Women’s work

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I heard from some  who thought I was a bit too harsh in my criticism of the New York Times article Coveting Not a Corner Office, but Time at Home.  I admit, I was irked. I was more than irked. First, it seemed to me that the article misrepresented much of the message of Sheryl Sandberg’s book and the drubbing she has taken in some quarters for that book seems to serve mainly to confirm her observations that women are discouraged from being ambitious. Second, the article appeared to try to make the facts fit a predetermined narrative that we all seen some version of hundreds of times. The article rehashed old stereotypes and presents this as “news” or as if it offers some new insight; and it takes an issue that the article admits is one of keen interest to both men and women and frames it as a “women’s issue.”

Hmmm. What’s not to like?

In the meantime, as I was musing on the reactions and the feedback I got, I discovered  there was a part of this article I had missed – a slide show!

The slide show offers a series of photos that see almost like parodies of some Madison Avenue idea of what family life “in the heartland” looks like, or should look like, and is captioned with quotes from the article, as well as additional bits that are in equal parts funny and infuriating. The discoveries the reporter makes are that Ms. Uttech “took time to go out to lunch,’ she has “photos and family artwork” on her desk (are we to infer that Sheryl Sandberg doesn’t?),  and that she has a book reading group that allows her “to be just a woman for a few hours.” (Nothing like reading for making a woman out of you. I suspect it sounded better in context.)

But the clincher for me was this photo. It shows Ms. Uttech loading laundry and offers this helpful insight: “Putting clothes in the dryer. She has learned to be intensely productive in her hours both inside and outside the office. On Fridays she can mix the two, working from home while doing a load of laundry on a quick break.”

Right. Because we know that laundry and household chores are her responsibility too, even though we learned earlier that “Ms. Uttech has also become an increasingly important breadwinner to her family, particularly in the years since the housing bust battered her husband’s construction business.”

But don’t get mad.

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Posted in Academia, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Families, Feminism and the Workplace, Sexism in the Media | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

More push back on Sheryl Sandberg

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In today’s New York Times we are treated to yet another installment of the cultural push back to Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” in an article entitled “Coveting Not a Corner Office, but Time at Home.” The article is really gag-making and offers another example of distorting Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, to be saying something that it does not – that all women do or should aspire to leadership positions.

The premise of the Times article seems to be that many (half? most? all “normal”?) women want to lean back, not into work so that they can have more family time.  And Sandberg’s Lean In provides the strawman against which to contrast the stories of the women interviewed. But it turns out that they don’t so much offer a counterexample of Sandberg’s advice as an illustration of it in action.

Sara Uttech has not spent much of her career so far worrying about “leaning in.” Instead, she has mostly been hanging on, trying to find ways to get her career to accommodate her family life, rather than the other way around. Ms. Uttech, like … dozens of other middle-class working mothers interviewed about their work and family lives, [] finds climbing a career ladder less of a concern than finding a position that offers paid sick leave, flexible scheduling or even the opportunity to work fewer hours.

Uh… So far it just sounds like the reporter is making an observation that might apply to any number of people in this economy, not a unique problem for women. But wait. Here it comes….

“The ultimate luxury for some of them, in fact (though not for Ms. Uttech), would be the option to be a stay-at-home mother.”

Huh? But “not for Ms. Uttech”? So why is her story being offered up as a counter-example to the advice Sandberg gives in Lean In?

Ms. Uttech wants a rewarding career, but more than that she wants a flexible one. That ranking of priorities is not necessarily the one underlying best-selling books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” which advises women to seek out leadership positions, throw themselves at their careers, find a partner who helps with child care and supports their ambition, and negotiate for raises and promotions.

The red flag here might be in the “not necessarily” above. So is Sandberg’s advice different from or at odds with what Ms. Uttech wants? Let’s see. Ms. Uttech does want a “rewarding” career. She is not saying she doesn’t want to work. She is definitely not suggesting she wants to be a stay-at-home mom. (Presumably, although this is not discussed in the article, she  is also  not interested in being paid less for her work.)  Because she is interested in a “rewarding” career she has

done some of those things, [that Sandberg advises] and plans to do more as her children (two sons, ages 8 and 10, and a 15-year-old stepdaughter) grow older. Already she has been raising her hand to travel more for trade shows and conferences; last year she made four trips.

Oh, so some of this is contingent on the age of her children. Let’s keep going. What has she done that is “not necessarily” like what Ms. Sandberg would advise? Turns out it is this:

But probably the career move she is proudest of — and the one she advocates the most — is asking her boss to let her work from home on Fridays.

So this is what constitutes bucking the advice Sandberg gives?  Ms. Uttech raised her hand and spoke up, asking for what she thought she needed. Gee! That is way different from what those “elite” women like Sandberg advise.

Of course it is not. Rather than resisting Sandberg’s advice, it appears Ms. Uttech is following it. Taking the initiative to ask for what you need is precisely what Sandberg advises. Lean In opens with an anecdote about Sandberg asking for special, reserved parking spaces at Google for pregnant women when she herself was pregnant. She takes herself to task for not thinking of this need earlier and speculates that “other pregnant women must have suffered in silence, not wanting to ask for special treatment.” (Lean In, p. 4). The rest of the Times article does little to further this notion that those interviewed represent a trend or a feeling that is “not necessarily” what Sandberg would advise.

It turns out that both Ms. Uttech’s direct supervisor and the chief executive of the business she works for are women, the latter, Ms. Bergfeld, doesn’t  have children but  has responsibilities related to a side venture raising sheep and breeding “greater Swiss Mountain dogs” which she accommodates with flextime as well.

