Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Anna Julia Cooper, Activist for Black Women's Suffrage and Social Service

The Atlantic, How Black Suffragettes Subverted the Domestic Sphere

A few decades after her graduation from Oberlin College, the scholar and educator Anna Julia Cooper wrote a stern missive in the Ohio university’s alumni journal. Having relocated to Washington, D.C., where she worked in the district’s first Colored Settlement House, Cooper wrote in the early 1900s with clarity and conviction about the importance of social service. She exalted the domestic sphere as a cornerstone of broader community support—and, in doing so, also illustrated just how unevenly groups like white religious entities metered their care. Her letter, published amid the struggle against gendered discrimination at the ballot box, revealed rifts in which groups of Americans most readily earned others’ sympathy and respect. One hundred years after the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteed white women the right to vote, Cooper’s work still offers an instructive lens through which to consider social movements and interpersonal dynamics alike.

Like those made by other black suffragettes, the statement, titled “The Social Settlement: What It Is and What It Does,” was an often pithy indictment of the sociopolitical landscape—and, implicitly, a blueprint for what might be improved. ***

 

Sometimes referred to as the mother of black feminism, Cooper was born into slavery around 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina. She would go on to spend most of her long academic and community–oriented career living in Washington, D.C., where she helped establish the Colored Women’s League (which later became part of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, led by the likes of Mary Church Terrell, the organization’s first president). As white women across America endeavored to secure voting rights for themselves—and made calculated choices to exclude black people from those efforts—Cooper produced some of the most foundational analysis of injustice in the United States, most notably the overlaps of racism and sexism.

September 10, 2019 in Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 9, 2019

National Women's Law Center Report Shows DC Dress Codes Unfairly Target Black Girls

DC School Dress Codes Unfairly Target Black Girls, Students Say

School dress codes are often enforced in uneven ways, and black girls are disproportionately targeted, students from Washington, D.C., said in a report last year from the National Women’s Law Center. Now, some of those students are beginning to speak up — organizing walkouts, lunchtime protests and meetings with administrators to call out dress codes they see as unfair.

 

In a new report released Wednesday, the National Women’s Law Center highlighted some of these recent shifts and rated D.C. public and charter high schools based on the strictness of their dress code policies.

 

The researchers found that, among 29 D.C. schools, majority-black high schools on average had more dress code restrictions than other high schools. And charter schools in the District, on average, had more than twice the number of dress code restrictions than traditional public schools in the 2018-2019 school year.

 

“Especially in this Me Too movement that we’re in, schools shouldn’t be teaching students that it’s okay to scrutinize girls’ bodies ... or make them feel like they have to cover up or feel less than,” said Nia Evans, author and lead researcher of the report.

September 9, 2019 in Education, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Exploring the Similarities and Differences Between the Black Lives Matter and MeToo Movements

Linda Greene, Lolita Buckner Inniss, Bridget Crawford, Mehrsa Baradaran, Noa Ben-Asher, I. Bennett Capers, Osamudia James & Keisha Lindsay Talking About Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, Wisconsin Women's Law Journal, Forthcoming

This essay explores the apparent differences and similarities between the Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movements. In April 2019, the Wisconsin Journal of Gender, Law and Society hosted a symposium entitled “Race-Ing Justice, En-Gendering Power: Black Lives Matter and the Role of Intersectional Legal Analysis in the Twenty-First Century.” That program facilitated examination of the historical antecedents, cultural contexts, methods, and goals of these linked equality movements. Conversations continued among the symposium participants long after the end of the official program. In this essay, the symposium’s speakers memorialize their robust conversations and also dive more deeply into the phenomena, implications, and future of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.

