Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Making Peace Negotiations Responsive to Gender

Aisling Swaine, Law and Negotiation: A Role for a Transformative ApproachGlobal Policy Volume 7, Issue 2, May 2016, 282-287

Abstract:     

Feminist critique of negotiations that aim to bring about peaceful political settlements has consistently pointed to the glaring absence of the critical analysis of and response to gender relations as part of both the modus operandi and substantive output of those processes. Just as war is a gendered phenomenon (working off gender relations that subordinate women), so too the processes that respond to it and aim to negotiate its end and create an aftermath, are inherently gendered. Where the goal is a peace that works for ‘everyone’, then negotiation needs to respond to structural gendered conditions that limit the potential that negotiation holds for women. The concept of transformation has been espoused by feminists as key to altering the structural inequalities that determine a systemic gendered order that works to deprivilege women and women’s interests. As a concept, ‘transformation’ holds great potential to regenerate processes of negotiation towards promoting women’s ability to have agency over their lives. This article begins a consideration of what transformation might mean for the practice of negotiation and how it might be advanced to make negotiations responsive to gender relations so that a peace that serves women as well as men is worked towards.

 

February 16, 2017 in Gender, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Gender and the Structural Constitution

Paula Monopoli, Gender and the Structural Constitution, 76 Maryland L.Rev. Endnotes 17 (2016)

Abstract:      

This paper is based on remarks delivered by the author for the Constitution Day Lectures at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. The paper draws on the author’s prior scholarship on gender and constitutional design to explore why more than eighty-five countries have already had female prime ministers or presidents while the United States has not. The paper’s thesis is that this puzzle may be explained, in part, by what some have called the “structural constitution.” Two design choices by the Founders made it less likely that a woman would ascend to the presidency. The first of these structural features is the choice of a singular or unitary executive that combines the head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief function in one person. The impact of that choice can be amplified by executive activism and the power of the courts via judicial review to define the scope of the executive as more or less expansive. The second structural feature is the choice of direct presidential selection, filtered through the Electoral College. With Hillary Clinton as the first viable female nominee of a major American party, this paper considers these structural constitutional choices, how they construct our politics and their impact on the likelihood that Clinton will be elected.

 

February 14, 2017 in Constitutional, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reinforcing Masculine Legal Authority in the Way We Teach Moot Court

Susie Salmon, Reconstructing the Voice of Authority

Abstract:      

Notwithstanding the presence of three women on the United States Supreme Court, in terms of gender equality, surprisingly little has changed in the legal profession over the past twenty years. This stagnation is particularly apparent in the highest paying and most prestigious sectors, such as the Supreme Court bar, the top echelons of the top law firms, the judiciary, and the general-counsel’s office. Even where objective facts suggest that female lawyers should be hired, billed out, or compensated at the same or higher rate than their male peers, subjective decisions informed, in part, by bias and stereotype drive a different result. 

This Article proposes that, until we stop indoctrinating law students that a “good lawyer” looks, sounds, and presents like the Classical warrior — that is, a male — these barriers will persist. For many law students, the first place they get to model what it means to look, sound, and act like a lawyer is in moot court or other oral-argument exercises. Especially in light of an overall law-school culture that reinforces the significance of inborn abilities, it is not hard to see how moot court’s frequent emphasis on “natural” oral-advocacy talent, and its implicit connection of that talent to traits traditionally associated with men, can influence how students — and later lawyers — develop rigid conceptions of what a good lawyer looks, sounds, and acts like. And continuing to uncritically teach the values of Classical rhetoric — values inherited from a culture that silenced women’s voices in the public sphere — exacerbates the problem. This Article explores the dynamics and consequences of reinforcing the male paradigm in the way we coach and judge moot court and other oral-advocacy exercises, highlights some barriers to change, and proposes concrete steps legal educators, practitioners, and judges can take to help change what the voice of authority sounds like in the legal profession.

