Friday, September 11, 2015

California high schools adopt yes means yes law

From the Guardian UK: 

As the “yes means yes” standard of sexual conduct spreads to many US college campuses, California legislators have passed a new measure that will put affirmative consent curriculum into the state’s high schools beginning next year.

The legislation will require high schools that have a health component as a graduation requirement to teach the “different forms of sexual harassment and violence”, and include lessons on seeking explicit, affirmative permission from a partner before moving forward with sexual activity. The bill, SB695, is now awaiting the signature of the governor to become law, expected in the coming days. California would be the first state in the nation to adopt a mandatory education policy on the topic for K-12 students.

September 11, 2015 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Once a Pariah, Now a Judge: The Early Transgender Journey of Phyllis Frye"

From the NYT: 

Nearly four decades before Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world, Phyllis Randolph Frye came out as a transgender woman in a far less glamorous way. No Diane Sawyer, no Vanity Fair.

It was the summer of 1976. As Bruce Jenner, 26, was celebrating his decathlon victory at the Montreal Olympics, Phillip Frye, 28, was admitting defeat in suppressing his gender identity. He, becoming she, had already lost a lot: He had been forced to resign from the military for “sexual deviation.” He had been disowned by his parents, divorced by his first wife and separated from his son. He had been dismissed from several engineering jobs.

September 11, 2015 in LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Law School Story

Susannah Dainow, Blind Justice: On Law School, Misogyny, and Sexual Abuse

When I arrived at law school, it was in pursuit of justice as much as a career. I had known since the age of 10 that justice is gendered; this was the age when I became transfixed by the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill hearings on the news. Through the haze of sordid details, I grasped enough to connect myself to the proceedings, and to gender-based inequalities of power. In high school, I was co-president of the women’s issues club; we started the school’s branch of the White Ribbon Campaign, a Canadian movement to memorialize and prevent such misogynist violence as had occurred at a Montreal engineering school in 1989, leaving 14 women dead. In conversation and in daily life, feminism and its evolutions were never far from my thoughts. As a newly-minted undergraduate, I conducted research on violence against women for a feminist legal organization. Law school seemed like the logical next step.


After the initial euphoria of having made it to a prestigious law faculty wore off, I began to sense a subtle edge pressing on me, telling me I did not belong. When Supreme Court justices visited in the fall of my first year, they took pains to discuss the need to retain women at large corporate firms through more family-friendly policies. The fact that this was the only remotely feminist concern they raised spoke volumes to me; I began to connect that uni-dimensional approach to gender with the un-belonging I was already sensing. Sometimes, entering through the school’s heavy glass doors, I felt as if invisible machinery descended from the ceiling and ground against my skin, trying to turn the raw material of me into something perfected in its own image. I started calling the faculty, “the factory.” I meant it as a joke, at first. 

September 10, 2015 in Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

CFP: "Applied Feminism Today"



The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Center on Applied Feminism seeks submissions for its Ninth Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference.  This year’s theme is “Applied Feminism Today.”  The conference will be held on Friday, March 4, 2016.  For more information about the conference, please visit


This conference seeks to explore the current status of feminist legal theory.  What impact has feminist legal theory had on law and social policy?  What legal challenges are best suited to a feminist legal theory approach?  How has feminist legal 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 the intersection of 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, and EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum.


To submit a paper proposal, please submit an abstract by Friday October 30, 2015 to  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 2016.  Abstracts should be no longer than one page.  We will notify presenters of selected papers in November.  We anticipate there will be eight paper presenters during the conference. 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 February 26, 2016.   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. Michele Gilman at

September 10, 2015 in Call for Papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"This means two people are being killed by their romantic partners every week"

The story: 

According to Rep. Jeong Yong-ki of the ruling Saenuri Party, the number of murder cases among dating partners has been on the rise in Korea since 2012, from 99 to 108 last year. In the last three years, the number of victims like Kim totaled 313.

