Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Ann Tweedy, Book Review, Uncovering the Little-Known History of Suffragists of Color, JOTWELL, reviewing Cathleen D. Cahill, Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement (2020).
The book rightfully complicates the notion of women’s suffrage, revealing that a singular focus on women’s suffrage both obscures the larger struggles that these women were engaged in to secure the voting rights of all members of their communities and elides the contributions of these women to the suffrage movement. As Cahill explains, “[t]he suffrage histories of women of color bridge 1920, so to see that year as an end point leads us to tell a story that inevitably ignores them and truncates our understanding.” (P. 205.) Another invaluable aspect of this book is that Cahill refuses to shy away from the complexities of the important history she is unveiling. Thus, as readers, we are forced to reckon with the fact Native and Latina activists, for instance, sometimes drew distinctions between themselves and African-Americans to demonstrate the worthiness of their own communities for voting rights. More broadly, we are faced with the shameful history of exclusion within the women’s suffrage movement. White suffrage parade organizers, for instance, tried to relegate Ida B. Wells (then going by Mrs. Wells-Barnett) to the portion of the 1913 Washington D.C. suffrage parade reserved for African-Americans, rather than allowing her to march with the Illinois delegation as planned. As a consequence, she had to jump into the parade after it had already started in order to march with her fellow Illinois citizens. (P. 104.)
It is tempting to the think of the history of voting rights, like other histories, in linear terms, with African-American males getting the vote in 1870 upon the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment; white, African-American, and Latina women receiving the right to vote in 1919 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment; and Native American men and women securing the right to vote via statute in 1924 (although many Native persons had obtained the right to vote prior to that).
Recasting the Vote shows that this progression was nowhere near so simple. Cahill, for example, reminds us that, post-1920, widespread lynching of African-Americans continued to be utilized to dissuade African-Americans from voting and that, as a consequence, activists like Carrie Williams Clifford organized campaigns for anti-lynching legislation. (P. 226.) Racist whites also prevented Native Americans from voting even after the Indian Citizenship Act was passed, with “States with large Native populations borrow[ing] heavily from . . . southern examples while also using Native people’s unique relationship to the federal government to keep them from voting.” (P. 261.) And although activists like Mabel Ping-Hua Lee fought for women’s suffrage in the United States, under the Chinese Exclusion Act, “the Chinese were the only people in the world whom the United States restricted due to their nationality and made ineligible for naturalized citizenship.” (P. 149.) Thus, until the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, Chinese-born women could not become naturalized citizens and could not vote irrespective of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Cahill thus renders her history of suffragists of color in all of its undeniable complexity. As such, Recasting the Vote is bound to be an indispensable resource on the subject for decades to come.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
By: Meera Deo
Published in: Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 73, No. 3, 2021
This Essay initiates the Rutgers Law Review symposium, "Taking Our Space: Women of Color and Antiracism in Legal Academia," a collection of essays inspired by my book, Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia (Stanford University Press, 2019). After briefly tracing the origins of the book project, I focus on five themes that outline responses as well as updates to Unequal Profession: (1) claiming my worth; (2) jumping on the bandwagon; (3) centering structural solutions; (4) being part of the solution—not the solution; and (5) understanding pandemic effects on legal academia. Together, these themes reveal the depth and difficulty of the work that the legal academy must take on in order to move our profession closer to equity.
The five themes presented here are insights I have gleaned along the way since Unequal Profession was published. Just as a qualitative researcher draws out patterns and observations from the data, I have performed some preliminary analyses on two-plus years’ worth of responses to Unequal Profession, as well as crafted a brief update on how various events of this past unfathomable year exacerbate raceXgender biases in legal academia. I share these observations so that aspiring authors, current academics, allies in practice, and administrative leaders can work together with me to craft a more equal profession. As the five themes outlined here demonstrate, achieving a more equal profession involves working not only to address naysayers, whose implicit and explicit biases may reinforce inequities, but also for each one of us to critically reflect on our own individual prejudices and opportunities for improvement.
