Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

McDonald's Moms v. Organic Moms: Regulating Motherhood

Kate Cairns, Josée Johnston & Merin Oleschuk, Calibrating Extremes: The Balancing Act of Maternal Foodwork

When it comes to feeding children, mothers today must avoid the appearance of caring too little, or too much. Either extreme garners social stigma, although the penalties are far from equal.

 

As mothers in our study distanced themselves from an unhealthy “Other” who made poor food choices, we were surprised how frequently McDonald’s entered the conversation. McDonald’s seemed to function as a trope symbolizing “easy” meals, “unhealthy” choices, and “bad” mothering more generally. Gail (white, acupuncturist) contrasted her vision of healthy home cooking with a “stereotypical image of someone stopping at McDonald’s to get food for their kids.” Marissa (Black, project manager) confessed that as “busy people we do need to do fast food,” but clarified that “my kids will tell you that does not mean McDonald’s.” Lucia (Latina, social worker) said she and her son “talk about what’s junk and you know, McDonald’s and all that kind of food” in an effort to teach him “what’s healthy, what’s not healthy.”

 

Again and again, mothers distanced themselves from the figure of the “McDonald’s Mom,” a stigmatized “Other” they used to defend their own feeding practices. While this defense may seem judgmental, we suggest mothers’ efforts to establish this distance reflect the intense pressures they experience feeding their children. These pressures are especially penalizing for poor women who struggle to feed kids on a limited budget and racialized women who face enduring racist stereotypes about parenting and food choices. Indeed, the assumption that poor mothers make inferior food choices is evident in recent calls to restrict what can be purchased on SNAP benefits, undermining the essential role of government assistance in mitigating the effects of poverty.

 

When distancing their own feeding practices from “bad” ones, some mothers described feeding their children an organic diet – a resource-intensive practice that has become a gold standard of middle-class motherhood. Mothers today face considerable pressure to purchase ‘pure’ foods that are free of harmful chemical additives; this “intensive feeding ideology” involves the added work of researching products, reading labels, and making baby food from scratch.***

 

Our point is not to equate these uneven penalties, but to draw attention to the multiple ways mothers are harshly judged for their foodwork. Notably, comparable figures of the “McDonald’s” or “Organic Dad” did not emerge in our broader study (which included men), revealing the continued gendered burden of feeding children and the more flexible standards fathers face when doing this work.

 

What became clear throughout our research is that mothers from diverse backgrounds face pressure to continually monitor their children’s eating in ways that are careful and responsible, yet don’t appear obsessive or controlling. We call this process calibration – the constant balancing act of striving for an elusive maternal ideal. Calibration is labor-intensive and emotionally taxing, part of the seemingly impossible task of performing the “good” mother. If you opt for affordability or convenience, you risk being seen as a McDonald’s Mom. If you take your job as health-protector tooseriously, you may be deemed an obsessive Organic Mom who deprives her kids of childhood joys like hotdogs. These gendered pressures not only contribute to mother-blame, but distract us from the larger harms perpetuated by an unhealthy, unsustainable, and unjust food system.

October 18, 2017 in Family, Gender, Pop Culture, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Movie on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "On the Basis of Sex"

Armie Hammer Joins Felicity Jones in Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biopic  

Armie Hammer will start opposite Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex, the biopic of renowned Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Participant Media is behind the drama, which will be directed by Mimi Leder from a script by Daniel Stiepleman, who is also Ginsburg’s nephew.Sex focuses on Ginsburg, played by Jones, as she teams up with her husband, Marty Ginsburg (Hammer) to bring the first landmark gender discrimination case before the Supreme Court.

The movie is eyeing a fall shoot in Montreal.

The feature is slated for release in 2018, in line with Ginsburg's 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court Justice. Focus Features is distributing domestically.

 

Felicity Jones Replacing Natalie Portman in Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biopic 

Felicity Jones is set to star as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a biopic about the Supreme Court justice's life.

On the Basis of Sex will be directed by Mimi Leder (The LeftoversShameless) and follows Ginsburg as she fights for equal rights throughout her entire law career, which began at Harvard University and Columbia Law School and led to Washington.

At one time, Natalie Portman was considered to play Ginsburg in the feature, which was written by Daniel Stiepleman and was placed on the 2014 Black List. 

