Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Case Behind SCOTUS Walmart Decision on Class Actions for Gender Discrimination to be Netflix Show

Walmart Legal Saga to Become Netflix Show Starring Amy Adams

A legal fight against Walmart Inc. that became the largest employment class-action lawsuit in history will become a series at Netflix Inc. from actress Amy Adams and “The Big Short” director Adam McKay.

 

“Kings of America” will follow three women involved in the lawsuit, which went to the Supreme Court in 2011: a Walmart heiress, an executive and a saleswoman at the retail chain. Adams stars as one of the women, and McKay will direct the first episode of the series.

 

The case involved female employees suing Walmart for alleged gender discrimination -- including pay disparities and favoring male workers -- on behalf of potentially more than a million employees. That made it the largest lawsuit of its kind. Walmart is the biggest private employer in the U.S. and the world’s largest company based on revenue.

 

With billions of dollars at stake for Walmart, the Supreme Court blocked the suit from proceeding as a class action in a 5-4 vote in June 2011. The late Justice Antonin Scalia argued there was no “convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy.”

September 15, 2020 in Business, Courts, Equal Employment, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Rape Without Women - The Legal History of Public Rape Narratives and the Reinforcement of Masculinity

Sharon Block, Rape Without Women: Print Culture and the Politicization of Rape, 1765-1815, 89 J. American History 849 (2002) [also available on JStor]

The first section of this article shows how Americans made the very personal sexual interaction of rape publicly palatable by removing women from its retelling. Stories of rape, then, could accomplish what the newly popularized stories of seduction could not: by emphasizing men's interactions with one another, rape stories could provide an unequivocal assignment of right and wrong, unencumbered by concern over women's sexual desires and acts. Focusing attention on men's protection of women's virtue allowed authors to minimize the thorny issue of women's role in promoting their own morality. The absence of women allowed narratives of rape to categorize competing visions of masculinity. Through this masculinized transformation, rape could be deployed in political battles.

 

In the second section, I examine the politicization of rape in revolutionary rhetoric. Rather than invoking rape as a symbol of general savagery or as simply the marker dividing honorable from dishonorable masculinities, revolutionary-era narratives increasingly presented rape as an explicitly political trope. By replacing women's experiences of their own bodies with men's experiences of witnessing the victimization of women, rape-related stories opposed upstanding American male citizenry to corrupt British rule. ***

 

In stories such as this, rape reiterated a transhistoric aspect of patriarchy that attached importance to rape as an assault against men. Feminists have often argued that women have been denied subjectivity in many historical discourses. And we might not be surprised by the elision of women in print; after all, women were rarely a common feature in public life, and scholars have begun to trace the specific problematics of women's public speech. By the second quarter of the eighteenth century, women had seen their often vocal roles in public court sessions decrease with the increasing formalization of the legal system. But unlike most topics, rape necessarily involved women, its very existence hinging on what the historian Cornelia Hughes Dayton has rightly called "woman's word"-her ability to put forward a believable accusation.

 

Yet even though women were necessarily present in the act of rape, printed stories eclipsed women's retellings of sexual attacks by suggesting that the ultimate victims were men. Instead of making men the physical victims (which might risk an unacceptable feminization of their bodies), stories of rape made men the emotional, economic, and social victims of the rape of their female dependents. Thus, the offense of rape was more than an attack on a man's property, as it had been conceptualized in early modern prosecutions for forcible marriage or heiress stealing. For eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Americans, the offense of rape was an attack on a man's patriarchal identity as the protector of his dependent women.

Sharon Block is the author of Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) and Rape and Sexual Power in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, 2006). Her latest essay "Erasure, Misrepresentation and Confusion: Investigating JSTOR Topics on Women’s and Race Histories," Digital Humanities Quarterly (2020) exposes racism and sexism in a popular academic scholarly database.

h/t from Kimberly Hamlin's (Miami U) #MeToo Course

September 8, 2020 in Legal History, Masculinities, Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 28, 2020

Legal Scholars Weigh in on the Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault Verdict

Slate, The Weinstein Verdict is Both a Victory and a Disappointment

On Monday morning, a Manhattan jury found Harvey Weinstein guilty of two of the five charges prosecutors brought against him: criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. The jury also acquitted Weinstein of two counts of predatory sexual assault, the most serious charges prosecutors had brought against him, which would have required the jury to conclude that Weinstein had committed first-degree sex crimes against two or more victims. In other words, the verdict is a mixed bag: Harvey Weinstein has now been convicted of rape. The counts that he was acquitted on, however, seem at odds with the number of allegations that have publicly surfaced against him.