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
New Book and Reviews: Anita Hill's "Believing" Sees Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Violence as a Cultural and Structural Problem That Hurts Everyone
“An elegant, impassioned demand that America see gender-based violence as a cultural and structural problem that hurts everyone, not just victims and survivors… It’s at times downright virtuosic in the threads it weaves together.”—NPR
From the woman who gave the landmark testimony against Clarence Thomas as a sexual menace, a new manifesto about the origins and course of gender violence in our society; a combination of memoir, personal accounts, law, and social analysis, and a powerful call to arms from one of our most prominent and poised survivors.
In 1991, Anita Hill began something that’s still unfinished work. The issues of gender violence, touching on sex, race, age, and power, are as urgent today as they were when she first testified. Believing is a story of America’s three decades long reckoning with gender violence, one that offers insights into its roots, and paths to creating dialogue and substantive change. It is a call to action that offers guidance based on what this brave, committed fighter has learned from a lifetime of advocacy and her search for solutions to a problem that is still tearing America apart.
NYT Review, Anita Hill Has Some Perspective to Offer
Anita Hill still speaks in the measured tones she did while being questioned before an all-white, all-male panel before the Senate in 1991 — a young law professor in a blue linen suit who would give the nation an overnight education in workplace sexual harassment.
Thirty years later, she is more academic than activist, focusing on pathways to progress, and continuing to teach law as a professor of social policy, law and gender studies at Brandeis University.
But to be honest, Hill’s patience is waning. “I really am running out,” she said in a video interview from her home in Massachusetts earlier this month.
Her new book, “Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence,” due out on Tuesday from Viking, aims to channel that impatience into something more substantive — a manifesto of sorts.
Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence is not a book about Anita Hill. Yes, it has plenty of her personal stories and, yes, it references her role at the center of the Supreme Court hearing firestorm that first acquainted many Americans with the concept of "sexual harassment." ***
The book first attempts to show how massive problems like harassment and assault are affecting everyone from the smallest children to adults, from the lowest-wage workers to the highest-paid celebrities. Then, Hill shows both the effects of the problem — the ways it not only hurts individuals but hampers political change and economic growth — and the myriad barriers to solving it. To try to tackle something so complex, she says, feels like trying to "boil the ocean."
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Preface to: Accidental feminism: Gender parity and selective mobility among India's professional elite
By Swethaa Ballakrishnen
Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2021.
In India, elite law firms offer a surprising oasis for women within a hostile, predominantly male industry. Less than 10 percent of the country’s lawyers are female, but women in the most prestigious firms are significantly represented both at entry and partnership. Elite workspaces are notorious for being unfriendly to new actors, so what allows for aberration in certain workspaces?
Drawing from observations and interviews with more than 130 elite professionals, Accidental Feminism examines how a range of underlying mechanisms—gendered socialization and essentialism, family structures and dynamics, and firm and regulatory histories—afford certain professionals egalitarian outcomes that are not available to their local and global peers. Juxtaposing findings on the legal profession with those on elite consulting firms, Swethaa Ballakrishnen reveals that parity arises not from a commitment to create feminist organizations, but from structural factors that incidentally come together to do gender differently. Simultaneously, their research offers notes of caution: while conditional convergence may create equality in ways that more targeted endeavors fail to achieve, “accidental” developments are hard to replicate, and are, in this case, buttressed by embedded inequalities. Ballakrishnen examines whether gender parity produced without institutional sanction should still be considered feminist.
In offering new ways to think about equality movements and outcomes, Accidental Feminism forces readers to critically consider the work of intention in progress narratives.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Four years ago, Tarana Burke was a devoted but little-known activist with a vision for how victims of sexual violence could find empathy and healing.
Until now, Ms. Burke has never told her own story. In her memoir, “Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement,” which Flatiron Books is releasing on Tuesday, she reveals a close but complicated historical link between the civil rights movement and MeToo.
Last week, she spoke about what she owes to activists in Selma, Ala., why she turned away from them, and how her personal experiences, from Catholicism to an up-close view of the Central Park jogger case, influenced her founding of the MeToo movement.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Krystale Littlejohn, Just Get on the Pill: The Uneven Burden of Reproductive Politics (UC Press)
Understanding the social history and urgent social implications of gendered compulsory birth control, an unbalanced and unjust approach to pregnancy prevention.
