Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Monday, March 30, 2020

During Coronavirus Shutdowns, Guns are Essential, Abortions are Not

Are Gun Stores "Essential" During Coronavirus Outbreak?

More than 200 million people in about half of the states are under orders to stay indoors to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

 

Under those decrees, businesses have closed unless deemed "essential," which has sparked a nationwide debate among state and local leaders: Should gun stores be considered essential?

 

"A lot of people may find themselves in situations where they may need to be their own first responders," said Michael Cargill, who runs Central Texas Gun Works in Austin.

 

Gun owners, he said, "want to protect their family in case things go the other way." .  . . .

 

"Guns will not make Americans safer in the face of COVID-19," Feinblatt said. "Gun stores do not deserve special treatment. In fact, a surge in gun sales will put many communities at greater risk if guns aren't stored securely and if background checks aren't completed."

 

Increasing concerns for gun control advocates are reports of people using firearms out of fear created by the coronavirus crisis. In Alpharetta, Ga., for instance, a man was arrested for allegedly pulling out a gun on two women wearing medical masks at a post office because he worried they had the coronavirus.

 

Gun and ammo sales have rocketed since the outbreak surfaced. And some of the panic driving the purchases is also present because of what gun rights advocates see as preserving their constitutional right to bear arms. They argue short-term emergency restrictions on gun sales could erode their enshrined rights.

 

"Just because we're in a pandemic, American rights do not go away," Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told NPR. "There are disparate interpretations on how people want to view these orders, but the Second Amendment is unequivocal."

State Officials are Battling Over a Push to Suspend Abortions During Medical Supply Shortage

State officials in Kentucky and Oklahoma are among a growing number of Republican officials who say abortion is a nonessential procedure that should be put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt have joined the list of officials calling for a suspension of most abortions in their states as part of a larger effort to help free up protective equipment for healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients.

 

In a statement, Cameron said abortion providers "should join the thousands of other medical professionals across the state in ceasing elective procedures, unless the life of the mother is at risk."

 

Reproductive health groups say abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure that should not be delayed, and that doing so can jeopardize the health and well-being of pregnant women.

March 30, 2020 in Constitutional, Healthcare, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Gendered Impact of the Coronavirus: Physical and Social Differences

Why the New Coronavirus May Kill More Men than Women

Men are more likely to die from new virus

New research from China has found that men, particularly middle-aged and older men, are having a harder time fighting off the virus than women. Chinese researchers found that while the infection rate among men and women is the same, the death rate among men is 2.8% compared with 1.7% for women.

According to Sabra Klein, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the pattern—men faring worse than women—is consistent with other viral respiratory infections. "Women fight them off better," she said.

Officials noticed this gender difference during the SARS and MERS outbreaks as well, according to Caryn Rabin. 

 

Why are men more likely to die from the new coronavirus?

According to researchers, there are a few reasons men are more likely to die from the new coronavirus.

Women have a heightened immune response

Research on previous outbreaks shows that women have stronger immune responses to coronaviruses.

Some researchers think the higher level of estrogen, which contributes to immunity, and the fact that women have two X chromosomes, which carry immune-related genes, could factor into women's heightened immune response ***

However, when the researchers blocked estrogen in the female mice and removed their ovaries, they were more likely to die from the virus

Men and women have different health behaviors, conditions

China has the largest population of smokers in the world at 316 million people, but while more than 50% of Chinese men smoke, only about 2% of Chinese women partake in the behavior.

Chinese men also have higher rates of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than women

Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunology at Yale University, added that men may have a "false sense of security" about coronavirus and similar diseases. When the outbreak first started, for instance, officials recommended that people wash their hands thoroughly and often to prevent infection, but multiple studies have found that men are less likely to wash their hands and use soap than women, according to Klein.

"We make these broad sweeping assumptions that men and women are the same behaviorally, in terms of comorbidities, biology and our immune system, and we just are not," he said.

LA Times, Why is the Coronovirus so Much More Deadly for Men Than Women?

Men are faring worse than women in the coronavirus pandemic, according to statistics emerging from across the world.

On Friday, White House COVID-19 Task Force director Dr. Deborah Birx cited a report from Italy showing that men in nearly every age bracket were dying at higher rates than women. Birx called it a “concerning trend.”

