Monday, March 30, 2015
Ellen Pao recently lost her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit. The case was big news because it brought to public attention the glaring dearth of women in the tech industry, and whether such dearth might be caused by prejudice.
A NYT background story on the case. Some commentary by Fortune magazine. A discussion by CNET of Pao's post-verdict tweets. Some comments by Prof. Tracy Thomas and I in the Daily Princetonian (Pao had graduated from Princeton).
Monday, March 23, 2015
Feb. 24, 2015: Ellen Pao, center, with her attorney, Therese Lawless, left, leaves the Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in her trial. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – A California trial judge ruled Saturday that a woman suing a Silicon Valley venture capital firm in a high-profile gender bias case may seek punitive damages that could add tens of millions of dollars to the $16 million in lost wages and bonuses she is pursuing.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn denied a request by lawyers for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to have Ellen Pao's demand for unspecified punitive damages thrown out. Pao, the interim CEO of the news and social networking site Reddit, claims she was passed over for a promotion at the firm because she is a woman and then fired in 2012 after she complained.
Kahn said there was enough evidence for the jury considering Pao's lawsuit to conclude that Kleiner Perkins acted with malice, oppression or fraud, which in California is the legal threshold for awarding damages that are designed to punish and deter particularly bad behavior.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The sometimes ironically named "social" media brims with sexual harassment and shocking threats against women. Twitter, for one, seems to be aware of this but doesn't quite know what to do about it. From a story in the Guardian UK from February:
Twitter’s chief executive has acknowledged that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we’ve sucked at it for years”, in a leaked memo.
Dick Costolo’s statement was posted on Twitter’s internal forums, in response to an employee who had highlighted an article in the Guardian by columnist Lindy West about her experience with trolls on social media.
In the memo, obtained on Thursday by The Verge , Costolo writes: “I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.”
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Facebook users who don't fit any of the 58 gender identity options offered by the social media giant are now being given a rather big 59th option: fill in the blank.
"Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own," said a Facebook announcement published online Thursday morning and shared in advance with The Associated Press.
Facebook software engineer Ari Chivukula, who identifies as transgender and was part of the team that made the free-form option, thinks the change will lead to more widespread acceptance of people who don't identify themselves as a man or woman.
"We're hoping this will open up the dialogue," Chivukula said.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
At the 11th Annual IP/Gender, presenters will address the production of knowledge, commodification, definition, and valuation of women’s work, and other areas of feminist and queer inquiry. We hope to spur intellectual property scholars to explore how the tools of deliberately intersectional feminist and queer theory can shed new light on the challenge of creating intellectual property law that fosters social justice. For more information about previous events in the IP/Gender series, see here.
Ann Shalleck, American University Washington College of Law – Introduction
Rebecca Tushnet, Georgetown University Law Center- IP, Gender, and Creative Communities
10:00 – Panel I
Community Structure and Women’s Leadership in Traditional Cultural Production – Moderator – Margaret Chon, Seattle University School of Law
- Helen Chuma Okoro, Nigerian institute of Advanced Legal Studies – Traditional Knowledge, Intellectual Property Protection, and Matriarchal Dominance: The Case of Traditional Textiles in South Western Nigeria
- Lorraine Aragon, University of North Carolina – Cut From the Same Cloth? Reimagining Copyright’s Relationship with TCEs and Gender in Indonesia
11:00 Panel II Documenting Communities of Practice – Moderator – Meredith Jacob, American University Washington College of Law
- Jhessica Reia, Center for Technology and Society at Fundacao Getulio Vargas (CTS-FGV) – DIY or Die! Gender and Creation in Marginal Music Production
- Betsy Rosenblatt, Whittier Law School (and Rebecca Tushnet) – Transformative Works: Young Women’s Voices on Fandom and Fair Use
1:00 – Lunch Keynote: Kara Swanson, Northeastern University School of Law – IP and Gender: Reflections on Methodology and Accomplishments
1:30 Panel III
Gendered Understandings of the Role and Scope of Intellectual Property Law – Moderator – Irene Calboli,Marquette Law School and National University of Singapore
- Carys Craig, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University - Deconstructing Copyright’s Choreographer: the Power of Performance (and the Performance of Power)
- Charles Colman, New York University School of Law – Patents and Perverts
2:45 Panel IV
Gender and Intellectual Property in the U.S. Federal Courts – Moderator – Christine Farley, American University Washington College of Law
- Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University Law School – Intellectual Property Reform Through the Lens of Constitutional Equality
- Sandra Park, ACLU Women’s Rights Project – A Feminist Challenge to Gene Patents: Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics
3:45 – Looking Forward: the Next Ten Years – Peter Jaszi, American University Washington College of Law,Daniela Kraiem, American University Washington College of Law, and community
Monday, February 9, 2015
One of the better This American Life episodes recently aired. Lindy West is a blogger who had been threatened and degraded on the internet by a vicious troll. That troll would eventually apologize to her.
