Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Learning the Law Through Taylor Swift Cases

Taylor Swift in a graduation gown

ABA J., Swift Justice: Students Learn About the Law Through Taylor Swift Cases

As anyone who pays attention to current events knows all too well, Taylor Swift has become ubiquitous.

She’s touring the world, playing to sold out stadiums on her record-breaking “The Eras Tour.” She’s in movie theaters, showing a version of said tour to enchanted Swifties who either couldn’t see her in person or did and want to relive their best day.

She’s at NFL games, trying to bring good karma for her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, and his team, the Kansas City Chiefs. She’s talked about on cable news and social media, as the political world waits to see if she’ll speak now about who she’s endorsing in the 2024 presidential election.

And in at least two law schools, she’s the subject of a class available to students wanting to gain practical knowledge about the law by studying her various legal entanglements and how she emerged stronger.

At the University of Miami School of Law, there was “Intellectual Property Law Through the Lens of Taylor Swift,” a seven-week course taught by Vivek Jayaram, founder of Jayaram Law and co-director of the Arts Law Track in Miami Law’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law LL.M program.

Jayaram, who has practiced intellectual property and corporate law for over 20 years, came up with the idea for the class at lunch one day with Gregory Levy, associate dean of Miami Law. Jayaram had just read an article about Swift’s lawsuit with Evermore Park, a theme park in Utah that sued her for trademark infringement after she released an album titled “Evermore” in December 2020.

There were some other lawsuits and legal disputes he had read about involving Swift, including a well-publicized fight starting in 2019 over ownership of her old master recordings that led to her re-recording her back catalogue. There also was a 2014 battle with Spotify over streaming royalties and 2015 deals with and Alibaba to combat Chinese counterfeiting of her merchandise.

“I said to Greg: ‘I bet Swifties know more about IP law than a lot of lawyers,’” recalls Jayaram, whose favorite Swift album is 1989. “That initiated a bit of a conversation about centering an IP class around her.”

The inaugural class, which met in the spring of 2023, had about 25-30 students. Jayaram says his end game was to use Swift as a means of exploring interesting issues in IP law. He adds that while she was hardly the first artist to experience copyright and trademark issues, she has dealt with them in interesting, innovative ways that have allowed her to experience greater success.

“She’s not the first one who has re-recorded her old songs, but she’s really the only one who has been really successful at it,” says Jayaram, pointing out artists as diverse as The Everly Brothers, Journey and Def Leppard have tried it, with significantly less commercially successful results. “It’s very unusual to do this and have it shoot up to the top of the charts.”

Another law professor had a similar epiphany—this time, after speaking with some of his students who were excited about going to various shows on her recent “The Eras Tour.” “I thought that she could work as a class,” says Sean Kammer, an environmental and torts law professor at University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law. “I got to work and started from the point of view of what are the ways we can use Taylor Swift and her music to learn about the law?”

Kammer’s class, called “The Taylor Swift Effect,” does not just focus on IP law—instead, it looks at various issues, including how Swift’s songwriting and storytelling can help lawyers become better advocates.

“We look at questions that are more theoretical, like how we experience music and how we derive very deep meanings from these pieces,” says Kammer, whose favorite Swift song is “All Too Well” (10 Minute Version). “At the end of the class, we look at what we can learn as creators of legal arguments, to tell the stories we need to tell, by taking lessons from how a songwriter writes a song in terms of organization, style and narrative.”

Other undergraduate and graduate schools have opened their course catalogs to the multi-Grammy winner and recently certified billionaire. Stanford University, Arizona State, Rice University, the University of California at Berkeley and others have introduced classes examining a range of issues, including her lyrical and musical style, the psychology of her music and relationships, and business-oriented courses examining her as an entrepreneur.

