Monday, September 30, 2013

Brief Documentary on Catharine MacKinnon

available here.  (she grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere?  Who knew?)  There is so much of what she says that I still find immensely compelling and of political significance.  At the same time, I wonder how much of her ideas are still relevant for my students' generation and my daughters'. 

September 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Small Business and Maternity Leave

"Could small businesses have the upper hand when it comes to family friendly policies on parental leave, flexible working, and career development? They certainly tend to be more family-oriented, either in culture, actual make up or both. That can be both good and bad,..."

A view from the Guardian UK. 

September 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

State Judge Orders NJ to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Against the wishes of Gov. Chris Christie, the judge so ordered

September 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Justice Ginsburg's Book Review and Women's Legal History

The Stanford Women's Legal Biography Project features Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's review of the book, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz (Stanford Press 2011) from earlier this year.  Foltz was the first woman lawyer practicing in California.  Ginsburg shares her impressions of the book and makes some comparisons between Foltz and the author, Barbara Babcock, as both "entered the legal profession as curiosities."  I reviewed the book myself for the Journal of American History

September 28, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gender, Law and Books

What I'm reading now is The Trials of Laura Fair by Carole Haber.  I stumbled onto the book researching Fair's connection with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Stanton's very public defense of Fair and the gendered public outcry of her crime. The book chronicles Fair's trials in late 19th century San Francisco for shooting her lover.  Her defense played on the sex stereotypes of the time, claiming that the shooting was a result of her temporary insanity caused by a severely painful menstrual cycle.  "In this rousing history, Carole Haber probes changing ideas about morality and immorality, masculinity and feminitity, love and marraige, health and disease, and mental illness." "Haber's book examines the era's most controversial issues, including suffrage, the gendered courts, women's physiology, and free love."  I'm just at the beginning, but already intrigued.

September 28, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wading through Bourdieu

Influential French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002)

(Pierre Bourdieu)

The book was published in 1998 (in French), and so it's not recent.  (the really best stuff, for me, always seems to be between 1700 to 1850, and then from 1930 to the 1960s).  But I had to read it.  I mean, it's Pierre Bourdieu, the revered French sociologist.

He's brilliant.  He's famous.  He's the master.  But in Masculine Domination, he sometimes writes like this:

"The work of symbolic construction is far more than a strictly performative operation of naming which orients and structures representations, starting with representations of the body (which is itself not negligible); it is brought about and culminates in a profound and durable transformation of bodies (and minds), that is to say, in and through a process of practical construction imposing a differential definition of the legitimate uses of the body, in particular sexual ones, which tends to exclude from the universe of the feasible and thinkable everything that marks membership of the other gender...." (p. 23).

Oh, the days when Bourdieu's compatriot Alexis de Tocqueville had written with enviable grace and concision of gender relations in early nineteenth century America.....

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

South Carolina--Domestic Violence Capital of America

"South Carolina once again has been ranked the worst in the nation when it comes to men killing women."  

The story here

Read more here:

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

1 out of 6 Princeton Women Reported Being Sexually Assaulted

I found this excerpt to be jarring: 

"Earlier this year, the results of a 5-year-old survey of Princeton University students were leaked, revealing 1-in-6 female undergraduates experienced 'non-consensual vaginal penetration.' That same year, 2008, only 20 forcible sex offenses were reported at the university of roughly 7,800 students, or roughly 1 in 195."

The story is about the Clery Act, the law which requires colleges and universities to disclose reported sexual assaults on campus.  The alarming discrepancy between Princeton's in-house numbers and those collected under the Clery Act imply that there is much underreporting.

September 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Military Prosecutions of Rape and Sexual Assault

My students have been talking about the recent news of military trials of rape and sexual assault. These military cases seem to deviate from the criminal convictions and victim-protective rules of regular courts.  The New York Times reported on the intrusive grilling of the victim.  Slate commented on the outrageousness of the questions.  An ABA Commission recommends changes.  Others like Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand are calling for the removal of these prosecutions of major crimes from military commnd.  

September 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Question of Quotas for Women in Australia

Today we  welcome guest blogger Anne Wardell, Deputy Editor in Chief of the CCH Law
& Business team and co-administrator of the Law Chat blog. Previously, she was the National Director of Insolvency for the Australian Taxation Office and member of the Victorian Bar, specializing in insolvency and commercial law.

Anne weighs in on the issue of gender quotas raised in a prior post in a four-part series. 

In Australia we recently had a new conservative government elected. At the swearing-in ceremony for the new Ministers it was starkly apparent that there would be only one female member of the Cabinet, which is a collection of the most senior Ministers of the government and the ones who make the decisions.  This caused a lot of comment in both the media and social networks.  Adding fuel to the fire the new Prime Minister appointed himself as the new Minister for Women’s Affairs.

