Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

On the 43rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Legal History Reading List

For the decision and oral argument, see Oyez, Roe v. Wade (Jan. 22, 1973)

 For the history and backstory of legalizing abortion, see:

For the anti-abortion advocacy, after Roe, see:

For today's commentary, see:

 

 

 

January 22, 2016 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Women Sued for Women-Only Networking Meetings

These Men's Rights Activists Are Suing Women for Meeting Without Men

In April 2014, Stephanie Burns' company, Chic CEO, was gearing up for a networking event at an Italian restaurant in San Diego. Chic CEO hosts online resources for women starting their own businesses, and this spring evening it had teamed up with a local networking group to throw a mixer at Solare Lounge, where women could mingle over cocktails and appetizers while talking business.

 

During the event, Rich Allison, Allan Candelore, and Harry Crouch appeared at the restaurant door. They had each paid the $20 admission fee, and they told the hosts they wanted to enter the event. Chic CEO turned them away, saying that "the event was only open to women," according to the men's version of events, explained later in a legal complaint. Within two months, the three men had filed a discrimination lawsuit against Burns and her company alleging that the event discriminated against men. They are each members of the nation's oldest men's rights group, the National Coalition for Men, and Crouch is the NCFM's president.

 

The lawsuit is a recent example of a trend that several men's rights activists have repeatedly deployed in California, one made more successful by their strategic use of the Unruh Act, a decades-old civil rights law named after Jesse Unruh, the progressive former speaker of the California Assembly. The law is quite broad, outlawing discrimination based on markers such as age, race, sex, or disability. In dozens of lawsuits, several NCFM members have invoked it to allege discrimination against men by such varied groups as sports teams and local theaters. And the strategy has worked.

 

Since 2013, these men have used the law to file two lawsuits, and threaten several more, against groups encouraging gender diversity in tech and business, worlds that have been historically dominated by men, with women holding only about 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and making up only about 13 percent of computer engineers for the last 20 years. As the movement for more gender diversity in these fields has gained traction, some men's rights advocates have questioned the need for such a movement at all.

 

January 20, 2016 in Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Diversity Policies Rarely Work and May Even Decrease Diversity

Tessa L. Dover, Brenda Major, Cheryl R. Kaiser, Diversity Policies Rarely Make Companies Fairer, and They Feel Threatening to White Men, Harv. Bus. Rev.

U.S. companies spend millions annually on diversity programs and policies. Mission statements and recruitment materials touting companies’ commitment to diversity are ubiquitous. And many managers are tasked with the complex goal of “managing diversity” – which can mean anything from ensuring equal employment opportunity compliance, to instituting cultural sensitivity training programs, to focusing on the recruitment and retention of minorities and women.

 

Are all of these efforts working? In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really. The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women. A longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies found that implementing diversity training programs has little positive effect and may even decrease representation of black women.

 

Most people assume that diversity policies make companies fairer for women andminorities, though the data suggest otherwise. Even when there is clear evidence of discrimination at a company, the presence of a diversity policy leads people todiscount claims of unfair treatment. In previous research, we’ve found that this is especially true for members of dominant groups and those who tend to believe that the system is generally fair.

 

All this has a real effect in court. In a 2011 Supreme Court class action case, Walmart successfully used the mere presence of its anti-discrimination policy to defend itself against allegations of gender discrimination. And Walmart isn’t alone: the “diversity defense” often succeeds, making organizations less accountable for discriminatory practices.

January 20, 2016 in Equal Employment, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Specifics on How Title IX Sexual Violence Cases Were Resolved

Chronicles, How 46 Title IX Cases Were Resolved

Since the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights signaled stricter enforcement of Title IX in April 2011, it has resolved 46 investigations of colleges for possible violations of the gender-equity law involving alleged sexual violence. You can explore all investigations in this wave of enforcement and learn more with The Chronicle’s Title IX investigation tracker.

  • 30 Resolution Agreements
  • 7 Administratively Closed
  • 4 Settled Through Early-Complaint Resoultion
  • 3 Insufficient Evidence
  • 2 Unknown Resolution

 

 

January 19, 2016 in Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

So You Want to be a Dean

This is one of the best articles I've seen capturing the leadership realities of deaning today, from my view as an Associate Dean.  