 

This was just one trial, set up to evaluate a specific set of crimes and circumstances. But it has been impossible to think of it as anything other than a referendum on the entire contemporary #MeToo movement. Weinstein was the person whose long-ignored abuses and alleged assaults spurred thousands of women to reassess their own experiences. Donna Rotunno, Weinstein’s lead attorney, has spent her weeks in the spotlight accusing rape survivors of failing to take responsibility for their own mixed signals and explaining how the #MeToo movement has denied men their due process rights, even as her own client was enjoying his in the courtroom. Since the fall of 2017, when dozens of women first shared their stories about Weinstein, countless defenses and dismissals of the sexual misbehavior of other men have rested on the conviction that if sexual offenses don’t rise to the level of Weinstein’s misbehavior, they don’t merit consideration under the purview of #MeToo. Weinstein’s trial morphed into the ultimate #MeToo test: If a jury couldn’t convict Weinstein, the benchmark against which all other alleged abusers are now measured, what hope does any other survivor have of holding a rapist accountable in the criminal justice system?

The Weinstein Verdict is a Complicated Win for Survivors

On Monday, the system worked.

 

Jurors found Harvey Weinstein, a disgraced media mogul who has been accused of assault or harassment by at least 100 women, guilty of sexual assault and rape. His verdict, along with that of comedian Bill Cosby in 2018, sends a strong message that the jurors are capable of believing survivors over powerful men. A legal process in which less than 1% of sexual assault cases lead to convictions sided with survivors over a millionaire whose sexual misconduct has been an open secret for decades.

 

It was empowering. But while Weinstein’s guilty verdict is progress, it won’t fix a deeply broken system. 

 

Many experts and survivors told HuffPost they thought the conviction was important but ultimately, and unfortunately, symbolic. While high-profile cases help shift cultural attitudes toward sexual assault, that doesn’t always change how the legal system treats average victims whose cases may not get the widespread media attention, the high-profile legal representation or the support of multiple accusers that the Weinstein trial did. ***

 

“A high-profile conviction just says that, in this case, there was enough to convict this person,” said Leigh Goodmark, the director of the gender violence clinic at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. “But it doesn’t make any grand pronouncements for me about the system’s friendliness to people who’ve been raped and sexually assaulted.”***

 

There is silent, everyday violence and suffering committed against women that just don’t meet the threshold of public interest,” said Aya Gruber, a law professor at the University of Colorado.

 

“And Harvey Weinstein going to jail isn’t going to do anything for them.”

Suzanne Goldberg, #MeToo is Just Beginning, Wash Post
In the swirl surrounding Harvey Weinstein’s mixed conviction and acquittal on rape and related charges, it can be easy to overlook what hasn’t changed in the wake of #MeToo. The movement has put a spotlight on the starkly divergent views that Americans hold about what kinds of behaviors cross the line into unwanted — and, at times, criminal — acts, and about what should happen when they do.***
 
 
But Weinstein’s trial and all the other changes #MeToo has brought won’t put an end to the roiling debates about what counts as consent and how we should judge long-ago assaults. We’ll continue to disagree, too, about what legal and social sanctions should apply to conduct that is “bad but not as bad” as Weinstein’s.

 

This is a good thing. As uncomfortable and frustrating as these conversations can be, we cannot afford to stop talking about what we expect from each other when it comes to sex and to workplace interactions.

February 28, 2020 in Courts, Equal Employment, Media, Pop Culture, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Weinstein Settlement Shows Not Much Has Changed

Meghan Twohey & Jodi Kantor, Weinstein and His Accusers Reach Tentative $25M Deal

After two years of legal wrangling, Harvey Weinstein and the board of his bankrupt film studio have reached a tentative $25 million settlement agreement with dozens of his alleged sexual misconduct victims, a deal that would not require the Hollywood producer to admit wrongdoing or pay anything to his accusers himself, according to lawyers involved in the negotiations.

 

The proposed global legal settlement has gotten preliminary approval from the major parties involved, according to several of the lawyers. More than 30 actresses and former Weinstein employees, who in lawsuits have accused Mr. Weinstein of offenses ranging from sexual harassment to rape, would share in the payout — along with potential claimants who could join in coming months. The deal would bring to an end nearly every such lawsuit against him and his former company.

