Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Day Iceland Women Went on Strike for Equality -- 40 Years Ago Today

BBC, The Day Iceland's Women Went on Strike

Forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on strike - they refused to work, cook and look after children for a day. It was a moment that changed the way women were seen in the country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality.


When Ronald Reagan became the US President, one small boy in Iceland was outraged. "He can't be a president - he's a man!" he exclaimed to his mother when he saw the news on the television.


It was November 1980, and Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a divorced single mother, had won Iceland's presidency that summer.  The boy didn't know it, but Vigdis (all Icelanders go by their first name) was Europe's first female president, and the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state.


Many more Icelandic children may well have grown up assuming that being president was a woman's job, as Vigdis went on to hold the position for 16 years - years that set Iceland on course to become known as "the world's most feminist country".


But Vigdis insists she would never have been president had it not been for the events of one sunny day - 24 October 1975 - when 90% of women in the country decided to demonstrate their importance by going on strike.

October 24, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tokyo Ward to Start Issuing Same-Sex Partnership Certificates

From the WSJ blog: 

Tokyo’s Shibuya ward said Friday that it will start accepting applications for same-sex partnership certificates beginning next week after passing an ordinance earlier this year that permits the ward to recognize the partners equivalent to those married under the law.

According to the ward, same-sex couples applying for a certificate must both reside in Shibuya and be at least 20 years old. They must also be unrelated and have no spouses or other same-sex partners. The ward will also require that the couple submit notarized documents proving their relationship.

The ward said it will start issuing the certificates beginning Nov. 5.

October 23, 2015 in International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More on the Feminist Judgments Project

More on the forthcoming book from the U.S. Feminist Judgments Project

FYI - the Conference on the project Rewriting the Law. Writing the Future. is next year, October 20 & 21, 2016 at the Center for Constitutional Law following the release of the book.

Mother Jones, See How Your Life Would Change if We Cloned Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Feminist Judgments" puts a new spin on famous Supreme Court cases.


In 2012, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made headlines by saying she hoped to see an all-female Supreme Court one day. "When I'm sometimes asked when there will be enough [women justices] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked," she explained during a legal conference in Colorado. Nobody "ever raised a question" when nine men dominated the court, added the now-82-year-old, one of three women on the bench today.


If Ginsburg got her wish, what might that mean for America? And what if women had taken a majority of seats on the highest court a long time ago? That's a question raised by dozens of feminist law scholars and lawyers across the United States who are putting together a new book, Feminist Judgments, in which they re-examine 24 of the most significant Supreme Court cases related to gender—dating from the 1800s to the present day—and rewrite the court's final decisions as if they had been the judges.


More than 100 people applied to help write the book, which will be published sometime next spring, according to Kathryn Stanchi, a law professor at Temple University and one of three editors overseeing the project. All selected applicants agreed to follow an important rule: They could only base their revision on the legal precedent that bound the Supreme Court back when the case was first decided.

 For earlier coverage on this blog see here and here.

October 22, 2015 in Books, Conferences, Constitutional, Courts, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"When Women's Rights Are Not Enough"

From HuffPost: 

Around the world, women in 155 countries face legal restrictions on the economic opportunities available to them, according to the recent World Bank Group's reportWomen, Business and the Law 2016, which highlights the challenges women face in the global economy and underscores the need for legal reform.

These legal barriers are just the beginning of the obstacles women face to accessing economic opportunities. Establishing women's equality in the law is critical, but more work is needed to dismantle the social and cultural norms that prevent women from knowing and accessing their rights.

October 21, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Feminist Perspective on Children and Law

Laura Rosenbury, A Feminist Perspective on Children and Law: From Objectification to Relational Subjectivities


This chapter presents a new framework for thinking about feminism and children. The chapter begins by chronicling feminist challenges to law’s objectification of children, highlighting the many ways that children remain the objects of adult and state authority despite the demise of the patriarchal family. Children’s dependencies are thought to justify such treatment, yet feminist analysis exposes the ways in which law constructs aspects of that dependency. Law’s role in constructing children’s dependency in turn provides a basis to question law’s continued treatment of children as objects rather than subjects.

The second part of the chapter proceeds to articulate a relational approach to children’s subjectivity. Building on the work of Martha Minow, this approach highlights children’s experiences as active participants in multiple relationships directly and indirectly mediated by law. Children’s relationships are not confined to the family, nor do they solely involve hierarchal dynamics of development and control. Children instead experience a broad range of interactions as children, separate from or in addition to their interests in becoming adults, even as they remain dependent on adults for many aspects of their lives. Children’s relationships therefore blur the traditional distinction between subjects and objects, providing a foundation for law to acknowledge and foster children’s intrinsic interests as children.
Law never simply reflects reality, however, but also always has regulatory effects. The final part of the chapter analyzes the ways in which law constructs subjectivity by relying on the category of “child”. The child is the empty space against which the category of the adult subject comes into being. Attempts to recognize children’s subjectivity therefore challenge the very meaning of subjectivity in law. This constitutive relationship between children and adults may create conflicts of interest for feminists, and otherwise make change difficult, but it also highlights another way that adults and children are interdependent. Subjectivity therefore need not hinge on autonomy or a lack of dependency. Instead, law might recognize children as subjects even amidst their dependency, thereby constructing children as participants in multiple relationships and settings mediated by law.

