Thursday, August 25, 2016
This website Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution launched last fall tells the backstory of modern feminist and legal history from about 1940 to present. It includes terrific videos, photos, book resources, and detailed news that fill in the backstory of the women's political and legal movement. Great stuff to show in class or use for research.
For example, here is the entry and links for the 1963 Equal Pay Act
This amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex when workers perform substantially equal work and has been credited as one factor in the rise of women’s wages overall. The passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 demonstrates that work in this area is not complete.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
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.
Inside Higher Ed, Study Finds Gains in Faculty Diversity, But Not on Tenure Track
Diversifying the professoriate has long been a priority on many campuses, and such goals have only grown more urgent in light of recent national and local discussions about race. Yet college and university faculties have become just slightly more diverse in the last 20 years, according to a new study from the TIAA Institute. Most importantly, as faculty jobs have become more stratified with the growth of non-tenure-track positions over the same period, most gains for underrepresented minority groups have been in the most precarious positions. That is, not on the tenure track.***
Underrepresented minority groups held approximately 13 percent of faculty jobs in 2013, up from 9 percent in 1993. Yet they still only hold 10 percent of tenured jobs, according to the study. Women now hold 49 percent of total faculty positions but just 38 percent of tenured jobs.
Women’s faculty head count growth nearly doubled that of men between 1993 and 2013, at approximately 375,300 additional women and 196,900 men. Women’s growth in full-time appointments quintupled that of men, and a major change was observed in women’s appointment to tenured positions in particular: an increase of about 46,700 women compared to a decrease among men of about 14,900.
The magnitude of women’s growth in full-time and tenured or tenure-track appointments pales in comparison to their growth in part-time appointments, however, at about 144 percent, and full-time, non-tenure-track appointments, at about 122 percent.
Less optimistically, and to Finkelstein’s point about multiple metrics, the proportion of all women faculty who are tenured or on the tenure track has actually declined from 20 percent to 16 percent and 13 percent to 8 percent, respectively.
At the same time, the percentage of women who are in part-time appointments increased from 48 percent to 56 percent.
The proportion of all women in full-time, non-tenure-track positions held steady at about 18 percent.
Women continue to be less likely than men to hold full-time appointments, at 44 percent of women faculty members compared to 52 percent of men.
Regarding the “ultimate prize,” or a full professorship, fewer than one in 10 faculty women -- about 9 percent -- have achieved it. That's up only slightly from 6 percent of women in 1993. And the years since 1993 have seen women earn much larger shares of doctorates than they had in the past, and have seen disciplines and colleges pledge to do more so that these women Ph.D.s can thrive in academic careers.
Conley said slow growth reflects the hiring and promotion process, in which deans and provosts drawn most often from the full professor ranks themselves make decisions about who become full professors next. That process isn’t about to change any time soon, she said, since a “core value” of higher education remains that only those who have achieved top faculty ranks should hold such authority.
But it can be counteracted by focusing more on developing diverse potential faculty talent at the graduate and even undergraduate levels, she said.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Table of Contents
Surveying the Singles Beat
Ain’t We All Women?
It’s Great to Be Young
Nancy F. Cott
The Urgent Need for a Singles Studies Discipline
Great Stories about Ladies without Partners
Barbara J. Risman
Our Work Is Never Done
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.
Monday, August 22, 2016
CALL FOR PAPERS
APPLIED FEMINISM AND INTERSECTIONALITY:
EXAMINING LAW THROUGH THE LENS OF MULTIPLE IDENTITIES
The Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law seeks paper proposals for the Tenth Anniversary of the Feminist Legal Theory Conference. We hope you will join us for this exciting celebration on March 30-31, 2017.