He had spent much of the election campaign flanked by his two very attractive adult daughters in an effort one surmises to show his support for women.  He had been the subject of a now famous speech on misogyny by the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who was the first female PM in Australia.  He did not help his cause when describing one young candidate from his party as having ‘sex appeal’.  This was excused as a ‘dad moment’ but many commentators argued that this highlighted his true view of women.

The lack of women in the new government has raised the issue of merit-based advancement versus quotas.  One of our social commentators in Australia, Jane Caro, wrote a thought-provoking article on this, Promotion on — ahem — merit? It’s hard to see how …

Reading this article made me think back to a time in my career when I was a new barrister (court attorney) at the Victorian Bar.  At the time it was a very traditional, conservative and male-dominated institution. Official correspondence was addressed to me by my surname; very English boarding school’esque. Women barristers were in the minority, much as women partners in law firms were also a minority.  This was despite the fact that women represented roughly half of the law graduates. 

The Victorian Women’s Bar Association was formed.  The male barristers on my floor asked me why we women needed a special club.  When notices about meetings were placed in the lift some ‘wag’ always wrote on them ‘Ladies please bring a plate’.  Whenever I returned from a meeting the men wanted to know what we had discussed. They seemed threatened by the idea of women meeting to discuss things that they were not privy to. Yet women for centuries have been subjected to decisions and meetings which impact their lives where they have had no voice; decisions
made for them about domestic and financial matters by men. 

One of the initiatives put forward by some women at the bar was the idea of introducing a quota system to ensure that women barristers received a fair distribution of the work on offer.  Lawyers (attorneys) would be required to send a certain percentage of their court briefs to women barristers.  At the time I was in my early 30s and was opposed to the idea.  I wanted to be judged on my own merit and make my way because I was a good barrister, not because of some system which would force solicitors to use me.  I was vocal in my opposition to this, which pleased my male colleagues I am sure.

September 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


So, one time, another blogger used my article as a platform to talk about the evils of misandry, the gendered hatred of men.  Since, like most professors, I hardly enjoy the rapture of anyone reading my stuff, I was flattered.  So, too, the blogger kindled my curiosity:  How prevalent was this worldview that men were unjust victims simply because of their gender?  

Apparently, quite a bit, at least as suggested by blogs manned ("manned"--sorry, no pun intended) by conservative and libertarian types.  (And a handful of male law professors also admitted to me privately that they felt like victims of misandry in the academy; oh, the things that men confide in each other after a few brews at the pub....) 

Here are two rival positions regarding misandry:  One asserts misandry's undeserved prevalence, the other refutes such prevalence.   

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Male Manifesto

It’s as close to a Male Manifesto as I have ever seen.  And 2014 will mark its 24th anniversary.  I am speaking of Robert Bly’s Iron John. 

 Iron John.jpg

When the book surfaced, I was an undergraduate in college (a callow John with scarcely any Iron), and its mention was everywhere.  Not just among academics, either.  Talkshow hosts, popular magazines, newspapers, and men (and sometimes, women) from sundry quarters glowed about its heralding message of male liberation.  I had no interest in it back then, but, now as a middle aged dad (still just John, still looking for this fabled Iron) in the throes of gender research, I finally read it. 

And wow. 

I will leave matters of judgment about merit to the reader; to each his or her own, I say (after all, who do I think I am--Iron John?).  All I can do is describe what I read. 

The story is about Mr. Wild Man.  He has been infantilized and is looking for the Magic Ball (it has apparently been taken and hidden by Wild Man’s Mom) that will restore his Wild Man Manliness.  He is also looking for Miss Right.  Or, rather, Miss Wild Woman Right.  And in the end, if Wild Man and Wild Woman, after a romantic evening of dinner and dancing, are able to see that special Wild something in their eyes, they will hopefully be able to do this:    

“. . . the lovers make love with the Wild Man—and Wild Woman—right in the room; and if we are those lovers, we may feel certain body cells turn gold that we thought were made entirely of lead.”   

Many men (Wild or otherwise), as I remember, lived for this ideal, back in early '90s.  Does the fact that there is no contemporary analogue to Iron John furnish its own commentary about gender these days?   That is, there are, I know, guys out there today who see themselves as Iron John; lots of them.  The question is, why don't they write about it?  Or if they do, why don't they emblazen their ideology as Male Manifesto?  In lieu of Iron John, we have UFC fights, perhaps.  Not "Wild Man," with his troglodyte forlornness but Violent Dude with his nurtured alienation and rage.  Is this my students' Iron John? 

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harvard Gender Violence Project

Here's a terrific website for those studying gender violence. 

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

For "good order and discipline"

Apparently, rape is treated quite differently in military courts versus civilian ones.  In the former, commanders have absolute clemency power over the accused and may pardon him (or, rather unlikely, her) in the interests of "good order and discipline." 