March 20, 2024 in Education, Law schools, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 12, 2023

A Linguistic Approach to Understanding Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession

Emily Kline, Stolen Voices: A Linguistic Approach to Understanding Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession, 30 UCLA Women's L.J. (2023)  

Relying heavily on socio-linguistical (language and society) studies, this article makes the case that the legal profession’s obedience to stereotypical masculine language “practices” significantly contributes to implicit gender bias. A large body of socio-linguistic scholarship dating back to the 1970’s has found that men and women exhibit subtle but significant lexical differences in the way that they speak and write. Though these differences are arguably linked equally, if not more, to issues of power, socialization, and cultural expectations than to biology, the differences still operate to erect barriers to success for professional women – particularly in a male dominated profession such as the law. Further, socio-linguistic and management theory scholarship demonstrates that professional women regularly encounter bias based upon stereotypes of what their communication style should be – creating untenable situations where women must make strategic and often no-win decisions about how to “perform” language.

October 12, 2023 in Gender, Pop Culture, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 6, 2023

Teaching Patriarchy After Barbie

Teaching Patriarchy Post-Barbie, Ms.

Like many, I’m grateful that this summer’s Barbie film has moviegoers around the world talking about the patriarchy. I am delighted that the highest-grossing movie of 2023 has brought the word “patriarchy” into our daily parlance. Now that we have the language to describe our predicament, it’s critically important to keep talking about the patriarchy, and to keep going down the path that Barbie takes us on to investigate the way our daily lives are impacted by patriarchal constructs. I’ve been using similar tactics to the Barbie movie to introduce these ideas to my first-year students at UC Santa Cruz, with revealing results.

Most students sign up for my composition course to fulfill a general writing requirement, without knowing what the subject of the class will be. When they discover the topic on the first day of class, some students express that they have no desire to “Come Closer to Feminism,” as I have titled the course (borrowing this phrase from bell hooks’ marvelous handbook Feminism is for Everybody).

Faced with this reality, I have had to create a way for students to learn about feminism even if they initially describe themselves as anti-feminist. My goal is to make the course accessible and applicable for everyone who is placed into it. This includes helping students of all backgrounds unpack how the intersections of their individual gender, racial and sexual identities make them particularly privileged—or oppressed—within our patriarchal society.

October 6, 2023 in Education, Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Sologamy, The Increasingly Important Social Identity of Singlehood


Naomi Cahn, Singlehood, Wash. U. J. Law & Policy (forthcoming 2024)

Singlehood is becoming an increasingly important social identity category. Thousands of people are members of Facebook groups such as I am my Own Soulmate or Community of Single People. Sologamy, marrying oneself is on the rise. The growing social movement to bring attention to voluntarily single people is creating pressure on the law.

Single people are also highly visible when it comes to categories for the allocation of government benefits: eligibility requirements may well differ based on whether an applicant is single or married. This occurs, for example, in the qualifications for long-term care under Medicaid or various public welfare benefits, the availability of portability in utilizing the estate and gift tax, or even in the choices for filing income tax returns. This categorization reflects core assumptions about the privatization of dependency during marriage rather than taking singlehood seriously.

Nonetheless, this legal treatment and the growing number of voluntarily single people lead to questions about whether singlehood should be a distinct legal category, a basis for analyzing legal distinctions. Indeed, single people are still not yet adequately explored in legal scholarship. This may be a reflection of cultural (and legal) images of single people that are often negative: single people are lonely, have not yet met the right person, are reluctantly un-partnered, singlehood status is seen as something that is temporary and subject to control—or a reflection that singlehood is such an indeterminate legal category, difficult to define, that it would be too difficult to establish it as a distinct category.

August 24, 2023 in Family, Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Women's Weak Language is a Source of Strength

Adam Grant, Op Ed, NYT, Women Know Exactly What They're Doing When They Use "Weak Language."

“Stop using weak language.” If you’re a woman, you’ve probably gotten this advice from a mentor, a coach or a teacher. If you want to be heard, use more forceful language. If you want a raise or a promotion, demand it. As the saying goes, nice girls don’t get the corner office.

This advice may be well intentioned, but it’s misguided. Disclaimers (I might be wrong, but …), hedges (maybe, sort of), and tag questions (don’t you think?) can be a strategic advantage. So-called weak language is an unappreciated source of strength. Understanding why can explain a lot about the way women acquire power and influence — and how men do, too.