 

September 12, 2017 in Media, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How Popular Feminism is Commercial and Individualized

Popular Feminism in the Digital Age: How the Personal has been made Commercial

The relationship of feminism to the beauty industry and women's magazines, in other words, has a complex history.

 

Still, as I listened to Elaine Welteroth, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, speak to the Sydney Writers' Festival in June this year, it occurred to me that today's popular feminism would be unrecognisable to many of the Miss America protesters half a century ago.

 

For Welteroth, an African-American former beauty editor at Teen Vogue, women's magazines and beauty products are feminism now.

 

"Beauty and style are just really great platforms to open up important conversations," she said.

 

Welteroth has been widely celebrated for commissioning stories ranging from Trump gaslighting America and abortion rights to cultural appropriation at the Coachella music festival and the difficulties of being intersex. ***

 

In my PhD research, I've looked at the origin of the phrase "the personal is political". Gloria Steinem once said crediting someone for coming up with it would be as absurd as assigning credit to someone for inventing the term "World War II".

 

Still, its first use in a publication is commonly cited as being the headline of an article by the member of New York Radical Women I mentioned earlier, Carol Hanisch, in the 1970 collection of essays Notes from the Second Year.

 

Hanisch's article was a defence of second-wave feminism's consciousness-raising. Meeting in small groups, women told stories about their lives to understand how their personal problems were actually political ones. And they planned collective action.

 

Women in the left and the civil rights movement felt that while they protested inequalities between black and white, and the imperialist war in Vietnam, there were glaring injustices in their personal lives.

 

Women took the bulk of responsibility for housework and childcare, did the "shitwork" (Hanisch's word) in protest movements, were judged on their appearances, and took all the responsibility for contraception and abortion.

 

Second-wave feminists wanted sexual emancipation and the right to work alongside men, but they didn't want to do everything.

 

They discussed all kinds of solutions, from communal living to state-provided free childcare, to a total revolution in the consumerist capitalist system. * * *

 

But now websites like Mamamia are increasingly asking how women can transform and adapt themselves to fit into a competitive, individualistic world. The emphasis is mostly on individual achievement and adaption to the status quo — rather than on changing the status quo.

 

September 6, 2017 in Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Origins of Ms.

An oldie but goodie.

NYT, Ms: Explaining the Origins of Ms. (2009)

In the Nov. 10, 1901, edition of The Sunday Republican of Springfield, Mass., tucked away in an item at the bottom of Page 4, an unnamed writer put forth a modest proposal. “There is a void in the English language which, with some diffidence, we undertake to fill,” the writer began. “Every one has been put in an embarrassing position by ignorance of the status of some woman. To call a maiden Mrs. is only a shade worse than to insult a matron with the inferior title Miss. Yet it is not always easy to know the facts.”

 

How to avoid this potential social faux pas? The writer suggested “a more comprehensive term which does homage to the sex without expressing any views as to their domestic situation,” namely, Ms. With this “simple” and “easy to write” title, a tactfully ambiguous compromise between Miss and Mrs., “the person concerned can translate it properly according to circumstances.” The writer even gave a pronunciation tip: “For oral use it might be rendered as ‘Mizz,’ which would be a close parallel to the practice long universal in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis’ does duty for Miss and Mrs. alike.”

 

The item in the Springfield paper made a minor splash, getting picked up and discussed over the next few weeks in other newspapers around the country, from Iowa to Minnesota to Utah. As 1901 drew to a close, however, the Ms. proposal faded from the public eye — though it seems to have made enough of an impression to lurk just below the radar for decades to come. In 1932, it reappeared: a letter writer in The New York Times wondered if “a woman whose marital status is in doubt” should be addressed as M’s or Miss. And in 1949, the philologist Mario Pei noted in his book “The Story of Language” that “feminists, who object to the distinction between Mrs. and Miss and its concomitant revelatory features, have often proposed that the two present-day titles be merged into a single one, ‘Miss’ (to be written ‘Ms.’).”

 

The genesis of Ms. lay buried in newspaper archives until earlier this year, when after much painstaking hunting through digitized databases I found The Sunday Republican article that started it all. A few years ago I stumbled upon a mention of the article in another newspaper, The New Era, of Humeston, Iowa, on Dec. 4, 1901. Fred Shapiro, the editor of “The Yale Book of Quotations,” then found an excerpt from The Sunday Republican article in The Salt Lake Tribune. After discovering that The Sunday Republican had recently been scanned and digitized by Readex, a publisher of digital historical materials, I was finally able to zero in on this forgotten document.