This year, the conference will explore how intersecting identities inform -- or should inform -- feminist legal theory and justice-oriented legal practice, legal systems, legal policy, and legal activism. Beginning in 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw identified the need for law to recognize persons as representing multiple intersecting identities, not only one identity (such as female) to the exclusion of another (such as African American). Intersectionality theory unmasks how social systems oppress people in different ways. While its origins are in exploring the intersection of race and gender, intersectionality theory now encompasses all intersecting identities including religion, ethnicity, citizenship, class, disability, and sexual orientation. Today, intersectionality theory is an important part of the Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName movements. For more information, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/.
We seek submissions of papers that focus on the topic of applied feminism and intersecting identities. This conference aims to explore the following questions: What impact has intersectionality theory had on feminist legal theory? How has it changed law and social policy? How does intersectionality help us understand and challenge different forms of oppression? What is its transformative potential? What legal challenges are best suited to an intersectionality approach? How has intersectionality theory changed over time and where might it go in the future?
We welcome proposals that consider these questions from a variety of substantive disciplines and perspectives. As always, the Center’s conference will serve as a forum for scholars, practitioners and activists to share ideas about applied feminism, focusing on connections between theory and practice to effectuate social change. The conference will be open to the public and will feature a keynote speaker. Past keynote speakers have included Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, Dr. Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Amy Klobuchar, NOW President Terry O’Neill, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, and U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner.
To submit a paper proposal, please submit an abstract by Friday October 28, 2016 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your abstract must contain your full contact information and professional affiliation, as well as an email, phone number, and mailing address. In the “Re” line, please state: CAF Conference 2017. Abstracts should be no longer than one page. We will notify presenters of selected papers in November. About half the presenter slots will be reserved for authors who commit to publishing in the annual symposium volume of the University of Baltimore Law Review. Thus, please indicate at the bottom of your abstract whether you are submitting (1) solely to present or (2) to present and publish in the symposium volume. Authors who are interested in publishing in the Law Review will be strongly considered for publication. For all presenters, working drafts of papers will be due no later than March 3, 2017. Presenters are responsible for their own travel costs; the conference will provide a discounted hotel rate as well as meals.
We look forward to your submissions. If you have further questions, please contact Prof. Margaret Johnson at email@example.com. For additional information about the conference, please visit law.ubalt.edu/caf.
Call for Papers – Friday September 16th Deadline
The Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network
Seeks submissions for the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting
Mexico City, Mexico, at the Sheraton Maria Isabel, June 20 – 23, 2017
Dear friends and colleagues,
We invite you to participate in the panels sponsored by the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network at the Law and Society Annual Meeting in 2017. The Feminist Legal Theory CRN seeks to bring together law and society scholars across a range of fields who are interested in feminist legal theory. Information about the Law and Society meeting is available at http://www.lawandsociety.org.
This year’s meeting is unique in that it brings us to the Global South, and invites us to explore the theme Walls, Borders, and Bridges: Law and Society in an Inter-Connected World. We are especially interested in proposals that explore the application of feminist legal theory to this theme, broadly construed. This might include papers that explore feminist legal theory in comparative or transnational contexts, as well as in relation to the impacts of globalism and other intersections within particular locations, relationships, institutions, and identities. We are also interested in papers that will permit us to collaborate with other CRNs, such as the Critical Research on Race and the Law CRN, and welcome multidisciplinary proposals.
Our goal is to stimulate focused discussion of papers on which scholars are currently working. Thus, while you may submit papers that are closer to publication, we are particularly eager to receive proposals for works-in-progress that are at an earlier stage and will benefit from the discussion that the panels will provide.
The Planning Committee will assign individual papers to panels based on subject. Panels will use the LSA format, which requires four papers. We will also assign a chair, and one or two commentators/discussants for each panel, to provide feedback on the papers and promote discussion. For panels with two commentators/discussants, one may be asked to also chair.
As a condition of participating as a panelist, you must also agree to serve as a chair and/or commentator/discussant for another panel or participant. We will of course take into account expertise and topic preferences to the degree possible.