Her story is recounted in the Guardian UK . Here is some of the beginning of that story:
Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat to rape, but perhaps they’ll saw you up with an electric knife? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Danielle Citron’s Hate Crimes in Cyberspace is a breakthrough book. It has been compared, and with good reason, to Catherine MacKinnon’s Sexual Harassment of Working Women. The book makes three major contributions. All are central to furthering the equality of women and men both in cyberspace and elsewhere.
First, Citron convincingly catalogues the range of harms, and their profundity, done to many women and some men by the sexual threats, the defamation, the revenge pornography, the stalking, and the sexual harassment and abuse, all of which is facilitated by the internet. ***
The second contribution, and the bulk of the book—the middle third to half—is a legal analysis of these harms. Citron begins by comparing the current status quo regarding our understanding of gendered harms in cyberspace with the legal environment surrounding domestic violence and sexual harassment thirty or twenty years ago. ***
The third contribution, and last third of the book, is her discussion of possible objections, and then her turn to extra-legal reforms, with a particularly helpful focus on the roles of educators, parents, and the providers themselves (“Silicon Valley” for short).
The Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society is seeking faculty interested in publishing a piece in its Fall 2015 edition. The Fall 2015 edition will focus on WJLGS' 2015 Symposium topic, "Civil Rights in the Digital Age: Developing Effective Legal Responses to Cyber Sexual Harassment." In the digital age, sexual harassment and assault can be perpetrated on, or compounded by, the Internet. The rise of "revenge porn," and the recent rash of sexual assault cases in which the crime was taped and distributed via the Internet, highlight the need for an effective response to a new form of cyber crime.
Topics could include: cyber civil rights; the nature of the Internet and how online culture contributes to harassment; current responses to the problem; a focus on distribution of images depicting felony crimes, e.g. the Steubenville rape case, the recent "viral rape case," etc.; the recent hacking and the posting of celebrity nudes; efficacy of current legislative solutions; strategies for effective prosecution; strategies for stopping distribution of the image; the limits of consent in a "revenge porn" case; an analysis of the Communications Decency Act and Internet service provider immunity; First Amendment concerns in drafting effective legislation, etc.
Interested faculty should contact WJLGS' Senior Symposium Editor, Amelia Maxfield, at email@example.com by February 15th.
Monday, February 2, 2015
Deep inside complex legislation to legalize phone-based car services such as Uber and Lyft sat language meant to prohibit drivers from discriminating against gay or transgender riders.
The wording, picked up from legislation proposed in states where gay rights are enshrined in state code, went unnoticed until the bill made it to the Senate floor. Once the passage was discovered, the bill was abruptly sent back to committee for what was described as a “technical” fix, stripped of that language and returned to the chamber, where it passed this week.
Neither side is happy:
The matter was handled so quietly that activists on both sides of the gay-rights issue were in the dark until after the wording had been nixed — a change that took place at a quickie meeting of the Transportation Committee on the Senate floor, with members huddled around the desk of the panel’s chairman, Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg).