 

It was certainly unknown, in 1961, to Sheila Michaels, a 22-year-old civil rights worker in New York City, who one day spotted it on a piece of mail that her roommate received. In fact, she initially took it as a typo, albeit a felicitous one. Fiercely independent, Michaels abhorred having her identity defined by marriage. Struck by Ms., she became a one-woman lobbying force for the title as a feminist alternative to Miss and Mrs. She even unwittingly replicated The Republican’s rationale for pronouncing Ms. as “mizz,” since she had noticed this ambiguous spoken form when she was a child growing up in St. Louis.

 

For several years her fellow activists evinced little interest. The turning point, Michaels told me recently, came when she was interviewed on the progressive New York radio station WBAI in late 1969 or early 1970. The program “Womankind” invited her on with other members of a radical group known simply as the Feminists, and during a lull in the show she plunged into her impassioned plea for Ms. Her advocacy finally paid off. The following August, when women’s rights supporters commemorated the 50th anniversary of suffrage with the Women’s Strike for Equality, Ms. became recognized as a calling card of the feminist movement.

 

August 3, 2017 in Gender, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Judge Narrows Scope of Government Data Request in Google Gender Pay Audit

Google Must Cough Up Contact Info for 8000 Employees in Gender Discrimination Case: But Judge Narrows Scope of US Labor Dept Request 

Google has been ordered to hand over personal details of 8,000 employees as part of an ongoing US Labor Department investigation into equal pay.

 

A judge provisionally ruled Friday that Google must provide names, personal addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses to the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) for 5,000 employees, upon request. After the OFCCP has interviewed a selection of these employees, it may request an additional 3,000.

 

The case began in January, when the OFCCP filed a lawsuit requesting salary structure details and employee information from Google in order to verify that the company is meeting Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contracts from discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin, and gives the OFCCP authority to verify.

 

Google insists it has "closed the gender pay gap globally" and according to its *cough* internal *cough* annual analysis, provides "equal pay across races in the US".

 

But the Labor Department has said that it had "found systematic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the workforce" and requires additional information from the tech giant.

The judge's order is here, at Dept of Labor v. Google, Recommended Decision and Order (July 14, 2017). It explains the nature of the administrative audit.

I begin with an explanation of what this case is and what it is not. The Office of Federal
Contract Compliance Programs is the agency of the Department of Labor charged with auditing government contractors to determine whether they are complying with certain contractually imposed anti-discrimination and affirmative action obligations. OFCCP’s auditing activities generally are not “complaint-driven”; rather, OFCCP opens audits of federal contractors based on neutral criteria. That is how OFCCP selected Google for this audit, not because any of the more than 25,000 potentially affected employees (or anyone else) filed a complaint with OFCCP.

When OFCCP determines after an audit that a government contractor is discriminating or failing to meet affirmative action obligations, it must try to resolve the violation voluntarily and without litigation. According to OFCCP’s Regional Director (Pacific Region), these efforts lead to voluntary resolutions of about 99 percent of OFCCP’s cases.

See also:

July 17, 2017 in Business, Equal Employment, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Gender Biases in Cyberspace

Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid & Amy Mittelman, Gender Biases in Cyberspace: A Two-Stage Model, the New Arena of Wikipedia and Other Websites, 26 Fordham IP, Media & Entertainment LJ (2016) 

Abstract

Increasingly, there has been a focus on creating democratic standards and norms in order to best facilitate open exchange of information and communication online―a goal that fits neatly within the feminist aim to democratize content creation and community. Collaborative websites, such as blogs, social networks, and, as focused on in this Article, Wikipedia, represent both a cyberspace community entirely outside the strictures of the traditional (intellectual) proprietary paradigm and one that professes to truly embody the philosophy of a completely open, free, and democratic resource for all. In theory, collaborative websites are the solution for which social activists, intellectual property opponents, and feminist theorists have been waiting. Unfortunately, we are now realizing that this utopian dream does not exist as anticipated: the Internet is neither neutral nor open to everyone. More importantly, these websites are not egalitarian; rather, they facilitate new ways to exclude and subordinate women. This Article innovatively argues that the virtual world excludes women in two stages: first, by controlling websites and filtering out women; and second, by exposing women who survived the first stage to a hostile environment. Wikipedia, as well as other cyber-space environments, demonstrates the execution of the model, which results in the exclusion of women from the virtual sphere with all the implications thereof.

