Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Book Review: Telling the Story of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Susan Frelich Appleton, Book Review, Telling the Story of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 62 Wash. U. J. Law & Policy 5 (2020)  

[T]his brief review critically examines First: Sandra Day O'Connor, a biography by Evan Thomas. The review follows two themes highlighted by the book, intimacy and gender, and finds the author's treatment of the latter especially problematic. ***

 

I detected elisions and oversimplifications that I suspect other authors, especially those more attuned to gender and feminist jurisprudence, might well have avoided. Two examples help make my point. First, although Justice O’Connor is certainly entitled to reject the label “feminist,” it would have been easy to note how her pragmatic and context-sensitive approach to deciding cases tracks a methodology that feminist legal theorists call “feminist practical reasoning.” Indeed, Thomas comes so close when he writes: “by judging in her one-case-at-a time fashion—by looking closely at the facts and broader social context—she did bring a uniquely female perspective: her own.” He could have enriched this analysis with a brief reference to feminist legal methodologies,
adding force and complexity to O’Connor’s supposed rejection of the idea that women decide cases differently and her clerks’ reported bewilderment “at her lack of self-awareness.”

 

Second, the biography includes only the skimpiest mention of O’Connor’s concurring opinion in J.E.B. v. Alabama,  when—again— situating it in feminist jurisprudence would have provided a deeper view of
the significance of gender to O’Connor. ***

 

By the end, the book left me puzzling over several questions about the author, diverting attention from the Justice herself: How reliable a narrator is Thomas in telling her story? How did Thomas’s own intimate relationship color his “intimate portrait”? How confident can readers feel that Thomas captured and presented a full picture of O’Connor, especially when it comes to how gender, and society’s construction of it, shaped her and her history making life?

 

August 26, 2020 in Books, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Recommended Reading on the 19th Amendment

My own work

Tracy Thomas, More Than the Vote: The Nineteenth Amendment as Proxy for Gender Equality, 15 Stanford J. Civ. Rgts. & Civ. Liberties 349 (2020)

Tracy Thomas, The Jurisprudence of the First Woman Judge, Florence Allen:  Challenging the Myth that Women Judges Judge Differently, William & Mary J. Race, Gender & Social Justice (forthcoming) (on Ohio women’s suffrage story)

Tracy Thomas, From the 19th Amendment to ERA: Constitutional Amendments for Women's Equality, ABA Insights (Nov. 2019)

Tracy Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYU Press 2016) (on vote as part of greater demand for gender equality in the family)

19th Amendment Symposium, University of Akron School of Law, in ConLawNOW and Akron Law Review

 

Reading List:

Paula Monopoli, Constitutional Orphan: Gender Equality and the Nineteenth Amendment (Oxford 2020)

Reva Siegel, She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family 115 Harvard L. Rev. 945 (2002)

Ellen Carol DuBois, Suffrage: Women's Long Struggle for the Vote (Norton 2020)

Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism & Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (Cornell 1999)

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920

Martha Jones, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

Martha Jones, All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

Kimberly Hamlin, Free Thinker Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardner (Norton 2020)

Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom: A First Person Account of the Militant Fight for Women’s Rights

Elaine Weiss, The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (2019)

Richard Hasen & Leah Litman, Thin and Thick Conceptions of the Nineteenth Amendment Right to Vote and Congress's Power to Enforce It, 108 Georgetown L.J. 27 (2020)

Neil Siegel, Why the Nineteenth Amendment Maters Today: A Citizen's Guide for the Constitution, 27 Duke J. Gender Law & Policy 235 (2020)

Ann Gordon, ed., African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965 (U Mass Press 1997)

Lauren Free, Suffrage Reconstructed: Gender, Race and Voting Rights in the Civil War Era (2015)

Holly McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszek, eds., 100 Years of the 19th Amendment: An Appraisal of Women's Political Activism (Oxford Press 2018)

Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (2014)

Adam Winkler, A Revolution Too Soon: Women Suffragists and the Living Constitution, 76 NYU L Rev.  1456 (2001

August 26, 2020 in Books, Constitutional, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Say Her Name: Black Women Activists in the Women's Suffrage Movement

Angela Dodson, Why Women's Suffrage Matters for Black People

While our collective memory of the suffrage movement is often a vision of a small band of white women — fighting the establishment alone, marching and picketing in their flowy white dresses — the story of the women’s movement was more complicated and nuanced than that. It involved many women, but also men, of different races who had to find their voice, identify allies and build coalitions.