 

The settlement would require court approval and a final signoff by all parties. It would be paid by insurance companies representing the producer’s former studio, the Weinstein Company. Because the business is in bankruptcy proceedings, the women have had to make their claims along with its creditors. The payout to the accusers would be part of an overall $47 million settlement intended to close out the company’s obligations, according to a half-dozen lawyers, some of whom spoke about the proposed terms on the condition of anonymity.

Slate, The Weinstein Settlement Reveals Nothing Has Changed

The $25 million, down from a $90 million victims fund that was contemplated at one point, would be paid by an insurance company for the Weinstein Company, which is now in bankruptcy proceedings because of everything Weinstein did. The agreement further stipulates that another $12 million would go toward legal fees for Weinstein, his brother, and other board members. It would also protect Weinstein and the board from future suits. In short: Besides not having to pay a dime himself, or admit to any wrongdoing, the millions of dollars it cost for the legal jiujitsu that made this extraordinary outcome possible will also be covered—by the company Weinstein’s own actions helped bankrupt. The victims, 18 of whom can get a maximum of $500,000 under this agreement, will be among other creditors trying to collect from the embattled company.

December 13, 2019 in Equal Employment, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Revenge Porn Lawyer Weighs in on Rep. Katie Hill's Resignation

Revenge Porn Lawyer Carrie Goldberg Weighs in on Katie Hill's Resignation

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), 32, is one of the youngest female members of Congress and the first-ever openly bisexual member of the House. She arrived in Washington in January, part of a historic wave of women, winning a longtime Republican seat.

 

Hill resigned on Sunday after a series of nude photos, published online without her consent, led her to disclose a romantic relationship with a former campaign staffer. In the days since, people have asked: If Hill was a middle-aged man — and not the woman behind “the most millennial campaign ever” — would she still be in Congress?

 

I posed that question to Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who specializes in sexual privacy violations and is the author of “Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls.” Goldberg has decades of experience working with women — and it is overwhelmingly women — who are victims of revenge porn, which is defined as sexually explicit photos of someone shared online without their consent. The images often come from a former partner “hell-bent on their destruction,” Goldberg says, as looks likely in Hill’s case. ***

 

Caroline Kitchener: Whoever sent these photos to Red State — were they breaking the law?

Carrie Goldberg: Absolutely. In the last five years, we’ve gone from having three states with criminal non-consensual porn laws to having 46 states, plus D.C. These laws apply to situations where naked images or videos are disseminated online or offline without the subject’s permission. A lot of the laws do have an exception for newsworthiness. But the sexual humiliation of a person, even a public figure or celebrity, should never be newsworthy.

 

CK: What counts as an exception for newsworthiness?

CG: The newsworthy exception derives from the idea that there are certain images that are so powerful — images from the Holocaust, from the Vietnam War. We’re talking about images where the image itself is newsworthy, the nudity is not.***

 

CK: Was Red State breaking the law when they published these photos?

CG: You hear a lot about section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which usually shelters platforms from liability for content that individual users post. However, if the platform itself is making the decision to publish naked pictures, as Red State did here, they don’t benefit from that immunity. And therefore, the platform should be held liable.

 

CK: So is there a case for Hill going after Red State?

CG: Without giving legal advice, I would say, hell yes.

October 31, 2019 in Media, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Melinda Gates Commits $1 Billion to Gender Equality

Melinda Gates, Here's Why I'm Committing $1 Billion to Gender Equality

Here’s what keeps me up at night: I imagine waking up one morning to find that the country has moved on. That the media has stopped reporting on systemic inequalities. That diversity remains something companies talk about instead of prioritizing. That all of this energy and attention has amounted to a temporary swell instead of a sea change.

 

There is too much at stake to allow that to happen. Too many people—women and men—have worked too hard to get us this far. And there are too many possible solutions we haven’t tried yet.

 

That’s why, over the next ten years, I am committing $1 billion to expanding women’s power and influence in the United States.

 

I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives. I believe that women’s potential is worth investing in—and the people and organizations working to improve women’s lives are, too.

 

Gender equality in the U.S. has been chronically underfunded. Data from Candid’s Foundation Directory Online suggests that private donors give $9.27 to higher education and $4.85 to the arts for every $1 they give to women’s issues. What’s more, 90 cents of each dollar donors spend on women is going to reproductive health. As absolutely essential as reproductive health is, we also need to fund other unmet needs.