 

February 13, 2017 in Education, Gender, Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

New Books: Thinking About Prenuptial Agreements from a Feminist Perspective--Choice, Autonomy, and the Imbalance of Power

Sharon Thompson, Prenuptial Agreements and the Presumption of Free Choice (Hart Publishing 2015)

This book provides an alternative perspective on an issue fraught with difficulty – the enforcement of prenuptial agreements. Such agreements are enforced because the law acknowledges the rights of spouses to make autonomous decisions about the division of their property on divorce. Yet this book demonstrates that, in the attempt to promote autonomy, other issues, such as imbalance of power between the parties, become obscured.

This book offers an academic and practical analysis of the real impact of prenuptial agreements on the relationships of those involved. Using a feminist and contractual theoretical framework, it attempts to produce a more nuanced understanding of the autonomy exercised by parties entering into prenuptial agreements. This book also draws on an empirical study of the experiences and views of practitioners skilled in the formation and litigation of prenuptial agreements in New York. Lastly, it explores how the court might address concerns regarding power and autonomy during the drafting and enforcement processes of prenuptial agreements, which in turn may enhance the role that 'prenups' can play in the judicial allocation of spousal property on the breakdown of marriage. 

February 3, 2017 in Books, Family, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Women Lawyers Face More Personal and Gender Attacks than the Usual Lawyer Hate

 Alice Woolley & Elysa Darling, Nasty Women and the Rule of Law, Univ. San Fran. (forthcoming)

No one enters the legal profession expecting social popularity – or, at least. no one should. But recent events create the impression that women lawyers face more than the generic suggestions of dishonesty, untrustworthiness, greed and adversarialism that typify anti-­‐lawyer criticisms. For women lawyers, attacks and criticism are role-­‐related (arising from her occupation of the professional role) but also personal, specific and gendered. Lawyers in general are labeled as morally troubling; women lawyers risk being specifically and personally identified as morally transgressive, even when performing acts expected of a person in their role. Women who take on law firm leadership, advocate in notorious trials, lead teams in complex corporate transactions, demonstrate political ambitions or political leadership – that is, women who do things that lawyers might normally be expected to do– risk particularly gendered and hostile forms of criticism. They risk being labeled unlikable, unattractive, unfeminine, unpleasant, immoral–a bitch. Such attacks are not certain to occur. They may be more likely for some women than for others; the form and tone they take almost certainly varies with context. But a woman who chooses to enter the legal profession does not just risk generic unpopularity. She also risks being labeled a “nasty woman”.


That, at least, is the premise of this paper. We do not prove that women lawyers risk being attacked in this way, although we note some examples of women lawyers who have been, consider some objections to the premise, and discuss the extent to which gender equality has eluded the legal profession to date, even in comparison to other professions. Instead, we focus on why gendered and personal attacks on women might occur....

 

Our thesis is that attacks on women lawyers arise from the intersection between the normative structure of the lawyer's role and sexist stereotypes. The lawyer's function in achieving the social settlement of law, including maintaining the rule of law, requires lawyers to occupy positions of moral ambiguity and power.  Lawyers have the privilege and responsibility to pursue the interests of their clients within the bounds of legality, even where doing so inflicts harm or violates valued norms of ordinary morality. That role makes all lawyers unpopular, but when combined with prescriptive gender stereotypes about appropriate conduct for women, it makes women lawyers seem not merely morally dubious, but also personally dangerous. That is, the danger presented by a woman lawyer connects to the woman herself; she presents the danger rather than simply being a part of a group or category of dangerous people; she invites moral outrage.

February 1, 2017 in Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gender Parity at the Human Rights Council

Claudia Martin, Update on Gender Parity at the Human Rights Council

On November 8, I published Taking-stock: The Human Rights Council and Gender Parity in Special Procedures after 10 years in this blog. The Article was also cross-posted at the Human Rights Brief. To complement my article, the Human Rights Brief recently interviewed Ambassador Marta Maurás Pérez from Chile. Ambassador Maurás is a pioneer for gender parity in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). As the only woman in the 2015 HRC Consultative Group, she was a leader in the Consultative Group’s creation of the 2015 Gender Parity Guidelines. She continues to work to increase the number of women holding special procedures positions. The interview with Ambassador Maurás discusses her dedicated work on closing the gender gap within the UN and around the world. In addition, she discusses the challenges ahead to ensure that gender parity becomes mandatory in the work of the HRC. The full interview is posted at the Human Rights Brief. I hope her words encourage us to continue our advocacy to promote gender parity at the HRC and other international tribunals and organs.