[T]he agricultural association’s chief executive, Ellen Bergfeld, had also set the tone that work-life balance was important. Ms. Bergfeld doesn’t have children, but she has demanding responsibilities outside the office raising sheep and breeding Greater Swiss Mountain dogs. Around the time Ms. Uttech first asked permission to work from home, in fact, Ms. Bergfeld boldly left in the middle of a board meeting in Washington because of a family emergency of sorts: her very first puppy litter was about to be born earlier than expected, and her “city boy” husband at home “couldn’t deal,” she said.

It is hard to know where to begin with this. Ms. Bergfeld qualifies as setting the tone for work-life balance because she breeds dogs and her “city boy” husband can’t “deal” with doggie birth?! This is a “family emergency”? Now before everyone gets up in arms, I want to say, I have a dog. Dogs are important. Indeed, our pets are often like family and maybe we would all be the better for more time with our animals.  But then we might be the better for more time spent with hobbies or cultivating interests other than work as well, not just family. One wonders whether this analogy would have worked if Ms. Bergfeld had been Mr. Bergfeld. And would the reporter have drawn the same analogies if Ms. Bergfeld was leaving in the middle of the meeting for a ballroom dancing class, to shear those sheep, or to take a Judo lesson?  All those things are activities that may enrich work-life balance, but the example looks suspiciously like one intended to draw parallels between dog breeding and birth generally in order to fit Ms. Bergfeld into the narrative of a working “mom” wanting “family time.” (I don’t even know what to do with the “city boy” reference except to say that it seems to reproduce the trope of supposed male incompetence to handle tasks coded “female” – as in, “my husband is hopeless at _______” fill in the blank, “fixing dinner,” “doing the laundry,” “cleaning,”” ironing,” etc.  See Sandberg’s discussion of this phenomenon in Chapter 8 of her book.)

Okay. So Ms. Uttech’s ability to get flexibility in her schedule seems to have perhaps been in part because women were in leadership positions at her job.  But that is totally different from what Sandberg is saying right?

No.

To cap the pregnancy parking story Sandberg writes, “Having one pregnant woman at the top … made the difference. That is Sandberg’s point: Women will not achieve full equality until there are more women in positions of power. One element, just one, of getting more women into those positions, she argues, is for more women to see themselves in those positions and to own their own ambition, to take steps to claim a place at the table and she wants to raise women’s consciousness about the internal barriers to advancement of which they may be unaware, barriers she discovered in herself in the course of her career. She doesn’t assume that means all women should work in a job for pay or that all women should aim to be CEO or President of the United States, that legal reform has no role or that more assertiveness will solve all women’s problems. Not even close. It would be hard for her to be clearer about this, but one suspects that the usefulness of her book for the reactionary response is greater if you don’t actually read what she wrote but instead tell a story about what she supposedly said.

That is its function in the Times story. The lede about “not coveting the corner office” and the suggestion that this is a distinctively female issue is profoundly dishonest. Indeed, throughout the article the reporter is careful to note that work-life balance is actually not just a problem for women but that many men want flex-time as well and that an appropriate work-life balance may be a problem for most Americans, not just women. (Sandberg says this as well, but who cares? That doesn’t make as good a story.)

But those are just obligatory genuflections toward gender balance so the article does not to seem to be as reactionary and retrograde as it is. The subtext (and not very “sub”) of the article is the reassurance that most women aren’t ambitious and to reinforce the notion that most women –  “real” women, “good” women — are mothers or want to be mothers and value their family lives over their careers — just like they are supposed to.

Not everyone aspires to be an executive at Facebook, like Ms. Sandberg, or to set foreign policy, like Anne-Marie Slaughter (a former State Department official and another prominent commentator on what’s holding women back in the workplace), especially when the children are young. Unaccounted for in the latest books offering leadership strategies by and for elite women is the fact that only 37 percent of working women (and 44 percent of working men) say they actually want a job with more responsibilities, according to a survey from the Families and Work Institute. And among all mothers with children under 18, just a quarter say they would choose full-time work if money were no object and they were free to do whatever they wanted, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

There are so many problems with this. Note the word “elite.” Message: These women are not like “normal” or “ordinary” women. Never mind that Sandberg writes, “I am fully aware that most women are not focused on changing social norms for the next generation but simply trying to get through each day.” (Lean In at 169). And never mind that Sandberg and Slaughter actually have somewhat different “takes” on the situation for working women and what is possible. (Slaughter seems to have been rather more jolted by the demands of work outside academia into concluding that women cannot “have it all” – see her Atlantic piece here — while Sandberg, perhaps because she has always worked in the business world, appears more optimistic about having “it all,” although perhaps this is just a matter of defining what “all” constitutes.)

Second, in the survey quoted above the question is phrased as “wanting a job with more responsibilities” as opposed to, say, “more prestige” or “more money.”  It may be that more prestige and money necessarily entail more responsibilities, but  all too often women  have experienced the “more responsibilities” without any additional prestige or money – for example, when women faculty serve on more faculty committees or taking on some advising or administrative project with no additional pay. So the form of the question may have artificially depressed the number of women who would respond in favor of their careers. Moreover, some of the response seems a function of having young children at home, something which is not a permanent condition and should not necessarily be seen as an indication of a lack of ambition, as indeed Ms. Uttech herself is an example of.

Finally, the survey also revealed that almost half of the men surveyed would also refuse “more responsibilities.”  In other words, the truth is that the majority of men as well as women do not aspire to the corner office if it means a lower quality of family life (or indeed just less leisure time.) But that truth doesn’t fit the narrative thrust as well – that women aren’t (shouldn’t be?) as ambitious as these “elite” women would have them be.