It turns out that women who use weak language when they ask for raises are more likely to get them. In one experiment, experienced managers watched videos of people negotiating for higher pay and weighed in on whether the request should be granted. The participants were more willing to support a salary bump for women — and said they would be more eager to work with them — if the request sounded tentative: “I don’t know how typical it is for people at my level to negotiate,” they said, following a script, “but I’m hopeful you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important that I bring to the job.” By using a disclaimer (“I don’t know …”) and a hedge “(I hope …”), the women reinforced the supervisor’s authority and avoided the impression of arrogance. For the men who asked for a raise, however, weak language neither helped nor hurt. No one was fazed if they just came out and demanded more money.

In 29 studies, women in a variety of situations had a tendency to use more “tentative language” than men. But that language doesn’t reflect a lack of assertiveness or conviction. Rather, it’s a way to convey interpersonal sensitivity — interest in other people’s perspectives — and that’s why it’s powerful.***

New evidence reveals that it’s not ambition per se that women are being penalized for. In fact, women who are perceived as intelligent and capable, determined and achievement-oriented, independent and self-reliant are seen as more promotable to leadership positions.

The problem arises if people perceive them to be forceful, controlling, commanding and outspoken. These are qualities for which men are regularly given a pass, but they put women at risk of being disliked and denied for leadership roles

August 2, 2023 in Equal Employment, Gender, Pop Culture, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book, Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women's Words

Jenni Nuttall, Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women's Words (Viking 2023)

An enlightening linguistic journey through a thousand years of feminist language--and what we can learn from the vivid vocabulary that English once had for women's bodies, experiences, and sexuality

So many of the words that we use to chronicle women's lives feel awkward or alien. Medical terms are scrupulously accurate but antiseptic. Slang and obscenities have shock value, yet they perpetuate taboos. Where are the plain, honest words for women's daily lives?Mother Tongue is a historical investigation of feminist language and thought, from the dawn of Old English to the present day. Dr. Jenni Nuttall guides readers through the evolution of words that we have used to describe female bodies, menstruation, women's sexuality, the consequences of male violence, childbirth, women's paid and unpaid work, and gender. Along the way, she challenges our modern language's ability to insightfully articulate women's shared experiences by examining the long-forgotten words once used in English for female sexual and reproductive organs. Nuttall also tells the story of words like womb and breast, whose meanings have changed over time, as well as how anatomical words such as hysteria and hysterical came to have such loaded legacies. Inspired by today's heated debates about words like womxn and menstruators--and by more personal conversations with her teenage daughter--Nuttall describes the profound transformations of the English language. In the process, she unearths some surprisingly progressive thinking that challenges our assumptions about the past--and, in some cases, puts our twenty-first-century society to shame. Mother Tongue is a rich, provocative book for anyone who loves language--and for feminists who want to look to the past in order to move forward.

Kirkus Book Review here. 

August 2, 2023 in Books, Business, Gender, Pop Culture, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Lawmakers Proposed Less Gendered Language in the Law

Fireman v. Firefighter: These Lawmakers Want Less Gendered Language in the Law

Some lawmakers want to change the masculine default in government documents. Reps. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) are introducing legislation that would replace masculine generics with gender-neutral language in the U.S. legal code. News of the legislation was first exclusively shared with The 19th. 

“Gendered words in our laws have detrimental effects,” said Lee. 

Lee points to a 2015 research study that found that men were perceived as being better fits for leadership positions when a masculine job title was used in a job description as evidence of the importance of having a mandated shift away from gendered language in the U.S. legal code. A 2019 research project conducted by the World Bank found that gendered language also resulted in worse labor market participation rates for women and the reinforcement of regressive gender norms. 

At present, the U.S. legal code defaults to masculine generics except in states that have passed measures implementing a generic language change in their own state legal codes. California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin are among the states that have passed such measures. 

The Equality in Our Laws Act would direct the Office of Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) to to make non-substantive, gender-neutral revisions to many portions of the legal code. Laws like the Violence Against Women Act and the statute establishing the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program would continue to be able to use gender-specific language in an effort to create rights and protections. OLRC would also be prohibited from amending any portion of the code in which gender affects the substance, meaning or interpretation of the federal laws.

Earlier research has also found that language that is perceived to be gendered can perpetuate group-based inequities, preventing mobility for certain demographics based on people’s perceptions that certain jobs and opportunities for growth are not for them based on seeing default masculine pronouns to describe work. 