October 8, 2019 in Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

New Books: The Preacher's Wife on Women's Search for Spiritual Authority

Kate Bowler, The Preacher's Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities

Whether standing alone or next to their husbands, the leading women of megaministry play many parts: the preacher, the homemaker, the talent, the counselor, and the beauty. Boxed in by the high expectations of modern Christian womanhood, they follow and occasionally subvert the visible and invisible rules that govern the lives of evangelical women, earning handsome rewards or incurring harsh penalties. They must be pretty, but not immodest; exemplary, but not fake; vulnerable to sin, but not deviant. And black celebrity preachers' wives carry a special burden of respectability. But despite their influence and wealth, these women are denied the most important symbol of spiritual power―the pulpit.

The story of women who most often started off as somebody's wife and ended up as everyone's almost-pastor, The Preacher's Wife is a compelling account of women's search for spiritual authority in the age of celebrity. 

October 2, 2019 in Books, Family, Gender, Media, Pop Culture, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Book by Attorney, "Nobody's Victim" on Cases Challenging Title IX Sexual Violence and Revenge Porn

The Lily, Wash. Post, Carrie Goldberg's New Memoir "Nobody's Victim": How Schools Fail Black Girls

The following is an excerpt from attorney Carrie Goldberg’s memoir, “Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls,” which comes out Aug. 13. In 2014, Goldberg made a name for herself representing victims of sexual violence — specifically in cases of revenge porn. Her law firm, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, specializes in handling cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault and blackmail.

 

This excerpt appears in Chapter 4, “Girls’ Lives Matter,” in which Goldberg describes her work with three clients — all middle-school-aged girls of color from New York City. In the chapter, she describes the Title IX complaint she filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on behalf of Vanessa, who alleged a classmate sexually assaulted her when she was 13.

 

“When I opened my firm, the idea of representing clients who were still in middle school wasn’t even on my radar,” Goldberg writes. “But by 2018, I’d filed seven Title IX complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, including five on behalf of middle and high school students who were sexually violated by their peers, then shamed and blamed by the school officials who were supposed to be protecting them.”

 

In this excerpt, Goldberg outlines the stories of two other clients and discusses a larger system of bias against black girls and women who report sexual assault.

August 15, 2019 in Books, Education, Media, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Female Academic Voices Are Missing from the Media, Even when their Work Isn't

It's Not Just Sarah Milov. Female Academics aren't Credited in the Media All the Time

“The research we have shows that women’s voices are missing from the media,” said Kate McCarthy, who runs WMC SheSource for the Women’s Media Center, a national database designed to connect journalists with female experts. “And frequently when women are called on to offer something up, they are quoted without citation.”

 

The problem is particularly acute for black women, said Christen Smith, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, and founder of the Cite Black Women Collective, an organization that promotes the citation of black women in academia. “Women in general don’t get quoted, but black women experience it threefold. We get it from all sides,” said Smith, who started the collective after a colleague paraphrased whole sections of her book in a conference presentation without any citation. Black women, Smith said, are far less likely to be seen as “experts” by the media, and are therefore less likely to be approached for an interview in the first place.

 

July 23, 2019 in Gender, Media, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Candidate "Likeability" is Gendered

Vox, "Likeability" Ratings in Recent New Hampshire Poll Show Just How Tough Female Candidates Have It

New Hampshire voters approve of the job Sen. Elizabeth Warren is doing; they just don’t like her all that much. Same goes for Sen. Kamala Harris.

 

Despite Harris’s recent bump in New Hampshire following her performance at the first Democratic debate, data in a recently released CNN/UNH Survey Center poll of likely New Hampshire voters found good favorability numbers for both Warren and Harris (67 percent for Warren, 54 percent for Harris). But when pollsters asked, “Which Democratic candidate do you think is most likable?” the numbers for both women were bleak.

 

Just 4 percent of likely voters polled said they found Warren “likable,” and 5 percent said the same about Harris. The candidates they liked better were all men: 20 percent found both Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders likable, while 18 percent found South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg likable. (Warren’s favorability rating was the same as Sanders’s and higher than either Biden’s or Buttigieg’s.)

 

Likability is a tricky, highly subjective political term. Pollsters used to get at the same question by asking, “Who is the candidate you’d rather grab a beer with?” But the question of who voters think is the most likable is difficult to pin down because different people have vastly different ideas of what it means, according to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

“The construct is an unclear construct,” she told Vox. “We are making it relevant without asking why should it be. We don’t know what it is, anyway.”

 

One thing is clear: Likability applies differently to male and female candidates. But female candidates need to be liked in order to be elected, research has found.

 

“This likability dimension is a real barrier for women,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told Vox. “Voters are perfectly willing to vote for a man for executive office that they think is qualified that they don’t like, but they are not willing to vote for a woman they think is qualified that they don’t like.”