The cultural resistance to ambitious women is something Sandberg hoped to address in Lean In.  She most assuredly does not suggest in the book that all women should aspire to “the corner office” or that her own path is one that everyone ought to pursue. Nor, and this is very important, does she in any way suggest that the “solution” to the inequality of representation of women in the workplace, especially in executive or other leadership positions, is simply a function of women “leaning in” more such that women have no one but themselves to blame for their lack of representation in the higher echelons of work, politics, and institutions.

At the beginning of the book Sandberg asserts that women definitely need legal and structural changes to help them achieve their goals. She writes, “We need to eliminate the external barriers to get women into those [leadership] roles in the first place.” All she wants to do in her book is to provide advice and counsel about overcoming the internal barriers “because they are under our control. We can dismantle the hurdles in ourselves today. We can start at this very moment.” (Lean In at 9).  Her relatively modest goal is to offer some advice about how not to get in your own way at work, whatever your ambitions may be, so that the only obstacles you have to deal with are the external ones. And she is very clear that those external obstacles are material, unmistakeable and serious.

“The blunt truth is that men still run the world.” (Lean In at 5).  “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality.” (Id. at 7).  Sandberg says she is not trying to “blame the victim” but rather trying to help women with the advice that would have been helpful to her younger self about that small and circumscribed area which over which women may have some control – their own internal obstacles. But she is not blind to the ways in which we (a) might not even recognize these obstacles at first for what they are because they are so much a part of the culture in which we have been steeped and (b) even if we do recognize them and try “leaning in,” that we might be punished for doing so. She writes, “How individuals view what they can and should accomplish is in large part formed by our societal expectations.” (Lean In at 19).

Professional ambition is expected of men but is optional – or worse, sometimes even a negative – for women. ‘She is very ambitious’ is not a compliment in our culture. Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct. men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful. But women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishments come at a cost.

 (Lean In at 17). Indeed. You might say many who have written about Sandberg’s book, like the reporter in this Times story, seem determined to prove the truth of that observation. Beware! If you write a book encouraging women to own their ambition and to ask for what they want, to “lean in” and ask for a seat at the table, you should be prepared to be labeled “elitist” and to find your message distorted and dismissed. How dare she? Who does she think she is?

NOTE: This article is cross-posted on my blog Oversold. See http://oversoldblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/more-push-back-on-sheryl-sandberg/

NOTE: This is an updated version to correct some typos and make some edits for clarity.

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Posted in Academia, Activism, Employment Discrimination, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Families, Feminism and the Workplace, The Overrepresentation of Men, The Underrepresentation of Women | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Lesbian Husbands and Gay Wives: The Gendering of Gay Divorce

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LGBT people celebrate Supreme Court ruling on DOMA
Protestors rally for marriage equality at the Supreme Court on the day DOMA was ruled unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Lesbian and gay people and their families have much to celebrate in the Supreme Court’s rulings in the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases. While not going so far as to declare a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, Justice Kennedy’s decision in Windsor called out DOMA as an unambiguous expression of animus toward gay people, decrying it for writing “inequality into the entire United States Code.”

But winning at the Supreme Court doesn’t settle the problem of injustice in one fell swoop. The NAACP’s 1954 victory in the Brown v. Board of Education case didn’t put an end to racism in public education. Instead, African American families were confronted with the difficult, often violent task of integrating their children into school districts that had been structured around racial separation in communities that presupposed their children’s inferiority.Rolling out the promise of equality secured for same-sex couples in the Windsor decision will no doubt be met with push-back and hostility, but the process is likely to engender far less violence and resistance than the implementation of the Brown decision did.  In fact, we already have quite a bit of experience integrating same-sex couples into the institution of civil marriage – 12 states and the District of Columbia have lifted the ban on gay marriage and tens of thousands of same-sex couples have gotten marriage licenses as a result.  So what can we expect in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling?

For many lesbian and gay couples this transition from exclusion to inclusion has been long-sought: a marriage license delivers the state’s imprimatur to relationships that have suffered second class status before the law for no reason other than bias.

For others though, the transformation from partners to husbands of husbands and wives of wives isn’t going so smoothly.  Most straight couples have always seen marriage as the natural end point of a serious committed relationship.  Not so with same-sex couples.  Long accustomed to organizing our intimate lives well outside law’s reach, our relationships have been less influenced by the magnetic pull of the marital form.   Gay and lesbian couples have innovated a range of commitments to one another: sometimes monogamous, sometimes not; sometimes sharing assets, sometimes not; sometimes committing forever, sometimes not, sometimes sharing parenting responsibilities, sometimes not. Many of us treasure the freedom that living outside marriage provides while also recognizing the stigma and discrimination that laws barring same-sex marriage created.

Now that marriage is increasingly possible for same-sex couples, new spouses will find themselves governed by a set of legal rules that allocate rights and responsibilities and distribute and redistribute property in ways that were developed with heterosexual relationships in mind.  After all, marriage has been one of society’s most gendered institutions.  In the bad old days, husbands were expected to be breadwinners while wives stayed home, took care of the kids, and kept the household running.  Feminist reforms in the last 50 years pushed marriage law to come to terms with the gender inequality that flows from these rigid roles of husbands and wives.   Modern rules of support within marriage and rules of distribution upon divorce are designed to correct the underlying structural gender inequality that left wives penniless and husbands well-off after divorce.  In a relationship where the wife stays home to take care of the kids and the house while the husband builds a career, the old rules would treat his investment in his career and his wage labor market power as “his” to take with him at the end of the marriage, while the wife’s failure to invest in her own labor market power would be a “cost” she would have to absorb herself.  Modern rules of equitable distribution treat the wife’s work at home as integral to the husband’s ability to better his career, and as such divorce law now considers his wage labor market power as a marital asset to be divided fairly between the two spouses.

