Memo to Yale Law School Professor Adam Cohen: “What Price Waterhouse did is like saying ‘nigger.’”

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A member of the blogroll who has requested anonymity contributes the following post:

Adam Cohen, who is apparently a law professor at Yale Law School, seems not to be familiar with the case of Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse, and that Cohen recently wrote an article (deemed a “case study”) that was published in Time and widely disseminated elsewhere that harkens back to the troubling subtle sexism in Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse

It is time for Professor Cohen to be educated, and I am happy to do it: In the subtle sexism case of Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse, Ann Hopkins was denied partnership at Price Waterhouse because she was not “feminine” enough. She was direct, she was unapologetic, and she had a personality that was more masculine than feminine.

When D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Edwards was trying to explain to the Price Waterhouse lawyers why their client’s sexist discrimination against a woman simply because she was not “feminine” was unlawful, Judge Edwards finally said in frustration:

If someone said “I hate Blacks,” it might be clearer to you, but you seem to suggest that sexual stereotyping is different from race stereotyping. [It is not.] What Price Waterhouse did is like saying “nigger.”

With that as backdrop, I write this open letter to Yale Law School Professor Adam Cohen, based on his Time “case study,” available at available here.

Dear Professor Adam Cohen:

The bizarre article qua “case study” you wrote regarding Judge Judith Eiler reads much like an article attacking a black person for acting “too black,” and, quite frankly, the article troubles me, particularly given that you are a professor, who has exposure to students and who is in a position to mold their thoughts and attitudes.

More specifically, two things come to mind regarding your disturbing opinion article in Time.

1. First, it appears that you are taking to task Judge Judith Eiler for being a direct, honest, candid, and efficient judge who tolerates no nonsense or time-wasting in her court. With all due respect, your critique strikes me as preposterous. Being direct, honest, and unwilling to tolerate nonsense seems to me to be good traits for a judge to have, even if the judge’s candor occasionally hurts a defendant’s feelings.

 Your objection is that Judge Eiler is painfully honest – maybe even brusque or acerbic at times – saying, for example, to a defendant who drove like an idiot (endangering others) “If you drive like an idiot ’cause you’re late for work, you’re gonna have to pay for it,” and warning him that continue idiotic behavior was not in his best interests, saying “You can see your picture on the headlines of the Seattle Times, stupid young man who shouldn’t be driving.”

With all due respect, particularly given that you are now teaching law school and presumably are in a position in which you should be setting standards and emphasizing the importance of following reasonable laws, are you really taking issue with a judge’s statements that, while harsh, make sense in the context of the underlying unlawful behavior? Do you honestly fail to appreciate how ridiculous your objections sound?

Similarly, it concerns me that you would write an article publicly chastising Judge Judith Eiler and using her name and picture, yet you did not mention the name of the reckless-driving lawbreaker. It seems that you tried hard to nationally shame the female judge who was doing her job (albeit in a direct, no nonsense way), yet you tried to protect the lawbreaker who was only in court before Judge Eiler because he/she drove like an idiot, broke the law, and endangered others.

That troubles me, and it speaks poorly of your judgment.

2. Second, surely you must realize how gender-biased your article and critique seem to be. To wit, do you really believe that a female jurist who has grappled her way into a position of power should be criticized for having a “tart tongue?” Really?

If so, I respectfully suggest that you should not be in the classroom at Yale Law School. Instead, you should sit down and read the opinions in the case of Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse. That case made clear that it is no longer acceptable to negatively judge professional women who catch your attention because they behave in traditionally-masculine ways, by, for example, being blunt, abrasive, or direct. It is no longer acceptable to chastise women for failing to behave as demure, quiet, submissive, needlessly supplicant, sugary-sweet belles.

Indeed, one might suggest that your op-ed smacks of subtle sexism by, for example, making reference to women in power who are no-nonsense as being “tart tongue-d” (or “bitches” or “prickly”) when men with the same qualities have traditionally been deemed as “hard-nosed,” “straight-shooter,” or “no-bullshit” sorts. (Indeed, the district court judge in the landmark Hopkins case was respectfully recognized as being “impatient, especially with the irrelevant, and acerbic when irritated.” “Acerbic when irritated.” That sounds like what Judge Eiler was. “Acerbic when irritated.”

Why do all the other male judges in the world who are “acerbic when irritated” avoid your attention, yet Judge Eiler, whom you apparently view as a bitch, merited an entire article from you and a national shaming? 

With all due respect, I believe you owe Judge Eiler and the rest of the “acerbic when irritated” female lawyers and judges in the world an apology.

 

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4 Responses to Memo to Yale Law School Professor Adam Cohen: “What Price Waterhouse did is like saying ‘nigger.’”

  1. JohnSteele says:

    I’m a subscriber here. I don’t think that the anonymous criticism of Adam Cohen is fair, and it’s particularly unfair to toss out the notion that he metaphorically used the n-word.

    The strong criticisms of Judge Eiler have been pouring forth for years from a wide variety of observers, and this recent suspension is far from her first brush with official condemnation of her demeanor. And in all the coverage of Judge Eiler, including Cohen’s, I’ve not once seen anyone complain that Judge Eiler wasn’t “feminine enough,” as Cohen’s anonymous critic re-frames it. Rather, the complaint always seems to be that she is abusive and demeaning to pro se litigants.

  2. Pingback: 26 August 2010 (early am) « blueollie

  3. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors Engages In Bizarre Attack on Adam Cohen Article on Discipline of Judge Judith Raub Eiler | Popehat

  4. RF says:

    Not sure why/if this matters, but Adam Cohen is not a professor at Yale Law School.

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