Friday, November 28, 2014
Affirmative consent, Bill Cosby, feminism—when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, women's-issues-in-the-news are bound to be on the table. Here's a guide to talking about some of the stickier gender issues that might come up this holiday season to help get you through.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Meera Deo (Thomas Jefferson), The Ugly Truth About Legal Academia, 80 Brooklyn L. Rev. (2015).
The Diversity in Legal Academia (DLA) project is the first formal, comprehensive, mixed-method empirical examination of the law faculty experience, utilizing an intersectional lens to investigate the personal and professional lives of legal academics. This Article reports on the first set of findings from that study, which I personally designed and implemented. DLA data reveal that ongoing privilege and institutional discrimination based on racism and sexism create distinct challenges for particular law faculty. Interactions between women of color law faculty and both their faculty colleagues and their students indicate persisting racial and gender privilege, resulting in ongoing bias. These findings cry out for law schools to intensify efforts at strengthening rather than de-emphasizing diversity, as many may be tempted to do during this period of great turmoil in legal education. In fact, law schools should provide greater institutional support to faculty, which will help not only those who are underrepresented, marginalized, and vulnerable, but all law faculty, law students, and the legal profession overall. This Article draws from both quantitative and qualitative data gathered from this national sample of law faculty to focus on the ways in which race, gender, and the combination of the two affect law faculty interactions with colleagues and students. It also proposes individual strategies and structural solutions that can be utilized in order for legal academia to live up to its full potential.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
In the aftermath of Veterans' Day, some thinking about women in the military.
- On the draft: Lawmaker Wants Selective Service to Include Women
- On combat: Marine Corps Study May Help Shape Future for Women in Combat Roles
From disposable razors to chocolate, French women are being charged more than men for near-identical products, according to the French rights group Georgette Sand. The group has taken photographs at a variety of stores that appear to show different prices for similar types of products depending on the gender they are being marketed to.
The group calls it a secret "tax" on women. For example, according to photos posted by the group, women pay more for disposable razors sold in separately branded packaging.***
In response to the public outcry, some French media outlets are pointing at the United States as a role model. In 1995, California signed a bill that banned gender discrimination in pricing, and many states have since followed suit. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times from back then, analysts were optimistically expecting to save women $1,350 a year per person but warned that the law could theoretically also force some merchants to raise prices to ensure equality. However, a 2010 study conducted by Consumer Reports magazine showed that gendered pricing persisted in many other parts of the United States.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Is Anna Kendrick an actress or an actor? Is it ever okay to refer to her as a comedienne?
These days, gender-specific nouns are often considered inappropriate. Our waiters and waitresses are now servers, our stewards and stewardesses are now flight attendants, and our policemen and policewomen are now just officers. All the major style guides recommend avoiding gender-biased language.
Are there exceptions? Not many.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
With progress towards improved judicial diversity moving at snail’s pace, ‘the time has now come for quotas’ according to a Report, Judicial Diversity: Accelerating Change, commissioned by the shadow Lord Chancellor Sadiq Khan, published last week. This is not a surprise. Back in April 2014 when announcing the appointment of the Report’s authors, Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC and Karon Monaghan QC, the press reported that “Nothing is off the table”:
“A Labour government would be prepared to introduce the “nuclear option” of quotas for female and black and ethnic minority judges to avoid a 100-year wait to achieve a judiciary reflecting the composition of the population. “
More recently, Lord Neuberger has stated that the absence of judicial diversity, especially in senior posts, is a major concern for the judiciary. Emphasizing that we must not assume that the problem will resolve itself, he continued
“I am not one of those people who optimistically thinks that if we just sit back it will all sort itself out and the judiciary will eventually include many more women and ethnic minorities.”
[h/t Sonia Lawrence]
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
TBT from last year's post:
Veteran's Day raises conflicting responses from feminists. While it is a day to honor lives given in service, it is also a day that reminds us of women’s historical exclusion from power, opportunities and benefits. Women’s exclusion from the military and advantageous combat positions has had the trickle-down effect of denying them the ancillary veterans’ benefits of GI-bill education, family support, small business loans, and healthcare. Veterans’ preferences in employment, home loans, problem-solving courts, and treatment programs disparately advantage men to significant economic benefit. Even now as women seek these military opportunities, they are only tokenly being “tested” for combat roles, reminded that there "will be no lowering of standards." As if that's required. And as if the standard itself is not male defined.