The duties of chairs are to organize the panel logistically; including registering it online with the LSA, and moderating the panel. Chairs will develop a 100-250 word description for the session and submit the session proposal to LSA before their anticipated deadline of October 19. This will ensure that each panelist can submit their proposal, using the panel number assigned.
The duties of commentator/discussants are to read the papers assigned to them and to prepare a short commentary about the papers that discusses them individually and (to the extent relevant) collectively, identifying ways that they relate to one another.
If you would like to present a paper as part of a CRN panel, please email:
- An 1000 word abstract or summary,
- Your name and a title, and
- A list of your areas of interest and expertise within feminist legal theory
to the CRN Planning Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please do not send submissions to individual committee members.)
Note that LSA is imposing a requirement that your summary be at least 1,000 words long. Although a shorter summary will suffice for our purposes, you will be required to upload a 1,000 word summary in advance of LSA’s anticipated deadline of October 19. If you are already planning a LSA session with at least four panelists (and papers) that you would like to see included in the Feminist Legal Theory CRN, please let the Committee know.
In addition to these panels, we may try to use some of the other formats that the LSA provides: the “author meets readers” format, salon, or roundtable discussion. If you have an idea that you think would work well in one of these formats, please let us know. Please note that for roundtables, organizers are now required to provide a 500-word summary of the topic and the contributions they expect the proposed participants to make. Please also note that LSA rules limit you to participating only once as a paper panelist or roundtable participant.
Please submit all proposals by Friday, September 16 to the email provided above. This will permit us to organize panels and submit them prior to the LSA’s anticipated deadline of October 19. In the past, we have accommodated as many panelists as possible, but have been unable to accept all proposals. If we are unable to accept your proposal for the CRN, we will notify you by early October so that you can submit an independent proposal to LSA.
We hope you’ll join us in Mexico City to share and discuss the scholarship in which we are all engaged and connect with others doing work on feminist legal theory.
2017 LSA Feminist Legal Theory CRN Planning Committee
Aziza Ahmed (co-chair)
Elizabeth MacDowell (co-chair)
Cyra Akila Choudhury
Nearly 25 years after Anita Hill accused her former boss Clarence Thomas — then a Supreme Court nominee — of making lewd advances, the fight against sexual harassment is again in the spotlight.
Women are pushing to change policies at colleges across the country. Bill Cosby — once a beloved figure of American culture — is now widely reviled because of accusations of rape and assault.
More recently, more than 20 women say media mogul Roger Ailes harassed them at work.
It's a familiar story now: accusations of powerful men using their positions of authority to take advantage of younger women.
Anita Hill was one of the first to capture that narrative in her testimony on Capitol Hill in 1991. She accused Thomas of sexual harassment. He denied all wrongdoing. She was ostracized.
"We've come a long way since then," Hill tells Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep. "It is now part of the public conversation."
Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University, says that while women have fought sexual harassment cases in court and won, "even among women who seem very powerful in their jobs and in the public eye, these problems exist and they don't come forward necessarily.
Friday, August 19, 2016
The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that New Mexico State University and its Board of Regents (NMSU) discriminated against a female former assistant track coach on the basis of sex by paying her less than similarly-situated men in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Justice Department’s complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico and alleges that, over the relevant periods of time, NMSU paid Meaghan Harkins thousands of dollars less per year than it paid to two male assistant track coaches with similar responsibilities, in violation of Title VII. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination – including discrimination in compensation – on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.
“Women deserve the same salary and the same respect as their male colleagues with similar job duties,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Lawsuits like this one demonstrate the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to enforcing federal law to close the wage gap.”
Thursday, August 18, 2016
A former county prosecutor in Vermont has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was paid about $14,000 less per year than a male prosecutor in the same position.
Lawyer Jane O’Neill sued the Rutland County State’s Attorneys office in a suit filed last month, the Burlington Free Press reports.
O’Neill says she was told her salary was not negotiable when she was hired, and she got no answers when she asked about the pay of the male colleague who was hired in 2011. She also claims her boss assigned her lesser tasks and tried to marginalize her in retaliation for her questions.