Chronicle HE, So You Want to Be a Dean?

I started out idealistic, and adamant that I could develop a better model of a school of education. What could be so hard, I thought, in "operationalizing" one’s ideas? What I have since learned: Nothing is more exciting or complicated in higher education as turning ideas into reality. It is way harder than rocket science.

So for any of you faculty members considering moving into administration, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that your background may be your greatest asset. The bad news is that it may also be your undoing as a capable administrator.

January 19, 2016 in Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2016

At the Intersection of Gender & Race

Some classic reading on this MLK Day:

Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, 1989 U. Chicago Legal. Forum. 139.

 

bell hooks, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1987)

 

Serena Mayeri, Reasoning from Race: Feminist, Law, and the Civil Rights Movement (2014)

 

Pauli Murray & Mary Eastwood, Jane Crown and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII, 34 GW L. Rev. 232 (1965)

And Serena Mayeri speaking on Pauli Murray and "Jane Crow," Reasoning from Race

January 18, 2016 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Negative Effect of Stand-Your-Ground Laws on Victims of Domestic Violence

Mary Anne Franks (Miami), How Stand-Your-Ground Law Hijacked Self Defense, in Guns and Contemporary Society: The Past, Present, and Future of Firearms and Firearm Policy, Vol. 3 (Glen Utter, ed.), 2016.

In 2005 Florida passed the nation’s first so-called stand-your-ground law. By 2014 stand-your-ground laws had been passed in thirty-three states, transforming the legal landscape of self-defense. These laws significantly alter the historical understanding of justifiable force, ostensibly in order to clarify and strengthen the concept of justifiable self-defense and enhance public safety. The real accomplishment of these laws, however, has been to encourage the use of deadly force as a first, instead of a last, resort. Not only have these laws failed to deter crime, they have encouraged the escalation to deadly force in situations that do not call for it. Homicide rates increased in states with stand-your-ground laws after passing the legislation, and these states have higher homicide rates than states without stand-your-ground laws. The laws have encouraged the unnecessary use of deadly force on the part of those who have least reason to use it, and inhibited the use of deadly force by those most vulnerable to attack. These laws have undermined the limited protections victims of domestic violence have achieved after decades of reform efforts and worsened existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Stand-your-ground laws do violence to the very concept of self-defense by conflating self-defense with gun use, encouraging vigilantism and violent escalation, and exploiting delusions of heroic prowess. True reform of the legal and social concept of self-defense should focus on clarifying when deadly force is truly necessary and reasonable. Such a reform effort should expand protections for women defending themselves against abusers, critically evaluate the disproportionate use of deadly force against unarmed minorities, and encourage training in and access to non-fatal methods of self-defense.

January 12, 2016 in Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alice Paul's Legacy in the ERA

In honor of Alice Paul's birthday yesterday, it's important to remember not only her work for suffrage, most vividly captured in the movie Iron Jawed Angels.  But also Paul's first proposal of an Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 and her fifty-years of advocacy for that broader grant of equality.  See After Suffrage Comes Equality? The Nineteenth Amendment as the Next Logical Step, forthcoming in 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women’s Political Activism (Lee Ann Banaszak & Holly McCammon eds.) (Oxford Univ. Press 2016).

January 12, 2016 in Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 11, 2016

The "Radical Conscience" of Nineteenth-Century Feminism and the Law

I've posted Chapter 1 of my book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law, forthcoming this summer from NYU Press.  This chapter introduces Stanton, her legacy for the law and domestic relations, and her holistic legal feminism. See The "Radical Conscience" of Nineteenth-Century Feminism.

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January 11, 2016 in Books, Family, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Gloria Steinem Chair in Feminist Studies

Rutgers Surpasses $2 Million Mark for Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair

A little more than a year after launching a campaign to create an endowed chair in honor of modern American feminist Gloria Steinem, Rutgers University officials announced they have surpassed the $2 million mark in donations.

 

The funds, totaling $2.1 million from more than 250 individuals and 12 foundations, put the university two thirds closer toward the $3 million required to finance the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies.

 

The chair,  a unique collaboration among Rutgers’ Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL), School of Communication and Information (SCI)  and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, will focus on the creative and complex ways information technology and new media are reshaping culture and power relationships.