This essay organizes around internal and external spatial metaphors and makes five schematic moves. First, internal considerations ground comparisons of the definitions, goals, and ideas of success employed by or applied to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. Second, external concerns inspire questions about whether both movements may be better understood through the lens of intersectionality, and relatedly, what challenges these movements pose for an intersectional analysis. Third, a meta-internal framework invites inquiry into how the movements shape the daily work of scholars, teachers, lawyers, and community activists. Fourth, a dialectical external-internal frame drives questions about the movements’ effects on law and popular culture, and the reciprocal effects between those external influences and the movements themselves. Returning to an external, even forward-looking, approach, we ask what the next steps are for both movements. This five-part taxonomy frames the inquiry into where the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements are located individually, but also where they are co-located, and, perhaps most importantly, where they are going

September 3, 2019 in Pop Culture, Race, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 11, 2019

New Book: Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia

Meera Dao, Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia (Stanford U. Press 2019)

This book is the first formal, empirical investigation into the law faculty experience using a distinctly intersectional lens, examining both the personal and professional lives of law faculty members. Comparing the professional and personal experiences of women of color professors with white women, white men, and men of color faculty from assistant professor through dean emeritus, Unequal Profession explores how the race and gender of individual legal academics affects not only their individual and collective experience, but also legal education as a whole. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative empirical data, Meera E. Deo reveals how race and gender intersect to create profound implications for women of color law faculty members, presenting unique challenges as well as opportunities to improve educational and professional outcomes in legal education. Deo shares the powerful stories of law faculty who find themselves confronting intersectional discrimination and implicit bias in the form of silencing, mansplaining, and the presumption of incompetence, to name a few. Through hiring, teaching, colleague interaction, and tenure and promotion, Deo brings the experiences of diverse faculty to life and proposes a number of mechanisms to increase diversity within legal academia and to improve the experience of all faculty members.

March 11, 2019 in Books, Equal Employment, Law schools, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book: Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia

Meera Dao, Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia (Stanford U. Press 2019)

This book is the first formal, empirical investigation into the law faculty experience using a distinctly intersectional lens, examining both the personal and professional lives of law faculty members. Comparing the professional and personal experiences of women of color professors with white women, white men, and men of color faculty from assistant professor through dean emeritus, Unequal Profession explores how the race and gender of individual legal academics affects not only their individual and collective experience, but also legal education as a whole. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative empirical data, Meera E. Deo reveals how race and gender intersect to create profound implications for women of color law faculty members, presenting unique challenges as well as opportunities to improve educational and professional outcomes in legal education. Deo shares the powerful stories of law faculty who find themselves confronting intersectional discrimination and implicit bias in the form of silencing, mansplaining, and the presumption of incompetence, to name a few. Through hiring, teaching, colleague interaction, and tenure and promotion, Deo brings the experiences of diverse faculty to life and proposes a number of mechanisms to increase diversity within legal academia and to improve the experience of all faculty members.

March 11, 2019 in Books, Equal Employment, Law schools, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Judge Orders Trump Administration to Reinstate EEOC Pay Reporting Rule by Gender and Race

Wash Post, "Victory for Equal Pay": Judge Rules Trump Administration Must Require Companies to Report Pay by Gender, Race

A federal judge on Monday ordered the Trump administration to reinstate an Obama-era rule that required companies to report pay data by race and gender, a move advocates say will help shrink the wage gap.

 

Tanya S. Chutkan, a U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, ruled that the Trump administration violated the law when it halted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s efforts to collect pay data by race and gender from large companies. In defending its decision to freeze the rule, Chutkan wrote, the government failed to demonstrate that the requirements would “meaningfully increase the burden on employers.”

 

Chutkan ordered the government to move forward with collecting the data, a decision that women’s rights groups hailed as a crucial step toward fighting employer discrimination of women and minorities.***

 

The rule, which was finalized in September 2016, required firms with 100 or more employees to provide additional employee and salary information to the EEOC on an existing form, known as the EEO-1. Companies would have been required to submit their reports by March 31, 2018.***

 

The rule also created an incentive for an employer to “look under the hood” and evaluate their own pay practices, Yang said. The EEOC planned to then publish the aggregate data publicly, allowing employers, advocates and academics to benchmark pay inequities in the workforce, said Yang, who is now a strategic partner at Working Ideal and a fellow at the Urban Institute.

 

But the data collection requirement was met with intense criticism from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups that argued it put an unfair and expensive burden on employers. While the EEOC estimated the data collection would cost $25 million a year, or about $416 per company, the Chamber of Commerce claimed it would carry a total burden of $1.3 billion per year for all businesses with 100 or more employees, with “no accompanying benefit."