August 1, 2023 in Gender, Legislation, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Barbie, Law, and Gender Theory

Barbie SCT

On understanding the gender and masculinities theories of the Barbie movie, see:

The Atlantic, Shirley Li, The Surprising Key to Understanding the Barbie Movie

NYT Magazine, Greta Gerwig's Barbie Dream Job

Time, How Barbie Helped Raise a Generation of Feminists

MSNBC, Ken is a bell hooks critique come to life in Barbie

The Hunger Fed by Barbie and Taylor Swift

Greta Gerwig's Lessons From Barbie Land

On one of the big legal cases about the intellectual property of Barbie, see:

Orly Lobel, You Don't Own Me: The Court Battles that Exposed Barbie's Dark Side (Norton 2017)

The battle between Mattel, the makers of the iconic Barbie doll, and MGA, the company that created the Bratz dolls, was not just a war over best-selling toys, but a war over who owns ideas.

When Carter Bryant began designing what would become the billion-dollar line of Bratz dolls, he was taking time off from his job at Mattel, where he designed outfits for Barbie. Later, back at Mattel, he sold his concept for Bratz to rival company MGA. Law professor Orly Lobel reveals the colorful story behind the ensuing decade-long court battle.

You Don't Own Me: The Court Battles That Exposed Barbie's Dark Side by [Orly Lobel]

July 25, 2023 in Books, Gender, Masculinities, Media, Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Ninth Circuit Says Playing Offensive Music of Gender Violence in the Workplace Can Constitute a Hostile Environment

Wash Post, Court Says Playing Offensive Music Can Constitute Workplace Harassment 

Inside a Nevada clothing warehouse, a song describing a woman’s murder blasted from commercial-strength speakers, as did other musical selections glorifying abuse and denigrating women, a lawsuit alleged.

The rap music would often overpower the 700,000-square-foot S&S Activewear facility in Reno — and helped foster an environment rife with discrimination and harassment, according to the suit, which was filed in 2020 by eight former employees, including seven women and one man.

That lawsuit was initially tossed out in December 2021 by a lower court, which argued that, since the music offended both men and women, it “did not constitute discrimination because of sex.” Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected that notion — ruling that “an employer cannot find safe haven by embracing intolerable, harassing conduct that pervades the workplace,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in a court opinion.***

According to the lawsuit, the blaring music was “inescapable” inside the Reno warehouse, where at least five speakers were often driven around on forklifts. The employees alleged that they were subjected to songs by Eminem and Too Short that they said glorified violence against women, for instance describing a young girl dying after a graphic instance of sexual violence.***

But it wasn’t just the music that was offensive, the suit alleged — it was also the behavior it inspired in male employees, who allegedly shared pornographic videos, made sexual remarks, yelled obscenities and pantomimed sexual intercourse while the songs played.

June 13, 2023 in Business, Equal Employment, Pop Culture, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Cambridge Dictionary Updates Definition of Woman to Include Trans Woman

Cambridge Dictionary Updates Definition of "Woman" to Include Trans Woman

The Cambridge Dictionary recently updated its definitions for “woman” and “man” to include transgender people, becoming the latest dictionary to formally expand what it means to be a woman.

A Cambridge Dictionary spokeswoman told The Washington Post on Tuesday that its editors “made this addition to the entry for ‘woman’ in October,” but the change only gained attention this week after Britain’s Telegraph newspaper first reported the news.

“They carefully studied usage patterns of the word woman and concluded that this definition is one that learners of English should be aware of to support their understanding of how the language is used,” Sophie White, a spokeswoman with Cambridge University Press and Assessment, said of the editors’ decision in a statement to The Post.
In the Cambridge entry for “woman,” the longtime definition for the word — “An adult female human being” — is still there and “remains unchanged,” White said. But an additional definition of the word appears below.

“An adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth,” it reads.