The average person concerned about becoming pregnant spends approximately thirty years trying to prevent conception. People largely do so alone using prescription birth control, a situation often taken for granted in the United States as natural and beneficial. In Just Get On the Pill, a keenly researched and incisive examination, Krystale Littlejohn investigates how birth control becomes a fundamentally unbalanced and gendered responsibility. She uncovers how parents, peers, partners, and providers draw on narratives of male and female birth control methods to socialize cisgender women into sex and ultimately into shouldering the burden for preventing pregnancy.
Littlejohn draws on extensive interviews to document this gendered compulsory birth control—a phenomenon in which people who give birth are held accountable for preventing and resolving pregnancies in gender-constrained ways. She shows how this gendered approach encroaches on reproductive autonomy and poses obstacles for preventing disease. While diverse cisgender women are the focus, Littlejohn shows that they are not the only ones harmed by this dynamic. Indeed, gendered approaches to birth control also negatively impact trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming people in overlooked ways. In tracing the divisive politics of pregnancy prevention, Littlejohn demonstrates that the gendered division of labor in birth control is not natural. It is unjust
Many of us have seen the iconic photo of interracial sisterhood with Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes from 1971, now part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. While we know a lot about Steinem from popular media, history books, autobiographies and even a Broadway play, most of us know very little about Pitman Hughes. But we should.
The recent publication of Pitman Hughes’s biography—With Her First Raised: Dorothy Pitman Hughes and the Transformative Power of Black Community Activism—by University of Massachusetts historian Laura Lovett shares this forgotten history. According to Lovett, her book offers “a history of the women’s movement with children, race and welfare rights at its core, a history of women’s politics grounded in community organizing and African American economic development.”...
Throughout her life, Pitman Hughes sought to make the lives of ordinary women better by working to empower communities to meet their needs—whether that was child care, recognition of Black women’s inherent beauty or access to economic resources or local healthy food. The book recounts her early experiences of racism, including “routine extralegal violence from the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils,” her work with the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), the Black Panthers and Malcolm X, and her friendships with people like Flo Kennedy and Ti-Grace Atkinson, as well as Steinem....
“Dorothy’s style was to call out the racism she saw in the white women’s movement. She frequently took to the stage to articulate the way in which white women’s privilege oppressed Black women but also offered her friendship with Gloria as proof this obstacle could be overcome,” said Lovett.
Pitman Hughes also organized the first shelter for battered women in New York City, co-founded the New York City Agency for Child Development working to expand child care services in the city and was a co-founder of the National Black Feminist Organization.
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Amia Srinivasan, The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century
Thrilling, sharp, and deeply humane, philosopher Amia Srinivasan's The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century upends the way we discuss—or avoid discussing—the problems and politics of sex.
How should we think about sex? It is a thing we have and also a thing we do; a supposedly private act laden with public meaning; a personal preference shaped by outside forces; a place where pleasure and ethics can pull wildly apart.
How should we talk about sex? Since #MeToo many have fixed on consent as the key framework for achieving sexual justice. Yet consent is a blunt tool. To grasp sex in all its complexity—its deep ambivalences, its relationship to gender, class, race and power—we need to move beyond yes and no, wanted and unwanted.
We do not know the future of sex—but perhaps we could imagine it. Amia Srinivasan’s stunning debut helps us do just that. She traces the meaning of sex in our world, animated by the hope of a different world. She reaches back into an older feminist tradition that was unafraid to think of sex as a political phenomenon. She discusses a range of fraught relationships—between discrimination and preference, pornography and freedom, rape and racial injustice, punishment and accountability, students and teachers, pleasure and power, capitalism and liberation.
The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century is a provocation and a promise, transforming many of our most urgent political debates and asking what it might mean to be free.
Friday, July 30, 2021
The US Supreme Court’s 1937 decision in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, upholding the constitutionality of Washington State’s minimum wage law for women, had monumental consequences for all American workers. It also marked a major shift in the Court’s response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda. In Making Minimum Wage, Helen J. Knowles tells the human story behind this historic case.