Rutgers seems particularly appropriate, given its locus as the birthplace of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's academic work on women's rights, and the Stanton and Anthony Papers Project.

 

 

January 11, 2016 in Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Criminal Mugshots as Feminist Subversion. The Suffragette Example.

Linda Mulchay, Docile Suffragettes? Resistance to Police Photography and the Possibility of Object-Subject Transformation, 23 Feminist Legal Studies 79 (April 2015).

 This paper provides a revisionist account of the authority and power of the criminal mugshot. Dominant theories in the field have tended to focus on the ways in which mugshots have been used as a way of disciplining criminal bodies and rendering them docile. It is argued here that additional emphasis could usefully be placed on stories of resistance in which the monological production site of the prison or police station transforms into a dialogical site, in which the objects of police photography can acquire agency. These issues are explored with particular reference to a set of photographs of English suffragettes acquired by the police for surveillance purposes. The suffragette’s refusal to comply with requests to have their photographs taken is used as a case study through which to examine the ways in which conventions about the form of the mugshot can be subverted, ideas about the types of people who were the object/subject of mugshots disrupted and the assumption of documentary neutrality undermined.

January 7, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Men Writing History, About Men, for Men

Slate, Why Are So Many History Books About Men, by Men?

A careful study of recent popular history books reveals a genre dominated by generals, presidents--and male authors.

In recent years, as academic history has taken a turn toward the cultural and social, producing more and more works about women, minorities, and everyday life, the kinds of history books you see on the New Releases table at a Barnes & Noble have begun to feel like throwbacks. A quick survey reveals naval battles, grand adventures, and biography after biography about the Founding Fathers. Call these “uncle books”—tomes that you give an older male relative, to take up residence by his wingback armchair.

 

This state of affairs dismays many academic historians. Last year, at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, a presenter in a session on “Buying and Selling History” included a slide listing the best-selling trade history books of 2014, as tallied by BookScan. The generous helping of politically conservative histories by Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly caused concern, but some historians noticed another troubling trend: The list was dominated by male authors. Of 23 titles, two were written by women.  * * *

 

Why does this matter? Academics are interested in cultural and social history because those approaches allow room for contemplation of what it was like to live life as an everyday person in a certain period, not just as a general or president or pioneer. Last year, historian Ann M. Little noted that the best-selling biographies of 2014 tended to be about men—and a particular kind of man, at that. Popular biographies of Founding Fathers and war heroes, wrote Little, “reflect our contemporary preoccupation with modern history themes: politics, economics, warfare, the nation-state. … These biographies are invested in a particularly modern kind of subjectivity, that of the heroic individual who bends history to his will.” In other words, the popularity of biographies of presidents and sports heroes reflects and reinforces the idea that interesting lives are lived in public, often defined by conflict and glory. Cultural and social histories make the meta-point that history is about communities, not just individuals.

Some of us are trying hard to swim against this tide:

Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (forthcoming NYU Press 2016)

 

Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863-1945 (Cambridge 2015)

 

Arissa Oh, To Save the Children of Korea:The Cold War Origins of International Adoption (Stanford 2015)

 

Mary Ziegler, After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (Harvard 2015)

 

 

January 7, 2016 in Books, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Women and the Law Conference 2016: Diversity in Higher Education

Smarter People Do Not Make For Smarter Teams. Women Do.

Teams are Smarter with Women

The New York Times set out to find out what makes for a smarter, more well-functioning team. They worked with M.I.T. to group nearly 700 volunteers into teams that had to work together to complete short tasks involving things like brainstorming, logical analysis, and planning.

 

Who works smartest? Surprisingly, the study found that smarter people do not make for smarter teams. Teams with high-IQ averages didn’t perform any better than lower-IQ average teams did. Nor did teams with extroverts. Instead, the study found three things made for smarter teams:

 

First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group.

 

Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible.

 

Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not “diversity” (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at “mindreading” than men.

 

So there you have it. Let everyone talk, pay attention to people’s eyes, and have more women on your team.