For reading on gendered implications of veterans, see:
Personnel Administration v. Feeney, 442 U.S. 256 (1979).
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
It used to be legally required. In the 1870s and the 1970s (to vote, for example). But why now? See BBC News, Why Should Women Change Their Name on Getting Married?
Feelings can run high over the issue of surname change, as demonstrated by recent criticism of Amal Alamuddin's decision to change her name when she married George Clooney. Some feminists point out that women suffer serious detriment to their careers when they change their names - that they signal their submission to their husbands, and reinforce to their own children the idea that women are inferior to men.
Others shrug the issue off and say that women's names mean little to them, or point out that a birth name is usually the name of the woman's father anyway. Those who think a woman should change her surname often say that it's not really important, but, given the choice between the various options, they prefer to go with "tradition".
This argument, of course, presupposes that traditions are worth preserving. But in fact, just a brief dip into the history of marital surname change - a specifically English phenomenon - reveals that its origins are at best controversial. And at worst, they are deeply unsavoury.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Erin Sheley (GW) has posted Double Jeopardy: The Condemned Woman as Historical Relic, 24 Law & Lit. 211 (2014)
This article explores how Sir Walter Scott's fictional condemned women serve as relics through which a history of evolving British legal authority becomes present and legible. It argues that Scott's treatment of gender aestheticizes a particular concept of and reaction to the condemned woman in the context of the common law tradition generally. Using the backdrop of eighteenth century penal practice, it also shows how Scott establishes the female condemned body as an object necessarily fixed in time in order to contemplate legal change through a historically controlled process. The first part of the article considers the late eighteenth century movement to abolish the punishment of burning at the stake for women convicted of treason, and the extent to which competing understandings of chivalry reified an entire history of penal practice into the body of the burned woman. The second part argues that the interrelations between archaic practice and evolved norm which characterize the precedent-based common law system are dramatized in the fixed, idealized bodies of Constance de Beverly and Rebecca of York through which Scott acknowledges the implicit need for legal change over time, while simultaneously legitimizing adherence to a chivalric tradition.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
But to the professor Kevin Allred and 32 students at Rutgers University, Beyoncé is something more—a feminist, a gay icon, and a powerful political figure.
Allred teaches a wildly popular women’s studies course, Politicizing Beyonce: Black Feminism, US Politics, & Queen Bey.
The class is at capacity, and the room is cramped—especially because Allred encourages students to bring their friends. But that doesn’t stop them from rocking out to Beyonce’s greatest hits.
“They usually sign up because they're big fans of Beyoncé's music, but they quickly start to make connections beyond just being fans," Allred says.
Allred, 33, says he’s been a huge fan of Beyoncé for a long time, but he didn’t think of her as a political actor until he came across an essay by Yale Professor Daphne Brooks that linked the singer to black, female disempowerment. ***
In Allred’s course, Beyonce’s music is paired with black, feminists texts, another love of his.
“That way, students are getting an education in the history of black feminist theory in the US, just using Beyoncé as the focal point,” he says. “I let them be pretty fan-oriented on the first day, but urge them for the remainder of the semester to push past that and engage academically.”
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Amanda Marcotte, Slate, South Carolina Says "Stand Your Ground" Law Doesn't Apply to Abused Women
South Carolina has an expansive "stand your ground" law that paves the way for someone to get immunity from prosecution by declaring that they killed another person in self-defense. Liberals have been critical of these laws, arguing that they make it far too easy for violent people to deliberately provoke or escalate confrontations and then avoid prosecution when things get out of hand. (There is some proof that such laws correlate with a rise in the murder rate.) There are also concerns that the laws are unfairly applied, due to massive racial disparities in who successfully invokes "stand your ground" to avoid punishment. Now comes a reason for women to be especially worried.
In South Carolina, prosecutors are trying to argue that a woman's right to stand her ground in a domestic dispute is less than a man's right to stand his ground with some stranger he's gotten into a fight with. Andrew Knapp at the Charleston Post and Courier—which has been aggressively covering the issue of domestic violence in recent months—reports that three North Charleston women have been "charged with murder during the past two years after stabbing a boyfriend or a roommate she said attacked her," despite the existence of the state's strong "stand your ground" law.