July 11, 2017 in Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Feminist Origins of Wonder Woman

This weekend brings the release of the movie Wonder Woman.  Feminists are taking the occasion to celebrate girl power. 

Wonder Woman has been an icon of feminism since (at least) her adoption by Ms. magazine on its first cover in 1972.

The origins of Wonder Woman the comic-book hero created in 1941 trace to the feminist ideas of her creator, William Moulton Marston, a Harvard lawyer, professor, scientist and creator of the lie detector test (hence WW’s magic lasso of truth).  The fascinating story of the origins of the Wonder Woman superhero character as created by Marston and the two women he lived with is told in Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014).  Her account traces how Marston, and his wife Sadie Holloway and live-in paramour Olive Byrne (niece of Margaret Sanger), created WW from the Amazonia legend and feminist ideals of equality and birth control, even as their own polyamorous relationship challenged the women's own individual equality and power. 

From Lepore (xiii-xiv):

            Women Woman isn’t only an Amazonian princess with badass boots.  She’s the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman suffrage campaigns of the 1910s and ends with the troubled place of feminism fully a century later.  Feminism made Wonder Woman.  And then Wonder Woman remade feminism, which hasn’t been altogether good for feminism.

            But Wonder Woman is no ordinary comic-book superhero.  The secrets this book reveals and the story it tells place Wonder Woman not only within the history of comic books and superheroes but also at the very center of the histories of science, law, and politics. . . . WW’s debt is to the fictional feminist utopia and to the struggle for women’s rights.  Her origins lie in William Moulton Marston’s past, and in the lives of the women he loved; they created WW too.

As Lepore notes, the early suffragists used the Amazonian legends of powerful women to support their cause and provide anthropological evidence of a history of women’s rule.  In particular, leading 19th century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the legend of women’s power or the “Matriarchate” to support her demands for women’s power.  I traced this line of thought and advocacy in my recent book.  An excerpt is here..  

June 2, 2017 in Books, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Rediscovering Queen Victoria as a Feminist Icon

Queen Victoria is trending these days with 2 new books and an upcoming TV series.  I have just finished both books, the fictional Victoria by Daisy Goodwin and the non-fiction Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird.  I am always interested in books that show us how we have been getting it all wrong.  See also Queen Victoria's Story is More Inspiring, and More Badass, Than We've Seen Before

These books argue that the myth around Queen Victoria as a moralistic, strict leader of women's domestic role was manufactured by men -- particularly those male editors of her papers. These editors omitted all letters to and about women, on grounds that women's issues were irrelevant and not of interest to posterity. They rewrote Victoria's language to reflect the demure, submissive status expected of women. Victoria's youngest daughter Beatrice later edited her mother's papers to omit any signs of the intimate and volatile relationship with her husband, Albert. Modern author Julia Baird argues that the "Victorian" era would have been better named the "Albertine era" as it was Prince Albert who was more moralistic and leading of the domestic sphere and women's inferiority, even for his own wife and Queen. The books also present Victoria as a passionate, engaged, and hot tempered woman who demanded respect, power, and control.

 My interest in Queen Victoria stems from her name repeatedly invoked by Elizabeth Cady Stanton as the model of a strong woman. During my research for my book on American feminist and legal thinker Stanton, I came across many references where Stanton cited Victoria as the ideal strong woman -- a woman with power, employment, but also domestic authority as the mother of nine children. Stanton told mothers they should act "queenly" and she used the history of queens as evidence of women's capacity for political power. I was puzzled by Stanton's continued reverence for Victoria, who is typically depicted as the role model for the domestic, not feminist. She is known as being obsessed and grieved by her husband's early death, the bearer of strict Victorian morality, and the icon for motherhood and domestic sphere (even a Queen should relegate to her domestic role).

I concluded that Stanton must have used Victoria simply because she was the most well-known figure to her audiences and that as Queen she generically illustrated women's potential for power. It may have also been that Stanton saw a little of herself in Queen Victoria. They were about the same age and lived almost the same 80 years (Stanton 1815-1902, Victoria 1819-1901), both were very short (Victoria was 4'11), both had large families (Stanton 7 children, Victoria 9). Stanton visited England in 1840 when Victoria was at the height of her popularity as the new queen and recently married, and Stanton visited England again in the late years of the century as Victoria continued as the longest serving monarch (until Queen Elizabeth II in 2015).