The suit also claims O’Neill regularly worked 50 to 60 hours a week, but did not get compensation for the extra hours.
O’Neill says she resigned in mid-2014 because working conditions had become intolerable.
A federal jury . . . rejected a former state prosecutor’s claims that she was paid less than her male counterparts in the Suffolk district attorney’s office because she is a woman.
In a unanimous decision, the jury of six women and two men also disagreed with Christina Corda’s claims that her termination from the office was based on her complaints of discrimination. Corda, 34, had filed a lawsuit against the Suffolk district attorney’s office in March 2015. But in a sweeping verdict Thursday, the jury rejected her claims of discrimination, of retaliation, and of violations of state and federal equal pay laws.
A former deputy criminal chief for theU.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane, Washington, filed a scathing sex discrimination and equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, claiming she was treated differently by male colleagues and ultimately forced to resign.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Jill Bolton claims she was unfairly put on administrative leave by Michael C. Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Washington, after he learned she obtained information showing a discrepancy in salaries between her and similarly situated male colleagues. Ormsby characterized Bolton’s actions as a “data breach” and made criminal allegations against her, but another U.S. attorney’s office declined to file charges, her complaint says.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Oklahoma Wesleyan University is joining a former University of Virginia student’s lawsuit challenging the Title IX guidance of the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, according to court documents filed Monday.
The university joins the plaintiff, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe, who was found responsible for sexual misconduct. The lawsuit asserts that the student was found responsible only because the department’s standard of proof is so low.
The suit raises objections to the department’s “Dear Colleague” letter, which states that colleges should use a “preponderance of evidence” standard when reviewing sexual-violence complaints.
“A growing number of innocent students have been trampled in the wake of these new requirements, found responsible for serious charges based often on the flimsiest of evidence,” the suit reads.
Because there’s nothing like the Olympic Games to remind women that we are inferior by patronising female athletes for the world to see at every given opportunity. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the most sexist things that have happened thus far.
The commodification of the female body started before the athletes even arrived in Rio, with the host nation promising it to have the “sexiest ever” opening ceremony with “lots of nearly naked women doing the samba”, as opposed to celebrating the masses of world-class athletes that would be competing.
However, according to NBC’s chief marketing official John Miller, this is just catering to the games’ female audience who are “less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one”.
And NBC didn’t stop there. They’ve made demeaning comments about the USA women’s gymnastics team – after dominating the qualifications for the all round team medal, the ‘final five’ were discussing their performance, to which one commentator said “they might as well be standing in the middle of a mall”, attempting to take away the power of arguably the most formidable team in Olympic gymnastics history.
Feminism! Fairness! Equality! These are not concepts that affect women alone. But boy, do we get tired of carrying the expectation that they are. So a big “Well done, gentlemen,” to Andy Murray and Adam van Koeverden, two male athletes who this week took a stand against sexist assumptions.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Zoe Detsi, Review, European J. American Studies, Thomas A. Foster, ed. Women in Early America (NYU Press 2015)
Women in Early America is an intriguing collection of essays offering richly diverse readings of women’s lives and experiences in 17th- and 18th- century America. This volume is a significant contribution to the scholarship concerning the role of women in history and their participation in historical moments of political change and cultural negotiation. From Gerda Lerner’s seminal work on The Woman in American History (1971) to Linda Kerber’s enlightening book titled Women’s America: Refocusing the Past (6th ed., 2004), to Mary Beth Norton’s meticulous transatlantic study Separated by their Sex: Women in Public and Private in the Colonial Atlantic World (2011), scholarly efforts have been made to deepen our understanding of women’s history by initiating a shift of focus from their domestic role and dependent status to their active involvement in political, military, and economic affairs, as well as cultural production.