West Coast Hotel v. Parrish pitted a Washington State hotel against a chambermaid, Elsie Parrish, who claimed that she was owed the state’s minimum wage. The hotel argued that under the concept of “freedom of contract,” the US Constitution allowed it to pay its female workers whatever low wages they were willing to accept. Knowles unpacks the legal complexities of the case while telling the litigants’ stories. Drawing on archival and private materials, including the unpublished memoir of Elsie’s lawyer, C. B. Conner, Knowles exposes the profound courage and resolve of the former chambermaid. Her book reveals why Elsie—who, in her mid-thirties was already a grandmother—was fired from her job at the Cascadian Hotel in Wenatchee, and why she undertook the outsized risk of suing the hotel for back wages.
Minimum wage laws are “not an academic question or even a legal one,” Elinore Morehouse Herrick, the New York director of the National Labor Relations Board, said in 1936. Rather, they are “a human problem.” A pioneering analysis that illuminates the life stories behind West Coast Hotel v. Parrish as well as the case’s impact on local, state, and national levels, Making Minimum Wage vividly demonstrates the fundamental truth of Morehouse Herrick’s statement.
The author lets the research speak for itself as she explores the modern cultural manifestations of patriarchy, militant masculinity, and the church's role in sexism.
As journalists and academics tried to explain how evangelicals could bring themselves to vote for Trump, Du Mez argued that evangelical support was not a shocking aberration from their views but a culmination of evangelicals’ long-standing embrace of militant masculinity, presenting the man as protector and warrior.
“In 2016, many observers were stunned at evangelicals’ apparent betrayal of their own values,” Du Mez wrote. “In reality, evangelicals did not cast their vote despite their beliefs, but because of them.”***
Du Mez, who teaches at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., wrote that mainstream evangelical leaders such as John Piper, James Dobson and John Eldredge, preached a “mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity — of patriarchy and submission, sex and power.”
“The militant Christian masculinity they practiced and preached did indelibly shape both family and nation,” Du Mez wrote.
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
[M]ale violence against women....is a tool designed, as Jacqueline Rose writes in her new book, On Violence and On Violence Against Women, “to remind the girl or woman of what she is”—to gender her as female. For Rose ..., gender-based violence is not caused by sexual difference—neither attributes aggression to, for example, an excess of testosterone—rather it establishes the hierarchy of sexual difference.
Rose would ... add that ... violence is not the expression of a power they have, but of power they lack. ... As Rose would put it, he hits her to shore up his “fraudulent authority.”
Psychoanalysis has a word for this behavior, and it is “narcissism.” “Narcissism starts with the belief that the whole world is at your feet, there solely for you to manipulate,” explains Rose.
What is “fraudulent” about the authority of Stanleys everywhere is that it is rooted in denial. Women can and do commit acts of violence. But male violence interests Rose because it expresses the fundamental psychoanalytic mechanism of shame, projection, and denial. Boys and men are taught that masculinity means an absurd omnipotence, mastery, comfort, and prowess. They fail—how could they not?—to live up to that ideal. Many cannot tolerate their own vulnerability, which is coded as weakness, so they project vulnerability onto others, usually women; having disowned and disavowed it, they then try to destroy the woman who has come to represent (or embody) that vulnerability, through harassment, abuse, assault, rape, bullying, blows. The state colludes with this psychological and social project in policies that limit reproductive freedom, cruelly degrade asylum-seekers, and refuse trans people self-determination, to name only a few examples.
Harassment and sexual abuse are not, therefore, “the unadulterated expression of male power and authority”; quite the opposite. Violence against women has a frantic quality; it is something that one can only resort to; it protests too much. Which is not to say that it doesn’t hurt to be hit. Fraudulent authority is often deadly.
Those who have read Rose’s previous books will be somewhat familiar with the contours of this analysis. On Violence and On Violence Against Women takes up a subject she has not covered before—the dynamic that has lately been termed “toxic masculinity”—but it does so according to a conceptual approach she has been refining for decades.
Friday, July 9, 2021
In 1873, Congress passed a law outlawing the distribution, sale, mailing and possession of "obscene" materials — including contraception.
The Comstock Act, as it became known, was named after Anthony Comstock, an anti-vice crusader who later became a special agent to the U.S. Post Office, giving him the power to enforce the law. In her new book, The Man Who Hated Women, author Amy Sohn writes about Comstock — as well as eight women charged with violating the Comstock Act.