As I learn more about Victoria, I understand Stanton's references better. Stanton's theory of feminism was holistic. She envisioned equality for women in all spheres, both private and public. To her, feminism meant equal autonomy for women in all aspects of life -- public, politics, employment, religion, and family. Significantly, it also meant embracing and elevating the power of motherhood.  Victoria represented this public and private power harmonized with the role of motherhood as authority, not subservience.

 

January 10, 2017 in Books, Legal History, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Anita Hill on Sexual Harassment: Focus on the Victims

Anita Hill, Op ed, What We Can Still Learn from Sexual Harassment

What I learned in 1991 is no less true today and no less important for people to understand: responses to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence must start with a belief that women matter as much as the powerful men they encounter at work or at school, whether those men are bosses or professors, colleagues or fellow students.

 

We must understand the harm that sexual harassment and sexual violence causes. Missing from the conversation this weekend, which focused almost exclusively on the character of the offender, was concern about the victims of sexual violence....

 

A recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Task Force reported on the psychological, physical, occupational, and economic harm that victims of sexual harassment suffer. Since 1991, I’ve heard from thousands of women who have experienced harassing bosses and colleagues. Some overcome the situations, but none of them ever forget the pain of it. To understand why the way women are treated matters, we must view Donald Trump’s comments and the behavior he described from the point of view of a victim of sexual predation.

 

Trump’s language, which he and others have tried to minimize as “locker room banter,” is predatory and hostile. To excuse it as that or as youthful indiscretion or overzealous romantic interest normalizes male sexual violence. According to attorney Joe Sellers, a member of the EEOC Task Force, “Trump’s remarks reflect the quintessential mindset of a harasser: the view that he has certain privileges and power by virtue of his celebrity status and position.”

October 13, 2016 in Pop Culture, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Anti-Feminism of Phyllis Schlafly

Arch anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly died this week.  She has ironically, as Slate notes, become "doomed to represent the feminism she hated."

I recently wrote about Schlafly and her leadership of the political movement that stopped ERA.   After Suffrage Comes Equal Rights? ERA as the Next Logical Step, in 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women’s Political Activism (Lee Ann Banaszak & Holly McCammon eds.) (Oxford Univ. Press forthcoming) (with TJ Boisseau).

The face of women’s opposition to ERA was conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly and her STOP ERA (Stop Taking Our Privileges) organization. Schlafly, a mother to six children, offered herself to the anti-ERA movement as a voice for stay-at-home mothers in need of special privileges and protections under the law. The irony that she, much like all the most prominent reformers historically lining up on either side of the ERA amendment (such as Alice Paul, Florence Kelley, and Pauli Murray), held a law degree and enjoyed a flourishing decade-long career in the public eye, was utterly elided in her rhetoric.

 

Doggedly focused on women’s roles as mothers and home-makers, Schlafly trumpeted the cause of women’s difference from men—championing the special rights of women as citizens who, ideally, did not work outside the home.  She asserted that equality was a step back for women: “Why should we lower ourselves to ‘Equal Rights’ when we already have the status of ‘special privilege?’”  She and other ERA opponents reframed the issue as forcing women into dangerous combat, co-education dormitories, and unisex bathrooms.  Feminist advocates responded by clarifying that privacy rights protected concerns about personal living spaces in residences and bathrooms, but their counsel was unheard in the din of threat to traditional family and gender roles. Opponents equated ERA with homosexuality and gay marriage, as the amendment’s words “on account of sex,” “were joined with ‘sexual preference’ or homosexuality to evoke loathing, fear, and anger at the grotesque perversion of masculine responsibility represented by the women’s movement”  Schlafly hurled insults at the ERA supporters, urging her readers to view photographs of an ERA rally and “see for yourself the unkempt, the lesbians, the radicals, the socialists,” and other activists she labeled militant, arrogant, aggressive, hysterical, and bitter. When ERA supporters “gathered at the federally financed 1977 International Women’s Year Conference in Houston and endorsed homosexual rights and other controversial resolutions on national television, they helped to make the case for ERA opponents.” 