 

Then, in August 2017, Neomi Rao, then the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, sent a memorandum to Victoria Lipnic, the Acting Chairwoman of the EEOC, stating that the Office of Management of Budget had decided to freeze the EEOC’s new collection of pay data.

 

Rao, who is now President Trump’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, wrote in the memo that “aspects of the revised collection of information lack practical utility, are unnecessarily burdensome, and do not adequately address privacy and confidentiality issues.”

March 6, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Race and the History of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Movement: The Power of African-American Women Voters in School Suffrage

Randolph Hollingsworth, Power of African-American Women Voters in Lexington's School Suffrage, 1895-1902: Race and the History of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Movement, 

Women suffragists in the U.S. included partial suffrage through participation in school-related elections as one of their strategies to reach full citizenship rights. Kentucky had already pointed the way for this strategy when in 1838 a statewide law passed protecting the right of female taxpaying heads-of-households in rural areas to vote on matters related to the new common school system. The leaders of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) sought to build on this precedent during the 1890 Kentucky constitutional convention that offered the possibility of the legislature to grant women the right to vote. When the charters of cities of the second-class (i.e., Lexington, Covington and Newport) were up for revision in 1894, the General Assembly included what the KERA lobbyists were hoping for – the right for women in second-class cities to vote on school-related issues. By then, women in fifteen other states had successfully lobbied for legislation for partial suffrage (or full suffrage in some Western territories and states). This presentation will chronicle the evolution of school suffrage laws of Kentucky, focusing on the 1901 school board election in Lexington and the revocation of school suffrage in 1902. That election cycle evidenced a large percentage of African-American women whose registration totals favored the Republican Party. However, only half of the registrants ended up casting a vote – leading to the election of a Democratic Party ticket that year. The unusual numbers of black women voters threatened the racially conservative norm, and in January 1902, the Kentucky legislature repealed the partial suffrage law. The political backlash over the racial disproportionality of women voters in this election exposed the Kentucky partisan feuds of the time, however the issue of race control was at the core of the reasoning for revoking even this limited attempt at partial suffrage in Kentucky. This paper argues that race mattered more than partisan politics, class or social standing in determining the outcome of suffrage laws for women in Kentucky.

February 22, 2019 in Education, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 1, 2019

Soujourner Truth's Ain't I a Woman Speech and Intersectional Feminism

Google Doodle today feature's feminist abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

Constance Grady, Vox, Celebrating Sojourner Truth: "Ain't I am Woman" and It's Legacy

Google is kicking off Black History Month this year by celebrating the legacy of Sojourner Truth, the subject of today’s Google Doodle. Which means that it’s time to reread one of the great works of American rhetoric: Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech.

 

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery at the end of the 18th century, but she escaped — carrying her infant daughter with her — in 1826. (“I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right,” she would later say.) When the son she left behind was sold illegally, she successfully sued for his freedom as well. Naming herself “Sojourner Truth,” she converted to Methodism and began campaigning for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.

 

She improvised her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron. The exact wording of the speech has been contested. In contemporary transcriptions, the famous question “ain’t I a woman?” doesn’t appear anywhere, and some historians have argued that native New Yorker Truth is unlikely to have spoken in the Southern-inflected English that tinges the most widely reproduced version of the speech.

 

But regardless of Truth’s precise wording, the message at the core of “Ain’t I a Woman” rings powerfully true 168 years later: that women can change the world, and that Truth’s blackness did not make her not a woman. That’s the kind of intersectionality that Truth was immensely skilled at navigating, despite the enormous pressure on women of color at the time to choose between the women’s movement and the abolitionist movement. Truth never chose. As she pointed out in her speech, she shouldn’t have to

Historian Nell Irvin Painter challenges the traditional understanding of this speech in her book, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol suggesting that a local female activist and reporter, exaggerated or crafted the speech based only loosely on Truth's short presentation to the suffrage gathering in Akron.

bell hooks took the title of Truth's speech for her seminal work, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, critiquing both exclusion of black women from both the civil rights and feminist movements.  

My home city of Akron, Ohio, was the location of Truth's famous speech.  Currently a mural in Truth's memory resides on the side of a prominent downtown building.