The apparent gender gap in Italy echoes earlier statistics from other hard-hit countries. While preliminary, early accounts have suggested that boys and men are more likely to become seriously ill than are girls and women, and that men are more likely to die.***

The emerging picture of male vulnerability to coronavirus may be easily explained by a clear gender disparity with social and cultural roots: Across the world, men are much more likely to smoke cigarettes. That damages their lungs and primes them for inflammation and further damage when they are battling an infection.***

But that’s not the whole story, said Dr. Stanley Perlman, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa who has studied coronavirus infection in mice.***

At the same time, the death rates of infected female mice shot up when their ovaries were removed, or when they got drugs that suppressed the activity of the hormone estrogen.

To Perlman, those dual findings strongly suggest that there’s something about estrogen that protects against the ravages of deadly coronaviruses — and he suspects it’s true for the new SARS-CoV-19 virus. ***

When it comes to fighting infection, he added, “we really need to study both sexes to understand susceptibility.”

The Atlantic, The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism

Enough already. When people try to be cheerful about social distancing and working from home, noting that William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton did some of their best work while England was ravaged by the plague, there is an obvious response: Neither of them had child-care responsibilities.***

For those with caring responsibilities, an infectious-disease outbreak is unlikely to give them time to write King Lear or develop a theory of optics. A pandemic magnifies all existing inequalities (even as politicians insist this is not the time to talk about anything other than the immediate crisis). Working from home in a white-collar job is easier; employees with salaries and benefits will be better protected; self-isolation is less taxing in a spacious house than a cramped apartment. But one of the most striking effects of the coronavirus will be to send many couples back to the 1950s. Across the world, women’s independence will be a silent victim of the pandemic

Purely as a physical illness, the coronavirus appears to affect women less severely. But in the past few days, the conversation about the pandemic has broadened: We are not just living through a public-health crisis, but an economic one.

The evidence we do have from the Ebola and Zika outbreaks should inform the current response. In both rich and poor countries, campaigners expect domestic-violence rates to rise during lockdown periods. Stress, alcohol consumption, and financial difficulties are all considered triggers for violence in the home, and the quarantine measures being imposed around the world will increase all three. 

Researchers, including those I spoke with, are frustrated that findings like this have not made it through to policy makers, who still adopt a gender-neutral approach to pandemics. They also worry that opportunities to collect high-quality data which will be useful for the future are being missed.

The Coronavirus Crisis May Hit Women Harder Than Men

But in other, perhaps less obvious ways, the virus appears to disproportionately affect women. As the fight against COVID-19 continues, an increasing number of women around the world are on the front lines. Many of them will be expected to work longer hours, while juggling domestic responsibilities such as childcare

March 30, 2020 in Gender, Healthcare, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Analyzing US Women Lawmakers' Political Participation Based on Diversity of Background and Party

Estefania Cruz Lera,.Women From the Establishment Versus the ‘Squad’: Feminine Political Representation Styles in the US Congress,  Norteamérica, 15:1, january-june (2020)

In 2019, a historical record number of women shaped the US Congress. In addition to the increase in female participation, there is also a wider ethnic, racial, cultural and class diversity among these congress members. In this political universe, two highly contrasting profiles stand out: on the one hand, the women of the establishment led by Nancy Pelosi; on the other, the challenging "Squad" headed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Based on an analysis of social networks, press coverage, and legislative performance, in this investigation both styles of political representation are contrasted. The main result of this research is that in relation to the patterns of proposing laws, voting and fundraising there are no differences between the Squad and the women of the establishment. The main divergences reside in their public discourse, in the ideological platform to which they ascribe and in the style of leadership they exercise.