The scope of the volume’s methodological approach to the history of early women in America is very broad. The essays cover an impressive range of women’s experiences from the colonial period to the American revolutionary war offering a number of perspectives that embrace cultural history, gender theory, race studies, while resenting a multitude of women’s voices from different social, cultural, political, ethnic backgrounds, and geographical areas. All eleven essays provide scholars and researchers with a wealth of archival material – diaries, letters, narratives, documents – and with fresh insights into examining women in history as active agents in their own right challenging social conventions and political decisions. Either as aristocratic women in New Mexico or indentured servants in Virginia and Maryland, as slave owners in Jamaica or runaway slaves, as interpreters in Puritan Massachusetts or traders in French America and Detroit, as Loyalist women during the revolution or proponents of female education in the new nation, early women in America were deeply involved in (inter)cultural practices and greatly affected by economic policies and social changes.
The Table of Contents is here.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Sarudzayi M. Matambanadzo,Reconstructing Pregnancy, 69 SMU L.Rev. (2016)
Abstract:Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to amend Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. More than thirty-five years after the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, courts have failed to fulfill that act's promise. This failure lies, in part, in the law's tendency to reduce pregnancy, with all of its social and cultural meaning, to its "purely" biological elements. For the purposes of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, courts ground the legal conception of pregnancy in a form of biomedical essentialism that treats pregnancy as a universal given. Under the PDA, courts have reduced pregnancy discrimination only to the discrimination that occurs during gestation or because of gestation-related physiological conditions. This reductive definition of pregnancy is not only profoundly under-inclusive and unresponsive to the needs of workers but also contradictory and incoherent. In response, this article proposes that pregnancy should be reconstructed in law. Judges, administrative actors, and advocates should reject reductive forms of biomedical essentialism and embrace possibilities beyond biology. Pregnancy should not, and indeed cannot, be understood independent of the social, cultural, and relational interactions that give it meaning. Pregnancy is, in fact, pregnant with social and cultural meaning. Reconstructing pregnancy in this way has the potential to provide much needed clarity to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and to ensure that pregnancy discrimination is comprehensively prohibited -- whether it occurs before, during, or after conception.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Cortney Lollar, Criminalizing Pregnancy, Indiana L.J.
Abstract:The state of Tennessee arrested a woman two days after she gave birth and charged her with assault of her newborn child based on her use of narcotics during her pregnancy. Tennessee’s 2014 assault statute was the first to explicitly criminalize the use of drugs by a pregnant woman. But this law, along with others like it being considered by legislatures across the country, is only the most recent manifestation of a long history of using criminal law to punish poor mothers and mothers of color for their behavior while pregnant. The purported motivation for such laws is the harm to the child from prenatal exposure to illegal drugs. But recent scientific studies undermine the harm narrative.
This Article is the first to take a close look at the science behind these laws. Recent longitudinal studies confirm that the use of illegal drugs while pregnant, in and of itself, rarely results in long-term adverse consequences to the fetus and subsequent child. Meanwhile, the negative consequences of ingesting licit substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and other lawfully-prescribed medications, often are much greater than the potential undesirable effects of drug use. Poverty, domestic violence, and a father’s behavior prior to conception also have been shown to have significant harmful impacts on fetal development. Although the criminalization of drug use by pregnant women does not prevent impairment of the fetus and subsequent child, it often leads to additional detrimental consequences. The state regularly steps in and removes children born to women using illicit drugs while pregnant, even when there is no evidence of harm to the child and despite the documented harms to newborns from placement in the foster care system. Additionally, as every major medical organization has publicly indicated, pregnant women are less likely to seek prenatal care if they fear arrest for using drugs, creating damaging effects greater than any potential harms from the drug use.