TurnerSignAkron

February 1, 2019 in Books, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Story of the First Woman (also the First Black Woman) Law Professor, Lutie Lytle

Taja-Nia Y. Henderson, "I Shall Talk to My Own People": The Intersectional Life and Times of Lutie A. Lytle, 102 Iowa L. Rev. 1983 (2017).

In the fall of 1898, the Chicago Tribune hailed Lutie A. Lytle of Topeka as the “only female law instructor in the world.” Notwithstanding this purported shattering of the legal academy’s glass ceiling, Lytle’s accomplishments—her path to the professoriate, and her career in the years following her appointment to the faculty of a Nashville law school—have been largely lost to historians of legal education. She is not among those honored or commemorated by our profession, and her name is largely unknown beyond a small circle of interest. The biographical sketch that follows fills this scholarly gap through an examination of Lytle as a historical figure, using contemporary newspaper accounts and other primary source material to provide context for her achievements and linking her life to previously understudied legal, political and social movements.

 

As a genre, biography seeks to use the life of the individual to tell a larger story about the collective. Feminist biography—probably best understood as both subgenre and method—has the same goals, but moves gender “to the center of the analysis.” This methodology asks not only how gender as a social category has impacted the lives of historical actors, but also how the unequal distribution of power resulting from existing gender hierarchies has influenced epistemologies of scholarly inquiry.

 

A biographical sketch of Lutie A. Lytle, a woman coming of age in the second half of the nineteenth century, warrants such treatment. Lytle’s career in the law was certainly impacted by gender as she was among the earliest cadre of women lawyers in the nation. As a student, she was the only woman enrolled in the Law Department of Central Tennessee College. When she was appointed as an instructor at the College, moreover, she was the only woman among the law school’s faculty. As a woman of African descent born during Reconstruction, however, Lytle (and her story) “cannot be captured wholly by” a methodology that moves only gender to the center. The intersection (or overlap) of Lytle’s identities as a woman of color and the daughter of former slaves requires that gender and race (and arguably, status and class) move to the center. In other words, a biographical sketch of Lytle’s life cannot privilege gender in isolation; it must also grapple with the persistence of race, racism, and the myriad legacies of chattel slavery in the subject’s world.

February 1, 2019 in Law schools, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book: Voices in History of Black Women Lawyers

J. Clay Smith, Jr., Rebels in Law: Voices in History of Black Women Lawyers

Black women lawyers are not new to the practice of law or to leadership in the fight for justice and quality. Black women formally entered the practice of American law in 1872, the year that Charlotte E. Ray became the first black woman to graduate from an American law school. Rebels in Lawintroduces some of these women and through their own writing tells a compelling story about the little-known involvement of black women in law and politics. Beginning with a short essay written in 1897, the writing collected by J. Clay Smith, Jr., tells us how black women came to the practice of law, the challenges they faced as women and as blacks in making a place for themselves in the legal profession, their fight to become legal educators, and their efforts to encourage other black women and black men to come to the practice of law. 
 
The essays demonstrate the involvement of black women lawyers in important public issues of our time and show them addressing the sensitive subjects of race, equality, justice and freedom. Drawing together many writings that have never been published or have been published in obscure journals or newspapers, Rebels in Law is a groundbreaking study. In addition, it offers historical background information on each writer and on the history of black women lawyers. Providing an opportunity to study the origins of black women as professionals, community leaders, wives, mothers, and feminists, it will be of interest to scholars in the fields of law, history, political science, sociology, black studies and women's studies.

February 1, 2019 in Books, Legal History, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Harvard Study Shows Bias Drops Dramatically for Sexual Orientation and Race Since 2007

Study: Bias Drops Dramatically for Sexual Orientation and Race since 2007

New research from Harvard University finds that Americans' unconscious bias on the basis of sexual orientation and race dropped dramatically over a decade.

 

The study in the journal Psychological Science looks at more than 4 million online tests for implicit bias — bias people aren't aware of — taken from 2007 to the end of 2016.