The murder cases accounted for 11.9 per cent of all crimes committed by the victims' romantic partners against them, including stalking, physical violence and rape. The rate is particularly high considering the total number of murder cases in Korea only accounted for 1.69 per cent of all violent crimes -- murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- in the same period.

"This means two people are being killed by their romantic partners every week," Rep. Jeong said.

According to Korea Women's Hotline, a nongovernmental organisation helping female victims of violence, at least 114 Korean women were killed by either their husbands or boyfriends last year, while at least 95 women survived after being seriously attacked by their spouses or romantic partners.


September 9, 2015 in Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Men’s-Rights Activists Say They Are Discriminated Against by Women in Tech"

From New York Magazine:  

It's unlikely — unless you work in law — that you've ever heard of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. It's a California state law that says that no matter someone's "sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation," they are entitled to equal "accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever." The law was enacted in 1959 by Jesse M. Unruh in order to protect minority groups from being discriminated against. But of late, men's-rights activists have been using it against women-run companies to claim they've been on the receiving end of discrimination. 

Alyssa Bereznak at Yahoo News delved into the world of MRAs lodging lawsuits against women in California whose businesses and events they claimed had excluded their "minority group," a.k.a. men. It is absolutely terrifying to read: By using this 1950s law meant to protect women, men are winning discrimination lawsuits that have the potential to bankrupt entire small companies. 

September 9, 2015 in Manliness, Masculinities | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Big Law’s Race and Gender Problem"

Videoed interviews with Big Law partners are available from Bloomberg News.  An excerpt: 

“The fact of the matter is, that in the legal profession, racial and gender balance is just behind,” said Jami McKeon, Chair of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. McKeon and Michele Coleman Mayes, the New York Public Library’s General Counsel, spoke to us at the Big Law Business Summit in July about racial and gender imbalance in big law.

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

Happy Birthday Gender & the Law Blog

Image result for happy birthday

Today Gender & the Law Blog turns 2!  With nearly 100,000 web visitors plus hundreds of Twitter followers. 

Thank you all for your readership and support.   

And thanks for helping us disprove the conventional wisdom that women don't blog and gender issues don't appeal. 

Follow us on Twitter for even quicker updates @ProfTracyThomas


September 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

West on Recentering Women's Harm in the Current Debate Over Birth Control

Robin West (Georgetown),Hobby Lobby, Birth Control and Our Ongoing Cultural Wars: Pleasure and Desire in the Crossfires

From the Abstract:

Both sides of the birth control debate agree that birth control artificially prevents or interrupts conception, allowing women to control their own fertility and allowing heterosexual men and women to enjoy unconstrained sexual liberty. However, the decision in Hobby Lobby omitted all discussion of this central function of birth control, and contained no mention of arguments for or against birth control that assume it.

This piece examines and criticizes the two major arguments opposing and supporting birth control on this understanding of its function and core social meaning: first the neo-natural lawyers’ argument against birth control advanced in a papal encyclical in the 1930’s and in contemporary law review articles by John Finnis, George Bradley, and Robert George, and second, the “sexual-libertarian” argument supporting the use of birth control, culled from Griswold, Eisenstadt, Lawrence and their advocates and supporters in the academy.

The focus of the piece is on the competing conceptions of heterosexual morality that underlie these two arguments. My central claim is that both sides fail to address women’s actual felt desires either for sex or pregnancy. Natural law advocates generally celebrate all non-contracepted marital sex regardless of women’s desires for either the sex or the pregnancy that is its foreseeable consequence. Likewise, sexual libertarians celebrate all consensual sex regardless of women’s desires.

This erasure of the relevance of women’s desire, or lack of desire, to the morality of heterosexual intercourse and pregnancy causes women harm, and is a condition of women’s subordination. The current legal clashes over birth control have marginalized the harms. This piece seeks to re-center them.