While working for the post office, Sohn says, Comstock "decoyed people" by using the mail to solicit obscenity and contraception.
"[Comstock] was given that [post office] title so that he could have the power to inspect the mail and over time it was expanded to be able to come into people's houses and seize items," she says. "It was a very broad, broad definition of what someone affiliated with the post office could do with regards to individual civil liberties."
Over time, the scope of the Comstock law expanded: "Its heart was in the mail, but ... it became much broader than that," Sohn says. "Even oral information, which reasonable people believed was constitutionally protected, turned out that it wasn't."
In 1916, feminist activist Emma Goldman was arrested in New York City just before giving a lecture on family planning. One year earlier, birth control advocate Margaret Sanger had been charged with violating the law. Goldman and Sanger are just two of the eight women profiled in Sohn's book. Others include nurses and health practitioners, spiritualists and women in the so-called free love movement.
The Comstock Act lasted until 1965 when the Supreme Court ruled it violated the right to marital privacy. "It was in Griswold v. Connecticut that married women could finally have the right to receive contraception from their doctors," Sohn says.
As for single women? They didn't get the same rights until the 1972 Eisenstadt v. Baird ruling — 99 years after the passage of the Comstock Act.
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
NYT, Book Review, Why "Unwell Women" Have Gone Misdiagnosed for Centuries
Reviewing: Elinor Cleghorn, UNWELL WOMEN: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World
In order to recognize illness, you have to know what health looks like — what’s normal, and what’s not. Until recently, medical research generally calibrated “normal” on a trim white male. Such a patient, arriving in an emergency room clutching his chest as they do in the movies — and in the textbooks — would be immediately evaluated for a heart attack. But heart disease in women, inconveniently, doesn’t always come with chest pain. A woman reporting dizziness, nausea and heart-pounding breathlessness in that same E.R. might be sent home with instructions to relax, her distress dismissed as emotional rather than cardiac.
Heart disease has clear markers and proven diagnostic tools. When a woman’s symptoms are less legible or quantifiable — fatigue, vertigo, chronic pain — the tendency to be dismissive grows. In “Unwell Women,” the British scholar Elinor Cleghorn makes the insidious impact of gender bias on women’s health starkly and appallingly explicit: “Medicine has insisted on pathologizing ‘femaleness,’ and by extension womanhood.”
A woman’s purpose was to procreate; if she wasn’t well, it was probably her womb that was to blame. One Roman writer described the uterus as “an animal within an animal,” with its own appetites and the capacity to wander through the body in search of satisfaction. Most female afflictions could be reduced to “hysteria,” from the Greek word for womb. “The theory that out-of-work wombs made women mad and sad was as old as medicine itself,” Cleghorn notes. The standard cure was marriage and motherhood. As Hippocratic medicine was refracted through the lens of Christianity, the female anatomy was additionally burdened with the weight of original sin.
Moving steadily through the centuries, Cleghorn lays out the vicious circles of women’s health. Taught that their anatomy was a source of shame, women remained in ignorance of their own bodies, unable to identify or articulate their symptoms and therefore powerless to contradict a male medical establishment that wasn’t listening anyway. Menstruation and menopause were — and often still are — understood as illness rather than aspects of health; a woman’s constitution, thus compromised, could hardly sustain the effort required for scholarship or professional life.
The intersection of class and race complicates things further. As early as 1847, the Scottish physician James Young Simpson argued in favor of anesthesia during labor and delivery, contradicting the age-old belief that the pain of birth was part of God’s judgment. (To this day, women who opt for an epidural instead of “natural childbirth” can feel a nagging sense of failure.) But even liberal-minded men like Simpson believed that what he called the “civilized female” needed his revolutionary innovation more than her less privileged sisters. Black women were thought to be less sensitive to pain and working-class women were considered hardier in general; certainly no one worried about whether these women could work while menstruating.