March 20, 2020 in Legislation, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Explaining the "Simple" Idea of College Sexual Consent Policies

Aya Gruber, The Complexity of College Consent, Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault, Cognella, 2020

Teachers, parents, and administrators tell students that consent is “simple.” To be sure, every day, millions of people follow the directive to have only consensual sex with great success and have mutually wanted, unproblematic intimate contact. Law and policy, however, rarely intervene in easy cases. Consent standards intervene in the hard cases. College sexual consent policies delineate when sex between two competent adults of equal status, without force or threat, is a punishable offense. They determine what should happen when the accuser feels harmed but the accused believes he or she has not committed harm. They weigh in on default views of sex — whether people generally desire, are ambivalent toward, or fear sex. They guide decision makers on whom to believe in “he-said-she-said” cases. In short, consent is far from simple. This chapter, written for the book Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault, unpacks the complex concept of consent in college codes. Its aim is taxonomical and explanatory: to categorize various consent formulations and clarify how they regulate behavior and resolve disputes. The first part of the chapter is a brief history of “ordinary” and affirmative consent standards in criminal law. The second turns to the concept of consent itself. There, I explore what it means to say that a sexual transaction between two people is consensual and whether consent relates to a state of mind, communication, or both. The third part examines the various formulations of consent in college codes, placing them on a scale from most to least regulatory. Finally, I discuss the complicated costs and benefits of affirmative consent.

March 18, 2020 in Education, Pop Culture, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Coronavirus Gender Gap

The Coronavirus Gender Gap

A staggering majority of nurses, flight attendants, teachers, domestic workers and service industry workers are women, dealing with the front lines of the outbreak.

Additionally, in the majority of homes around the world, women bear the most care-taking responsibilities, creating for many a “second shift” of providing care for children, the elderly and other family members who may be sick or simply in need of additional attention.

“The challenge of the emergency really puts additional strain on existing inequalities,” said Laura Addati, a policy specialist in women and economic empowerment for the International Labor Organization. “If there’s not already an egalitarian sharing of child care or housework, it will be women who are responsible for remote school, for ensuring there’s food and supplies, for coping with this crisis.”

Women are Bearing the Brunt of the Coronavirus Disruption

The vast majority of nurses, flight attendants, teachers and service industry workers are female, and their jobs put them on the front lines of the outbreak. At home, women still do more caretaking, so when the virus closes schools, restricts travel, and puts aged relatives at risk, they have more to do. “The challenge of the emergency really puts additional strain on existing inequalities,” says Laura Addati, a policy specialist in women and economic empowerment for the International Labor Organization. “If there’s not already an egalitarian sharing of child care or housework, it will be women who are responsible for remote school, for ensuring there’s food and supplies, for coping with this crisis.”

March 17, 2020 in Equal Employment, Gender, Pop Culture | 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)

Book Review: Hood Feminism and Seeking Intersectionality in the Women's Movement

Hood Feminism

NPR, "Hood Feminism" is a Call for Solidarity in a Less-Than-Inclusive Movement

If you're someone who claims the mantel of feminism, who believes in the innate equality of all genders, who thinks that solidarity among communities of women is a core component of the world you want to live in, I strongly encourage you to read Mikki Kendall's debut essay collection, Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot. (Also, if you're not one of those someones, I really think you should read Hood Feminism.)

 

As the subtitle makes clear, Kendall's central thesis is that mainstream feminism in the United States has been anything but inclusive, despite being "a movement that draws much of its strength from the claim that it represents over half of the world's population." In prose that is clean, crisp, and cutting, Kendall reveals how feminism has both failed to take into account populations too often excluded from the banner of feminism and failed to consider the breadth of issues affecting the daily lives of millions of women.

 

Many of the book's essays focus on these overlooked issues, with chapters examining how gun violence, hunger, poverty, education, housing, reproductive justice, and more are all feminist issues.***

 

Securing that equality, Kendall argues, requires that women accept some inconvenient truths, specifically "the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others.... [W]hite women can oppress women of color, straight women can oppress lesbian women, cis women can oppress trans women, and so on." If feminism is to truly represent all women, it must resist the "tendency to assume that all women are experiencing the same struggles [which] has led us to a place where reproductive health imagery centers on cisgender able-bodied women to the exclusion of those who are trans, intersex, or otherwise inhabiting bodies that don't fit the narrow idea that genitalia dictates gender."

 

Those already familiar with Kendall as a leader in Black feminist thought won't be surprised that Hood Feminism is grounded in intersectionality, a term coined by Prof. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to reflect how race and gender combine to impact Black women in the criminal justice system. 

February 28, 2020 in Books, Pop Culture, Race, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

New Book: Peggy Orenstein, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity

Vox, What is Going On with America's Boys?