 

As the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s certification on Aug. 26, 1920, approaches, many African Americans have questioned whether the suffrage movement is relevant to them, because most Black people in the South were disenfranchised anyway. For many African Americans, the movement’s reputation for discriminating against or dismissing Black suffragists and the long history of discord between white and Black feminists do not inspire enthusiasm for the anniversary celebration.

 

As we approach the centennial and the first presidential election with a Black/Asian woman in the race, the first woman of color on a major political party’s ticket, we should examine how we got the vote and at what cost.

 

To dismiss the suffrage movement as irrelevant dishonors the many Black women and men who participated — lobbying, debating, lecturing, petitioning, editorializing, parading and picketing alongside white suffragists.

 

As women are gaining greater leverage in the political system, now is the time to study and credit the contributions of all suffragists and expand our knowledge of the entire movement.

African American Women Leaders in the Suffrage Movement

Including Soujourner Truth, Angelina Weld Grimke, Sarah Redmond, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Frances Harper, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and many more.

 

Taken from Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920

Martha Jones, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

Martha Jones, All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

 

 

August 26, 2020 in Books, Constitutional, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 17, 2020

New Book: Entitled--How Male Privilege Hurts Women

 

Book Review, Kate Manne: "Entitled" Takes a Scalpel to What Men Feel they are Automatically Deserve

“This book shows that an illegitimate sense of male entitlement gives rise to a wide range of misogynistic behavior,” she writes in “Entitled.” “When a woman fails to give a man what he’s supposedly owed, she will often face punishment and reprisal.”***

 

The book goes on to parse the various “goods” that men, in Manne’s reckoning, have been conditioned to feel entitled to — admiration, sex and consent; a home where someone else uncomplainingly does most of the child care and housekeeping. Some of these things are “feminine-coded,” she writes; others, like power and knowledge, are typically reserved as a masculine prerogative.

 

Some forms of discrimination are subtle, operating below the level of our conscious thoughts, but they still exert meaningful effects, Manne says. The reflexive distaste or suspicion that greets any woman who asserts her ambition is in some ways just as indicative of how the social order gets preserved as the violence meted out by the most vicious misogynists.***

 

One of the qualities that makes Manne’s writing bracing and even thrilling to read is her refusal to ingratiate herself by softening the edges of her resolve. She was trained as a logician, and in “Down Girl” she systematically laid out her premises and evidence to show how misogyny operated according to its own peculiar logic.

 

“Entitled” doesn’t feel as surprising or as tightly coiled as that book. In “Down Girl,” she offered a brilliantly original understanding of misogyny, a term that can sound too extreme to use, by showing the routine and banal forms that its hostility often took. The concepts of entitlement and privilege aren’t nearly as rare or mysterious; swaths of this new book are clarifying but also familiar.

 

Still, the subject of “Entitled” is trickier in many ways than the subject of “Down Girl.” Feelings of entitlement may be essential to misogyny — but Manne argues that they’re essential to defeating misogyny, too. She ends by writing about her newborn daughter, and the things that she wants her daughter to feel she deserves, which are necessarily connected to a set of moral obligations. This more reciprocal understanding of entitlement encourages us to think hard about what we owe, not just to ourselves but to one another.