October 20, 2015 in Family, Scholarship, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Search for the Women's Declaration of Sentiments

This is a new Nicholas Cage movie in the making; National Treasure III: Finding the Feminists. 

WashPost, White House is Searching for the Origins of Women's Rights

White House chief technology officer Megan Smith on Wednesday launched a nationwide search for the original "Declaration of Sentiments," the document signed in July 1848 at the Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y..

The historic resolution, which called for not just women's suffrage but equal pay and the right to attend college, is not technically a government document. But Smith, who spent part of her childhood in upstate New York, wanted to see it for herself once she started working for the administration in the fall of 2014. There was one catch: the National Archives didn't have it, and no one knew where it was.

"So the game begins," Smith recounted in a phone interview from Houston, where she was preparing to make the announcement at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Wednesday afternoon.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the resolution before the Seneca Falls conference, which took place July 19-20, 1848. Historians know that anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass  took it to the print shop of his newspaper, The North Star, to print it.

"We don’t know where it goes from there," said Smith, adding she doesn't think the original document was intentionally excluded from the nation's historic coffers. "There’s nothing malicious here. This is simply a lack of consciousness. For most Americans, if you asked them what the Declaration of Sentiments is, they would have no idea what you’re talking about." ***

While several of the items on the Declaration of Sentiments have been addressed through changes to U.S. laws on voting, marriage and divorce, among other matters, others are still a work in progress. The political debate over equal pay for women continues to rage, a subject the suffragists outlined when they wrote, "He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration."

A printed version of the Declaration of Sentiments is here.

Our conference at the Center for Constitutional exploring the historical origins of women's equality and the Declaration of Sentiments on the 200th Anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's birth is on Thursday, Nov. 12.  Details are here.

And my book exploring Stanton's complex and nuanced feminist theories of gender equality in marriage, divorce, property, and parenting is forthcoming from NYU Press, 2016.


October 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sen. Bob Casey's Campus Sexual Assault Bill

The story: 

Colleges and universities in the U.S. are now required to disclose incidents of domestic and dating violence, such as stalking, in their annual crime reports, thanks to a sexual assault reform bill that went into effect this academic year.

Introduced by Democratic Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey and Democratic New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act) is among the more substantial updates to the Jeanne Clery Act, the 1990 sexual assault prevention bill requiring colleges and universities that receive federal funding to disclose campus crime data like rape, assault and robbery.

October 19, 2015 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Colloquium: The Origins of Feminist Equality

Presenting work from my forthcoming book at the upcoming conference at the Center for Constitutional Law at Akron.  Please join us - details below.



October 17, 2015 in Conferences, Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Marine Corps Study Finds No Detriment to Morale in Mixed-Gender Combat Units"

From the NYT: 

The Marine Corps has long held concerns that integrating women into combat units could erode morale in all-male platoons and lead to increased sexual tension that would undermine fighting capability. But a Marine Corps study made public by a women’s advocacy group this week found that after months of testing mixed-gender combat units, troops reported morale equal to that of all-male groups and higher than noncombat integrated groups

In addition, the study found sexual assault levels no higher than in the Marines as a whole.

October 16, 2015 in Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

"A new law to save minors from survival sex will force them into state custody"

From the Guardian UK:

It’s not novel that minors in the US can, in very rare cases, be sentenced to reform programs or secure confinement for actions that wouldn’t be illegal if adults did them. But the system used to punish youth for the likes of skipping school or drinking has never been used systematically to address cases where minors engage in survival sex – meaning, youths who exchange sex for money, shelter, food, drugs or other needs.


That is about to change, even though treating juveniles charged with prostitution like truants will increase arrests and extend court-involvement and institutionalization of victims.

October 16, 2015 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Western Story of American Women's Suffrage

Ms., Once Upon a Time in the West

Few people outside of women’s rights historians understand that American women fought for political enfranchisement for nearly 75 years—from when Elizabeth Cady Stanton made suffrage a rallying cry at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. And while a chunk of that time was referred to as “the doldrums” by eastern suffragists, in the West, women’s rights activists had far more exciting experiences. In fact, by the time national suffrage passed, 14 western states had already enfranchised women voters.