February 1, 2017 in Gender, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Study Concludes Law Fails to Grasp the Reality of Workplace Discrimination and Condones Gender Inequality

Laura Edelman, Aaron Smyth, Asad Rahim, Legal Discrimination:Empirical Sociolegal and Critical Race Perspectives on AntiDiscrimination Law, 12 Annual Rev. Law & Social Science 395 (2016)

Abstract:     

The topic of workplace discrimination has received considerable attention in both empirical sociolegal scholarship and critical race theory. This article reviews the insights of both bodies of literature and draws on those insights to highlight a critical mismatch between the assumptions of antidiscrimination jurisprudence and extant knowledge about discrimination in the workplace. Antidiscrimination jurisprudence assumes that most discrimination is intentional, that legal rights provide an effective mechanism for redress of discrimination, and that employers respond rationally to legal sanctions.
 
In contrast, the empirical sociolegal and critical race literatures show that racism and sexism tend to be hidden within social structures, that there are many obstacles to the successful mobilization of legal rights, and that organizational response to law is characterized by symbolic compliance that is often ineffective. We conclude that because law fails to grasp the reality of workplace discrimination, it condones racial and gender inequality and creates legal discrimination.

 

January 24, 2017 in Equal Employment, Gender, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Genderless Olympics

Erin Buzuvis, Hormone Check: Critique of Olympic Rules on Sex and Gender, 31 Wis.J. Gender & Law 29 (2016)

Abstract:     

Most sports, including all Olympic sports, are divided into two categories: men's and women's. This Article first presents a history of gender testing in Olympic and international sports to illustrate why past attempts to define eligibility for women's sports have proven unfair to women with intersex conditions. It then describes the shortcomings of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) first effort to articulate standards of eligibility for transgender athletes. In its second Part, this Article explains the more recent efforts of the IOC and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to define eligibility for women's sports solely on the basis of testosterone. That effort is temporarily suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport as applied to hyperandrogenism, but, as Part Ill explains, on grounds that could permit the rule's reinstatement if a stronger justification is presented by the IAAF.

Finally, this Article evaluates the concept of a unified hormone rule that the IOC appears to propose. After considering the strengths and weakness of alternatives to such a rule, including genderless sports and a uniform gender identity rule, this Article proposes a hybrid rule that applies a hormone standard to transgender athletes and a gender identity standard for women. This final Part seeks to rationalize the different treatment of transgender and intersex women in ways that minimize the potential for such a rule to contribute negatively to society's understanding of both gender and athletic fairness.

 

January 19, 2017 in Gender, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Recovering US Socialist Feminism for Legal Theory

Cynthia Grant Bowman, Recovering Socialism for Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century, 49 Connect.L.Rev. (2016)

Abstract:     

This Article argues that a significant strand of feminist theory in the1970s and 1980s — socialist feminism — has largely been ignored by feminist jurisprudence in the United States and explores potential contributions to legal theory of recapturing the insights of socialist feminism. It describes both the context out of which that theory grew, in the civil rights, anti-war, and anti-imperialist struggles of the 1960s, and the contents of the theory as developed in the writings of certain authors such as Heidi Hartmann, Zillah Eisenstein, and Iris Young, as well as their predecessors in the U.K., and in the practice of socialist feminist groups in the United States during the same period. Although many American feminist legal theorists themselves participated in or were influenced by the progressive movements of the 1960s and 1970s, socialist feminism is virtually absent from their writings, except for those of Catharine MacKinnon, who, despite sympathy with the approach, disagreed with it and went on to develop her own version of feminist equality theory. The author argues that the time is now ripe to recapture this strand of feminism and explore what it would add to the study and pursuit of women’s equality.

 

January 10, 2017 in Gender, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rethinking Gender Forums

The Rethinking Gender Forums sponsored by the University of Akron Women's Studies program brings together colleagues from multiple disciplines to deepen the dialogue and understanding of gender issues.  