 
It finds that attitudes about sexual orientation changed the fastest, says lead author Tessa Charlesworth: "The most striking finding is that sexuality attitudes have changed toward neutrality, toward less bias, by as much as 33 percent on implicit measures," and by 49 percent on explicit measures — people's reports about their own attitudes.

The study also found a big drop in racial bias — but a rise in bias against people based on body weight.

And it showed that implicit biases, initially thought to be so deep-seated that they were immutable, can change over time, and toward multiple groups of people.

 

January 14, 2019 in Gender, LGBT, Pop Culture, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Impact of Liberal Feminism and Critical Race Theory on Reproductive Rights and Justice in the U.S.

Lisa Chiyemi Ikemoto, Reproductive Rights and Justice: A Multiple Feminist Theories Account in Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence (Robin West and Cynthia Bowman eds., Elgar Press, Forthcoming)

This chapter examines the impact of liberal feminism and critical race theory on reproductive rights and justice in the United States. Liberal feminism has played a key role in this fight. Other feminist theories, including, prominently, critical race theory, have taken the mainstream reproductive rights movement to task for marginalizing the voices and experience of women of color and low-income women, thus reinforcing stratified reproduction. This work has put issues like surrogacy, coerced sterilization, welfare family caps and criminal prosecution of pregnant women on the reproductive rights and justice agenda. Interaction among feminist theories has produced a dialectic and evolution that enable them to meet new challenges. Similarly, a multi-theory account of reproductive rights and justice issues produces a more useful analysis and range of strategies than a single theory approach.

September 19, 2018 in Abortion, Family, Race, Reproductive Rights, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Pink Hats and Black Fists: The Role of Women in Black Lives Matter

Jessica Watters, Pink Hats and Black Fists: The Role of Women in Black Lives Matter, 24 William & Mary J. Women & Law 199 (2017)

On January 21, 2017, nearly five hundred thousand people, many cadorned in pink, cat-eared “pussyhats,” descended on Washington, D.C.—the flagship location for the official “Women’s March.” In total, 673 “sister” marches took place across the seven continents, including Antarctica. An estimated five million people participated worldwide, and the March was the largest single-day protest in United States history.

 

One photo from the March belies the purported unity. In that photo, Angela Peoples, a Black woman, stands unbothered in a crowd of smiling White women wearing pink “pussyhats.” Ms. Peoples’ cap reads “Stop Killing Black People;” her sign says “Don’t forget: White women voted for Trump.” . . . The picture vividly demonstrates the dissonance between America’s mainstream feminist and civil rights movements, a juxtaposition further illuminated by the success of the Women’s March.

 

This divide has a long history, and there is a wealth of scholarship examining how race shapes women’s experiences and discussing the importance of intersectional feminism. Feminism has historically been White-centered, while civil rights discourse largely pertains to men of color. The theories of “intersectionality” and Critical Race Feminism arose as a response to this discordance. These theories offer a critical perspective of the interplay of race, gender, and class for women of color in a patriarchal, racist system. For modern feminism to survive, it must adapt to include the significant group of people who are presently excluded by “White feminism”— those who are both women and members of racial and ethnic minorities, as well as those who are economically disadvantaged; it must fully embrace intersectionality.

 

This Comment does not offer a new justification of the importance of intersectional feminism, nor does it aim to highlight the shortcomings of the Women’s March. Instead, it uses the Women’s March as a case study to highlight the role of women in protest, and more specifically, the importance of White women’s future participation in intersectional movements.

February 8, 2018 in Pop Culture, Race, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Examining Feminist Legal Briefs to SCOTUS for Their Use of Race–Gender Analogical Legal Framing

Holly McCammon, Brittany N. Hearne, Allison R. McGrath, Minyoung Moon,  Legal Mobilization and Analogical Framing: Feminist Litigators' Use of Race-Gender Analogies, 40 Law & Policy 57 (2018).