[h/t Molly McBurney]
We recently blogged here about legal scholarship on this issue. In this article, Professor Mary Anne Franks argues:
This two-track system of self-defense — Battered Women’s Syndrome for women and Stand Your Ground for men — has far-reaching implications outside of the courtroom. Battered Women’s Syndrome sends the legal and social message that women should retreat even from their own homes in the face of objective, repeated harm to their bodies; Stand Your Ground sends the legal and social message that men can advance against strangers anywhere on the basis of vague, subjective perceptions of threats.
During this media firestorm, John Grisham might want to study up on the work of legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon. Her key takeaways: Pornography is oppression of women. Pornography exploits and harms the girls and women in it, and the men who consume it facilitate and further that exploitation and sex discrimination.
Here's more on the story:
ABA Journal, John Grisham Says US "Has Gone Nuts" with Child Porn Incarcerations, Then Issues Apology. Grisham said,
"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he said. “But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”
He said the justice system fails to distinguish between child abusers and people who download porn. “I have no sympathy for real pedophiles,” Grisham said, “God, please lock those people up.”
For one response, see Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune, John Grisham, Kesha Cases Display Sexism
John Grisham's ire is up because a law school buddy of his got caught up in a Canadian child porn sting.
"His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website," the 59-year-old best-selling author told The Telegraph. "It was labeled '16 year old wannabe hookers or something like that'. And it said '16-year-old girls.' So he went there. … He shouldn't 'a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys."Why are 16-year-old girls acceptable pornography subjects? Why is a middle-age man with a law degree justifying the exploitation of children, as long as the children are female? Does he believe 16-year-old girls actually "wannabe" hookers?
I don't know. I've never spoken with Grisham and I don't know his heart or his values. But I know his comments, and they are a deeply disturbing example of our ingrained and toxic belief that girls and women have, above and before all else, two roles: sexpot and helpmate.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Tomorrow, I am presenting as part ofthe University of Akron's Rethinking Gender series." The title of my talk is "Understanding Divorce Law Historically Through the Lens of Gender." It is based on a chapter of my book project, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law now nearing completion.
One running theme of the book is appreciating Stanton as a lay lawyer - a person trained by her father, who was a judge and lawyer who apprenticed young lawyers in their home; a person analytically inclined to "think like a lawyer;" who understood the normative function of the law; and who advocated for legislative reform and legal change. This legal understanding, I think, offers insights for us in both understanding her work in the nineteenth-century, and also incorporating its relevance today. See Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Notion of a Legal Class of Gender, in Feminist Legal History (Thomas & Boisseau, eds. NYUP 2011).
On divorce, Stanton was a vocal and persistent advocate for no-fault, or "easy divorce." But more importantly from my perspective is that she framed divorce as a woman's issue. Divorce was both a right and a remedy for woman's wrongs. Her life-long commitment to divorce reform attacked the problem of restrictive marriages, which confined women into legal obscurity under coverture, patriarchal social expectations, and sometimes domestic abuse.
Her framework of gender approached the divorce issue from the three classic feminist approaches: equality, difference, and systemic. As to formal equality, Stanton challenged the double moral standard that supported the law of divorce, for example, allowing divorce for the wife's adultery, but requiring "aggravated" adultery of adultery plus some additional fault like cruelty, dessertion, or sodomy by the husband. Her equality theories conceptualized divorce as a individual right, granting women autonomy and psychological freedom to control their own personal relations.
As to difference, Stanton argued that fault grounds for divorce should be expanded to address the different concerns of women. The law was too focused on grounds based on sexual privilege, as in adultery and failure to consummate. Instead, it needed to include grounds most relevant to women, cruelty and desertion. A cruelty divorce mechanism connected to Stanton's work on temperance and against domestic violence, arguing the necessity of releasing and protecting women and children in abusive relationships. Desertion was important for women because they needed a court to restore their legal rights as a single woman to contract, hold property, earn income, and have custody of their children. Men accomplished desertion by practice, simply walking away, often headed West, retaining their legal identity, all property rights, and the ability to earn a livelihood and thus in little need of the courts.