RETHINKING GENDER FORUMS

Wednesday October 19, 2016

“Never Could Make Enough To Get Ahead: Southern Freedwomen's Work in Socio-historical Perspective”

Dr. Kathryn Feltey, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

 

Wednesday November 16, 2016

“Going Back in Time: Whiteness, Maleness, and the Lure of Cinematic Nostalgia”

Dr. Kara Kvaran, Department of Women’s Studies

 

Wednesday February 15, 2017

“The Perils of Perfection: Why Girls Should Be Bold and Imperfect”

Dr. Robin Prichard, Associate Professor, School of Dance, Theatre, and Arts Administration

 

Wednesday March 22, 2017

“Poetry Lives! Two Akron Women Poets on Gender, the Body, and Surprise”

Dr. Mary Biddinger, Associate Professor, English Department, and Holly Brown, Author

 

Wednesday April 19, 2017

“College Students’ Caregiving Responsibilities and Its Impact on College Performance”

Dr. Pam Schulze, Professor and Director of the Center for Family Studies

October 13, 2016 in Conferences, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Why More American Men Feel Discriminated Against

Harvard Business Review, Why More American Men Feel Discriminated Against

American men today earn about 20% more than their female counterparts and hold 96% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. They constitute more than 80% of the House and the Senate, and have an unrivaled 44-0 streak in winning the presidency. But in 2016 American men are also increasingly likely to say that they’re the ones facing discrimination.

 

In the 2012 American National Election Study, 9% of Republican men said that men faced “a great deal” or “a lot” of discrimination in America. In 2016 that figure is 18%. Perceptions of gender discrimination against men also rose slightly among independent men, but fell among Democratic men. If we add in those men who say that men face “a moderate amount” of discrimination, 41% of Republican men now say that men are being discriminated against. Overall, about one-third of men now say that they’re facing substantial gender discrimination, and two-thirds say that they’re facing at least a little discrimination.

October 3, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Misogyny May Become a Hate Crime in England

Guardian, Police in England and Wales Consider Making Misogyny a Hate Crime

Police forces across England and Wales are considering expanding their definition of hate crime to include misogyny after an experiment in one city that saw more than 20 investigations launched in two months.

 

The initial success of Nottingham’s crackdown against sexist abuse has drawn national interest after the city’s police revealed that they investigated a case of misogyny every three days during July and August, the first months to see specially trained officers targeting behaviour ranging from street harassment to unwanted physical approaches.

 

Several other forces have confirmed they are sending representatives to Nottingham this month to discuss the introduction of misogyny as a hate crime.

 

Police and campaigners said the initial figures were broadly in line with other categories of hate crime such as Islamophobia and antisemitism but were likely to rise significantly as awareness increased.

September 23, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gender By Far is the Biggest Determinant of Who Should do Housework

Huff Post, Most Americans Still Think Women Should Do the Bulk of the Housework

If bitter fights over dirty dishes feel like the gender wars, or you’ve found yourself ranting about The Second Shift, a new study from Indiana University suggests you’re onto something. For most Americans, the survey study found, chore roles align with traditional thinking on masculinity and femininity ― even among couples where a woman is the primary or sole breadwinner and even in same-sex couples. 

 

The researchers were surprised by how much gender mattered ― and how little income did.

 

“Most research on housework suggests that couples divide housework along different axes; for example, lower-earning partners do more housework than higher-earning partners,” said lead author Natasha Quadlin, a doctoral student at Indiana University. “Instead, our findings suggest that [gender] is by far the biggest determinant of Americans’ attitudes toward housework.”

 

Gender matters more than income

 

Participants assigned straight women more female-typed chores, more gender-neutral chores and more physical and emotional caregiving than their partners. This held true even if the woman earned more money than the man.

 

While relative income determined whether or not the husband or the wife would become the stay-at-home caregiver, Quadlin pointed out that low-earning men in straight relationships were still expected to do fewer chores and fewer childcare tasks than their wives.

 

But even though gender mattered most, Quadlin found that participants gave primary responsibility for cooking, cleaning, laundry and dishes, as well as being a primary caregiver for a child, to lower-earning partners, while expecting the higher- wage earners to manage the household finances. Income didn’t have any bearing on groceries, car maintenance or outdoor chores. However, the effects of relative income were minor — for instance, low-wage earners were given responsibility for cooking 55 percent of the time, versus 45 percent for higher earners.