July 23, 2019 in Gender, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

CFP Center on Applied Feminism 12th Legal Theory Conference on Applied Feminism and Privacy

The Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law seeks paper proposals for the Twelfth Feminist Legal Theory Conference.  We hope you will join us for this exciting conference on April 2 and 3, 2020.  The theme is Privacy. As always, the conference focuses on the intersection of gender and race, class, gender identity, ability, and other personal identities. We are excited that Dr. Leana Wen, President and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, has agreed to serve as our Keynote.

We are at a critical time for a broad range of privacy issues. State level abortion bans have put a spotlight on the importance of decisional privacy to women’s equality. Across America, advocates are fighting for reproductive justice and strategizing to preserve long-settled rights. At the same time, our informational privacy is increasingly precarious. Data brokers, app designers, and social media platforms are gathering and selling personal data in highly gendered ways. As a result, women have been targeted with predatory marketing, intentionally excluded from job opportunities, and subject to menstrual tracking by marketers and employers. In online spaces, women have been objectified, cyber-stalked, and subject to revenge porn.  With regard to physical privacy, the structural intersectionality of over-policing and mass incarceration impacts women of color and other women.  And while a man’s home may be his castle, low-income women are expected to allow government agents into their homes – and to turn over reams of other personal information -- as a condition of receiving state support. In addition, families of all forms are navigating the space of constitutionally-protected family privacy in relation to legal parentage, marriage and cohabitation, and child welfare systems.

 We seek submissions of papers that focus on the topic of Applied Feminism and Privacy.  We will interrogate multiple aspects of privacy, including its physical, decisional, informational, and family dimensions. This conference aims to explore the following questions:  Is privacy dead, as often claimed?  If so, what does this mean for women? How can privacy reinforce or challenge existing inequalities?  How has feminist legal theory wrestled with privacy and what lessons can we draw from past debates? What advocacy will best advance privacy protections that benefit women? How do emerging forms of surveillance impact women? Can intersectional perspectives on privacy lead to greater justice? Who defines the “right to privacy” and what do those understandings mean for women? How is privacy related to other values, such as autonomy, anti-subordination, vulnerability, justice, and equality?

 We welcome proposals that consider these questions and any other related questions from a variety of substantive disciplines and perspectives. The Center’s conference will serve as a forum for scholars, practitioners, and activists to share ideas about applied feminism, focusing on connections between theory and practice to effectuate social change. The conference will be open to the public.

To submit a paper proposal, by Friday, November 1, 2019, please complete this form and include your 500 word abstract: https://forms.gle/k4EPNLaYmEvo4KHUA

We will notify presenters of selected papers by early December. About half the presenter slots will be reserved for authors who commit to publishing in the annual symposium volume of the University of Baltimore Law Review, our co-sponsor for this conference. Thus, the form requests that you indicate if you are interested in publishing in the University of Baltimore Law Review's symposium issue. Authors who are interested in publishing in the Law Review will be strongly considered for publication. The decision about publication rests solely with the Law Review editors, who will communicate separately with the authors. For all presenters, working drafts of papers will be due no later than March 20, 2020. Presenters are responsible for their own travel costs; the conference will provide a discounted hotel rate as well as meals.

We look forward to your submissions. If you have further questions, please contact Prof. Margaret Johnson at majohnson@ubalt.edu. For additional information about the conference, please visit law.ubalt.edu/caf.

July 16, 2019 in Abortion, Conferences, Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Interpreting the Reasonable Expectation of Sexual Privacy in Canada's Digital Technology Criminal Laws

Moira Aikenhead, A '"Reasonable" Expectation of Sexual Privacy in the Digital Age, 41 Dalhousie L.J. 274 (2018)

Two Criminal Code offences, voyeurism, and the publication of intimate images without consent, were enacted to protect Canadians’ right to sexual privacy in light of invasive digital technologies. Women and girls are overwhelmingly targeted as victims for both of these offences, given the higher value placed on their non-consensual, sexualised images in an unequal society. Both offences require an analysis of whether the complainant was in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the use of this standard is potentially problematic both from a feminist standpoint and in light of the rapidly evolving technological realities of the digital age. This article proposes a feminist-inspired, technology-informed approach to the reasonable expectation of privacy standard in relation to these offences, and examines the extent to which the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent voyeurism decision, R. v. Jarvis, aligns with this approach. 