January 6, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 4, 2016

England and Wales Enact Groundbreaking New Domestic Abuse Law

NPR, England and Wales Expand the Meaning of Domestic Abuse

A groundbreaking law on domestic abuse takes effect today in England and Wales. It expands the meaning of domestic violence to include psychological and emotional torment. So it is now a crime there to control your spouse, say, through social media or online stalking. Experts in domestic violence say it represents a new way to look at the whole issue of abuse.

 

Until recently, the only way police there could arrest someone for domestic violence was if the person assaulted or threatened their spouse. After a lot of research with victims, authorities realized that abuse often starts earlier and is more pervasive than they thought.

 

The new law makes illegal all sorts of controlling and coercive behavior in a relationship. This can include stealing money from a spouse, limiting financial freedom, Internet stalking or restricting access to friends and family. Prosecutors will have to show a pattern of abuse and that it has real impact on a victim's life.

 

Police around England and Wales are now being trained to spot signs of controlling behavior and enforce the law. Violators could face a sentence of up to five years behind bars.

January 4, 2016 in International, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

China's New Domestic Violence Law

Wash Post, China's Domestic Violence Law is a Victory for Feminists. But They Say it Doesn't Go Far Enough.

When Chinese survivors of domestic violence summon the courage to go to the police, they often hear one thing: That's a private matter, go home.

 

That, at long last, may change.

 

After years of feminist organizing and advocacy, China's legislature this weekend passed a domestic violence law. For those who worked to make it happen, it's a hard-earned victory — an achievement "worth celebrating," according to veteran campaigner Feng Yuan.

 

At the same time, advocates say, the law is deeply flawed, a sort of field guide to enduring stereotypes and societal blind-spots. It fails to account for sexual violence, for one. And it is silent on the matter of same-sex couples.

 

"The law is very necessary to combat the epidemic of domestic violence, but there are a lot of problems with this legislation," said Leta Hong Fincher, author of “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China."

 

"And," she said, "we will have to see how it's enforced."

 

The law was a long time coming. Women's groups here have for more than a decade campaigned to take domestic violence out of the shadows and into the courts.

January 4, 2016 in International, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking Ahead to 2016 on Women's Reproductive Rights

Here's Why 2016 Could be the Biggest Year for Reproductive Rights and the Courts in Decades

The next year promises to be an eventful one on the legal front—though we feel like we say that every December. After all, 2015 brought challenges to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; a case on whether not hiring an employee because she wears a hijab is employment discrimination; the historic and successful challenge to same-sex marriage bans; the failed challenge to federal subsidies in the Affordable Care Act; and a failed attempt to gut the Fair Housing Act. Meanwhile, 2014 was the year the Roberts Court gave the green light to governments embracing prayer at civic functions; it also struck most abortion clinic buffer zones as unconstitutional in McCullen v. Coakley. And who could forget Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, the case in which the Roberts Court created a constitutional corporate right to object to contraception coverage?

 

Even so, 2016 is still shaping up to be an important year for reproductive rights and justice. Some cases on the list to watch—like yet another challenge to the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act—we anticipated. Other cases, like the trial in Colorado of Robert Lewis Dear Jr., who is accused of launching a siege at a Planned Parenthood health-care center in Colorado Springs that killed three, injured nine, and terrorized many others, we wish were not here at all. But given the violent rhetoric targeting abortion doctors, providers, and patientsthat increased over the course of 2015, we can’t say we were surprised to put it there.

January 1, 2016 in Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back on 2015 and Advances for Pregnant Worker Fairness

Looking Back: NWLC, 2015 in Review:A Year of Major Milestones in the Fight for Pregnant Worker Fairness

In 2015, something that rarely happens happened. The Supreme Court, the United States Congress, and state legislatures all started to get on the same page. Fairness for pregnant workers was what brought them all together. Despite the many diverse views these institutions represent, they agreed that ensuring pregnant workers’ health and economic security is paramount. Here are 2015’s top highlights in the fight for fairness for pregnant workers.

 

December 31, 2015 in Family, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women's Rights Successes of 2015

Women's Rights Successes of 2015

1. The Supreme Court ruled that employers can’t discriminate against pregnant workers.

This March, the Court put pregnancy under the same protected class that includes people with disabilities or injuries. Although the lawsuit that sparked the ruling can now be re-litigated, the decision pushes employers to accommodate pregnant workers or risk a lawsuit. Now that’s something people on both sides of the abortion debate can agree on.