September 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baby Veronica Goes Home

Late yesterday, Baby Veronica went home. Well, depending on what you call home. I previously wrote about this heartbreaking story. The little Cherokee toddler was returned to her white adoptive parents, despite the Indian Child Welfare Act supposedly precluding such adoptions out of the Native American community.  I’m continually struck by the gendered discourse in this case. We have caricatures of the deadbeat dad, the saintly birth mother, and the martyred adoptive mother. We have the mother “fighting for her child” and the dad who “resists authority to turn over the child.”  Dad’s failings have to do his refusal to satisfy the provider role initially via prenatal support. (His two years of actual parenting seems to be irrelevant).  The real rub is the failure of any court to conduct a best interests hearing focusing on the adjustment, interactions, and welfare of the child.  (I know he doesn’t have standing and so we will just rewind and pretend Baby V is still 2.) Instead, our assumptions about gender roles, race, and parental entitlements, biological or adoptive, are allowed to color the judgment, as they did in the Supreme Court.   

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New in Print on Gender

My picks of the week:

Marc Spindelman,Sexuality's Law, 24 Colum. J. Gender & L. 87-227 (2013).

As Robin West commented, "Marc Spindelman’s essay Sexuality’s Law, forthcoming in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, is one of the most extraordinary pieces of legal writing on the interrelations of law, culture and sexuality to appear in a law journal in well over a decade, perhaps much longer."

Caitlin Borgmann, Roe v. Wade's 40th Anniversary: A Moment of Truth for the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement? 24 Stan. L. & Pol'y Rev. 245-270 (2013)

In the forty years since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the anti-abortion-rights movement has pursued a strategy of incrementally whittling away at the right to abortion....Advocates have pushed a steady stream of abortion restrictions through state legislatures, and sometimes Congress....But restrictions short of a ban are not the end game for abortion-rights opponents.  The incremental approach has left the movement in a sort of Zeno’s paradox, perpetually pursuing restrictions that get them only halfway from the political present to their goal, and thus never reaching it. Sooner or later, the movement will reach a moment of truth, when it must put aside the incrementalist strategy and openly pursue its goal of banning abortion altogether.  Now, forty years after the Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to abortion, that moment may have arrived. 



September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Week on SSRN

Cyra Choudhury, Law, Gender and the Burden of Culture here

Peggy Li, Physical Attractiveness and Femininity: Helpful or Hurtful for Female Attorneys here

Nicole B. Porter, The Blame Game: How the Rhetoric of Choice Blames the Achievement Gap on Women here

Gregor Puppinck, Joanne Cassar v. Malta: On the Deconstruction of the Right to Marry and Found a Family by the European Court of Human Rights, here

Laura Rothstein, Reflections from an Era of Breaking Glass: 1984-1998, here

Michael Selmi & Sonia Weill, Can All Women be Pharmacists?: A Critique of Hanna Rosin's The End of Men, here

Neil Siegel, The New Textualism, Progressive Constitutionalism, and Abortion Rights: A Reply to Jeffrey Rosen, here

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gender Issues at Harvard Business School

A recent article

September 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Masculinity, Scarred and Desperate

In a way, the tats, with their acutely disparate emblems, sort of say it all: 

"He had a tattoo of a viking on his left shoulder, the Grim Reaper on his right; Jesus’ face on his right leg; and MOM on his left wrist. His newest tattoo was a gothic D inside a diamond, the logo for DiPonio’s mixed martial arts team."

A heartbreaking story about a very scared, and very violent young man who took solace in, and faced the raging abuse of, public brawls. For me, the story reaffirms my view that men don't enjoy a lavish autonomy vis-a-vis women but are, in their own way, trapped by societal expectations for who they must be and what options are available for them in their privately desperate lives. 

September 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leckey on "Developments in Family Law: The 2012-2013 Term"

Robert Leckey, McGill University, "Developments in Family Law: The 2012-2013 Term," 64 Supreme Court Law Review (2013, forthcoming).  Available here


In Quebec (Attorney General) v. A., a sharply divided Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of Quebec’s distinctive policy in family law, one combining obligatory protections for married spouses and laissez-faire for unmarried cohabitants. It rejected the contention that such a policy amounted to unjustifiable discrimination on the basis of marital status, contrary to s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This paper delineates the judgment’s appropriate scope, which is not what the Court’s text indicates, and its effect on family law across Canada. It argues that it is difficult to reconcile the Court’s focus on autonomy and choice with Quebec’s positive law of the family. In addition, it points to problems with how the judges characterized the challenged regimes of Quebec matrimonial law. In particular, by focusing on autonomy and choice or on protection, the judges neglected matrimonial law’s compensatory aims.

September 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)