 

August 31, 2016 in Family, Gender, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Profoundly Gendered Nature of Conjugal Liability

 Sarah Lynn Swann, Conjugal Liability

Because of a commitment to the concept of individual culpability, holding someone responsible for the wrongdoing of another is a relatively rare occurrence in American jurisprudence. This Article reveals a significant, yet largely unacknowledged, source of such liability: conjugal liability. Conjugal liability occurs when one spouse or intimate partner is held legally responsible, either directly or indirectly, for their partner’s wrongful acts. Conjugal liability penalizes one intimate partner for the actions of the other in a vast array of legal fields and domains, ranging from tort, criminal law, property and employment law, to creditor’s remedies, bankruptcy, and tax law.

 

Within these domains, conjugal liability is deployed for a variety of laudable purposes, such as the prevention of harm to third parties, the deterrence of drug or other criminal activity, and the expansion of creditor’s remedies. However, conjugal liability is a deeply problematic way of achieving these goals. First, in operation, it is profoundly gendered: most often, it holds wives and girlfriends legally responsible for the wrongdoing of their husbands or boyfriends.***

 

Conjugal liability raises three main concerns. First, as many of the examples in the taxonomy of demonstrate, conjugal liability has gendered consequences. In operation, it tends to spread liability from men to women, making wives and girlfriends experience a punitive fall-out from the wrongful acts of their male intimate partners. Moreover, it often places the very difficult burden of attempting to control a partner onto particularly vulnerable women. Second, conjugal liability is, in some instances, a form of guilt by association. Third, conjugal liability offends the constitutional right to freedom of association, not only because of its gendered and guilt-by-association aspect, but also because it implicates the constitutionally-guaranteed privacy and liberty interests in “maintain[ing] certain intimate human relationships." Specifically, conjugal liability dictates when individuals should enter relationships, how they should behave once they are in them, and under what circumstances they should exit. It sets behavioral standards for what good spouses and partners must do, and punishes those who fail to meet this bar, thereby rendering an individual’s right to enter, maintain, and exit intimate relationships illusory.*

 

In operation, conjugal liability is profoundly gendered. Whereas traditional coverture held husbands legally responsible for the torts and petty crimes of their wives, conjugal liability reverses this gendered responsibility ascription. It tends to hold wives and women legally responsible for the wrongful acts of their husbands and male intimate partners, rather than the other way around. In part because of the sociological reality that men tend to engage in criminological behaviors more than women (meaning they commit sexual harms, engage in violent acts, and perform drug-trafficking activities more often than women), and in part because of cultural beliefs about appropriate gender roles, conjugal liability allocates responsibility in gendered ways.

 

Indeed, despite coverture’s traditional legal fiction that husbands were responsible for the petty crimes and torts of their wives, there is a long-running countervailing cultural tradition of assigning to wives and women the role of “moral compass” for potentially wayward men.

August 24, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Keeping Gender Front and Center and "In Sight"

Stephanie Wildman and Adam Chang, Gender In/Sight: Examining Culture and Constraints of Gender, Georgetown J. Gender & Law, forthcoming.

Abstract:     

To build supportive and inclusive communities, society needs to acknowledge gender and consider how gender dynamics influence daily interactions. Gender In/sight seeks both to provide deeper understandings of gender and underline the presence of gender in daily life, ensuring that gender is “in sight.”

According to Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, “Gender is currently in the top 1% of look-upped words and is the 386th most popular word on Merriam-Webster.com.” These statistics suggest that many people are thinking about gender, yet past thinking most often considers gender an either/or binary with only two anatomical choices.