The episode disappointed gay-rights activists and alarmed conservatives in a state where court rulings legalized gay marriage last year but where the state constitution still bans it. The Republican-controlled legislature has continued this year to kill bills to recognize gay marriage and other gay rights in state code.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Will some future cohort of progressive-minded men cooking chili with grass-fed ground beef in their NFL-themed Crock-Pots one day fulfill the promise of decades of kitchen appliances and help ensure a better balance of housework at home? Based on past experience, it seems misguided to place too much faith in any technology for achieving equality between the genders. Strasser, the historian, suggested that family-friendly public policies, like family leave or subsidized child care, might be more fruitful.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
ABA, Student Lawyer, Law Schools 3.0
The American Bar Association recently updated its Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Comment 8 of Rule 1.1 now states that lawyers should “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
Those already practicing may have to study up or find someone to tackle the technology end of the work for them. But what are law schools doing to make sure that tomorrow’s lawyer can hit the ground running? ***
The legal education community needs to step up. “Schools must address this deficiency,” added Granat, who is also founder and CEO of the virtual law firm platform provider DirectLaw, Inc. and LawMediaLabs, Inc., a digital legal solutions and interactive law apps provider. “The delivery of legal services, especially to consumers and small businesses, is becoming much more dependent on the understanding of legal technology,” he said. “The platform is shifting from one-to-one service to the Internet itself.”***
While many schools are behind the eight ball when it comes to teaching legal technology tools, Marc Lauritsen, president of Capstone Practice Systems and Legal Systematics, and an adjunct professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, said there has been a recent push to catch up.
“At least a dozen law schools are offering courses and the numbers are growing,” said Lauritsen, also a cochair of the ABA’s eLawyering Task Force. “However, for the most part, the tools that lawyers are using in practice are not being taught.”
He said many students are not prepared for their new competition either. “The marketplace is rapidly changing. Companies like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom are contributing to lawyer underemployment by providing a more cost-effective and consumer-friendly way for people to receive services,” Lauritsen said.
Callisto, an online sexual assault reporting system under development by a nonprofit called Sexual Health Innovations, aims to change this and provide better options for victims of sexual assault on college campuses.
The project builds on the idea of “information escrows” proposed by Ian Ayres and Cait Unkovic in a 2012 Michigan Law Review article. Mr. Ayres, an economist at Yale’s law school, and Ms. Unkovic, a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley, suggest that reporting of misbehavior that is difficult or costly for victims to disclose might be increased if people had the option to report that information to a third party who would make the disclosure only if others also reported misconduct by the same individual.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Feminist legal theory "asks the woman question," that is, questions the law from the perspective of the woman in the case, focusing on considerations of gender. In the Elonis case heard by the US Supreme Court yesterday, then the legal question should ask how did the women in the case understand the threats, and what is the implication of the case for other women's rights. But once again, we get another SCOTUS case with enormous threat to women's rights, but cast in sheep's clothing, this time of free speech.
Here, the defendant threatened to kill his wife, detailing the blood and gore, mocked her protection order, and threatened to kill an FBI agent, also a woman. Once arrested, he offered "the rap defense," that this online terror was just rap lyrics to his own little song. The question for the Court reads out the gender, framing the issue as whether online words (taking out even the gendered context of domestic violence) should be evaluated from the subjective perspective of what the defendant says he meant by the comments, or by the objective standard of a reasonable person. Why not the standard of a reasonable woman? Why not ask what would a reasonable woman think sitting in the shoes of the wife here to whom the threats were directed?
Others including amici in the case, have emphasized the potential damaging implications for domestic violence advocacy by adopting a legal standard that credits the self-serving statements of the stalker or batterer himself as to the intended meaning of his threatening words. Brief of Amicus Curaie, The National Network to End Domestic Violence; Brief of Amicus Curiae, National Center for Victims of Crime; NPR, Is a Threat Posted on Facebook Really a Threat?
Justice Alito, the former prosecutor, briefly acknowledged the issue during the oral argument, though it was quickly dismissed:
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, what do you say to the to the amici who say that if your position is adopted,
this is going to have a very grave effect in cases of domestic violence? They're just wrong, they don't
20 understand the situation?
MR. ELWOOD: I mean, it is in their interest to have a standard that requires no mens rea because
it makes it much easier to prove these.