 

2. Women can now serve in all branches of the military.

Two women became the first women ever to graduate from the prestigious Army Ranger School this year. Earlier this month U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that women are now allowed to participate in the 220,000 roles they were previously banned from, like special operations and infantry. While backlash has been disheartening—a study shows that at least 70 percent of special ops member are against the integration—it’s nice to see the military move forward in letting women get ahead on their own merits.

 

3. California became the first state to put out guidelines for handling sexual assault on campus.

As the spotlight continues on campus sexual assault, California issued the first guidelines in the country detailing how colleges can handle the violence better. May’s landmark rules include focusing on victims needs and coordinating with groups off-campus, priorities that have often been overlooked in the past.

 

4. A woman finally took the helm at Sandia National Laboratories.

This summer, Jill M. Hruby became the first-ever female president of the New Mexico lab, which is the largest national security lab in the U.S. The numbers of women in science, math, engineering and technology fields are still paltry, but small advances like Hruby’s prove we’re moving forward.

 

5. The White House reinstated birth control access for working women with health insurance.

After the Supreme Court ruled that employers like Hobby Lobby don’t have to cover contraceptives in their insurance programs, the White House guaranteed workers who worked for for-profit companies access to birth control. Experts estimate that the Affordable Care Act’s coverage has saved women more than $1.4 billion in costs.

 

6. Oregon made getting birth control easier for women by letting pharmacies dispense contraceptives in a full-year supply.

Usually, women can get birth control only in 30 or 90 day packs, Care2 notes. Gov. Kate Brown signed a measure this summer that removes that challenge, saying that it was a “simple premise that I whole-heartedly believe in.”

 

7. The U.S. Treasury decided to put a woman on the $10 bill.

For the first time in more than a century, a woman is going to be the face on U.S. paper currency. The honoree is still yet to be determined, as the public swamped the Treasury with suggestions, but as Care2 notes, she’ll probably share the honor with Alexander Hamilton.

 

8. Nepal joined the countries that elected a woman for president.

Right now, 29 of the world’s 195 countries have a leader who’s a woman. In the U.S., numbers of women are higher than ever before in Congress—we can only move up from the current 20 percent, right? Also two women total are major candidates for president. Don’t be upset by the slow progress; social change moves like molasses.

 

9. The UK introduced a new rule to call attention to the gender pay gap.

The country now requires companies to publish what they pay men and women, including bonuses. The pay gap persists across the world, including in the U.S. where women get paid 77 cents to every man’s dollar. This gap increases even further with age and racial disparities, so hat tip to the U.K. for not sweeping it under the rug.

 

10. The first openly transgender woman of color ever takes her post at a job in the White House.

During the year the country marveled at the coming-out of Caitlyn Jenner and saw advances for transgender populations, which are far-too-often marginalized. With transgender women of color suffering the most, President Obama’s appointment of Raffi Freedman-Gurspan in the Presidential Personnel Office a few months ago is monumental

 

December 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rewriting the Law of Sexual Assault and Advance Consent

Sexual Assault and Advance Consent: A Feminist Judgment in R v. J.A.

This is the audio recording of a seminar given at the Kent Centre for Law, Gender and Sexuality, University of Kent, on 12 November 2015. The paper discusses a draft feminist judgment in R v JA [2011] SCC 28 (Supreme Court of Canada), a spousal sexual assault case involving the issue of whether parties can consent in advance to sexual activity that will occur while they are asleep or unconscious. The JA ruling has generated critique and debate amongst feminists and law and sexuality scholars that pits women's security interests against their sexual autonomy. The judgment endeavours to analyse whether it is possible to adopt an approach to advance consent that advances both of these interests, or whether they are ultimately irreconcilable.  In doing so, it explores the proposal of Justice Fish, writing in dissent at the Supreme Court of Canada, that an appropriate balance might be that taken under s 75(2)(d) of the UK's Sexual Offences Act 2003, which creates a presumption against advance consent but not an absolute bar to arguing it. The author is a member of the Women's Court of Canada project, the first feminist judgment re-writing project internationally, and she also speaks to the potential value as well as challenges of feminist judgment writing.

December 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)