Peggy Orenstein has spent much of her journalism career exploring the cultural forces that shape girlhood, revealing her insights in bestsellers such as Cinderella Ate My Daughter and Schoolgirls. But during her last book tour, she says, parents repeatedly asked her about boys. She realized she “needed to have the other half of the conversation.”

 

So for two years, Orenstein traveled across the country, interviewing 100 boys between the ages of 16 and 22.

 

While her work on girls has focused on the problematic disconnect they have with their bodies, Orenstein says her talks with young men illustrated “how boys are disconnected from their hearts, and how that affects their romantic relationships and sexual encounters.”

 

Her resulting book, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, examines relationships, consent, and a wide array of other issues related to boys’ emotional lives. And although her interviews began before Me Too, the movement only highlighted the urgency of these conversations.***

 

Excerpt: 

 

Q:  You’ve said that rigid masculine norms — such as dominance, aggression, wealth, athleticism, sexual conquest, and emotional suppression — are super-harmful to guys.

 

A: Peggy Orenstein

Boys cling to those norms. Why? Well, you know, they get rewarded for them. You can see in the culture — we have a president who is pretty darn rewarded for clinging to those norms right now — but those norms come at a tremendous cost.

 

As our culture has opened up to women, professionally and educationally, certain kinds of misogyny and sexism — particularly those that happen behind closed doors — have grown more entrenched. [Boys] are at risk of engaging in violence, of violence being done to them, of binge drinking, car accidents, self-harm, suicide, depression. They have fewer friends. They’re lonelier. I mean, it’s really not a pretty sight.

 

Boys wrestle with the taboo of vulnerability — either rejecting it, embracing it, denying it, or capitulating to it. When we cut people off from their ability to acknowledge, recognize, and express emotion, and particularly vulnerability, we not only undermine their basic humanity but we take away the thing that is essential.

February 19, 2020 in Books, Gender, Masculinities, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Research Shows Bringing Up Past Injustices Against Women Alienates Men, Making Reform More Difficult

Ivona Hideg & Anne Wilson, Research: Bringing up Past Injustices Make Majority Groups Defensive, Harvard Bus. Rev. 

Many organizations and institutions reference past injustices with the intention of making people more sensitive to how historic systems of oppression contribute to present-day inequalities. By drawing on social identity theory, however, we speculated that excessive focus on historical injustices can actually backfire by causing key groups to deny current discrimination and withdraw support for ongoing remediation programs.

 

Social identity theory posits that people derive some of their sense of identity and self-worth from their group memberships (including gender, race, religion, politics, or even sports teams), and are highly motivated to maintain and protect a positive image of their social groups. Just as an individual’s self-image can be shaken by reflecting on their own misdeeds, threats to social identity may arise when contemplating past misconduct by their group. This threat can lead to defensive behavior that diminishes or deflects perceived criticisms. As the historically-advantaged group, social identity theory predicts men will react defensively when presented with evidence of past injustices suffered by women, the disadvantaged group.

 

We tested these ideas through our recent research.***

 

These converging results suggest invoking past discrimination can threaten men’s social identity and undermine their perceptions of current levels of discrimination, consequently lowering their support for policies meant to ameliorate this situation.

 

What might be done to mitigate these negative effects? Must we sidestep these discussions of current groups’ shameful history, sacrificing its capacity to enrich our understanding for fear of triggering defensive backlash? Rather than simply avoiding discussions of the past, we reason that historically-advantaged groups (men, in these studies) might be more open to information about past injustices if there was a way to lessen the threat to their social identity.***

 

This work has important implications for policy-makers and organizations seeking to implement diversity and equity policies. Despite the intuitive appeal of using past injustices to bolster the case for such initiatives, this approach can undermine progress by threatening the social identity of key participants. As the efficacy of diversity and equity programs depends on establishing broad-based support, getting both men and women to view these policies positively should be considered an important pre-condition for success.