The fairness of modern rules that take note of gender-based role specialization in marriage seem hard to deny, but it is worth noting that such a rule takes the gendered specialization as a given and then corrects for it afterwards, at divorce – thus incentivizing a division of labor where one spouse works at home and the other works at the office. But how will the rules that are sensitive to the disadvantage women often suffer in marriage impact same-sex couples when they chose to marry – or more aptly – divorce?

Most of the political discussion within the gay community has centered on gaining the right to enter the institution of marriage, putting off the uncomfortable conversation about what should happen if the marriages end.  To be sure, marriage brings with it a bundle of rights and responsibilities, not to mention social respect and dignity, which many in the gay community yearn for deeply.   But getting married also means living by the rules of marriage and divorce: ending a relationship will no longer be a privately negotiated matter.  Divorce law sets the rules of separation and judges decide how those rules are applied.

At the point of divorce, family court judges will be inclined to apply the rules of equitable distribution of the marital assets in ways that are familiar to them – such as ensuring that the weaker party, usually the “wife,” is not unduly disadvantaged.  Some gay men have resisted this kind of gendering when their marriages end, choosing to forego entitlement to an even share of the couple’s wealth upon divorce.  They’d rather leave the relationship with their masculinity intact than accept a payment that might turn them into a “wife.”  On the other hand, some lesbians welcome the legal advantage of being treated like the wife. Consider two women who have lived together for many years, each contributing to joint household expenses but otherwise keeping their finances separate.  When they marry they make clear in a pre-nuptial agreement the desire to continue this arrangement. Yet when they break up, the law of divorce tends to favor the lesbian wife who argues that the pre-nuptial agreement should be ignored—the law would, instead, push the couple to divide both members’ assets more evenly.  In heterosexual divorces, there is a presumption against the enforceability of pre-nuptial agreements where the weaker party, usually the wife, waives her right to equitable distribution or community property. Should there be the same presumption in a same-sex divorce? In a same-sex couple, would a court be justified in overriding a wife’s “choice” to forgo a claim on her spouse’s assets? As a matter of policy, judges in divorces see their job as looking out for the weaker party, but the spectre of same-sex couples marrying raises the hard question of what it means to be “weaker” in a context where gender-based power is not creating an unequal playing field for the two parties negotiating rights and responsibilities in a marriage   Those in our community who regard marriage as entailing an inflexible set of rules that equalize resources available to the divorcing couple might support having divorce law override a pre-nup that is less generous to the lesbian wife.

Yet others, myself included, worry that the diverse, non-traditional relationships and families we formed before marriage was a possibility will be shoe-horned into a one-size-fits-all kind of justice, slotting gay men and lesbians into the pre-determined gender roles of marriage: husbands and wives.  Gay and lesbian couples prize how we’ve disorganized gender roles in our relationships in ways both mundane and significant: there usually isn’t one partner who just happens to do the driving, manage the family’s finances, and teach the kids how to the throw a ball, while the other just happens to do the grocery shopping, get the food on the table, and clean up runny noses.  We mix it up.  It’s not obvious that family law is equipped to adjudicate fair separations of same-sex couples when it encounters the ways we’ve busted out of gendered notions of relationship, responsibility, and family.  Even worse, modern divorce law may end up gendering us into “wives” and “husbands” because that’s all it is equipped to recognize.

Even if gender-based inequality does not characterize same-sex relationships to the same degree as heterosexual relationships, there are other forms of inequality between same-sex couples about which the law should take note, such as differences in race, class, and citizenship status.  Marriage law can be a force for good in checking any inclination the more advantaged party may have to exploit their spouse’s vulnerability.  But family court judges are less comfortable addressing these inequities, preferring to focus on eradicating gender-based disadvantage.

The Supreme Court’s marriage decisions signal a momentous and pivotal moment in American history: one that repudiates public policy motived by open dislike of gay people.  Yet these cases ought to motivate a range of thorny conversations within the gay community about what we expect from marriage and what marriage expects from us.

Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School

Reprinted from The Nation

 

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Windsor Same-Sex Marriage Aftermath: Everyone Just Sue the Bastards

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Cross-posted at The Faculty Lounge.

In 2004, after Massachusetts became the first state in the country to allow same-sex marriage, the ACLU distributed a memo warning people against bringing new same-sex marriage litigation.  It was titled “Don’t Just Sue the Bastards.”

As you can see if you follow the link, the memo argues that mid-2004 was not the right time for everyone to go into court making claims of marriage equality. The memo raises three reasons: 1) the risk of losing cases; 2) the risk of setbacks longterm; and 3) the less-than-certain odds at the Supreme Court.  The memo is a great snapshot in time in the movement for marriage equality, and  I love teaching it for the interesting issues of social movement strategy and legal ethics that it raises.

But, that’s a discussion for another time.  In the wake of last week’s decision in Windsor, I’m thinking of this memo again but in a different way — that the best move forward for marriage equality at this point would be the complete opposite strategy.  Thus, the title of this post – Everyone Just Sue the Bastards.

Let me make this clear – I am in no way currently connected to any of the groups strategizing or litigating this issue.  I am, however, a long-standing and huge proponent of marriage equality, and after Windsor, I think every gay or lesbian couple who wants to get married should file federal lawsuit in every state that doesn’t allow gay marriage.  Let a thousand (or tens of thousand) lawsuits bloom!

The upsides are obvious.  I’ll break them out here:

Windsor: Windsor has excellent language about equality and the importance of marriage.  The language is preceded by Justice Kennedy’s usual homage to federalism, but the part of the opinion about equality and marriage does most of the work.  Any lawyer worth his or her salt will be able to use that language to make the previously-very-strong constitutional argument for same-sex marriage even stronger.

