” for the national delegates to adopt and present to the White House and Congress.
The path to this goal was intensely contested, with a number of the state conventions becoming ideological battlegrounds over issues like federally funded child care, gay rights, and abortion. Two thousand delegates and nearly 20,000 observers eventually attended the official conference in Houston, while a similar number gathered across town in a conservative counter-convention organized by Schlafly. Both sides emerged highly mobilized and ready for continued battle.
The events of 1977 are often portrayed merely as one episode in a decade of feminist conflicts, gains, and setbacks. Spruill, a historian of southern and women’s history at the University of South Carolina, makes the rather stronger claim that the competing conferences “ushered in a new era in American politics—the beginning rather than the end of a protracted struggle over women’s rights and family values.” Whereas in the early 1970s Democrats and Republicans had, in Spruill’s view, “both…supported feminist goals,” the events of 1977 created two polarized and increasingly partisan camps. The plan of action that emerged from the official convention in the end included support for the ERA, abortion rights, and gay rights. It called for equal access to credit, which banks routinely denied to married women on the premise that the husband was in control of the family finances. One plank called for reform “based on the principle that marriage is a partnership in which the contribution of each spouse is of equal importance and value.” The counter-conference was dominated by Christian and anti-abortion delegates united under a “pro-family” banner. Spruill notes that the official delegates were so “caught up in their own conference experience” that they had “little sense” of how equally empowering the Houston weekend had proved to be to the other side.
Nonetheless, Spruill’s project of historical reclamation is an important one. While the National Women’s Conference and the competing Pro-Life, Pro-Family Rally did not quite amount to “Four Days That Changed the World” (as it was described in a Ms.magazine headline the following March), they were signal events that drew thousands of women into political engagement and offered clearly defined—if opposing—arguments in which these new activists could discover sympathies. Gloria Steinem may well have been right in a recent interview to call the National Women’s Conference “the most important event nobody knows about.”
There is another book review of the book by Gillian Thomas posted here.