September 8, 2015 in Gender, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cal Senate Passes Strongest Equal Pay Bill in Country

New California Law is a Big Step Forward for Working Women

On Monday, the California Senate unanimously passed an equal pay bill with the strongest measures aimed at closing the gender wage gap in the country. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has said that he’ll sign it into law.


The bill has a number of provisions, but the piece that stands out the most is one that requires employers to pay men and women the same for “substantially similar work,” not just the exact same job, unless differences are based on productivity, merit, and/or seniority.


This provision is what used to be called pay equity: not just requiring the same pay for the same job, but for different jobs that are similar in terms of effort, responsibility, and skill. While it isn’t mentioned much anymore, in the 1980s there was a strong movement toward laws that would require pay equality based on this concept. By 1989, 20 states had made adjustments among their own workforces based on “comparable worth,” or the idea of paying the same for substantially similar work in different jobs. More than 335,000 women got a raise and 20 percent of their gender wage gap was eliminated. That reduced the overall wage gap, and in five states it closed by 25 to 33 percent.

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

Monday, September 7, 2015

The current issue of the Michigan J. of Gender & Law

"Uneven Wages Cast Shadow Over Labor Day"


From US News & World Report: 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against prospective workers based on gender, race or religious preference. But that doesn't mean pay gaps don't exist. An income and poverty report published last year by the U.S. Census Bureau found significant disparities in median household incomes based on race; Asian households brought in $67,065 at the end of 2013, while African-American homes posted $34,598 in annual median income.

Another report from the Economic Policy Institute, drawing in part on Census Bureau data, found that median household incomes for Caucasian male full-time employees hovered around $72,530, significantly higher than African-Americans ($51,610) and Hispanics ($43,240). Female employees' earnings were significantly weaker across the board.


And the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates women spent more than twice as much time caring for and helping children in the household as men did in 2014.

“Women who have taken some time out of the workforce to do care-giving maybe are not able to come back at the same level. They’ve missed a couple steps on the career ladder,” Robbins says. “Women’s disproportionate representation in the lower paid jobs, and, conversely, their lack of representation in some of the best-paid jobs, really does feed into the wage gap.”

Full-time work more often than not offers greater annual earnings than a part-time job, but a greater percentage of women than men isn't enjoying a standard 40-hour work week. The Labor Department estimates 74 percent of working women were employed full-time in 2013, while 24 percent worked part time. That's compared to 86.9 percent of employed men who work full-time and only 13.1 percent who work part-time.

September 7, 2015 in Race, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Activists Say Police Abuse of Transgender People Persists Despite Reforms"

From the NYT: 

New Year’s revelers clamored outside the window of Shagasyia Diamond’s apartment in the Bronx the day she was arrested.

Newly into 2014, she was in the midst of a dispute with her husband when officers showed up at her front door, placed her in handcuffs and escorted her to a nearby precinct. It was there, Ms. Diamond recalled, that the violations began.

Although the New York Police Department amended its patrol guide in 2012 to require respectful treatment of transgender people, Ms. Diamond, who is a transgender woman, said she was subjected to a strip search by a male officer. Two other officers watched from a few feet away, gawking as she spread her legs. Officers then placed Ms. Diamond in a cell for men, she said, where she cowered in the corner as other inmates heckled her and used the exposed toilet in her presence. When she expressed her discomfort to an officer, he replied, “You know you like it in there with all the men.”

September 7, 2015 in LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

On Labor Day: The Legal History of Protective Labor Laws for Women

Legal History Blog, Woloch's "Class By Herself"

A Class by Herself explores the historical role and influence of protective legislation for American women workers, both as a step toward modern labor standards and as a barrier to equal rights. Spanning the twentieth century, the book tracks the rise and fall of women-only state protective laws—such as maximum hour laws, minimum wage laws, and night work laws—from their roots in progressive reform through the passage of New Deal labor law to the feminist attack on single-sex protective laws in the 1960s and 1970s

September 7, 2015 in Books, Equal Employment, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Week in Books on Law & Gender