Easy work: And that work isn’t going to be that hard.  Beyond adding Windsor into the mix, the legal arguments are already very well developed and briefed.  Every lawyer taking a same-sex marriage case need only look to the excellent briefing in the Supreme Court (by the parties and some of the amici) to make the strongest arguments possible for same-sex marriage.  No one has to reinvent the wheel here.  They just have to add the language from Windsor and the pleadings are taken care of.  Certainly there will be more state-specific work, but so much is already done.

Back to the Supremes in a better posture: Bringing thousands of cases in states that prohibit same-sex marriage AND have government officials who will defend the cases will avoid the Perry problem.  Perry, as we all know, was a missed opportunity to get the Supreme Court to announce equality for all.  Other cases without the procedural issues from that case are needed, so litigants need to sue for a license in the 37 states that still prohibit same-sex marriage to get a case working its way to the Supreme Court.  And given Windsor, it’s very likely a proper case before the Court would win.

Lower court wins: Along the way, litigants may just win.  As we saw in Perry, district courts and circuit courts might decide that the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage.  More winning decisions in federal court will certainly help the cause.

Expensive for discriminating states:  More litigation will also force states that continue their discriminatory practices to spend money to defend them.  They want to continue to have a policy of inequality?  Make it expensive.  Make them defend hundreds of lawsuits in different district courts across the state.  Even if the cases are consolidated, they’ll be expensive for the state to defend against all the parties throughout every stage of litigation.

Keeping the issue alive:  Same-sex marriage is a on a roll.  Windsor and the reinstatement of marriage in California come on the heels of the electoral victories in November 2012 (Washington, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota) and the legislative victories in early 2013 (ColoradoDelaware).  More cases bubbling up to the Supreme Court will keep the issue alive and in the news.  A massive wave of cases would do that even more so.

More stupid defenses of the law:  I have yet to see a well-reasoned defense of marriage inequality, but forcing states to defend these laws will undoubtedly bring out all different qualities of defense.  There will certainly be non-offensive statements that are within the realm of reasonable debate, but there will also just as certainly, as we saw with many of the amicus briefing in the Supreme Court, be the absurd, offensive, and downright ludicrous.  (Think, in a different realm, about “legitimate rape,” women “shut[ting] that whole thing down,” masturbating fetuses, and rape kits that allow women to “get cleaned out.”)  These comments will help move the needle even further toward equality.

Are there downsides?  Sure.  Nothing’s without downsides.  But, compared to 2004, we’re in a different place.  In 2004, the ACLU was concerned about having losing cases on the books.  They were concerned what that would do longterm.  Well, we know the answer now.  The highest courts in Washington, Maryland, and New York all rejected marriage equality claims.  Yet, all three of those states have since changed to a system of marriage equality.  There are losing cases on the books from other states too, such as in Arizona state court and Nevada federal court, but that didn’t stop the Supreme Court from coming out the right way in Windsor.  These cases also haven’t stopped popular opinion from shifting dramatically in favor of equality on this issue.  In other words, we’ve had the losses, but the movement is continuing full-steam ahead.

What about the risk in the Supreme Court?  As I wrote above, after Windsor, it’s hard to argue that the Court will issue a ruling against same-sex marriage.  Maybe they aren’t ready to rule for same-sex marriage, as we saw in Perry, but a ruling against same-sex marriage seems out of the question.  And any case started now will take at least a couple of years to get to the Court, by which time Windsor will have sunk in and the world will not have imploded, popular opinion will continue to change in favor of equality, and maybe the Court personnel might change for the better too.  The last is certainly a wildcard, but the other two are not.

Finally, maybe it’s time to turn attention away from marriage and to other goals of the movement for LGBT equality.  There has certainly been a lot of criticism of all the money and effort that has been expended toward the claimed assimilationist goal of marriage and not to, what some feel are more pressing, the concerns of employment discrimination, hate crimes, poverty, transgender rights, and more.  While I agree these are all important goals, I think you can fight multiple things at once.  And if it really is about fighting one issue at a time, it wouldn’t make sense to stop climbing K-2 three-quarters to the top to then start climbing Everest.

Bottom line here is that the downsides from 2004 are much less now than they might have been then.  The remaining 37 states need to feel the pressure, and thousands of litigants can keep that pressure on.  The time is now.

Everyone just sue the bastards.

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Media Literacy: About Face

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I have my doubts about how effective media literacy efforts alone can be at combating gender stereotypes. It seems like an uphill battle in the current environment. But About-Face is one organization that is trying to do something. I blogged about it here over on my blog Oversold.

About-Face is an organization dedicated to helping give women and girls information with which to fight negative images in advertising and to raise consciousness about gender stereotypes in advertising.  They engage in campaigns like this one to raise awareness of the manipulated images in ads like those for Victoria’s Secret which they argue lead to many women and girls having unrealistic expectations about how they should look.

http://www.about-face.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/image-1.jpg

This looks like a good project over all. What is more ambiguous is whether when an advertiser is plugged as a “winner” in the site whether it just converts the cite into a promotional arm for the business in question even though other ads might not be as good. Still, this seems to be a worthwhile endeavor. Check out their website here.

I am not sure if trying to link and enlist commercial efforts doesn’t end up being problematic for a lot of reasons (some of  which I will discuss in a subsequent post on the new Dove campaign), but I generally applaud this effort.