In pop culture, the American West belongs to rugged cowboys and macho gunslingers. Left out of those depictions are the women, immigrants, former slaves and Native Americans who also made homes on the range. Far from just the wives, mothers, daughters and playthings of frontiersmen as portrayed in books and films, women arrived in the West, single or with their families, for the same reasons men did—for adventure, for livelihood or to escape the oppressive social mores that dominated the eastern United States.


“The West is supposed to be he-man country, not some place where the little ladies mattered, or were even present,” notes Dr. Virginia Scharff, distinguished professor of history at the University of New Mexico and chair of Western Women’s History at the Autry National Center. “But there were indigenous women in the West long before there were Marlboro Men, and they were absolutely essential to the survival of their communities. And once American migrants started showing up, women were a big part of conquest and resistance in the West.”


As Scharff alludes, some of western women’s early political advancement was inherently tied up in the goals of white Americans. “Early western suffragists often referred to ‘frontier’ egalitarianism and ‘chivalry,’” as reasons why western states were more amenable to politically active women, “but this was an ethnocentric conclusion that privileged white women,” writes Dr. Rebecca Mead in her book How the Vote was Won. Indigenous women would not realize the right to vote as American citizens until 1924 (sometimes much later in certain states). Similarly, women of color struggle against tacitly sanctioned racial and ethnic discrimination that continues to impact their ability to vote. Nevertheless, for the women who stood to benefit most from suffrage, frontier territories—anxious to attract more white families and often understanding of the equal work demanded of both male and female homesteaders—were the earliest successful battlegrounds for suffrage.

October 15, 2015 in Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

OH Introduces Equal Pay Bill Democratic Ohio Lawmakers Introduce "Equal Pay" Bill

Two Northeast Ohio representatives introduced legislation aimed at closing the pay gap between Ohio men and women by requiring state employers to review employee salaries and encouraging all employers to adopt policies supporting equal pay among men and women working comparable jobs.


Democratic Reps. Stephanie Howse of Cleveland and Kathleen Clyde of Kent said Wednesday the bill is necessary because Ohio women make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. Nationally, black women earn 63 cents and Hispanic and Latina women earn 54 cents for every $1 earned by white men.


"Part of our bill seeks to root out the systemic undervaluing and undperpaying of women's work," Clyde said at a Wednesday news conference.

House Bill 330 has little chance of clearing the Republican-controlled Statehouse. The bill has 24 co-sponsors, all Democrats.


The Ohio Equal Pay Act would require state and local governments to evaluate employee pay for comparable work across job categories and eliminate pay associated with "women's work." Positions that have similar duties, responsibilities, and general requirements would be considered in the same "class." A class would be considered women-dominated if more than 70 percent of those employees are female and men-dominated if more than 80 percent of those employees are male.

October 15, 2015 in Equal Employment, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

College Students Accept "Yes Means Yes" as a Meaningful Standard

Wash Post, Adults Hate "Yes Means Yes." The College Students I Meet Love Them.

Last month, Michigan became the latest state legislature to introduce a “Yes Means Yes” law, mandating the teaching of affirmative consent as a sexual standard. In the past year, affirmative consent has become the mandated standard on college campuses in New York and California and is being voluntarily adopted by a growing number universities beyond those two states. The idea is simple: In matters of sex, silence or indifference aren’t consent. Only a freely given “yes” counts. And if you can’t tell, you have to ask.


Every time one of these bills is introduced, a certain subset of adults freaks out. Earlier this year, as the spring semester got underway and these new policies took hold on some campuses, Robert Carle, writing for libertarian outlet Reason, shrieked that “[a]ffirmative consent laws turn normal human interactions into sexual offenses,” as if there’s anything “normal” about a disinterest in whether or not the person you’re having sex with is a willing participant. In the New York Times, Judith Shulevitz dismissed the new standard because “[m]ost people just aren’t very talkative during the delicate tango that precedes sex, and the re-education required to make them more forthcoming would be a very big project,” an assertion for which she provides no evidence. But if students aren’t yet used to practicing affirmative consent, that’s no argument against it. Marital rape used to be both popular and legal, and we didn’t wait until everyone had stopped committing it to institute new laws. And in the Boston Globe, Wendy Kaminer protests that “in practice [affirmative consent standards] aim to protect women from the predations of men,” even though, as even she acknowledges, the standard is gender neutral. (More on that in a moment.)


All the grownup scaremongering is drowning out one important fact: Young people are embracing affirmative consent.

October 15, 2015 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Gender Gap in Political Giving

From the NYT: 

More women vote than men, and it has been true for decades. But women lag way behind men in another measure of political participation. Only about 30 percent of big donors to campaigns are women, which, in an election that’s forecast to feed on billions of dollars of donations, is a gender gap in political influence.