December 14, 2022 in Gender, LGBT, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 9, 2022

Study Documents Political Link Between SCOTUS Ruling in Dobbs and Increase of Voter Registration by Young, White, Democratic Women

Udi Somer, Or Rappel-Kroyzer, Amy Adamczyk,  Lindsay Lerner, Anna Weiner, "The Political Ramifications of Judicial Institutions: Establishing a Link between Dobbs and Gender Disparities in the 2022 Midterms" 

In the American system of government, judicial institutions are designed to operate within the legal sphere, with limited interface with politics. Is it possible, though, that a behavior that is at the heart of the political process be influenced directly by a ruling of the Court?

In June 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. With the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, the Court annulled women’s constitutional right to abortion, on the books since 1973. Dobbs occurred less than six months before the Midterm Elections in November 2022.

We capitalize on voter registration bigdata for the universe of voters in North Carolina (NC) three months before and three months after the Court’s decision. NC is the only state whose voter registry has the necessary granularity over time, data availability, and scope of questions needed to assess the link with Dobbs. Furthermore, politically and demographically, NC is largely similar to the nation as a whole. Bigdata for >150K voters in NC indicate that the ruling mobilized women and created an uptick in voter registration gender gap, absent in previous midterms. This trend is evident at the level of individual registrants and aggregately at the county level.

Dobbs created a medical predicament for women as women, and thus their reaction in terms of political mobilization should have been unitary. However, those women who registered came from politically and sociologically well-defined constituencies. They were overwhelmingly Democrats, White non-Hispanic, in their 20s and born in the Northeastern United States.

Much of the credit for the absence of a Red Wave, predicted in the 2022 midterm elections, was given to the salience of abortion politics due to Dobbs (e.g., De Vise, 2022; Knoll and Smith 2022). However, this argument is based, at best, on exit polls and, at worst, on anecdotal conversations with voters. To overcome the myriad problems ranging from limited samples, non-response and response biases to the fact that polls may confound the ruling with various political variables, we offer a direct behavioral measure for women’s reaction to the ruling: voter registration. We causally link Dobbs to variance in gender gaps in voter registration based on original bigdata and identify the matrix of sociopolitical antecedents of this gap.

December 9, 2022 in Abortion, Constitutional, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2022

Maternal Instinct is a Myth that Men Created

NYT, Maternal Instinct is a Myth that Men Created

The notion that the selflessness and tenderness babies require is uniquely ingrained in the biology of women, ready to go at the flip of a switch, is a relatively modern — and pernicious — one. It was constructed over decades by men selling an image of what a mother should be, diverting our attention from what she actually is and calling it science.

It keeps us from talking about what it really means to become a parent, and it has emboldened policymakers in the United States, generation after generation, to refuse new parents, and especially mothers, the support they need.

New research on the parental brain makes clear that the idea of maternal instinct as something innate, automatic and distinctly female is a myth, one that has stuck despite the best efforts of feminists to debunk it from the moment it entered public discourse.

To understand just how urgently we need to rewrite the story of motherhood, how very fundamental and necessary this research is, it's important to know how we got stuck with the old telling of it.

September 23, 2022 in Family, Gender, Legal History, Masculinities, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Younger Generation Moving Away from Sex Positive Feminism

Why Sex-Positive Feminism is Falling Out of Fashion

Sex positivity — the idea that feminism should privilege sexual pleasure and fight sexual repression — has dominated feminism for most of my life. It was a reaction to puritanical trends in feminism that ignored the reality of women’s desires.


Some second-wave feminists had treated heterosexual sex — as well as remotely kinky queer sex — as inherently degrading, if not counterrevolutionary, which naturally drove many women away from feminism. (In a 1972 Village Voice essay, Karen Durbin described dropping out of the women’s movement in part because she was “hopelessly heterosexual.”) Sex-positive feminism understood the demand for celibacy or political lesbianism as a dead end, and saw sexual fulfillment as part of political liberation.


But sex positivity now seems to be fading from fashion among younger people, failing to speak to their longings and frustrations just as anti-porn feminism failed to speak to those of an earlier generation. It’s no longer radical, or even really necessary, to proclaim that women take pleasure in sex. If anything, taking pleasure in sex seems, to some, vaguely obligatory. In a July BuzzFeed News article headlined, “These Gen Z Women Think Sex Positivity Is Overrated,” one 23-year-old woman said, “It feels like we were tricked into exploiting ourselves.