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Posted in Academia, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and the Environment, Feminist Blogs Of Interest | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Women in the Texas Legislature: Lessons in Individual Actions that Serve to Empower Movements

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Thank you to Senator Wendy R. Davis and to Senator Leticia Van de Putte for, among other things, standing up for equality.  It may have only been a battle and not a war, but Senator Davis’ filibuster of the Texas anti-abortion bill sent home a message that women will not be silenced.  Senator Van de Putte joined Senator Davis on the floor of the Texas Legislature and with one question incited a crowd of protesters, who roared past the midnight deadline for passage of the bill thereby killing it.  Whatever people think of the bill, the events were lessons in advocacy and self-empowerment.  It was the American revolutionary way on display for all to see; the “People’s Filibuster” was live-streamed.  And that day in the Texas Legislature (June 25, 2013), one woman, joined by another, led a movement.

In response to Senator Davis’ win, Governor Rick Perry leveled a personal attack against her.  Speaking at the National Right to Life Convention, Governor Perry, in a backhanded compliment, referred to Senator Davis’ personal life.  He stated:  “She is the daughter of a single woman.  She was a teenage mother herself.  She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate.  It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example . . . .”  Senator Davis immediately responded and let everybody know that she will not be intimidated by a man who attacks her personally (even if he attempts to disguise his attack as a compliment) and thinks that he should decide what is best for women.  She tweeted more than 100,000 followers saying, ‘Today Governor Perry shamefully attacked me and my family, further exposing his belief that he knows what’s best for Texas women.’”

Governor Perry and his apologists can try to squirm out of the intent of his message by camouflaging his intentions and making excuses, now that he has been called on it.  However, the video shows the delivery of his words and reveals the agenda behind his rhetoric.  He was speaking before a group where many look down on people of different life experiences.  Condescendingly, he emphasized the word “eventually” to qualify how Senator Davis earned her law degree.  He put the finishing touch on his personal attack when, in an obviously patriarchal manner, he chastised her for not learning “from her own example.” 

Governor Perry is wrong.  Senator Davis learned from her experiences, which is why she has become the formidable woman she is today—the woman who stood up to those in control for eleven hours to filibuster the anti-abortion bill.  Lt. Gov. Dewhurst tried to stop the running of the clock by deciding that Senator Davis’ discussion of mandatory ultrasound testing, in reference to an abortion bill, was “off-topic.”  This was a clear illustration of how the privilege to make arbitrary and subjective decisions encourages abuse of power at the hands of the decision-makers.  Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s decision was an attempt to silence Senator Davis and, ultimately, a means to try to achieve the desired final outcome: passage of the anti-abortion bill. There was even an effort to alter the timestamp of the voting record, but news organizations were watching and they blew the whistle on the discrepancy. Senator Van de Putte has called for an investigation.

Fortunately, Senator Davis was not alone.  When Lt. Gov. Dewhurst halted Senator Davis’ filibuster, Senator Van de Putte stood up and in a powerful voice asked:  “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”  She had become frustrated after being ignored by her colleagues when she was trying to speak on the matter.  After all, she had driven directly from her father’s burial to oppose the abortion bill.  During an interview, Senator Van de Putte explained that she had to scream in order to be recognized.  Her assertiveness is what the protesters needed to rally them to battle and victory.  They immediately let their voices be heard in unison and ran out the clock.  During an interview, Senator Davis called Senator Van de Putte “a true heroine.”  Senator Van de Putte later acknowledged that she was emotionally drained and had to be encouraged by another woman to speak up.

For more about Senator Davis, read Who is Wendy Davis? by Lydia DePillis. For more about Senator Van de Putte, read Latina Legislator: Leticia Van de Putte and the Road to Leadership, written by Sharon Navarro.  I hope that these women’s advocacy inspires more Americans to join in a comprehensive movement of equality for all and to stand up with others whenever we witness injustice and inequality.

–Maritza Reyes

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Posted in Academia, Activism, Employment Discrimination, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Families, Feminism and Law, Feminism and Politics, Feminism and the Workplace, If you're a woman, Justice?, Reproductive Rights | Comments Off

Thank You, Edie Windsor!

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Let freedom ring.

-Bridget Crawford

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Where Are the Liberal Justices on Gay Rights?

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Cross-posted on The Faculty Lounge

In re-reading the marriage cases this afternoon, something struck me: where are the liberals?

There are six opinions in the two cases.  Justices Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Windsor, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Alito writing dissents.  Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion in Perry with Justice Kennedy writing the dissent.

The four liberals joined Justice Kennedy in Windsor but each was silent about their own thoughts.  Three of the liberals joined Chief Justice Roberts in Perry (Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan).  Justice Sotomayor joined Justice Kennedy’s dissent.  Each was silent about their own thoughts on this case as well.

Why does this matter?  Presumably, at least one of these four has some view of the Constitution that endorses a more robust view of gay rights than Justice Kennedy.  Kennedy has certainly been a proponent of gay rights, but not in a way that has changed the level of scrutiny and put discrimination based on sexual orientation on par with discrimination based on sex or race, a central cause in current-day LGBT advocacy.  In fact, Kennedy hasn’t ever been really clear about how exactly he is analyzing discrimination against gays and lesbians.  His opinions are full of lifting rhetoric, but are short on clear analysis that helps future litigants and judges.

Without any of the liberals writing separately, we don’t have any official statement in the Supreme Court Reporter from any Justice arguing that sexual orientation discrimination in all of its forms is odious to the Constitution.  We don’t have any Justice with a ringing endorsement of equality for LGBT people.  We don’t have any Justice making the strong case for marriage equality.

By remaining silent, not only are the liberal Justices depriving us from learning their particular views, but they are depriving future litigants the opportunity to use their strong reasoning to further their cause.  After all, the logic in today’s concurring opinions often becomes the logic in tomorrow’s majority opinion.