Each scientific advance came with its own shadow. Margaret Sanger may have campaigned for contraception “as a way for women to reclaim their bodies and lives from medical and social control” — but for women of color, birth control was presented more as a duty than a right, a weapon against overpopulation and poverty requiring the policing of women.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Jamie Abrams, The Imperatives of Supporting New Scholarly Voices, 69 Journal of Legal Education No. 3 (2020).
The Legal Scholar’s Guidebook is dedicated “to all the voices longing to be heard,” previewing for readers the important values that the book champions of inviting more scholars to the table. The book is grounded in values of inclusivity and accessibility. It describes the analytic paradigms and organizational frameworks that govern traditional legal scholarship. The book implicitly reveals to readers something of a tension between conformity and inclusion. How do supervisors and mentors cultivate the development of new scholarly voices, particularly marginalized voices, within a context of reverent conformity to existing paradigms, methods, and schemas? In teaching scholarly writing, is the reverence and conformity to existing scholarship lifting up voices longing to be heard or is it conforming the voices longing to be heard with the dominant voices already being heard?
The Legal Scholar’s Guidebook is savvy in its quest to help the voices longing to be heard, and in its efforts to help address the self-doubts that nag so many scholars. It introduces important concepts of inclusion and imposter syndrome, boldly addressing them head-on, which is worthy of great gratitude. It embeds guidance throughout each chapter to “squelch the imposter voice” that can compromise the production of scholarship. The solution to the “imposter syndrome” though may not be more instruction. Mentors can reinforce the problem if those mentors share a different pedigree, background, resume from the scholar or if those mentors are confused or conflated with supervisors.
The Legal Scholar’s Guidebook, when read during a global pandemic and amid a crescendo of calls for racial justice in our communities, calls for our self-reflection as a community of scholars. Conquering imposter syndrome requires a strong sense of authenticity and belonging. This requires an alignment between one’s authentic values and identity and acceptance in a setting, institution, or task. For readers of this book in modern political, economic, and social times, it might be a springboard to deeper conversations about the chasms between the communities that feel like they belong in legal scholarship and those that do not. It might call for us all to strengthen the intentionality of our mentoring of students of color, nontraditional students, LGBTQ students, and women students. There has never been a better moment for us all to revisit how we produce and define “good” scholarship, the breadth of the scholarly voices we reproduce and consume, and the entrenched assumptions and hierarchies that shape our scholarly practices. In that sense, this guidebook might guide us all to a more inclusive and inviting place uplifting new scholarly voices.
Ronald Levant & Shana Pryor, The Tough Standard: The Hard Truth about Masculinity and Violence
Men are commonly expected to act “masculine” (e.g., unemotional, self-reliant, tough, dominant, and fixated on sex) while avoiding stereotypically “feminine” traits (e.g., emotional expressivity, empathy, compassion, and nurturance). Few, however, realize that these qualities—when taken to the extreme—can cause emotional constriction, substance abuse, depression, poor physical health, aggression, and violence in men. Further, even though most men are not violent, decades of research have shown that masculinity is directly and indirectly related to sexual and gun violence and men’s poorer health. Considering how girls and women have benefitted from conversations on how to navigate their gender in a changing world, similar processes are urgently needed for boys and men. The Tough Standard connects the dots between masculinity and the present moment in American culture (defined by high-profile movements such as #MeToo, #MarchForOurLives, and #BlackLivesMatter), synthesizes over four decades of research in the psychology of men and masculinities, and proposes solutions to corresponding social problems.
Table of Context
- Masculinity and the Present Cultural Moment
- Theories of Gender and How Masculinity Is Measured
- Consequences of Masculinity
- Summaries of Research on Masculinity’s Harmful Linkages
- Masculinity’s Role in Gun and Other Physical Violence
- Masculinity’s Role in Sexual Violence
- Men’s Health and Experiences of Trauma
- Many Masculinities
- What Can Be Done?
Monday, April 12, 2021
Ann McGinley, Masculinities Theory as Impetus for Change in Feminism and Law, THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF FEMINISM AND LAW IN THE UNITED STATES (Deborah L. Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna L. Williams, eds.).