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, this sounds like a roadmap for threatening a spouse and getting away with
it. So you you put it in rhyme and you put some stuff about the Internet on it and you say, I'm an
aspiring rap artist. And so then you are free from prosecution.
Monday, November 24, 2014
This summer, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and other Silicon Valley superpowers released demographic reports on their workforces. The reports confirmed what everyone already knew: tech is a man’s world. Men make up sixty to seventy per cent of employees at these companies, and, notwithstanding rock stars like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, senior leadership is even more overwhelmingly male. A recent study by the law firm Fenwick & West found that forty-five per cent of tech companies there didn’t have a single female executive. (The picture is also bleak when it comes to ethnic diversity.) The Valley seems to take the problem seriously—Apple’s Tim Cook recently stated his commitment to “advancing diversity”—but there’s a long way to go.
A familiar explanation for tech’s gender disparity is the so-called pipeline problem: the percentage of female computer-science graduates has almost halved since the nineteen-eighties. But this doesn’t fully explain why there are so few women in senior management or on company boards (where skills other than programming matter). Nor can it explain the high rate of attrition among women in tech. A 2008 study found that more than half of women working in the industry ended up leaving the field. The pipeline isn’t just narrow; it’s tapering.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Well, Ms Rybody, it’s funny that you should ask this for, truly, this has become the biggest fashion question – possibly even the only fashion question – in not just the world, but the entire cosmos. For anyone who might have missed it, last week there was some dinky story about a probe landing on a comet for the first time ever. I know what you’re thinking: “Probe, schmobe, get to the real issue here – what was one of the scientists wearing?!?!?!?” Glad to be of service! The project scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, appeared on TV wearing a shirt patterned with images of semi-clothed women that I assume (not being an expert in either of these fields) reference video games and heavy metal albums. Cue internet rage! Everything that followed was utterly predictable, but not especially edifying. The story went through the five cycles of internet rage: initial amusement; astonishment; outrage; backlash to the outrage; humiliated apology. First, our attention was drawn to the shirt via some sniggering tweets; this was swiftly followed by shock and its usual accompaniment, outrage, with some women suggesting the shirt reflected a sexism at the heart of the science community. As generally happens when a subject takes a feminist turn on the internet, the idiots then turned up, with various lowlifes telling the women who expressed displeasure at the shirt to go kill themselves. (This is not an exaggeration, and there is no need to give these toerags further attention in today’s discussion.)
Just as a simple error on the part of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver led to the start of the first world war, so this stupid shirt sparked the beginning of World War Shirt. The scientist knew he had to respond and so, during what I am told by youngsters is called a “Google Hangout”, Dr Smith issued a tearful apology for his shirt. Rumours that the offending shirt, stiff with dried salty tears, has been spotted in Dr Smith’s local charity shop have yet to be confirmed.
Look, I didn’t especially like his shirt, but I also don’t think one can expect much more of a heavily inked dude with a well-established penchant for bad T-shirts. As a cursory search on Google Images (hard research here, people!) proves, this one, while not in the best of taste, was clearly part of that tendency. Yes, it’s an embarrassing shirt and yes, it was a stupid shirt to wear on international TV. But the man is – classic batty scientist cliche – so absentminded that, according to his sister, he regularly loses his car in car parks. So if Taylor committed any crime, it was a crime of bad taste and stupidity rather than burn-him-at-the-stake sexism.