What’s even more troubling about this is that this appears to be a trend.  In its history, the Court has issued four decisions advancing the cause of gay rights — Windsor today striking down DOMA, Perry today rejecting the appeal of the decision finding Prop 8 unconstitutional (I’ll give the Court the benefit of the doubt here by calling Perry a case advancing gay rights), Lawrence 10 years ago rejecting Texas’s sodomy statute, and Romer 17 years ago finding Colorado’s Amendment 2 unconstitutional.

Combined in those cases there have been 12 separate opinions.  Not a single one was written by anyone to the left of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  (Kennedy has written 4 times, Scalia 3 times, O’Connor 2 times, and Thomas, Alito, and Roberts each 1 time.)

Of course, when it comes down to it, the liberals on the Court owe the public nothing other than their votes.  In that regard, this current batch of liberal Justices has reliably voted for gay rights since 1996, and that should be celebrated.

But, it really would be wonderful if one of them had stepped up with a resounding call for gay equality in any one of these cases.  Instead, all we get from them is silence.

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Israel Faces a New Front of Segregation

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Two female soldiers were recently punished because one was braiding the other’s hair outside of the tent. A religious soldier complained that this was an immodest behavior, and the two were disciplined. The public uproar made the military reverse their conviction.  During Israel’s “Pillar of Defense” operation in Gaza, a sign was seen in one shelter in Jerusalem: “This shelter is for men only.” Such cruel and dehumanizing practices are where Israeli society is headed. How did Israel get here?

Taking Israel’s political commentators and pollsters by surprise, Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, won 19 out of 120 mandates, second only to Halikud-Beytenu. The central demand of Lapid during the coalition-building negotiations was that the government introduce an “equal burden” reform. This is a code phrase for ending the effective waiver that exempts ultra-orthodox men from military service. When Israel was established, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion agreed to release a handful of religious men from the military. Instead, these men would study torah full time, carrying the torch of the pre-Holocaust Yeshiva life. Over the decades, this waiver became the way out for most ultra orthodox men – about 70,000 per year. Lapid’s demand, then, struck a sensitive chord. Many Israelis are enraged by the idea that some groups are categorically exempt from the risk of death and the expenditure of precious youth in military service. The bitterness towards the ultra-orthodox grows even deeper due to their low participation rate in the labor force, and the fact that many live on government welfare. Lapid’s voters, the middle class productive taxpayers who struggle to make ends meet, are thus seeking a more balanced distribution of national effort.

One factor goes almost unnoticed in the governmental efforts to integrate the ultra-orthodox: the severe damage to sex equality that such integration supposedly requires. Policymakers believe that in order to draw the ultra-orthodox into the military and the labor market, they must be provided with conditions that meet strict religious demands: namely, sex-segregated environments.

The broad assumption that sex segregation is a necessary evil has prompted the military to establish “women-sterile” units for ultra-orthodox men. These men neither serve alongside women nor stationed in co-ed bases. They also never receive instructions from women through the military radio, for women’s voices may lead to sinful thoughts. Ironically, this sidelining of Israeli women comes just when they begun achieving substantial equal opportunities in the military, with more combat and commanding roles open to them.

Academia is another area in which sex segregation is expanding. In recently years, almost every public university and college in Israel has opened sex-segregated degree programs. Such programs, which often receive governmental subsidies, are deeply troubling.

In most programs, male students are promised that they will not be taught by female lecturers (but male professors do teach women). For deans and staff developers, women then become less attractive as faculty members because they are less employable. This adds another hurdle to the already fragile and imperfect sex equality in the employment market.

One might hope that these students would be unwittingly exposed to general campus life, mingle with people different from them in the cafeteria, or catch a glimpse of a posting on an interesting extra-curricular talk, thereby becoming more exposed to the academic spirit. Alas, these special programs are held far from the main campuses, in special facilities inside ultra-orthodox neighborhoods, precluding such exposure.

It is hard to see how subjects such as law, psychology or nursing can be taught while the academic institution agrees to abide by a fundamentally non-egalitarian rule, contradicting basic humanistic and liberal values. Some reports indicate that teachers in those programs are instructed to modify the curriculum as to not challenge students’ worldview, or provoke their rabbis. A psychology instructor recently reported that she was directed to exclude evolution from a course on the human mind. Similarly, it is not unlikely that a constitutional law professor might prefer omitting central cases involving same sex discrimination, or the welfare rights of single mothers.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has understood in Brown v. The Board of Education, separate is never equal. Women who are required to cover their bodies, sit at the back of the bus, walk on the other side of the street, and speak softly to avoid sexual provocation are bound to internalize how their society sees them. Their bodies are marked as sinful, and they have little legitimacy to act, think, create, and express themselves. Moreover, the academic programs open to women are different than those open to men, focusing on traditional “pink collar” jobs such as teaching, or art therapy, whereas men can study subjects such as economics or computer programming.

Advocates of such segregated programs see them as a temporary phase, after which these men and women will become part of the general labor market and Israel’s social texture. But none of these advocates can say at what point Israeli society will draw a red line and refuse to respect segregation demands. Why should a male nursing student agree to treat women patients, for example, if the government catered to his expectation never to come in contact with women throughout his studies? The government already encourages employers to establish women-only call centers or computer-chip assembly sites. Why shouldn’t the ultra-orthodox rightfully feel entitled to work in all-male or all-female environments? The ripple effect on secular women is already felt, and it is bound to expand.

Israeli liberals are too quick to assume that sex segregation is an unavoidable condition to prompt the ultra orthodox to carry more of the social burden. The readiness for cultural pluralism must always raise the question “whose culture are we respecting?” There is ample evidence that many men and women within the ultra orthodox community are adamantly opposed to military, academic, and work-force segregation, just as they were to sex-segregation on buses. In the latter case, the government simply ignored their voices and collaborated with the extremists who used bullying techniques to impose those supposedly more pious religious practices. We should not repeat this mistake.