Feminist legal scholars have found much in the field of masculinities to enrich the feminist analysis of law. In drawing on and incorporating masculinities theories into legal feminism, feminist scholars have added their own insight into the meaning of “masculinities.” As Nancy Dowd, Nancy Levit, and Ann McGinley explain: “Masculinities” has multiple meanings. First, it is a structure that gives men as a group power over women as a group. Second it is a set of practices, designed to maintain group power, that are considered “masculine.” Third, it is the engagement in or “doing” of these masculine practices by men or women. Finally, the term refers to a body of theory and scholarship by gender experts in various fields of social science.
Although masculinities originated in fields outside of law, legal scholars have adopted insights raised by masculinities scholars, combined with those of feminist theory, queer theory, and critical race theory, to develop a legal theory of masculinities that proposes new legal interpretations and policies that better correspond to the lived experiences of persons of different genders, races, and classes. This chapter explores how masculinities research has influenced legal feminism in the U.S.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
I had always hated Hemingway. He was, after all, the classic misogynist.
It seemed I was forced to read Hemingway every year in school. Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Old Man and the Sea. I read them all, against my will. To me they were boring stories about men. The words were short, cold, and devoid of beauty or lyricism. The topics were harsh and violent -- masculine topics of war, bullfighting, and big game hunting. Moreover, the works were filled with hateful depictions of women. Women were crazy harpies, tempting devils, or dead mothers. In Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical accounts, women were merely the women objects of antipathy, perhaps like the many wives that he continually traded in like cars.
So when I heard that PBS was featuring a new documentary series on Hemingway, I rolled my eyes and thought, “how tone deaf.” How misguided to hear yet again about a privileged white man, and one who had already received his acclaim. In this time of intense public debate of race and gender, in this time when so many women and people of color have not yet been recovered, why return to the same old story. For indeed, I had not encountered even famous writers like Zora Huston Neale or Daphne du Maurier until my own independent reading, long after school. But, like so many things that one dismisses, I discovered more complexity and nuance in Hemingway’s story, particular in the realm of gender.
The film reveals Hemingway not as a model of masculinity, but as a man battling with his own masculinity. Understanding this as toxic masculinity, changed the narrative for me. We learn of Hemingway’s Freudian early years with a mother who wrote him a rejection letter, and dressed him like a twin to his sister. We then understand his early attraction to two older woman, maternal figures, one of whom becomes his first wife. We see the author constrained by family demands--fighting for the time to write and feed his creative muse, diverted by screaming babies, marital demands, and unpaid bills until he can get alone, on the road or with his thoughts. This is all juxtaposed against the raucous pull of the popular writing crowd, with their carousing and attention-seeking affairs.
The film also shows us a broader range of topics that occupied Hemingway’s mind beyond bulls, bullets, and booze. One of his earliest stories, Up in Michigan, was about date rape. A shocking story that barely saw the publishing light, writer Edna O’Brien explains as actually told from the woman’s perspective, which is why it was so powerful. He wrote about abortion, suicide, STDs, childbirth, Caesarean sections, and death in childbirth – grim accounts of women (and men’s) reality. A later work, published posthumously, engages with transgender and same-sex attraction.
The short words took on new meaning for me as well. Rather than just a mimic of his journalism years, the short words were explained as a revolution in writing that left behind conventional indicators of writing prowess. I discovered the beauty of the short form, in the repetition of the same words that function as the action itself, as when repeating words form the march of the soldiers. Right, left, right, left, right, left. Like lawyers learning the impact of plain, unaffected writing, I could now appreciate the power of the staccato, and what the film describes as musical. The film reveals these words slowly on the screen, literally showing us the beauty of the typed word as Jeff Daniels' voice-over reads aloud.
This all came together for me in the discussion of the short story, Hills Like White Elephants. In this story, a man pressures his lover, “the girl,” to get an abortion. Most of the story is the man controlling the conversation, working through various points to win the argument, eventually gaslighting his partner, claiming, “I only want what you want.” He is dismissive of the way in which the young woman sees the world, whether its her vision of the looming white elephants overshadowing their lives or the personal and relational consequences of the abortion. Eventually, the young woman demands: "Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?"