These specific arguments as to divorce grounds though were part of Stanton's much bigger and radical challenge to the system of marriage itself. She conceptualized marriage not as a covenant or status, but as a contract. And as a contract between two fully equal partners. And as a contract like any other employment or commercial contract that could be modified or terminated at the will of the parties. This gave her the legal foundation to justify no-fault divorce, though it didn't mollify the moral critics. Despite opposition from most other feminist reformers, Stanton continued to advocate for free access to divorce, fighting against the backlash and growing conservativism at the end of the century. See Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the Federal Marriage Amendment, 22 Const. Comment. 137 (2005).
Public, single-gender schools have become more common over the last decade, but new research shows that people might choose such schools based on de-bunked ideas of differences in male and female brains.
Meagan Patterson, associate professor of psychology and research in education, co-authored a study with Erin Pahlke of Whitman College and Rebecca Bigler of the University of Texas in which they surveyed parents, teachers and students at both an all-girls school in the southwestern United States as well as parents, teachers and students from co-ed schools in the same district. They asked respondents about reasons that their district had opened an all-girls school and their personal endorsement of these reasons. The study is published in the journal Sex Roles.
They found that teachers largely embrace the idea that differences in boys’ and girls’ brains affect the way they learn. Neuroscience research fails to support that claim. But despite neuroscientists showing that such differences are small and the similarities between the two genders’ brains and learning styles are much greater, the idea has nto teaching materials, the media and acceptance in society.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
The National Women's Law Center has this preview, Supreme Court Preview: 2014-2015
This term, the Supreme Court will decide at least one case—and possibly multiple cases—with critical implications for both women’s health and women’s economic security. The Court’s consideration of these cases comes in the immediate wake of the 2013-2014 term, when the Supreme Court’s decisions in McCullen v. Coakley, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and Harris v. Quinn—threatened real harm to both. In addition, this term the Court will consider two other potentially important employment discrimination cases and a significant housing discrimination case, and may again take up the issue of marriage equality; the legal issues in all these cases are important for women.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Scott Cunningham (Baylor) & Manisha Shah (UCLA, Public Affairs), Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health
Carmen Gonzalez (Seattle), Women of Color in Legal Education: Challenging the Presumption of Incompetence, The Federal Lawyer (July 2014)
Steven Douglas Smith (San Diego),Die and Let Live? The Asymmetry of Accommodation
Aaron A. Dhir (Osgoode Hall), Homogeneous Corporate Governance Cultures, Chp. 1, Challenging Boardroom Homogeneity: Corporate Law, Governance, and Diversity (Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming).
Russell K. Robinson (Berkeley), Unequal Protection, 67 Stanford L.Rev. (2015)
Ian P. Farrell & Nancy Leong (Denver), Gender Diversity and Same-Sex Marriage, Columbia Law Review Sidebar (Forthcoming)
Deborah Drake (The Open U), et. al., Sociology of Prison Life, in Wright, J. (ed), Int'l Encyclopedia Social & Behavioural Sciences (Forthcoming)
Ben McJunkin, Deconstructing Rape by Fraud, 28 Columbia J. Gender & Law (2014)
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Isn't that an oxymoron? Slate, Iceland Announces U.N. Men Only Gender Equality Conference
Iceland announced on Monday an unusual plan to tackle the problematic state of gender equality in the world, particularly violence against women. The plan, as explained by the country’s foreign minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, to the U.N. General Assembly is to hold a conference on the issue in January. The twist: Only men and boys are invited to participate.
Here’s what Sveinsson had to say:[W]e want to bring men and boys to the table on gender equality in a positive way. Iceland and Suriname will convene a “Barbershop” conference in January 2015 where men will discuss gender equality with other men, with a special focus on addressing violence against women. This will be a unique conference as it will be the first time at the United Nations that we bring together only men leaders to discuss gender equality.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Yesterday, the EEOC initiated litigation against two separate employers: two lawsuits alleging sex discrimination "in violation of federal law by firing an employee because she is transgender, because she was transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the employer's gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes."
In one lawsuit, the EEOC claims that a funeral home fired an employee who had been with the company for several years, but two weeks after she wrote a letter to the company explaining that she was "undergoing a gender transition from male to female, and would soon start to present (e.g., dress) in appropriate business attire at work, consistent with her gender identity as a woman."
In the other lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that the employee was fired only after she began to present as a woman and informed her employer that she was transgender.