I started noticing the turn away from sex positivity a few years ago, when I wrote about a revival of interest in Dworkin’s work. Since then, there have been growing signs of young women rebelling against a culture that prizes erotic license over empathy and responsibility. (A similar reorientation is happening in other realms; generational battles over free speech are often about whether freedom should take precedence over sensitivity.)


Post #MeToo, feminists have expanded the types of sex that are considered coercive to include not just assault, but situations in which there are significant power differentials. Others are using new terms for what seem like old proclivities. The word “demisexual” refers to those attracted only to people with whom they share an emotional connection. Before the sexual revolution, of course, many people thought that most women were like this. Now an aversion to casual sex has become a bona fide sexual orientation.

August 24, 2022 in Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Pink's New Women's Rights Protest Anthem, "Girls Just Wanna Have Rights, so Why Do We Have to Fight?"

My new work out song:

Pink's New Protest Anthem, "Irrelevant"

When the Supreme Court released its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson on June 24, overturning Roe v. Wade, shock waves were felt across the U.S.—including from singer-songwriter P!nk, who took to Twitter to voice her outrage.

Abortion opponents swarmed P!nk’s account with hateful and violent messages, warning her to “shut up and sing.” Challenge accepted. 

On July 13, P!nk tweeted in response, “Woke up. Got heated. Wrote song. Coming Soon.” A day later, her new song, “Irrelevant,” dropped—since deemed a ‘protest anthem.’ Marking her first collaboration with songwriter and producer Ian Fitchuk, the surprise track has been praised by critics.

“As a woman with an opinion and the fearlessness to voice that opinion, it gets very tiring when the only retort is to tell me how irrelevant I am,” the singer explained. “I am relevant because I exist and because I am a human being. No one is irrelevant. And no one can take away my voice.”

The song’s accompanying video, released on July 18, a few days after the song’s initial release, marries footage of protests and activism with clips of P!nk recording the song in the studio.

Click to full article to the video.

August 23, 2022 in Abortion, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 20, 2022

Feminism's Problematic Connection with Celebrity Culture

Susan Faludi, Op-ed, NYT, Feminism Made a Faustian Bargain with Celebrity Culture. Now Its Paying the Price


The ruination of Roe and the humiliation of Ms. Heard have been cast as cosmic convergence, evidence of a larger forced retreat on women’s progress. “Johnny Depp’s legal victory and the death of Roe v. Wade are part of the same toxic cultural movement,” a Vox article asserted. “These examples may seem disparate, but there’s an important through line,” a USA Today reporter wrote, citing academics who linked the Alito draft opinion, the Depphead mobbing and, for good measure, the “public consumption” of cleavage at the Met Gala (held the same night the Supreme Court draft leaked): “This is backlash.”


Backlash it may be. Even so, putting the pillorying of Ms. Heard in the same backlash-deplorables basket as the death rattle of Roe is a mistake. Lost in the frenzy of amalgamation lies a crucial distinction. There’s a through line, all right. Both are verdicts on the recent fraught course of feminism. But one tells the story of how we got here; the other where we’re headed. How did modern feminism lose Roe v. Wade? An answer lies in Depp v. Heard.***


Using celebrity and hashtag feminism is a perilous way to pursue women’s advancement because it falls victim so easily to its own tools and methods. In Ms. Heard’s case, her ex-husband turned #MeToo’s strategy against itself. Mr. Depp claimed victimization because he’s a money-generating personality — he could be de-famed because he’s famous. And his massive (and vicious) fan mobilization on social media (nearly 20 billion views for #JusticeForJohnnyDepp on TikTok by June 2) was overwhelming, even by #MeToo standards. By contrast, #JusticeForAmberHeard had about 80 million views on TikTok in the same period.


Celebrity representation of feminism is a double-edged sword. If an individual embodies the principle, the principle can be disproved by dethroning the individual. In that way, Ms. Heard became both avatar and casualty of celebrity feminism. When she took the stand, she brought the modern incarnation of the women’s movement into the dock, too, and mobilized those who would see it brought down. If an ambassador for women’s rights wasn’t credible, Ms. Heard’s mob of haters was quick to conclude, then the movement wasn’t, either. No need to fret over those legions of unfamous women who may now think twice before reporting domestic violence.