 

The shift in debate slowed and then stopped ratification of the ERA. In 1974, three states ratified the amendment, one state ratified in 1975 and in 1977, and then ended with only 35 of the 38 required.  At the same time, states began to rescind their prior ratifications, with five states voting to withdraw their prior approval. The legality of the rescissions was unclear, but these efforts had political reverberations in the unratified states. When the deadline arrived without the required three-fourths approval, Congress voted in 1978 to extend the ratification deadline three years to June 30, 1982.  Not a single additional state voted to ratify during this extension.

 

 

September 8, 2016 in Legal History, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Gender matters more than income

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sexism at the Olympics

Literally Just a List of Sexist Things Which Have Happened at the Olympics for Far

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.

Olympic Men Stand Up to Sexism Too--Because That's Not Just Women's Work

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.

August 17, 2016 in Pop Culture, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Women's Olympics

The Forgotten History of Female Athletes Who Organized Their Own Olympics

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.

August 5, 2016 in Pop Culture, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Is the Uber-Like Chariot for Women Illegal?

Andrew Gray, Comment, Club Chariot for Women: No Boys Allowed, Stanford Law & Policy Rev. (forthcoming)

On April 19th, an app named Chariot for Women (Chariot) launched around the United States. The app is strikingly similar to ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft: download the app, provide your payment information, request a ride, and you’re good to go. Yet Chariot comes with one major difference—both drivers and passengers are exclusively women. The goal of the app is simple: providing safe travel for women, by women, who fear the risk of violent crimes in taxicabs or traditional ridesharing methods. 

 

The app’s creator, Michael Pelletz, may see himself as a real-life equivalent of the feminist-friendly Dev Shah from Aziz Ansari’s Master of None,5 but in reality, he may be breaking federal law. Chariot, by design, may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law stops employers from hiring, or refusing to hire a person because of their “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” It is fairly obvious, given Chariot’s business model, that their hiring practices would qualify as a prima facie violation of Title VII.  However, Chariot will argue that the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) exception applies here.

 

While the app’s purpose may be noble, noble intentions don’t excuse discrimination. This short essay gives a three-part overview of the legal issues Chariot will inevitably face, and argue that allowing Chariot to fall under the BFOQ exception would overextend a purposefully narrow rule. Part II argues that the plain text of the law does not support Chariot. Part III explains that Chariot will fail a multi-part test for establishing a BFOQ. Part IV will show examples of reasonable, nondiscriminatory alternatives available to chariot. The essay concludes by mentioning policy arguments for and against Chariot, and arguing that ultimately, Chariot does not have a place within the law.

June 22, 2016 in Equal Employment, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Poll Shows 51 Percent of US Women have Personally Experienced Gender-Based Discrimination

Poll: Majority of Women in US Have Experienced Gender-Based Discrimination

  • The results show that a majority, 51 percent, of women have personally experienced discrimination based on their gender, and 35 percent said they have not experienced gender-based discrimination. A majority of women, 51 percent, also said society has not yet reached the point where women and men have equal opportunities for achievement                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
  • The data also show some interesting splits when examined in detail by partisanship. The percentage of Democratic women who said they've experienced discrimination on the basis of their race was 23 points higher than the percentage of Republican women who said so - 62 percent to 39 percent. Among Independent women, 46 percent said they've personally experienced gender-based discrimination.
  • Just under half, 49 percent, of Republican women said society has reached the point where women and men have equal opportunities for achievement. Among Independent women, 36 percent said women and men have equal opportunities. In contrast, a little over a quarter, 27 percent, of Democratic women agreed that society allows for equal opportunity for both genders. These findings show that Republican and Democratic women have starkly different experiences and perspectives on where society stands on the matter of gender equality.

May 9, 2016 in Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 6, 2016

The History of Mother's Day

    Jane Stewart, Mothers' Day, 69 Journal of Education 210 (1908)

Our annual calendar, it is generally conceded,, is so abundantly supplied with holidays and special observances and anniversaries that there scarcelv seems opportunity for an addition to the well- recognized list. But the idea of a new special day - a "Mothers' Day" - to commemorate mothers in general and in particular seems to have made quite a good beginning in the place of its birth, Philadelphia, and under the influence of church and school people who have adopted and applied it with considerable alacrity and enthusiasm.