 

August 17, 2020 in Books, Manliness, Masculinities, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times Special Issue on Women's Suffrage and the 19th Amendment Challenges Myths and Offers More Inclusive Version of the Legal History

The NY Times features this special section on women's suffrage on the 100th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage:

 

Tom Jolly (@TomJolly) | Twitter

 

The 19th Amendment: An Important Milestone in an Unfinished Journey

Historians who specialize in voting rights and African-American women’s history have played a welcome and unusually public role in combating the myths that have long surrounded the women’s suffrage movement and the 19th Amendment, which celebrates its 100th anniversary on Tuesday.

In the lead-up to this centennial, these same campaigning historians have warned against celebrations and proposed monuments to the suffrage movement that seemed destined to render invisible the contributions of African-American women like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells — all of whom played heroic roles in the late 19th- and early 20th-century struggles for women’s rights and universal human rights. In addition to speaking up for Black women of the past, these scholars have performed a vital public service by debunking the most pernicious falsehood about the 19th Amendment: that it concluded a century-long battle for equality by guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Americans who imbibed this fiction in civics classes are caught off guard when they hear the more complicated truth — that millions of women had won voting rights before the 19th Amendment was ratified, and millions more remained shut out of the polls after ratification. Indeed, as middle-class white women celebrated ratification by parading through the streets, African-American women in the Jim Crow South who had worked diligently for women’s rights found themselves shut out of the ballot box for another half century — and abandoned by white suffragists who declared their mission accomplished the moment middle-class white women achieved the franchise.

As the distinguished historian Nancy Hewitt has shown, a lengthy campaign and a range of subsequent laws was required to fully open ballot access to others, including Black women, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, Chinese-Americans and Korean-Americans. Among those necessary laws were the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943 and the adoption of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, the 24th Amendment in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, along with its amendments of 1970 and 1975. In other words, the 19th Amendment was one step in a long, racially fraught battle for voting rights that seemed secure a few decades ago but face a grave threat today.

Spotlight: Suffrage at 100

Including:

Maya Salam, How Queer Women Powered the Suffrage Movement

Martha Jones, Tackling a Century-Old Mystery: Did my Grandmother Vote?

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, For Black Suffragists, the Lens Was a Mighty Sword

Meet the Brave, but Overlooked Women of Color Who Fought for the Vote

Cathleen Cahill & Sarah Deer, In 1920, Native Women Sought the Vote: Here's What was Next

August 17, 2020 in Conferences, Legal History, LGBT, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book Talk: What Does a Feminist City Look Like

What Does a Feminist City Look Like?

Feminist geographer Leslie Kern has faith in cities.

 

Kern, an associate professor of geography and environment and director of women’s and gender studies at Mount Allison University in Sackville, Canada, believes cities’ histories as bastions of social progress prove they can be transformative places for women and other people who have been, and remain, socially and politically oppressed.

 

But in her new book, “Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World,” Kern argues that despite their potential, cities have also long failed — and continue to fail — women, and specifically women of color and women with disabilities. Kern spoke to The Lily about how she believes feminist cities could stymie domestic violence and better support parents, why urban planners should read feminist theory and what the coronavirus pandemic reveals about how cities need to change to be more equitable places for all their inhabitants

 

Julianne McShane: I first want to ask a question that’s probably on a lot of readers’ minds: What makes a city feminist?

Leslie Kern: A feminist city would be one that prioritizes care work — the work that we all do to take care of one another and to survive as human beings — rather than mostly prioritizing the economic work of the city. So there’s lots of ways that can play out, whether it’s in housing, transportation, food, child care, all of these realms, but to me that is one of the core principles that would underlie a feminist city.

Click the link above to read the rest of the interview.

August 6, 2020 in Books, Family, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Congress Introduces Legislation to Repeal Helms Amendment Prohibiting US Foreign Aid for Abortions

First-Ever Legislation to Repeal Helms Amendment: Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act

Today, Congress introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020—the first-ever legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowksy (D-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

 

Established in 1973 (notably the same year as the Roe decision), the Helms Amendment—introduced by former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), an ultraconservative senator marked by blatant racism and other odious behavior—dictates U.S. foreign aid cannot be used for abortions.