June 11, 2019 in International, Media, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Catharine MacKinnon on What MeToo Has Changed

Catharine MacKinnon, What #MeToo Has Changed

But #MeToo has been driven not by litigation but by mainstream and social media, bringing down men (and some women) as women (and some men) have risen up. The movement is surpassing the law in changing norms and providing relief that the law did not. Sexual-harassment law prepared the ground, but #MeToo, Time’s Up, and similar mobilizations around the world—including #NiUnaMenos in Argentina, #BalanceTonPorc in France, #TheFirstTimeIGotHarassed in Egypt, #WithYou in Japan, and #PremeiroAssedio in Brazil among them—are shifting gender hierarchy’s tectonic plates.

 

Until #MeToo, perpetrators could reasonably count on their denials being credited and their accusers being devalued to shield their actions. Many survivors realistically judged reporting to be pointless or worse, predictably producing retaliation. Complaints were routinely passed off with some version of “She isn’t credible” or “She wanted it” or “It was trivial.” A social burden of proof effectively presumed that if anything sexual happened, the woman involved desired it and probably telegraphed wanting it. She was legally and socially required to prove the contrary. In campus settings, in my observation, it typically took three to four women testifying that they had been violated by the same man in the same way to even begin to make a dent in his denial. That made a woman, for credibility purposes, one quarter of a person.***

 

The #MeToo movement is finally breaking this paralyzing logjam. Structural misogyny, with sexualized racism and class inequalities, is being challenged by women’s voices. No longer liars, no longer worthless, today’s survivors are initiating consequences few could have gotten through any lawsuit—in part because the laws do not permit relief against individual perpetrators, more because the survivors are being believed and valued as the law seldom has.***

 

The #MeToo mobilization, this uprising of the formerly disregarded, has made increasingly untenable the assumption that the one who reports sexual abuse is a lying slut. That is already changing everything. A lot of the sexual harassment that has been a constant condition of women’s lives is probably not being inflicted at this moment.

April 4, 2019 in Equal Employment, Gender, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Informal (yet Effective) Process of MeToo

Jessica Clarke, The Rules of #MeToo, Univ. Chicago Legal Forum (forthcoming)

Two revelations are central to the meaning of the #MeToo movement. First, sexual harassment and assault are ubiquitous. And second, traditional legal procedures have failed to redress these problems. In the absence of effective formal legal procedures, a set of ad hoc processes have emerged for managing claims of sexual harassment and assault against persons in high-level positions in business, media, and government. This Article sketches out the features of this informal process, in which journalists expose misconduct and employers, voters, audiences, consumers, or professional organizations are called upon to remove the accused from a position of power. Although this process exists largely in the shadow of the law, it has attracted criticisms in a legal register. President Trump tapped into a vein of popular backlash against the #MeToo movement in arguing that it is “a very scary time for young men in America” because “somebody could accuse you of something and you’re automatically guilty.” Yet this is not an apt characterization of #MeToo’s paradigm cases. In these cases, investigative journalists have carefully vetted allegations; the accused have had opportunities to comment and respond; further investigation occurred when necessary; and the consequences, if there were any at all, were proportional to the severity of the misconduct. This Article offers a partial defense of the #MeToo movement against the argument that it offends procedural justice. Rather than flouting due process values, #MeToo’s informal procedures have a number of advantages in addressing sexual misconduct while providing fair process when the accused person is a prominent figure.

April 3, 2019 in Courts, Equal Employment, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What #BelieveWomen Means, and Doesn't Mean

Sherry Colb, What Does #BelieveWomen Mean?, Verdict, Justia

As the #MeToo movement gathered steam, exposing many long-ignored instances of sexual misconduct, other hashtags followed in its wake. One of these is #BelieveWomen. In this column, I will analyze some ways of understanding #BelieveWomen and suggest that properly understood, it can provide us with a better way to approach not only women but anyone who brings disfavored messages to our doorstep.

What Does “Believe Women” Mean?

The #BelieveWomen hashtag responds to a very old and longstanding prejudice. The prejudice held (and, to some extent, still holds) that when women say that they were raped, there is a good chance that they are lying. Seventeenth century English jurist Lord Chief Justice Matthew Hale said “[rape] is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, tho never so innocent.” Well into the second half of the twentieth century, Hale’s concern about women’s false rape accusations distorted the process of adjudicating rape claims in criminal courts.

Judges, for instance, gave juries special instructions cautioning them about the danger of lying rape victims and the need to be extra skeptical of their testimony. Courts often required corroborating evidence as well, even though witnesses who testified about other crimes required no similar corroboration. As Susan Estrich put it in her 1988 book, Real Rape, the law had difficulty believing women who came forward to complain of rape. The law accordingly placed stumbling blocks in the path of prosecution and conviction, including the special cautionary instruction and the need for corroboration.