Legislatures’ unwillingness to acknowledge the empirical evidence contradicting the rationales for this latest batch of criminal laws might cause one to wonder whether the harm to the child is truly the motivating impetus behind these laws. The existing statutes have a disproportionate impact on poor mothers and mothers of color. In fact, class and race-based constructions of motherhood go a significant distance toward explaining the presence of these laws. This Article analyzes how our current approach to the use of drugs by pregnant women relies on these troubling economic- and race-based social constructions, rather than on any scientific and empirical evidence. By challenging the erroneous presumptions motivating these laws, this Article hopes to move legislatures toward effectively addressing the more substantial risks to developing fetuses.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Joanna L. Grossman, Expanding the Core: Pregnancy Discrimination Law as it Approaches Full Term, 52 Idaho L.Rev. (2016)
Abstract:The advocates behind the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 had one very specific mission: to override the Supreme Court’s 1976 decision in General Electric v. Gilbert, in which it had curiously held that pregnancy discrimination had nothing to do with gender and was thus not a form of actionable sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Court was not acting on a blank slate; it had used the same reasoning two years earlier to hold, in Geduldig v. Aiello, that pregnancy discrimination was not sex discrimination for equal protection purposes and therefore was not a classification that merited heightened judicial scrutiny. But the ruling in Gilbert was more than insult to injury. It was both surprising — ignoring a contrary interpretation by the EEOC, as well as rulings of several federal appellate courts that had agreed with the EEOC — and devastating — leaving in place the widespread employer policies that kept pregnant women out of some jobs altogether, and out of continuous employment at almost every job.
The response to Gilbert was swift and effective. The Campaign to End Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers mobilized support for a new law that would amend Title VII, expressly prohibiting pregnancy discrimination. But the specific mission to obtain a legislative override of the Gilbert decision was animated by a more general goal — to ensure pregnant women were not left behind as the tide of employee benefits and accommodations was rising. The fear of being left behind was firmly rooted in reality — workers across the country were benefiting from a rising tide of benefits, while pregnancy was being routinely omitted from comprehensive benefit plans, and pregnant workers found themselves singled out for adverse treatment. Employers refused to hire pregnant women; forced pregnant employees to stop work at a certain point in pregnancy and prevented them from returning to work until a certain point after childbirth; and expressly excluded pregnancy from otherwise comprehensive insurance, disability and leave policies. All told, this meant that pregnant women had little hope of reasonable access to the workforce, and no hope of full integration into it.
The PDA was immediately effective in eliminating most formal employer policies that singled out pregnancy for different (and typically worse) treatment. Congress gave pregnant women the right to be treated like everyone else — allowed to work if they were fully able to work and allowed to take leave if it was otherwise available.8 But these core rights, while important, even essential, are not enough to bring about true equality for women. Thus, as the PDA approaches forty, we see a sustained effort to expand on those core rights. In some cases, the “expansion” is simply a matter of pushing courts to give the PDA its due, reading in a way that furthers Congress’s intent rather than undermines it. In others, the expansion would go beyond the existing statutory rights, as necessary to bring about not only women’s access to the workplace, but their integration into it. After setting out the core of pregnancy discrimination law, this essay will develop four expansion themes: (1) from pregnancy alone to the whole reproductive process, including the “maternal wall”; (2) from overt to implicit bias; (3) from status to effects (and thus access to accommodation); and (4) from federal to state and local protections.
Monday, August 8, 2016
The Irish project Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments: Judges' Troubles and the Gendered Politics of Identity builds upon the work of the feminist judgment project completed at Durham and Kent and which integrated feminist theory and judicial method, re-writing influential judgments from feminist perspectives. The project will produce an anthology of re-written judgments from Northern/Ireland as well as innovative web resources with materials of use to both academics and civil society. Bringing together academic partners at institutions across the UK and Ireland including the Law Schools at Kent, LSE, UCD, UCC, Queen's Belfast, and the University of Ulster, with solicitors, barristers and civil society groups, the project creates a broad new community of Irish feminist scholars around an ambitious Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project. The project will create tangible resources which can be used to engender a societal dialogue about legal decision-making and social change, developing dynamic resources for future research and teaching in judicial studies. The project focuses on the gendered political roles of judges in contexts of transition from conflict, colonialism and religious patriarchy.