New this week in BOOKS:


Linda Hirshman, Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World

The title tells all: Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World. Author Linda Hirshman's joint biography of the first and second women to serve on the nation's highest court is a gossipy, funny, sometimes infuriating and moving tale of two women so similar and yet so different. Sandra Day O'Connor, raised on a Western ranch and a lifelong Republican who cut her political teeth as majority leader of the Arizona Senate, was named to the Supreme Court by President Reagan in 1981.Twelve years later, President Clinton put Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Born and bred in Brooklyn, daughter of a Russian Jewish immigrant, Ginsburg was a professor, a litigator and the architect of the legal battle for women's rights. But as different as their backgrounds were, and even their approaches to judging, when it came to women's rights, they were allies.

See also Cary Franklin’s (Texas) review of Sisters in Law in the Washington Post


Anne Richardson Oakes, ed. Controversies in Equal Protection Cases in America: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation

'This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the central debates in American equal protection law. A brilliant survey in which some of the leading scholars in the field weigh in on both the current status of the law and where it might still need to go to fulfil its promise of equality.' --Devon Carbado, University of California Los Angeles, USA, and author of Acting White? Rethinking Race in 'Post-Racial' America


Ingrid Bego, Gender Equality Policy in the European Union

This book examines the role that the European Union (EU) has played in enhancing democratic values in new member states by requiring the adoption of gender equality laws, such as equal employment and reconciliation policies, in return for membership. Considering four EU member states in Central Eastern Europe - Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia and Poland - it debates if and under what conditions the incentives for EU membership positively affected the successful adoption and implementation of gender equality policies.


Caryl Rivers & Rosalind Barnett, The New Soft War on Women

The authors argue in their book, The New Soft War on Women, the gains women have made in the workplace are actually being used rhetorically to keep equality from being fully realized. Rather than simply telling women to try harder, this book gives them grounding in the facts about discrimination and disparity. Here’s an excerpt from the paperback edition of the book, out this week. It addresses the media’s fixation on the “decline of men,” or the “end of men” — which the authors call a myth.


September 5, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Justice Sotomayor Speaks

US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Speaks at Notre Dame

Sotomayor spoke candidly about her position, giving students an intimate look at the inner workings of the highest court in the country.


"We agree almost unanimously, but this year I think we agreed less," Sotomayor said, referring to this year's exceptionally monumental caseload. 


But Sotomayor also told her audience that she didn't feel like she like she "fit in" on the bench.


"I'm very different from my colleagues," said Sotomayor, who explained that she's more public and outspoken than the other justices.


As the first Hispanic justice and the third woman on the court, Sotomayor fielded several questions about her background and how it shapes her opinions and decisions.


"I don't think I'm really given permission, based on just being a Latina just being a woman, to make judgments," she said. "I have to take into account not only my life experiences but those of my colleagues who are explaining their positions to me."

September 5, 2015 in Judges, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

LGBT Rights (or lack thereof) in Tunisia

From the Guardian: 

Nawel was in Tunis’s city centre when it happened. “This guy came up to me from nowhere. He was dressed really religiously and, without any warning, he just slapped me across the face – and the weird thing was that it wasn’t just the slap. It was that no one did anything. They all just carried on. It was if I deserved it.”

Nawel shakes her head, still stung by the casual indifference of the crowd. There isn’t anything unusual about her that might mark her out for attack. With her short hair, jeans and T-shirt she is indistinguishable from many other young women.


Tunisia’s attitude to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community goes beyond the social. Article 230 of Tunisia’s constitution forbids acts of sodomy, with those found guilty facing jail sentences of up to three years. Article 226 rules against outrages to public decency, a catch-all law often used to target the country’s trans community. Both laws date from 1914 and remain untouched by the 2011 revolution and the subsequent rush to reform.