This paper begins by reviewing a brief evolution of the social construction of gender in U.S. society, followed by an elucidation of why the gender binary remains so problematic. It then introduces some frequently used and misused terms that comprise the cluster of “gender,” examining the question “What is Gender?” Sex has become synonymous with gender and gender with sex. Sex relates to biology, sex assigned at birth, genitalia, chromosomes, and hormones. Identity represents one’s innermost sense of self, whether male, female, both, neither, or any other identity. Most people develop a gender identity that comports with their biological sex. That person is cisgender. A transgender person’s gender identity does not match their assigned birth sex and often seeks to transition (socially or physically). Gender Expression describes the manner in which people outwardly demonstrate gender. A common misconception about gender lies in the belief that someone’s sexual orientation can be determined based on that person’s gender expression. Such an assumption is incomplete because it does not take into account culture, race, ethnicity, geography, and many other factors. A richer vocabulary provides a more holistic picture of the gender landscape including: drag, gender fluid, agender/gender neutral, sex assigned at birth, pansexual. The paper offers these terms not to be final and definitive, but rather to begin the gender conversation and to illustrate its complexity.

The paper next examines more closely recent attempts to expand understandings of gender and the barriers to inclusive gender equality. These barriers include a societal lack of familiarity with gender-expansive terms and language, resulting in the unintended exclusion of non-binary people as well as a rift between feminists and gender-expansive communities exemplified over the meanings associated with being genderblind. Deeper understanding of gender becomes further challenged by the failure to deconstruct binary definitions of gender and the absence of consistent identification of gender as a protected classification.

Finally the paper develops necessary elements for Gender In/sight, a daily practice of both seeing gender and making inclusive, community building decisions to broaden society’s understanding of gender minority people. This section introduces the elements of gender in/sight, which include (1) looking at context; (2) “asking the other question;” (3) examining privileges associated with gender and sexuality, such as male privilege, heterosexual privilege, and cisgender privilege, (4) “finding the me” in the gender conversation, and (5) rebuilding a gender framework that is inclusive while recognizing nuanced differences.

 

August 23, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 5, 2016

President Obama on Feminism, Gender Roles and Being a Feminist Father

Glamour, President Obama Says, "This is What a Feminist Looks Like"

So we shouldn’t downplay how far we’ve come. That would do a disservice to all those who spent their lives fighting for justice. At the same time, there’s still a lot of work we need to do to improve the prospects of women and girls here and around the world. And while I’ll keep working on good policies—from equal pay for equal work to protecting reproductive rights—there are some changes that have nothing to do with passing new laws. In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves.

 

So I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism. But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.

 

And those same stereotypes affected my own consciousness as a young man. Growing up without a dad, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, how the world perceived me, and what kind of man I wanted to be. It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.

 

So we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.

 

We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.

 

We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.

 

We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too “angry.”

 

As a parent, helping your kids to rise above these constraints is a constant learning process. Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race—or when they notice that happening to someone else. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.

 

August 5, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Making A Big Deal of the Gender Reveal

Photo

Jamie R. Abrams joins us as a guest blogger for July.  She is a professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law where she teaches Torts, Family Law, Women & Law, and Legislation.

“Gender reveal” parties are a popular trend among expecting parents.  One website describes these parties as “a new trend that’s sweeping across the baby world.”  The “gender reveal” is described online as one of the “most thrilling parts of pregnancy.”  Expecting parents are accordingly encouraged to make this event “a big, wonderful, landmark event in your life.”  Parents then tuck their ultrasound in an envelope and plan a grand event around its opening.  The party reveals to family and friends – and to the couple themselves – the gender of the baby.

If you have not been invited or involved in one (I had not . . . and surely after this blog post, I will not be in the future!), it’s worth a quick online search.  You will find an endless array of products emphasizing a whimsical gender binary from banners to straws to stickers.  You can have buttons and voting materials for “Team He” versus “Team She.”  You can have cupcakes and cake toppers for “Team Lashes “versus “Team Stashes.”   

The emergence of gender reveal parties in this modern era is most perplexing.  First, the use of the word gender itself defies a general movement toward greater sophistication and nuance between the terms sex and gender and an expanded recognition that gender is not binary.  In this sense, the “gender” reveal is really not a gender reveal at all; it is really a “biological sex” reveal.  The American Psychological Association describes sex as one’s biological sex, which is indicated by external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, and chromosomes.  In contrast, gender “refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.”  Other dimensions of gender include one’s gender identity and one’s gender expression.  Gender is not determined by one’s physical genitalia and it is not binary.