PBS, Video, Hemingway, Gender and Identity
Friday, March 19, 2021
Lisa Levenstein, They Didn't See Us Coming: The Hidden History of Feminism in the Nineties (2020)
From the declaration of the "Year of the Woman" to the televising of Anita Hill's testimony, from Bitch magazine to SisterSong's demands for reproductive justice: the 90s saw the birth of some of the most lasting aspects of contemporary feminism. Historian Lisa Levenstein tracks this time of intense and international coalition building, one that centered on the growing influence of lesbians, women of color, and activists from the global South. Their work laid the foundation for the feminist energy seen in today's movements, including the 2017 Women's March and #MeToo campaigns.
A revisionist history of the origins of contemporary feminism, They Didn't See Us Coming shows how women on the margins built a movement at the dawn of the Digital Age.
Hat tip Lisa Tetrault
Thursday, March 11, 2021
Erika Rackley & Rosemary Auchmuty, The Case for Feminist Legal History, 40 Oxford J. Legal Studies 878 (Dec. 2020)
It may be that we are witnessing a highpoint of interest in the lives of early women lawyers, and women’s legal history generally, both within and outside the academy, fuelled by the twin centenaries of the (partial) extension of the vote to women in 1918 and the formal admission of women to the legal profession the following year.1 Without doubt the anniversaries provide an opportunity to insert women into legal history (and history generally) and to mark the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of those involved in bringing them about. But without a strong scholarly method, politics and purpose, there is a danger that these celebrations will also encourage the proliferation of well-meaning but uncritical heroine narratives replete with myths and anecdote.
Feminist legal history provides a counter to this. Anchored in a commitment to disciplinary, social and political change, feminist legal history seeks not only to inform about women in law in the past, to uncover new histories, but also to challenge, and ultimately transform, our understandings of the past and present, and indeed the future. Its purpose is twofold: unlike its popular dopplegangers, typically focusing on women in the legal professions, feminist legal history is concerned with both ‘the production of knowledge of the past’ (an important end in itself, when so little is still known about women’s history) and, crucially, setting down ‘the substantive terms for a critical operation that uses the past to disrupt the certainties of the present’, opening up the possibility of imagining different futures.2
However, the doing of feminist legal history as an academic discipline and method remains largely undeveloped in the UK.3 This article seeks to address this absence by delineating its method, scope and purpose. We begin by exploring the exclusion of women and women’s engagement with policy and law reform more generally within traditional accounts of legal history. We go on to consider the methodological and substantive goals of feminist legal history, which relate both to the production of knowledge (by including women’s stories and establishing women as agents of change) and to feminist legal history’s disruptive purpose (by asking the ‘women’ question, challenging assumptions of progress, debunking heroine narratives and (re)locating the position and role of men). Drawing on examples of women’s experiences in and of law in the UK and Ireland, we seek to demonstrate the agency of women—both individually and in groups—in effecting legal, political and social change. We conclude with a call for scholars to take up the insights and methods of feminist legal history—to acknowledge the existence and different experiences of women in/and law, the ways they negotiated and fought to overcome the legal obstacles and opposition they faced (and still face)—before climbing onto their shoulders and continuing the fight for justice.
Historian TJ Boisseau and I similarly have argued for a feminist legal history in our book, aptly titled, Feminist Legal History (NYU Press 2011). See also Tracy A. Thomas & Tracey Jean Boisseau, Law, History & Feminism, introduction to Feminist Legal History.
h/t Kimberly Hamlin
Thursday, February 4, 2021
Countless women who have experienced intimate partner violence are enmeshed in overlapping, complex, and often inconsistent legal processes. They have both fleeting and longer-term connections with the legal system. Women, Intimate Partner Violence, and the Law explores how women from many different backgrounds interact with the law in response to intimate partner violence, over time. Drawing on their experiences of seeking help from the law, this book highlights the many failures of the legal system to provide safety for women and their children. The women's stories show how abusers often harness aspects of the legal process to continue their abuse. Heather Douglas reveals women's complex experiences of using law as a response to intimate partner violence.
Douglas interviewed women three times over three years to reveal their journey through the legal process. On occasion, the legal system allowed some women closure. However, circular and unexpected outcomes were a common experience. The resulting book showcases the level of endurance, tenacity, and patience it takes women to seek help and receive protection through law. This book shows how the legal system is failing too often to keep women and their children safe and how it might do better.