And, well said conclusion:
I totally understand why some women were offended by Taylor’s shirt, and I especially understand the frustration felt by female scientists who feel marginalised enough in their profession without high-profile men wearing shirts featuring half-naked women. But I can’t help but feel that outrage would be better spent on complaining about how few women were present in the control room for the probe landing. There are so many signifiers of sexism in the world and – I believe (again, not an expert in this field) – the science world that to attack a man for his shirt feels a little bit like fussing at a leaky tap when the whole house is under a tidal wave. Some people online have suggested that Taylor’s shirt proves he is a misogynist, or that he sees women purely as sex objects, or that he revels in marginalising them. Personally, if I saw a male colleague wearing that shirt, my reaction would be amazement that a grown man has the fashion taste of a 13-year-old. There is a difference – and I concede, the difference may be fuzzy in some cases – between enjoying the weird fantasy-world depiction of women, and seeing actual women as sex objects. Taylor has the right to wear whatever pig-ugly shirt he likes, and people have the right to be outraged by it. But when that outrage leads to a grown man weeping on TV, perhaps we all need to ask if this outrage is proportionate. My God, I’m a fashion bitch and even I don’t want to make anyone cry over my comments about their clothes.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The diverse and robust pool of female founders and tech execs at Fortune’s 40 under 40 party proves positive for Silicon Valley’s future. Editing Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list is, every year, an education in ambition, disruption and extraordinary achievement. The process takes months of reporting, lots of debate and discussion and a healthy amount of handwringing as our deadline looms.
And then comes the fun. Every year, we hold a giant party for the 40 Under 40 and a few hundred other movers and shakers in the San Francisco area. This is always my favorite part of the process. Because our listers? They show up. This year, we had a record number join us, traveling from as far as India (Rahul Sharma, CEO of Micromax) and as close as upstairs (Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, which hosted us in the lobby of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco’s SoMa district).
There were lots of local, Bay Area-based names, including Lyndon Rive, cofounder of SolarCity SCTY 3.82% , Josh Tetrick of plant-based food engineer Hampton Creek, Tristan Walker of Walker & Co/Bevel, Kabam’s Kevin Chou, Mason Morfit, president of ValueAct Capital (and youngest person on Microsoft’s board MSFT 1.26% ). Many more traveled to be there: SBE Entertainment Group’s Sam Nazarian, from Las Vegas; Nate Morris of waste-management disruptor Rubicon Global, in from Kentucky; Anthony Watson, CIO of Nike NKE 0.88% , who flew in from Beaverton, Ore; and President Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who was able to break away from his boss for a quick trip west. There was, of course, a healthy crew from New York, including VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, NYSE president Tom Farley, Highbridge Principal Strategies’ Mike Patterson and Blackstone’s Peter Wallace.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Carissima Mathen at Ottawa Law has uploaded "Crowdsourcing Sexual Objectification" on SSRN. The abstract reads:
This paper analyzes the criminal offence of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images (frequently called “revenge porn”). Focussing on the debate currently underway in Canada surrounding Bill C-13 (Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act), it notes that such an offence would fill a grey area in that country’s criminal law. Arguing, more broadly, that the criminal law has an important expressive function, the paper posits that the offence targets the same general type of wrongdoing — sexual objectification — that undergirds sexual assault. While not all objectification merits criminal sanction, the paper explains why the non-consensual distribution of intimate images does, and why a specific offence is legitimate.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Last month, Michelle Miers was shot and stabbed at her home by an attacker. Still breathing but in need of urgent medical care, she picked up her cellphone and dialed 9-1-1. Like most Americans, Miers probably presumed that calling 9-1-1 guaranteed help was on the way. For the 26-year-old mother of two, however, help would come too late—not because Miers was too far away, or because her wounds were already too severe, but because police and paramedics couldn’t figure out where she was.
Miers is one of more than an estimated 10,000 Americans who will die this year because wireless companies don’t transmit precise enough location data to 9-1-1 operators, leaving police unable to locate victims. In Miers’ case, responders were left scrambling door-to-door for 20 minutes before they spotted the apartment building with broken glass in the entryway where Miers lay covered in blood.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
From Ms., Writing Her In: Wikipedia as Feminist Activism. An easy, and immediate way to change and correct history. Just do it.
I’m tired of looking for important female artists on Wikipedia and finding no information, while second-rate male artists have pages and pages written about them.
The Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon was dedicated to changing this.During the edit-a-thon, Lesperance wrote a Wikipedia entry for Christina Ramberg. “There is no good reason why she wasn’t already on there,” Lesperance told me. “All of her male colleagues of the Chicago Imagists were represented on Wikipedia, and I’m finding this [omission] is typical.”
Omissions like this can be easily corrected. Lesperance said she felt an “air of empowerment at the ease with which an addition to that archive—which receives so much readership—takes place.”