From the Introduction:

In an effort to contribute to our understanding of social movement judicial legal mobilization, our paper explores legal briefs submitted to the US Supreme Court in gender-equality cases since 1970. We focus particularly on the use of a specific type of legal framing in these briefs: analogical legal framing. As Sunstein (1993) points out, this is a commonly used form of reasoning in litigation, and some (Mayeri 2001; Rush 1997) argue that it is a dominant form, particularly in civil rights litigation. In analogical legal framing, a litigant argues that similarities exist, for instance, between two groups, and developments in law regarding one group should be considered in adjudication concerning the other group (Mayeri 2001; Sunstein 1993).2 Here we specifically investigate feminist litigators' use of race–gender analogies in their cause lawyering. Feminist cause lawyers have pursued a substantial number of cases before the high court over the last several decades in an effort to achieve greater gender equality under the law. In such cases, with some frequency, the feminist party to the case (that is, the party seeking greater gender equality) draws an analogy between racial and gender discrimination as they argue in favor of broadening gender equality. In fact, MacKinnon (1991, 1281) goes so far as to state that “the judicial interpretation of sex equality … has been built on the racial analogy.” Mayeri (2011, 3), who examines in rich detail “reasoning from race,” states that “‘second-wave’ feminists conscripted legal strategies developed to combat race discrimination into the service of women's rights.”

 

Various scholars explore whether and how movement activists invoke the law generally (e.g., Pedriana 2006; Andersen 2005; McCann 1994), yet few examine how cause lawyers articulate their demands in court. Our investigation contributes to the larger literature on legal mobilization by taking a number of steps. First, we explore the use of analogical legal framing by activists, a type of litigation reasoning commonly used but not yet investigated as a form of movement framing. We examine the frequency and trends in the use of such arguments in feminist briefs presented to the Supreme Court in gender-equality cases from 1970 to the present. In addition, we provide insight into the various forms the race–gender analogy takes. Second, we consider how social movement framing concepts, such as frame bridging and transformation (Snow et al. 1986), can be understood in combination with analogical legal framing.

 

Finally, our research also contributes to the understanding of why activists choose to deploy particular types of frames. A handful of scholars have investigated the circumstances shaping why movements articulate certain types of frames (e.g., McCammon 2012; Coe 2011; Maney, Woehrle, and Coy 2005), but few have considered the circumstances leading to the use of specific frames in movement litigation (for exceptions, see Goldberg 2014; Fuchs 2013; Ziegler 2011). Our investigation of analogic framing by feminist legal activists will enrich our understanding not only of movement framing but also (in particular) of framing as practiced by activists engaged in legal mobilization. By examining why shifts in the overall use and in the varying types of the analogic frame occur, our research furthers understanding of this particular form of legal mobilization strategy.

February 8, 2018 in Courts, Legal History, Race, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The 11th Circuit's Take on Workplace Bans Against Black Women's Natural Hair as Discrimination

D. Wendy Greene, Splitting Hairs: The 11th Circuit's Take on Workplace Bans Against Black Women's Natural Hair in EEOC v. Catastrophe, 71 Miami L. Rev. (2017)

What does hair have to do with African descendant women’s employment opportunities in the 21st century? In this Article, Professor Greene demonstrates that Black women's natural hair has much to do with their ability to obtain and maintain employment as well as their enjoyment of dignity, equality, and agency in contemporary workplaces. When Black women wear natural hairstyles like afros, locks, twists, braids, they are often subjected to harassment, demotions, discipline, termination and denial of employment for which they are qualified. However, when Black women have challenged natural hairstyle bans as race discrimination violative of federal laws like Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, federal courts have issued hair splitting decisions that decree: federal anti-discrimination law protects African descendants when they are discriminated against for adorning afros but statutory protection ceases once they grow their naturally textured or curly hair long or don it in braids, twists, or locks. Thus, generally, Black women subjected to discrimination because of their natural hair lack any form of legal redress. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recent decision in EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions (2016) preserved this status quo by holding that an employer’s revocation of a job offer to an African American woman for refusing to cut off her dreadlocks did not violate Title VII because locks are not an “immutable” racial characteristic of African descendants presumably like an afro. 