Coupling the fortunes of feminism to celebrity might have been worth it if it had led to meaningful political victories. But such victories are hard to achieve through marketing campaigns alone, as the right wing understands.

June 20, 2022 in Gender, Media, Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Controversial Origins of Father's Day and its Connection with Women's Child Custody Rights

Wash Post, Father's Day Once was Highly Political--and Could Become So Again

Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father raised her and her siblings after their mother died in childbirth, was inspired to propose the holiday in 1910 after attending a church service honoring mothers. Even so, while federal law enshrined the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914, it took another half-century for fathers to receive similar recognition, first with Lyndon B. Johnson issuing a presidential proclamation in 1966 and then with Congress enacting an official holiday in 1972.


For decades, there was less political will to honor fathers, especially because many men regarded the holiday as “silly.” Such thinking continues to this day, as some men celebrate being fathers by using the holiday as a ticket to spend a day at the golf course, enjoying hours on “their” day away from their children.


This understanding of Father’s Day, though, misses the ways in which Americans have used the holiday as a political vehicle. In the latter decades of the 20th century, Father’s Day was a key battleground regarding parental rights and responsibilities for activists radicalized by the nation’s rapidly shifting familial landscape. At the root of this politicization of Father’s Day — maybe surprisingly — was the history of divorce.***


Enter Father's Day.  As some feminists came to view child support enforcement as a key women’s issue, they turned to the new holiday as an opportunity to publicize their cause. In 1971, a group of women and children from the Association for Children Deprived of Support (ACDS) picketed the home of California assemblyman, and potential gubernatorial candidate, Robert Moretti on Father’s Day to press him to champion child-support reforms.


Several years later, in 1975, NOW chapters in Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Hartford, Conn., all participated in “Father’s Day Actions.” The Tulsa protesters promised, in a news release, that “Fathers who are not paying child support can expect that their names and the amounts they are in arrears will be announced” and publicly “displayed by mothers, children and concerned NOW members.” The Hartford women, for their part, laid a wreath at the door of the Superior Court of Connecticut to “mourn the loss of paternal responsibility by all the fathers involved in divorce, separation, and enforcement.”


Some divorced fathers, however, had their own political agenda for Father’s Day.


Fathers’ rights advocates objected to being used as “wallets” and claimed that their ex-wives purposely kept them from seeing their children in violation of visitation orders. In 1971, the National Council for Family Preservation — one of several failed attempts by fathers’ rights advocate Richard F. Doyle to form a robust national organization like NOW — urged its member groups to hold protests on the Saturday before Father’s Day, noting that fathers might “want to be elsewhere with their children on Sunday.” In a news release, Doyle called for the recognition of the “stupid and cruel divorce laws and practices that have made this holiday a mockery for countless fathers and children.”

June 20, 2022 in Family, Gender, Legal History, Masculinities, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 6, 2022

The 19th Century History of Abortion Medicines and Advertisements for "Relief for Ladies"

Forget "Abortion": Bring Back "Relief for Ladies."

Supporters of the right to abortion often stumble over the word itself, choosing “choice” as a more acceptable thing to be “pro.” Only recently in the long history of the abortion debate have advocacy groups started to press for use of the word “abortion” and ask that people “shout” their abortions, as one campaign puts it.***

In the 18th and most of the 19th century, before abortion became the province of the medical establishment and the courts, the procedure was widespread, and abortifacients — drugs that cause abortions — were widely marketed. But there was no advertising for “abortions.”

The woman-centered language was a code of sorts. The advertisers encrypted the word “abortion” to evade moral censure and — after the Comstock Act of 1873 criminalized the distribution of abortifacients — to avoid legal consequences as well.

Women knew what regaining their “regularity” really meant, though, just as today we all know that a “cleanse” or a “detox” most likely includes a laxative or diuretic. Early Viagra ads said “love life again” — not “chemically induce your erection.”