Alexander Boni-Saez, Sexual Advance Directives, 68 Alabama L.Rev. (forthcoming 2016)
Abstract:Can one consent to sex in advance? Scholars have neglected the temporal dimension of sexual consent, and this theoretical gap has significant practical implications. With the aging of the population, more and more people will be living for extended periods of time with cognitive impairments that deprive them of the legal capacity to consent to sex. However, they may still manifest sexual desire, so consenting prospectively to sex in this context serves several purposes. These include protecting long-term sexual partners from prosecution by the state, ensuring sexually fulfilled lives for their future disabled selves, or preserving important sexual identities or relationships. The law currently provides a device for prospective decision-making in the face of incapacity: the advance directive. The central claim of this article is that the law should recognize sexual advance directives. In other words, people facing both chronic conditions that threaten their legal capacity to make decisions and institutional care that threatens sexual self-determination should be able to consent prospectively to sex or empower an agent to make decisions about sex on their behalf. To justify this claim, the Article introduces a novel theory of sexual consent — the consensus of consents — that diffuses the longstanding philosophical debates over whether advance directives should be legally enforceable. With this normative foundation, the Article then draws on insights from criminal law, fiduciary law, and the law of wills to fashion a workable regime of sexual advance directives that adequately protects individuals from the risk of sexual abuse.
Friday, August 5, 2016
The Olympics is a not a neutral event. Although Olympic organizers like to present the Games as an apolitical celebration, the way the Olympics are structured reflect the ideals of the elites who are most involved with organizing the event. As we approach the kickoff of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, it’s worth examining gender dynamics in the Games’ history—particularly looking at how female athletes were largely excluded from the Olympics for years as well as the often-overlooked activism of women who fought to compete internationally.
In the early 1900s, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) only allowed women to compete in a handful of events. Only 22 women took part in the games held in 1900. But in the early 1900s a worldwide women’s movement was demanding political inclusion, with some success. As women gained the right to vote in Europe, Russia, and the United States, behind the scenes, some IOC members were quietly moving to expand women’s participation. But IOC President Baron Pierre de Coubertin was implacable, angling for the continued marginalization of women’s sports. After the 1912 Stockholm Games, he and many of his IOC colleagues believed “an Olympiad with females would be impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and improper.”
The 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam was the first time that doubled the number of female participants: almost 300 women took part in the Games, thanks largely to the inclusion of a small slate of women’s track and field events. However, citing medical “evidence,” the IOC ruled after the Amsterdam Games that the 800-meter run was too dangerous. In Amsterdam, after completing the race, a number of competitors fell to the turf to regain their strength. Anti-feminists pounced at the opportunity, arguing that women were too frail to run such distances, and quite remarkably their views won out. Women were not allowed to compete in the 800-meter run until the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Still, in 1928 women comprised about 10 percent of all Olympic athletes.
The Olympics echoed the gender and class structures of the time, but marginalization sparked an innovative response. In the 1920s, dissident athletes teamed up in solidarity with sympathetic supporters to organize alternative athletic competitions rooted in principles of equality. To challenge IOC sexism, women and their allies organized alternative games, a vital yet largely forgotten act of political dissent. Everywhere women looked, the Olympic cards were stacked against them. The IOC, as led by Coubertin, opposed women’s full participation, as the minutes of the 1914 IOC general session made clear: “No women to participate in track and field, but as before—allowed to participate in fencing and swimming.” Discrimination was baked into the master plans.
Enter Alice Milliat, a French athlete and activist whose bold actions scythed a path for women’s participation in the Games. After the exclusion of women from track and field in Antwerp, Milliat founded the Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale (FSFI) on October 31, 1921. At its first meeting, the group voted to establish a Women’s Olympics as an alternative to the male-centric Games. In total four Women’s Games were staged, in 1922 (Paris), 1926 (Gothenburg, Sweden), 1930 (Prague), and 1934 (London), with participants coming mostly from North America, Western Europe, and Japan.
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.