Inspired by recent events at my own institution as well as conversations with other feminist law profs I’ve run into at recent conferences, here’s a pattern I see â€“ wonder if others experience this. One fem law prof summed it up with this office-door bumper sticker: â€œIf silence is complicity, and engagement is insanity, what’s a girl to do?”
It seems to me that many strong, ambitious women legal academics end up withdrawing from their institutions, either by staying where they are but withdrawing from almost all leadership or participation, or moving to another institution after getting hurt by exercising leadership at their original place â€“ and they resign themselves to rather peripheral participation at the new institution.
After tenure, feminist law profs throw their hearts and souls into being good citizens of their institution, hoping to do their part to help shape an environment that promotes excellence and diversity and humanity and other good values â€“ and hoping to break the glass ceiling in law school leadership that has generally not included many women. But their institutional good citizenship backfires: they take policy positions, however diplomatic, accommodating and respectful, that threaten others with power, with the result that the feminist good citizen law profs get penalized and harassed in various subtle or not so subtle ways. Or their time may simply get wasted, as they are rewarded for the leadership with ever-more committee chairs and endless meetings that give the appearance of faculty governance but simply cover over decisions made elsewhere by those who really have the power â€“ and who tend to undo or undermine the hard work and bridge-building of the feminist law prof — either out of retaliation or incompetence and dysfunctional management. Then the feminist law profs also get blamed for not doing as much teaching or scholarship as they might have without all the institutional administrative work — or sometimes the feminist law professor’s teaching loads get increased and support for scholarship gets withdrawn as part of the harassment and penalties for her institutional leadership.
Finally, the fem law prof gives up on institutional leadership and decides to protect her own personal and professional time, but at the often high cost of having to move or, if personal ties make moving difficult, having to stay in an unsupportive institution that devalues her contributions. I see so much wasted talent and energy in law schools.
-Anonymous Feminist Law Prof