February 19, 2020 in Business, Gender, Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Dangers of Gendered School Dress Codes to the Institutionalization of Sexual Consent Myths

Shawn Fields, Institutionalizing Consent Myths in Grade School, 72 Oklahoma L. Rev. (2020)

Scholars and advocates have long decried antiquated notions of consent in the criminal law of rape and sexual assault. Significant progress has been made to redefine consent in criminal codes and in our collective consciousness as freely given, informed, enthusiastic, explicit, revocable, and to be considered from the perspective of the consenting party. But despite this progress, the criminal justice apparatus continues to fixate on details irrelevant to the consent calculus such as the victim’s dress. This obsession with the victim’s clothing reflects a troubling willingness to imply consent or, alternatively, blame the victim for provocatively “asking for it.” Significant scholarship has demonstrated the corrosive impact of this fixation, resulting in a “credibility discount” of women making sexual violence allegations, the acquittal of defendants engaged in clearly criminal sexual conduct, and a concomitant reluctance of female victims of sexual violence to even engage with the criminal justice system.

None of the foregoing is new or particularly controversial. But while this unfortunate reality has been well examined, this Essay reflects upon a lesser explored, early root cause of the status quo: the hard wiring of consent myths in grade school through gendered dress codes and the gendered messaging these dress codes institutionalize about consent. Increasingly pervasive, increasingly sex obsessed dress codes feed narratives at an early age that girls are sexual objects who are responsible for the assaultive behavior of perpetrators and who “ask for” any unwanted sexual attention their dress may attract.

This Essay highlights the dangerous, highly sexualized justification often given by school administrators for gendered dress codes: a desire to create a “distraction-free learning environment” for boys. This messaging sexualizes underage girls, forces them to become hyper-cognizant about their physical identity, and signals a male entitlement to act inappropriately towards the female body for which the female will be punished. At root, these dress codes, and the justifications behind them, normalize and excuse sexually predatory behavior as a natural “distracted” reaction while blaming the victim for provoking the unwanted behavior. This institutionalization – which continues to grow – naturally feeds corrosive narratives that persist in criminal sexual assault adjudications, including implied consent, the requirement of a “perfect victim,” and the myth of the “unstoppable male.”

February 19, 2020 in Education, Gender, Masculinities, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

How Libel Law is Being Used Against MeToo Accusers

She Said, He Sued: How Libel Law is Being Turned Against MeToo Accusers

***As more survivors have come forward to call out perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment, a legal backlash to the MeToo movement has been brewing. While it’s well known that powerful men have preemptively quashed accusations with payoffs and nondisclosure agreements, less well known is that dozens of men who claim they are victims of false allegations have sued their accusers for speaking out publicly. The plaintiffs include celebrities and college students, professional athletes, professors, and politicians. At least 100 defamation lawsuits have been filed against accusers since 2014, according to Mother Jones’ review of news reports and court documents. Prior to October 2017, when the MeToo hashtag went viral, almost three in four claims were brought by male college students and faculty accused of sexual misconduct; they usually sued their schools as well as their accusers. Since MeToo took off, cases have been filed at a faster rate, with three in four coming from nonstudents.

 

This list of cases is not comprehensive, but attorneys confirm that these suits are becoming more common. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which helps workplace harassment victims pay their legal bills, has assisted 33 accusers, including Lopez, who have been sued for defamation in the past two years—nearly 20 percent of its caseload. As the number of cases grows, so does the chilling effect: Defamation lawsuits are being used “more and more to try to silence people from coming forward,” says Sharyn Tejani, director of Time’s Up. “It was not something that we expected would take as much of our time and money as it has.”

 

Bruce Johnson, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases, says that before fall 2017, he was contacted twice a year by women who were worried about being sued if they spoke out about sexual violence or harassment or who were threatened with legal retribution for doing so. Now it’s every two weeks, he says. Alexandra Tracy-­Ramirez, a lawyer who represents both survivors and accused perpetrators in campus-­related cases in Colorado and Arizona, has also noticed more accusers speaking out and facing the prospect of being sued.

February 12, 2020 in Courts, Equal Employment, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Survey Shows Young Men Embrace Gender Equality, but Not Equal Housework

Young Men Embrace Gender Equality, but They Still Don't Vacuum

Young people today have become much more open-minded about gender roles — it shows up in their attitudes about pronouns, politics and sports. But in one area, change has been minimal. They are holding on to traditional views about who does what at home.