. . .

So What Would It Mean to Believe All Women?

If we acknowledge that women sometimes bring false accusations, does that mean we should believe only some women but not all women? We can still believe all women, so long as we make sure to follow up with other potential evidence sources before convicting the defendant of rape.

November 7, 2018 in Gender, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Using Laws in the UK to Ensure Gender Equality in Digital Spaces

Guardian, Far From Empowering Young Women, the Internet Silences Their Voices

If you walked past a craft beer store regularly, and subsequently received obscene messages on Facebook from the store account, what would you do?

 

Former Austrian Green party MP Sigrid Maurer wanted to sue a beer shop owner in Vienna after receiving a series of abusive online messages.

 

But Maurer wasn’t able to sue for public sexual assault, because the messages were private. Instead, she reposted the messages online, including the name of the store and its owner – who then sued her, successfully, for libel. She is now appealing against the ruling in Vienna that would mean her having to pay more than €4,000 in damages, because she couldn’t prove he personally posted the obscene messages. He argued that anyone in the store could have accessed his account and sent the message.

 

The case is just one example of the chilling impact of online abuse and sexual harassment of women, particularly those prominent in public life.

November 5, 2018 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Exploring the Feminist Critique of #MeToo

Brenda Cossman, #MeToo, Sex Wars 2.0 and the Power of Law, Asian Yearbook of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Forthcoming)

In this essay, I explore these contestations between and among feminists within the #MeToo movement. Some feminists have expressed discomfort and disagreement with elements of the #MeToo. This critique was quickly framed as a generational one, with media reports focusing on the conflict between millennials and second wave feminists. I argue that it is more productive to situation the disagreements and contestations of #MeToo within the context of what I refer to as Sex Wars 2.0 – that is, the return of the feminist sex wars of the 1970s and 1980s. I also explore the controversies around role of law in the #MeToo movement. #MeToo critiques, including some feminist voices, have denounced the absence of the rule of law, with individual men losing their livelihoods without the due process of law. I argue that this critique is itself symptomatic of the broader role of law in the legal regulation of sexual violence. Law has long been the arbiter of sexual violence, both defining and harms and deciding whether that harm has occurred. Even in its apparent absence, law is I argue deeply present. It is this power of law that casts a long shadow over #MeToo and helps explain the due process critiques and some of the feminist contestations around the overreach of law.

October 31, 2018 in Legal History, Media, Theory, Violence Against Women, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

More Perfect Podcast: The Nineteenth Amendment with a Song by Dolly Pardon

The Most Perfect Album: Episode 4

This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes.

Episode Four begins, as all episodes should: with Dolly Parton. Parton wrote a song for us (!) about the 19th Amendment and women (finally) getting the right to vote.

 

Also in this episode: Our siblings at Radiolab share a story with us that they did about how the 19th Amendment almost died on a hot summer night in Tennessee. The 19th Amendment was obviously a huge milestone for women in the United States. But it was pretty well-understood that this wasn’t a victory for all women; it was a victory for white women.

 

Read the lyrics to Dolly Parton's 19th Amendment song here.

October 30, 2018 in Constitutional, Legal History, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

MeToo One Year Later: More Awareness, More EEOC Success, New Laws in CAL and NY

A Year After it Began has #MeToo Become a Global Movement

In the year since, the global conversation about sexual harassment — and worse — has shifted, but the lasting impact of the moment remains unclear.

From Stockholm to Seoul, from Toronto to Tokyo, a torrent of accusations has poured forth. Survivors spoke out, and many were taken seriously. Powerful men lost their jobs. A few went to prison. How diverse societies — some liberal, others conservative — saw sexual harassment seemed to be changing.

On Friday, a year after the New York Times and the New Yorker published their stories about Weinstein, two activists who have sought to end sexual violence in conflict zones — Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege and Yazidi assault survivor Nadia Murad — were awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

But for all the early anticipation that things had changed forever, in many countries the #MeToo movement either fizzled or never took flight.

1 Year Later, How MeToo is Changing America

Joanna Grossman, Beneath the Fray: Federal Courts Continue the Work of Enforcing Sexual Harassment Laws

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace, after the New York Times published a bombshell investigative article about a lifetime of egregious sexual misdeeds. One year later, the #MeToo movement came into sharp contrast with the GOP-controlled Senate, which voted to elevate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct. But while we ponder questions big and small about the problem of sexual misconduct and how to deal with it, courts continue the everyday work of hearing sexual harassment cases. In a recent case, EEOC v. Favorite Farms, Inc., a federal district court in Florida did exactly that, refusing to grant an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a workplace rape case that deserves a full trial on the merits.