But even if marketing Dr. Peter’s French Renovating Pills as “a blessing to mothers” was euphemistic, it circulated a potent message about women’s perfectly reasonable desire not to be pregnant. A desire they have been seeking means to fulfill since at least the Roman Empire.





Instead there were ads for “Relief for Ladies” suffering from “obstructed menses.” “Female renovating pills” treated “all cases where nature has stopped from any cause.” Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription promised to clear away “all the troubles and ailments that make woman’s life a burden to her. She’s relieved, cured, and restored.”

“This invaluable medicine,” read an ad for Sir J. Clarke’s Female Pills, “moderates all excess, removes all obstructions, and brings on the monthly period with regularity.”

June 6, 2022 in Abortion, Legal History, Pop Culture, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 3, 2022

New Federal Bill Proposed to Curb Mass Collection of Privacy Data from Period Tracking Apps

Period-tracking apps gather intimate data. A new bill aims to curb mass collection

The “My Body, My Data Act” would require that companies only collect and retain reproductive health information that is “strictly needed” to provide one of their services, unless they otherwise obtain explicit consent from a user. And it would give users the right to demand that their information be deleted or for companies to disclose how they are using the data.***


The legislation would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to enforce the new standards but also give consumers the ability to launch their own lawsuits against companies in violation and allow states to implement privacy laws that build on the bill’s protections. ***


Given broad Republican opposition to expanding abortion protections and an evenly split Senate, Jacobs’s proposal is unlikely to become federal law. But she argued there’s momentum behind the effort that could inspire state-level action.


“We think this can be a model for states as they're trying to figure out how they can best protect people's right to abortion,” she said.

June 3, 2022 in Legislation, Media, Pop Culture, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

How Comedy TV Downplays Sexual Harassment and Desensitizes Jurors

Molly Pratt, "'He Took It Out.' How Comedic Television Shows Shape Jurors' Perceptions of Workplace Sexual Harassment," 90 U.M.K.C. L. Rev. (2022)

This Comment analyzes the ways in which depictions of sexual harassment in media, specifically situational comedic ("sit-com") television series, affect potential jurors' understanding and evaluation of workplace sexual harassment claims. Part I begins by explaining the "cultivation theory," which hypothesizes that television shapes viewers' beliefs about the world around them. This section also considers social science evidence that exemplifies how people are influenced by different forms of media, especially media depictions that sexually objectify women. Next, Part II describes the elements of the two different types of harassment claims to provide a backdrop of what real humans, not characters on television, endure every day at work. Part III compares two major sensationalized claims of sexual harassment that have occurred over the past thirty years. Part IV summarizes various episodes of Seinfeld, Veep, and Curb Your Enthusiasm that include scenes of sexual harassment in order to analyze how prospective jurors might consider the illegal harassment shown on television almost every night. Finally, Part V proposes actions that can be taken by the legal and entertainment industries to ameliorate the harmful effects that comedic depictions of sexual harassment can have on juries.

Comedic television episodes which downplay workplace sexual harassment situations that would otherwise make for valid claims under Title VII may cause jurors to become desensitized to the severity of real-world harassment experienced by real-world victims. While this Comment aims to illustrate how media consumption affects the breadth of the legal industry, its underlying goal is to shed light on how inaccurate depictions of legal issues can be harmful to a viewer who is untrained in the law.

May 26, 2022 in Equal Employment, Media, Pop Culture, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

10 Books to Understand the Abortion Debate

NYT, Ten Books to Understand the Abortion Debate in the US

***To help understand how we got to this point, here is a list of 10 books — five that examine the legal, political and social foundations of abortion in America, followed by another five that explore all that abortion has encompassed since Roe: issues of violence and stigma, politics and race, medicine and law, philosophy and medicine.


Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (1978), by James C. Mohr


Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (1994), by David Garrow


Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling (2010), by Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel


Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood (1984), by Kristin Luker


Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade (2016), by Daniel K. Williams


After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (2015), by Mary Ziegler


Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War (1998), by James Risen and Judy L. Thomas


Abortion After Roe (2015), by Johanna Schoen


Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Ordinary Abortion (2018), by Katie Watson


‘What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (2020), by O. Carter Snead

May 25, 2022 in Abortion, Books, Legal History, Pop Culture, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)