 

It was a Philadelphia clubwoman, Miss Anna Jarvis, who first conceived the idea in its comprehensive scope. The National Woman's Christian Temperance Union for nearly two decades has observed a "Mothers' Day" as one of its numerous red-letter days, the date, January 3, being chosen because it is the birthday of Mary Thompson Hill Willard, the noble mother of Frances E. Willard. The second Sunday in May is the day suggested by Miss Jarvis, whose plan is in memory of her own revered mother, a Christian teacher of the South, for whom a public memorial service was held, accompanied by the distribution of white carnations, the mother's favorite flower. The wearing of a white carnation is one of the features of the day, whose impelling object is to crystallize latent loving thought into tender, considerate action, with a view to stemming the tendency to forgetfulness and thoughtless neglect of the home ties. To remind busy, selfish men and women of their loving, selfish neglect of their mother, and the protection, happiness, and gratitiude due her, and that even a simple act of kindness, or a gift, or words of appreciation and affection, or a letter may rejoice her heart - this is the admirable purpose embodied in the day....

 

About 200,000 individuals, it is conservatively estimated, took part in the initial celebration of Mothers' Day on Sunday, May 10, 1908, in a num-ber of the churches and Sunday schools in Philadelphia and in other parts of the country, including Pittsburg, New York city, Baltimore, and Wash-ington ; and a large number of individuals and societies observed May 17 in similar fashion by wearing a white carnation and by writing letters home ; by performing some act of thoughtfulness for their mothers or holding special services, with mothers as guests of honor.

 

May 6, 2016 in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Black Women Lawyers Featured on Reality TV, "Sisters in Law"

Sisters

Ms JD, The Law and Reality TV--Reflection on "Sisters in Law" and the Impact on Black Women Attorneys

WE tv launched the premier to its newest reality show at the end of March called “The Sisters in Law".  The show follows 6 black female attorneys in Houston, Texas. *

 

The show is brand new and only a few episodes in.  The show does have a dramatic flare among the cast mates, but so far the show is also doing a great job of showing the women in their career and working hard for their clients.  For example, the first episode showed criminal defense attorney Jolanda meeting with her client who had been charged with murder.  In the episode, Jolanda is advocating that her client was in self-defense of her life from an abusive spouse, and even goes to visit the client’s house where the homicide took place.

 

April 29, 2016 in Pop Culture, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 18, 2016

ICYMI Confirmation - The Anita Hill Story

This past weekend HBO aired "Confirmation" dramatizing Anita Hill's testimony in Justice Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings.  For those of us who watched it, it seems like recent history, except that most of my students have no idea about any of it.

Here's a collection of news stories on the show and the confirmation itself:

Slate, Dahlia Lithwick & Gillian Thomas, National Group Therapy: How the Clarence Thomas Confirmation Hearings Changed How America Talks About Sexual Harassment

NYT, After OJ, Confirmation Revisits Another '90s Flashpoint: Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas

Wash Post, "It Was Just Awful": The Clarence Thomas Hearings in the Words of Those Who were There

NPR, The Real Story Behind HBO's "Confirmation" From the NPR Reporter Who Broke the Story

 

April 18, 2016 in Equal Employment, Pop Culture, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Law and Gender on Thanksgiving

Some highlights of past posts on women, law and gender at Thanksgiving.

Talking to Your Relatives About Women's Issues at Thanksgiving (cue SNL Adele Thanksgiving video)

The Second Shift on Thanksgiving

Feminist Reasons to be Thankful

November 26, 2015 in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Remembering the Story of Woman's Suffrage

Huff Post, The Importance of Telling the Story--Crusade for the Vote

As we work to inspire, educate and empower others by integrating women's history as part of the distinctive culture of the United States, we applaud the writers and producers of Suffragette who recognized the need to expand awareness about this significant moment in Britain's history. Director Sarah Gavron, in a recent interview, talked about the timing for the movie, which had been six years in the making.

 

This story had never been told, the reason it's never been told before is because women keep being marginalized. What was on our side was there's a conversation now happening about the inequity in the film business, so people were aware. The story we wanted to tell had become more timely.

 Her explanation is not surprising. We know that for most Americans, their knowledge of how U.S. women won the right to vote is limited to major personalities like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But the campaign stretched from the East to the West Coast, with dozens of women doing their part as local canvassers, state campaigners, White House picketers, and filling many other roles. The breadth of the suffrage story is still largely unknown.

November 17, 2015 in Constitutional, Legal History, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (1)