Eric Bachman, In Response to #MeToo Movement, EEOC is Filing More Sexual Harassment Lawsuits, and Winning

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced how the #MeToo movement has impacted its enforcement efforts, which has implications across the country and particularly in corporate America.

Not surprisingly, the heightened awareness about sexual harassment-including what constitutes harassment and the harm it inflicts-generated by the #MeToo campaign has resulted in the EEOC filing "a 50% increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over FY 2017."  More broadly, the total number of EEOC Charges of Discrimination alleging sexual harassment increased by about 12% from last year, and the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe discrimination had occurred in nearly 20% more charges in 2018 than in 2017.

Allyson Hobbs, One Year of #MeToo: The Legacy of Black Women's Testimonies, New Yorker

We can create a more inclusive narrative. As the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw recently argued, “black feminist frameworks have been doing the hard work of building the social justice movements that race-only or gender-only frames cannot.” To do better by all women, we must listen and recognize the historical and contemporary circumstances that shape their experiences and have real consequences on their lives. The historian Elsa Barkley Brown has written, “We have still to recognize that being a woman is, in fact, not extractable from the context in which one is a woman—that is, race, class, time, and place.”

Congress Still Can't Pass its Own Sexual Harassment Bill

The House and the Senate passed two different bills earlier this year—but months after those votes, lawmakers are doubtful that they can reconcile the two pieces of legislation before the midterm elections.

“Here on Thursday, there is this very high-profile hearing and questions of sexual harassment, and yet Congress is allowing this bill to deal with sexual harassment in Congress [to languish],” said Meredith McGehee, the executive director at Issue One, a government watchdog group that advocates for stronger ethics laws.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is overseeing the process of reconciling the House and Senate versions, predicted that the effort would not be completed before the midterm elections.

“[The] discussion continues to be active,” he told The Daily Beast. “I think we’ll get this done, but I do not think we’ll get it done before the election.”

See also 2018 Legislation on Sexual Harassment in the Legislature

 California Law Prohibits Nondisclosure Agreements as Part of Sexual Harassment Settlements

NY Enacts Sweeping Sexual Harassment Legislation

Amid #MeToo NY Employers Face Strict New Sexual Harassment Laws

October 10, 2018 in Equal Employment, Legislation, Media, Pop Culture, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Before MeToo: Was Media Representation of Sexual Harassment Accurate?

Joni Hersch & Beverly Moran, He Said, She Said, Let's Hear What the Data Say: Sexual Harassment in the Media, Courts, EEOC, and Social Science, 101 Kentucky L.J. 753 (2013)

In this article, we examine whether two national newspapers (the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) provide a realistic representation of sexual harassment in the workplace. Whether intentional or inadvertent, the national media influences attitudes and subsequent behavior. Victims of sexual harassment who encounter such accounts may find comfort and validation in learning that others have had similar experiences, and that may lead to greater willingness to report their own harassment. It is only through exposing illegal behavior that such workplace practices can be eradicated.

 

We expected the news articles to provide more information about age, marital status, and race of the parties. These facts are almost never given in the newspaper accounts. Nevertheless, the demographics of the victims
covered in the newspaper articles we surveyed are largely reflective of the victims of sexual harassment reported in the three data sources we analyze. We also find that there is fairly limited information provided about the
specific nature of the harassment.

 

We expected a more even distribution of attention between the accuser and the accused in all accounts. In fact, the accused is almost always the focus where the incident only generates one news story. On the other hand,
where the incident generates several reports, the articles tend to become more even-handed in their coverage of the accused and the accuser. We also expected that the parties would speak for themselves. In fact, a large
part of the communication with the press is through attorneys. We found that there is virtually no coverage of events taking place before litigation.... [T]he articles on sexual harassment tend to wait for litigation, despite studies showing that the majority of incidents are not reported, much less litigated. Although understandable from the press' point of view, the focus on litigation gives the impression that most sexual harassment is handled in the courts....

 

Our main focus is on identifying whether the media's portrayal of sexual harassment accurately reflects the reality of sexual harassment as indicated in surveys, charge filings with the EEOC, and in complaints filed in district court. We provide and compare empirical evidence from these four different sources, and conclude with
an assessment of whether the media does accurately characterize sexual harassment.

August 27, 2018 in Equal Employment, Media, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)