Professor Greene explains that federal courts’ strict application of this “legal fiction” known as the immutability doctrine—and the biological notion of race that informs it—have greatly contributed to this incoherency in anti-discrimination law that triggers troubling, tangible consequences in the lives of Black women. Indeed, natural hairstyle bans effectively require Black women to wear straightened hairstyles, which Black women often achieve through costly, time-consuming, and physically damaging procedures like weaves, wigs, hair extensions, chemical relaxers and/or the application of extreme heat to their hair. Thus, workplace bans against natural hair are not a superficial matter; they can negatively impact Black women's physical, economic, and emotional well being. Moreover, Professor Greene argues that the 11th Circuit's recent dismissal of the EEOC’s case, which affirms the legality of straight hair mandates imposed upon Black women, exacerbates the “hyper-regulation of Black women’s bodies via their hair” in the 21st century workplace.

February 6, 2018 in Equal Employment, Race, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Books: Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist's Journey Through Sexism, Racism, and Classism

Brittney Cooper (professor, Women and Africana Studies,Rutgers University), Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers her Superpower

A professor explores the ways “sexism, and racism, and classism work together to fuck shit up for everybody” and how feminism can begin undoing the damage.

 

“We [black women] are told we are irrational, crazy, out of touch, entitled, disruptive and not team players,” writes Cooper (Women and Gender Studies, Africana Studies/Rutgers Univ.). But as her feminist foremother Audre Lorde once remarked, this anger was not only legitimate; it was also “a powerful source of energy serving progress and change.” Here, Cooper brings together essays tracing her evolution as a feminist while giving voice to the political (out)rage seething within. The author begins by detailing the difficult journey that led her to “disidentify with [the] whiteness” of mainstream feminism and learn to embrace her “particular Black girl magic.” Her quest for political authenticity meant fighting with white women over racism and black men over sexism. Participating in these separate battles did not blind her to the need for alliances with both groups, however; they only made her more aware of the need for creating solidarity across communities to topple patriarchy. Cooper’s feminist journey also forced her to shed cultural “baggage”—such as the racism of a white society that questioned her movements on American streets and the sexism of black society that sought to control her sexuality through the church—that limited her passage through the world. Once uncovered and focused, however, the rage that inevitably comes from such injustices is of tremendous benefit to all. Cooper points to tennis star Serena Williams, former first lady Michelle Obama, and singer Beyoncé as contemporary black feminist role models. By learning how to channel their rage in their areas of endeavor, they have earned game-changing respect that has transcended race and gender. Sharp and always humane, Cooper’s book suggests important ways in which feminism needs to evolve for the betterment not just of black women, but society as a whole.

 

A timely and provocative book that shows “what you build is infinitely more important than what you tear down.”

January 9, 2018 in Books, Race, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Symposium on the Jurisprudential Legacy of Judge Constance Baker Motley, the First Black Woman Federal Judge

Friday, September 22, 2017

New Book Podcast on Gender, Criminal Justice, and Jim Crow

Sarah Haley, "No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity"

Recent popular and scholarly interest has highlighted the complex and brutal system of mass incarceration in the United States. Much of this interest has focused on recent developments while other scholars have revealed the connections between the development of the prison system after Reconstruction and the legacies of slavery. In her new book, No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), Sarah Haley points to an often under recognized part of this history. Haley, an associate professor of gender studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, focuses on the Southern criminal justice system’s treatment and exploitation of black women during the Jim Crow era. Though black women were caught up in the criminal justice system in smaller numbers than men were, Haley shows their treatment was very important to the development of Jim Crow modernity. The brutal and violent treatment, the ideological narratives surrounding black women, and the exploitation of their labor were all key in creating the ideologies of racial capitalism and patriarchy. Haley also discusses the ways black women resisted this treatment and contented the related ideologies.

 

In this episode of New Books in History, Haley discusses No Mercy Here and this history of gender, criminal justice, and race. 

September 22, 2017 in Books, Gender, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Title IX Enforcement Probably Discriminates against Minority Students

Ben Trachtenberg, How University Title IX Enforcement and Other Discipline Processes (Probably) Discriminate Against Minority Students, 18 Nevada L. Rev. 2 (forthcoming 2018)

Abstract

This Article argues that university discipline procedures likely discriminate against minority students and that increasingly muscular Title IX enforcement—launched with the best of intentions in response to real problems—almost certainly exacerbates yet another systemic barrier to racial justice and equal access to educational opportunities. Unlike elementary and secondary schools, universities do not keep publicly available data on the demographics of students subjected to institutional discipline, preventing evaluation of possible disparate racial impact. Further, several aspects of the university disciplinary apparatus—including broad and vague definitions of offenses, limited access to legal counsel, and irregular procedures—increase the risk that black students will suffer disproportionate suspensions and other punishment.