 

new survey from Gallup found that among opposite-sex couples, those ages 18 to 34 were no more likely than older couples to divide most household chores equitably. And a sociology study published last month found that when high school seniors were asked about their ideal family arrangement with young children, almost a quarter said it was for the man to work full time and the woman to stay home, a larger share than desired any other arrangement.

 

The fact that home life doesn’t look all that different from half a century ago surprises researchers, because in most other ways, attitudes about gender roles have changed a lot. There’s now almost universal support for women to pursue careers or political office. Women get more education than men. And young people are much more accepting of people not identifying as either a man or a woman.

 

Both new studies were based on surveys that have been repeated over time, and they show that women now do a little less housework and child care, and men do a little more. But a significant gap remains — women spend about an hour more a day than men on housework, and an hour more on child care, other research shows.

 

February 12, 2020 in Family, Gender, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Podcast: Ordinary Equality: Why the ERA Matters Today

Podcast:  Ordinary Equality: Equality is Not a Feeling

Why does the ERA matters today? Who does it impact and what will it mean for the future of our country? Listen to find out.

 

February 4, 2020 in Constitutional, Gender, Pop Culture | 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)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Holiday Card Features SCOTUS Women Justices

SCOTUS Ladies Holiday Card  (Really?  Ladies?!?)

 

December 9, 2019 in Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Legend Rewrites Song "Baby It's Cold Outside" as a Song of Affirmative Consent

Why "Baby It's Cold Outside" Remains Controversial and Recently Got a Remake from John Legend [and Kelly Clarkson]

Every year, the anticipation of the holidays ushers in a return of winter classics on radios and streaming services across the United States, including the 1944 hit, "Baby It's Cold Outside."

 

The song continues to stir up controversy due to lyrics that some have considered questionable as they believe they advocate date rape.

 

Written by Frank Loesser, the 75-year-old song first became popular in 1949 as a twice-featured song in the MGM romantic comedy Neptune's Daughter.***

 

According to Rolling Stone, outrage over the song's lyrical content became prominent in 2007, following the emergence of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. However, the magazine also noted that frustration with the song had been brewing for a couple of years prior, with journalists and bloggers describing the depicted romantic encounter as "semi-consensual" or "a guy who hasn't taken 'no' for an answer."***

 

In 2014, a Washington Post opinion piece—drawing from a 2010 post from Persephone Magazine—noted in that the woman's lines in the song do not explicitly state her reluctance to leave for her own sake, but for the sakes of those who might worry about her or question her virtue.

 

The Post columnist, Marya Hannun, also mentioned that in 1944 the notion of an "unmarried woman staying the night at her beau's was cause for scandal," and that in the song, the woman lists her mother, father, sister and maiden aunt as the reasons for her departure.

 

"In this light, the song could be read as an advocacy for women's sexual liberation rather than a tune about date rape," Hannun wrote for the Post.

 

 Earlier this week, award-winning singers John Legend and Kelly Clarkson received both sharp criticism and high-praise from others for a revamped version of the song, which they performed Tuesday night on an episode of The Voice.

 

As Vanity Fair wrote last month, listeners can now hear Clarkson singing "What will my friends think?" and then Legend's reply: "I think they should rejoice." Clarkson continues by asking, "If I have one more drink?" Legend's answer: "It's your body, and your choice."

 

Legend chose to pen new lyrics to the song, sparking backlash from individuals who felt it shouldn't be changed.

Listen to it here.

December 9, 2019 in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

How a Credit Card Can be Sexist

Can a Credit Card be Sexist?

The Apple Card controversy illustrates how a history of bias in credit lending, coupled with discriminatory AI algorithms, hurt women

{T]he New York Department of Financial Services, prompted by Hansson’s tweets, announced it would open an investigation into whether Goldman Sachs discriminates on the basis of sex in the way it sets its credit limits. “Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law,” a spokeswoman for the agency said in a statement Saturday.

 

Apple has deferred to Goldman Sachs for requests for comment. Andrew Williams, a spokesperson for the bank, said in a statement that Apple Card applications are “evaluated independently.” The company evaluates an individual’s income and an individual’s creditworthiness, which “includes factors like personal credit scores, how much personal debt you have, and how that debt is managed.”