Even if the “gender reveal” party were most awkwardly renamed as a “genitalia reveal” party or a “biological sex reveal,” that too would inaccurately pretend that all bodies fit on “Team He” or “Team She” as the merchandise suggests.  Sex – unlike gender – may be described on a male-female binary, but critically not all bodies conform to that binary; others are intersex.  Making a big deal of the gender reveal wrongly presumes that the child’s gender is fixed in utero and that all bodies fit on “Team He” or “Team She.”  Ironically, the parties themselves are premised on inclusivity.  The planning sites suggest that they are to be celebrated because “male guests are allowed” and because “husbands can be involved.”  So, these parties are celebrating the inclusivity of the party, while the party is framed around exclusivity.

This whimsical in utero trend of the big “gender reveal” defies the increased political, legal, and social recognition that biological sex does not define one’s gender and that gender is not binary.  So, if I’m invited to a gender reveal party, I will happily engage in a tasty protest enjoying a cupcake for both “Team Lashes” and “Team Stashes” to quietly contest outdated and inaccurate depictions of gender.

    

July 25, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Daughter Track of Elder Care

M. Christian Green, "Graceful Pillars": Law, Religion, and the Ethics of the "Daughter Track", Journal Law & Religion (forthcoming July 2016)

What is striking in these responses is the interplay and ethical tension between concepts of virtue and necessity, in a way that construes and constructs the “daughter track” as emblematic of a particular kind of filial virtue that manifests itself in what is often a situation of necessity, in which someone must step up to provide care in the face of scant resources afforded by the surrounding society. In other words, these daughters step up to bear the burden of eldercare because no one else will.


The plight of women on the “daughter track” raises crucial ethical questions about justice, care, and gender connection with eldercare. It does so in a moral and ethical context often shaped not only by the choice to care, but also by virtues forged in contexts of necessity. There are a number of conceptual frameworks in feminist philosophy and feminist legal theory that might be used to analyze the “daughter track” problem. One of the newest and most promising frameworks is the “vulnerability” framework that has been argued powerfully and eloquently about Martha Albertson Fineman. Another longstanding and influential framework is that of the “ethics of care.” With origins in the developmental psychological work of Carol Gilligan, who famously identified and juxtaposed a masculine “ethic of justice” with a feminine “ethic of care,” the ethics of care framework, originally.  

 

While the ethic of care framework might seem to be the most obvious framework for analyzing the “daughter track,” since it involves daughters providing care to elderly parents, it is not the framework that I have chosen to apply here. The origins of the ethics of care in maternal experience do not fully track the daughter care experience, as suggested by contrasts between the “Mommy Track” and the “Daughter Track” in the popular media. Motherhood is most often chosen and eagerly awaited with positive expectations of giving birth and raising to maturity a child who may end up taking care of the parents someday. Eldercare needs, while in a certain sense universal and inevitable, since we all age and most of us have parents who live into old age, often strike out of the blue or build gradually and then hit like a tsunami when a parent’s need for care becomes acute, and the process is one of decline and ultimately death, leaving the caregiver with significantly depleted energy and funds to provide for their own care.

June 21, 2016 in Family, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oregon Legally Recognizes Third Gender of Binary

NPR, Oregon Resident Legally Recognized as Third Gender

An Oregon judge has allowed a 52-year-old retired Army tank mechanic to change gender identity. Not from male to female, or vice versa. But to a new, third gender.

 

Jamie Shupe is now legally non-binary — widely believed to be a first for the United States.

 

Oregon joins several countries in recognizing a third gender. In 2014, India became the largest country in the world to have an official third option, following in the footsteps of Pakistan, Australia and Germany.

June 21, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Even Millennial Men Underestimate Women's Intelligence

Harvard Business Review, Are U.S. Millennial Men Just as Sexist as their Fathers?

The researchers found that male students systematically overestimated the knowledge of the men in their classes in comparison with the women. Moreover, as the academic term progressed, the men’s faulty appraisal of their classmates’ abilities increased despite clear evidence of the women’s superior class performance. In every biology class examined, a man was considered the most renowned student — even when a woman had far better grades. In contrast, the female students surveyed did not show bias, accurately evaluating their fellow students based on performance.

 

June 16, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)