Much of the focus for Tunisia’s LGBT pushback has focused on the pressure group Shams, which campaigns for the repeal of Article 230. But an organisation formed in June last year is providing a feminist alternative. Chouf, whose members see themselves primarily as visual activists, offers a desperately needed safe haven for Tunisia’s most isolated and vulnerable groups, its lesbian, bisexual and trans communities.

September 2, 2015 in Constitutional, International, LGBT | Permalink | Comments (0)

"California equal pay bill may be toughest in nation"

The LA Times story: 

 California's new Fair Pay Act, which awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, may be the nation's most aggressive attempt yet to close the salary gap between men and women.

Supporters said the legislation, passed unanimously by the California Senate on Monday, closes loopholes that prevented enforcement of existing anti-discrimination law.

The bill ensures that male and female employees who perform "substantially similar" work receive equal pay, even if their job titles aren't the same or if they work in different offices for the same employer.

September 2, 2015 in Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

University Prohibits Women Studies' Prof's Ban of Offensive Language

Inside Higher Ed, Ban on Banning Words

Washington State University on Monday announced that it would not allow instructors to make "blanket" bans on the use of certain words or phrases in class, even if those words and phrases offend people. Further, the university said that instructors could not punish students for use of such words or phrases.


The announcement followed a barrage of criticism of the syllabus for Women & Popular Culture, a women's studies course, that banned specific words and phrases and set out punishments for their use.


Here is the language on the syllabus:


"Gross generalizations, stereotypes and derogatory/oppressive language are not acceptable. Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated. (This includes 'The Man,' 'Colored People,' 'Illegals/Illegal Aliens,' 'Tranny' and so on -- or referring to women/men as females or males.) If I see it or hear it, I will correct it in class since it can be a learning moment for many students. Repeated use of oppressive and hateful language will be handled accordingly -- including but not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and -- in extreme cases -- failure for the semester."


This summer has seen several instances in which websites of various college or university groups have featured language discouraging the use of words and phrases that many find offensive. There was much discussion in July about the "bias-free language guide" at the University of New Hampshire, but UNH never actually banned any words or phrases. One office published some recommendations for those seeking to avoid offending others, and most people at UNH didn't know that the guide existed until it was debated nationally -- and the university affirmed that there was no requirement to follow its suggestions.


In the Washington State syllabus, however, there was a specific statement that the instructor could punish any students using the banned words and phrases. And that appears to have led the university (which, as a public institution, must provide First Amendment protections) to get involved. The university statement said that it was asking all faculty members to review their policies "to ensure that students’ right to freedom of expression is protected along with a safe and productive learning environment."

September 1, 2015 in Constitutional, Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

EEOC Determines University of Denver Underpays Female Law Profs in Violation of Equal Pay Act

ABA J., EEOC: Female Law Profs at University of Denver are Underpaid, Violating Equal Pay Act

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law is violating the Equal Pay Act by paying its female professors less than males.


The EEOC threatened suit over the gender pay gap in a letter sent to the university on Friday, report the Denver Post and KUSA. The agency said pay disparities at the law school appear to be a “continuing pattern” dating back to 1973. To comply with federal law, the university has to boost the wages of female law professors and give them back pay, the letter says.


The EEOC acted in response to a complaint filed by University of Denver law professor Lucy Marsh, whose $109,000 annual salary in 2012 made her the school’s lowest paid full professor. Marsh learned about the salary differences in a 2012 memo from the school dean that discussed merit raises and made salary comparisons.


The memo by law dean Martin Katz indicated that female full professors made $16,000 less on average than male full professors. Katz noted the pay disparity but said salary differences may be due to several factors, including differing merit raises and starting pay.


The law school defended its system of evaluation and merit pay for law professors in a statement by Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. The school  cites a consultant’s findings that pay differences are due to a professor’s rank, duties, age and performance scores. The statement said Marsh’s salary was lower because of her “substandard performance in scholarship, teaching and service.”


Marsh counters that she has won several teaching awards and her Tribal Wills Project was recently recognized by the state supreme court.

September 1, 2015 in Equal Employment, Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)