 

Though there are exceptions for rape, incest and threat to the pregnant person’s life, in practice, the Helms Amendment has created a complete ban on abortion funding abroad—even in countries where abortion is legal.

 

Since its enactment, the Helms Amendment has been criticized as an imperialist, ideological, racist and classist policy.

 

“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions of Black and brown people around the world.”

 

Moreover, many argue abortion restrictions like Helms have led to the avoidable deaths of thousands of women by coercing them to seek unsafe alternatives.

 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 million women per year have abortions in potentially lethal conditions. What’s more, unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide. 

The bill is here: Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act: "To amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to authorize
the use of funds for comprehensive reproductive health care services, and for other purposes."

August 4, 2020 in Abortion, International, Legislation, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bibliography: Gender and Law Scholarship in Japan

Mark Levin & Kallista Hiraoka, Gender and Law Scholarship in the Law in Japan Field: A Comprehensive Bibliographic Study, 21 Asia-Pacific Law & Policy J. 1 (2020)

This bibliography, inspired by a 1990 journal article by Professor Veronica Taylor titled, Teaching about Law and Society in Japan: Does Gender Matter?, 10 JAPANESE STUD. 47 (1990), and Professor Vera Mackie’s commanding body of work in this field of study [N.1], aims to offer a tool for students and researchers interested in issues relating to gender and law in Japan. We started this bibliography by compiling and snowballing from sources in Levin’s office collection and a variety of title word searches in legal journal databases. We shared our findings first to a select list of scholars who kindly shared feedback and advised us of missing items, and secondly, on SSRN, which also allowed us to obtain additional input. The bibliography contains more than 150 publications including monographs, book chapters, textbook materials, and journal articles from 1962 to 2019.

 

N.1 Vera Mackie, Equal Opportunity in an Unequal Labour Market: The Japanese Situation, 4 AUSTL. FEMINIST STUD. 97 (1989); Vera Mackie, Equal Opportunity and Gender Identity: Feminist Encounters with Modernity and Postmodernity in Japan, in JAPANESE ENCOUNTERS WITH POSTMODERNITY 95 (Jóhann Páll Árnason & Yoshio Sugimoto eds., 1995); VERA MACKIE, FEMINISM IN MODERN JAPAN: CITIZENSHIP,
EMBODIMENT AND SEXUALITY (2003).

August 4, 2020 in International, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Case Against Saying "Hey Guys"

Instead of Saying "Hey, Guys!" at Work, Try These Gender-Neutral Alternatives

“Hey, guys!” It’s the greeting that launched a thousand meetings and Zoom calls.

 

Etymologists trace the term “guys” to the historical figure Guy Fawkes. It’s evolved from the name of one man who attempted to assassinate King James I in 1605 to an informal address for a group of people in contemporary American English.

 

But when used to address your colleagues, it’s a gendered greeting that could be sending signals about who is ― and isn’t ― included in your workplace.

 

The Case Against Using “Hey, Guys”

The problem with “guys” is that it is a “masculine word,” according to Amy Jeffers, an organizational development specialist in diversity, equity and inclusion. There are better alternatives, such as “Hey, everyone” or “Hey, folks” that are not gender-assuming, Jeffers added.

 

Sociologist Sherryl Kleinman wrote an essay in the journal Qualitative Sociology against terms such as “you guys” in 2002, pointing out that they reinforce a language that already privileges men. Kleinman cited words such as chairman, postman and freshman as other examples.

 

”‘Get over it,’ some people say,” she wrote. “Those words are generic. They apply to everyone. But then how come so-called generics are always male?”

 

GLSEN, an education organization that advocates for policies designed to protect LGBTQ students and students of marginalized identities, advised defaulting to gender-neutral language such as “friends,” “folks,” “all” or “y’all” rather than “brothers and sisters” or “guys,” “ladies,” “ma’am” or “sir.”

August 4, 2020 in Gender, Pop Culture, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)