This Article brings needed attention to an understudied aspect of Title IX enforcement and raises concerns about the potential effects of implicit bias. While many commentators and courts have addressed whether university disciplinary procedures mistreat men—or, instead, even now provide inadequate protection for college women—few observers have discussed possible racial implications, which may explain (and be explained by) the current lack of data. Outside the context of sex-discrimination cases, university discipline procedures for quotidian matters such as plagiarism and alcohol abuse likely exhibit similar biases.

This article argues that the U.S. Department of Education should use its authority under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to require that colleges and universities immediately begin collecting and publishing the sort of data already reported by elementary and secondary schools, thereby allowing observers to assess the scope of disparate impact in campus discipline processes.

September 19, 2017 in Education, Race, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Black Women in the Law: A History and Current Assessment

by Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke who represents New York’s Ninth Congressional District in Congress. She has served in Congress since 2007 and is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women & Girls.

September 14th marks what would have been Constance Baker Motley’s 96th birthday. In 1966, Judge Motley became the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge. Yet, fifty years later, Black women are still heavily underrepresented at nearly all levels of the legal profession. While Black women are also underrepresented in the arts, sciences, media, and numerous other industries, our underrepresentation in the legal profession is particularly troubling, given its unique role in protecting the rights of those who lack the knowledge or resources to protect their constitutional rights.

The history of Black female attorneys in the United States really begins with Charlotte E. Ray. On March 2nd, 1872 Ms. Ray became the first Black woman to serve as a licensed attorney in the United States. Charlotte E. Ray was born in my home state of New York in 1850 at a time when slavery still existed and even freed Black women were taught that the measure of their success was their ability to care for the men in their lives. Not willing to accept this narrow definition of purpose, Ms. Ray hid her gender in order to gain acceptance to Howard Law School. She worked twice as hard as her male colleagues to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar that same year. This made Ms. Ray only the third licensed female attorney in the United States. Ms. Ray was also a dedicated social advocate and served as a delegate to the 1876 Conference of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association.

While Charlotte E. Ray laid the foundation for Black women to serve as attorneys in the United States, it took nearly fifty years until a Black woman gained admission to the highest bar in the nation. This occurred on January 29, 1926 with the admission of Violette Neatley Anderson to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ms. Anderson had served as a court reporter for fifteen years before attending the Chicago Law School. Like Charlotte E. Ray, Violette Neatley Anderson was deeply involved in her community and recognized the need for women of color to help each other overcome the unique barriers that stood in their way.

Yet, the tide of progress remained slow for Black women in the law. It took until January 25, 1966 until Constance Baker Motley was nominated to serve as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. By this point, Ms. Motley was already a towering figure in the law. Born in New York to parents from the Caribbean, Ms. Motley joined the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund soon after graduating from Columbia Law School. At LDF, Ms. Motley helped draft the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education and became the first Black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, ultimately winning nine of the ten cases that she argued before that body.

More than fifty years after Constance Baker Motley became the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge, Black women are still grossly underrepresented at nearly all levels of the legal profession. Despite comprising more than 6.6 percent of the US population, Black women accounted for less than 5 percent of full time law school graduates for the 2014 and 2015 academic years. A January 2017 NALP report similarly found that Black women only accounted for 2.32 percent of associates at major law firms and a paltry 0.64 percent of partners.

Of the 578 active district court judges in the United States, 6.4 percent (37) are Black women. While this is roughly proportionate to our share of the U.S. population, 65 percent (24) of these district court judges were nominated within the past few years by President Obama. Unsurprisingly, Black female representation drops precipitously on the circuit courts. Of the 160 active circuit court judges, only 4.4 percent(7) are Black women. Two of those judges, representing 29 percent of the total figure, were appointed by President Obama. We need not even proceed to the highest court in the land, since it is well known that no Black woman has ever served on the Supreme Court

September 15, 2017 in Courts, Legal History, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)