The estimated gap in overall fund-raising is even larger, because the average contribution from a man is much larger than the average for a woman. For every dollar flowing from big donors into the campaigns of sitting members of Congress, about 76 cents has come from a man and 24 cents from a woman.

October 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New Book Chapter on the Long History of the ERA

I just posted TJ Boisseau & Tracy Thomas, After Suffrage Comes Equality? ERA as the Next Logical Step, forthcoming as a chapter in the book 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women’s Political Activism edited by Lee Ann Banaszak and Holly McCammon (Oxford University Press 2016).

The chapter traces the long, and surprising, history of the Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923.

From the abstract:

Almost a full century in the making, the campaign for an ERA far exceeded in longevity the campaign for woman suffrage, however much a “logical next step” women's equality seemed to some following the spectacular achievement of the Nineteenth Amendment. The history of the amendment reveals how resistant to the idea of equality between men and women a political system—even one that includes women as voters—can be. In this chapter, we re-examine the route taken by the ERA through its many permutations in the century since the passage of woman suffrage. Proposed by Alice Paul in 1923 and immediately opposed by social feminists advocating protective labor laws, the ERA wound itself in and out of feminist, conservative, and public favor before its final defeat in 1982, three states short of adoption. Woven into the Supreme Court's analysis of Lochner and substantive due process, and the later evolution of equal protection law, women's equality--or difference--has been the foundation of much of the development of modern constitutional doctrine.


October 13, 2015 in Books, Constitutional, Courts, Legal History, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Only the third constitution to guarantee LGBT rights

From HuffPost: 

In the midst of earthquake reconstruction and political violence in the country's south, Nepal's new constitution provides a reason for many citizens to celebrate -- particularly its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

After more than seven years of deliberation, on September 20, Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav promulgated the small Himalayan country's historic constitution. It stands as the first national constitution in Asia--and only the third in the world along with South Africa (1996) and Ecuador (1998)--to include explicit rights and protections for LGBTI people.

October 12, 2015 in International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Gender Injustice" Report on the Treatment of Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Professor Reports on Young Women in the Justice System

A recent report about juvenile females in the justice system, “Gender Injustice,” was written by Boston College Law professor Francine Sherman, BC ’80, and Annie Balck, an independent policy consultant, in partnership with the National Crittenton Foundation and National Women’s Law Center. The report explores how girls in the justice system have adverse experiences—including violence, abuse, and deprivation—in many facets of their lives. The report concludes that the juvenile justice system should be redesigned to help these young women.


At BC, Sherman has been teaching Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights and Public Policy for over two decades. She also founded and directs the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Program, where Balck was a student attorney.


The report describes how girls are pushed through the justice system, the ways systems in place fail to help the girls, and the need to focus on trauma and inequality. In addition, the report emphasizes why a developmental approach to reform the system would benefit the girls as well as public safety.

October 10, 2015 in Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 9, 2015

"California now has one of the toughest equal pay laws in the country"

From the LA Times: 

California took a major step Tuesday toward closing the lingering wage gap between men and women, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed one of the toughest pay equity laws in the nation.

Women in California who work full time are paid substantially less — a median 84 cents for every dollar — than men, according to a U.S Census Bureau report this year.

“The inequities that have plagued our state and have burdened women forever are slowly being resolved with this kind of bill,” Brown said at a ceremony at Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park in the Bay Area city of Richmond.

October 9, 2015 in Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Delhi Court Protects Transgender Teen"

From Human Rights Watch: 

"Everyone has a fundamental right to be recognized in their gender," the Delhi High Court declared this week in a short but powerful judgment that vindicates the rights of India’s transgender people.

The court stepped in to protect Shivy, a 19-year-old transgender man studying neurobiology in California, who was being mistreated by his parents during a family holiday to India. Shivy said his parents confined him to his grandparents’ home in Agra, took away his Indian passport and United States residency card, and compelled him to enroll in a university in Agra. When he ran away, his parents reported him to the police, who searched for him and reportedly harassed activists who had assisted him.

October 9, 2015 in International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Title VII is not a Tort

Sandra Sperino (Cincinnati), Title VII is Not a Tort

In several posts, I will be blogging about how federal courts are pushing federal discrimination law out of a public law model and into a more private law frame....


In upcoming posts, I will explain why Title VII is not a tort in any way that conveys specific, textual meaning.  The claim that Title VII is a tort ignores the history of the statute and its text.  It also unnecessarily muddies an already confusing jurisprudence and leads to odd results in what would otherwise be fairly easy cases.

What Does it Mean for Something to be a Tort?

When I say Title VII is not a tort, what I mean is that it does not fit precisely into the mold of any traditional tort.  Calling Title VII a tort in some general sense does not help to answer the vast majority of questions that arise in discrimination cases.  The tort label is dangerous because it allows courts to claim that tort law demands particular results in discrimination cases.  This is simply not true.


October 8, 2015 in Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)