 

“We have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender,” Williams said. He added that the company is looking to enable joint family accounts in the future.***

 

The story illustrates how potential biases in credit lending manifest: On the one hand, women have long lacked credit parity with men — women only received legal protection from credit discrimination in the 1970s. But today, with the rise of AI algorithms determining everything from credit lending to hiring to advertising, women face another potential source of discrimination.

 

“These algorithms are trained on data that are a reflection of the world we live in or the world we lived in in the past,” says Meredith Whittaker, a research scientist at New York University and co-founder of the university’s AI Now Institute. “This data irreducibly imprints these histories of discrimination, these patterns of bias.”

 

That discrimination is “intersectional,” Whittaker says, and disproportionately hurts women of color.

***

 

Well into the 20th century, women struggled to get approved for credit cards. As the Smithsonian reports, any woman looking to open a card was subject to discriminatory questions — whether she was married, if she planned to have children. Many banks required single, divorced or widowed women to bring a man along with them to cosign for a card.

 

It wasn’t until 1974 that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act made it illegal for any creditor to take gender, race, religion or national origin into account. But discrepancies still exist today. An analysis from the Federal Reserve found that single women under 40 had lower credit scores than comparable single men, which reflected that single women had “more intensive use of credit” — an outcome, the study author notes, that may reflect economic circumstances, employment and “men and women being potentially treated differently by the credit market and institutions.” As many note, women’s lower credit is also tied to the gender pay gap.

November 27, 2019 in Business, Gender, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Pink Tax: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer

The Pink Tax: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer

The pink tax refers to the extra amount women are charged for certain products or services. Things like dry cleaning, personal care products, and vehicle maintenance. So not only do women make less but they pay more. Women also live longer so they actually need more money for retirement. It’s a load of crap. 

There has been a lot of research on the pink tax that found that overall, women were paying more than men 42% of the time. How much more?  About $1,351 more a year in extra costs. Yup – that’s $1,351 that can’t go into her retirement fund. ***

 

Did you know, tampons and pads are charged sales tax because they are considered “luxury” items. Periods are certainly not a luxury and I’m sure every woman on the planet would agree.***

 

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released a study comparing the prices of over 800 products. The goal of the study was to estimate the price differences male and female shoppers face when buying the same types of items.

The results: Products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys.

  • 7% more for toys and accessories
  • 4% more for children’s clothing
  • 8% more for adult clothing
  • 13% more for personal care products
  • 8% more for senior/home health care products

WBUR, Here and Now, Is Sales Tax on Tampons and Pad Unconstitutional?

Menstrual products like tampons and pads are subject to sales tax in 34 states.

On average, women and people who menstruate spend an estimated $150 million a year just on the sales tax for these items. One in four women struggle to afford period products, according to the nonprofit PERIOD.

Now, there’s a push to outlaw the so-called “tampon tax” across the country.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, an activist and co-founder of Period Equity, says she got together with a group of lawyers to make the case that taxing menstrual products is “sex-based discrimination and therefore unconstitutional and therefore illegal.”

“It's not really just a matter now of asking legislators to do the right thing,” she says, “but it's bringing the force of the law to let them know that they must cease this practice.”

In June, California put a pause on the taxation of menstrual products — but only for a two-year period. But Weiss-Wolf is arguing for a permanent solution by mobilizing to get all 50 states to permanently end sales tax on menstrual products.

 

November 1, 2019 in Gender, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Women and the Law, Halloween Edition. (Hint: It's About Witches)

Image result for salem witch trials

 

It's Halloween... which for law and gender means time to remember the Salem Witch Trials. 

Most of the victims of the trials were women.  And most of the accusers.  Scholars have talked about the trials as misogyny and at the same time as women's assertion of agency and power.  They also suggested the lax evidentiary standards allowed social judgments about women to be determinative of legal guilt.

Stacy Schiff, The Witches: Salem, 1692 (2015)

Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (1998)

Jane Moriarty, Wonders of the Invisible World: Prosecutorial Syndrome and Profile Evidence in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, 26 Vermont L. Rev. 43 (2001)

Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2003)

Peter Hoffer, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (1997)

See also Gender Law Prof Blog, Witchcraft Related Violence: Human Rights Violations Against Women Labeled "Witches"

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October 31, 2019 in Legal History, Pop Culture | 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)