-Yofi Tirosh

Dr. Yofi Tirosh is a member of the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University

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A feminist perspective on Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.: Essentialism v. Pragmatism

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Last week the Supreme Court held that the federal government cannot force organizations to maintain a policy explicitly opposing prostitution as a pre-condition to obtaining funds to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide.  The decision is widely read as a victory for freedom of expression, since the Court declared that the United States Leadership Act Against HIV/AIDS’s condition to receive funds violated the First Amendment.   First Amendment decisions are not always compatible with general feminist views.  This time, however, the decision has the potential to lend support to women’s rights.

The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 was passed as part of a strategy for the U.S. to become a world leader in combating these pandemics.  The Act imposed two conditions on organizations interested in obtaining funds: 1) the funds could not be used to promote the legalization or practice of prostitution and sex trafficking, and 2) funds could not be used to provide assistance to groups or organizations that did not have an institutional policy that explicitly opposed prostitution and sex trafficking.  The second condition was held unconstitutional, but both conditions are flawed in that they treat prostitution and sex trafficking as two sides of the same coin. By mistakenly conflating sex trafficking and prostitution, the illusion that combating sex trafficking will free women from prostitution is perpetuated.  Arguing in favor of the legalization of sex trafficking amounts to promoting slavery, while working for the legalization of prostitution is something different entirely.  Numerous perspectives exist as to whether women are better off when prostitution is legal or illegal.  One would be hard pressed to find a sex slave who argues in favor of sex trafficking, but many sex workers advocate for the legalization and dignified treatment of their work.

This decision allows for more pragmatic strategies on the fight against HIV/AIDS; always a good sign.  The decision will also allow for organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS to separate positions between sex trafficking and prostitution.  Principled positions may sound good on paper, but, especially when dealing with global problems, pragmatism must prevail.  What works on one side of the Earth may not work on the other.  Sex workers usually argue that legalization and regulation of their occupation would allow them access to better health services and safer work environments.  The essential exploitation that comes with prostitution is always up for discussion.  While we have that discussion, though, we may want to ensure that the least number of women have to work in unsafe conditions, subject to diseases and gender violence.  As I usually tell students, we all want world peace, but it is unlikely we will get it anytime soon.  In the meantime, we must be pragmatic about what we can really get.  A good start is to work side by side with sex workers in combating both HIV/AIDS and sex trafficking.  While the justices of the Supreme Court may not have had this in mind when they signed their opinion, the decision may help to treat prostitution and sex trafficking differently.

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Posted in Academia, Feminism and Law, Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Sex Trafficking | 7 Comments

Aloni on “Relationship Recognition Madness”

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Erez Aloni (Whittier) has published an op-ed,  “Relationship Recognition Madness.” at Huff Po.  Here is an excerpt. He takes on the new FAFSA rules that take account the income of co-habitating unmarried parents in determining a student’s eligibility for financial aid.

Under the purview of the Department of Education, the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will now include in its calculation of students’ eligibility for financial aid the income of cohabiting, unmarried parents — including same-sex spouses that are generally unrecognized by the federal government due to the Defense of Marriage Act. LGBTQ organizations have long fought for this legal change; indeed, our community has accepted it as a political victory…..

This new policy, advocated by LGBTQ organizations, ultimately penalizes unmarried (and same-sex) parents just as do laws that do not recognize these couples (and to clarify, the rule targets only parents who live together to the exclusion of others).

When combined, these two practices — the nonrecognition of unmarried couples in the allocation of rights and benefits and the recognition of them in the calculation of student financial aid — result in a functional financial penalty to nonmarried couples. The net result is economic maldistribution. No law or policy can be judged “fair” or “unfair” without considering this fact.

Read the full piece here.

-Bridget Crawford

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Sepper on “Doctoring Discrimination in the Same-Sex Marriage Debates”

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Elizabeth Sepper (Washington University St. Louis) has posted to SSRN her working paper Doctoring Discrimination in the Same-Sex Marriage Debates,  Indiana L.J. (forthcoming 2014).  Here is the abstract:

As an increasing number of state legislatures legalize same-sex marriage, some religious believers refuse to serve same-sex married couples. In the academy, law and religion scholars frame these refusals as “conscientious objection” to the act of marriage. They propose “marriage conscience protection” that would allow public employees and private individuals or businesses to refuse to “facilitate” same-sex marriages. They rely on the theoretical premise that commercial actors’ objections to marriage are equivalent to doctors’ objections to controversial medical procedures. Their proposal is then modeled on medical conscience legislation, which allows doctors to refuse to perform abortions. Such legislation, they say, would dispel conflicts over same-sex marriage and lead to acceptance of gay couples’ relationships.

This Article argues that same-sex marriage objections lack the distinct and compelling features of conscientious objection recognized by law. It offers the first systemic critique of medicine as a construct for the same-sex marriage debates. It demonstrates that legislative protection of conscientious objection has been limited to life-and-death acts for which the objector has direct responsibility and further justified in medicine by ethical commitments particular to the profession – bases that are absent from the marriage context. By identifying the theoretical foundation of conscientious objection protections, this Article provides the groundwork for distinguishing between conscience claims that can be justified and those that cannot, in medicine and beyond.

This Article further contends that the experience of medical conscience legislation represents a cautionary tale, rather than the success story that marriage conscience proponents claim. Conscience protection in the medical model could actually increase conflict and entrench opposition. Ultimately, these critiques undermine the theoretical and practical foundations of “marriage conscience protection.” They suggest that antidiscrimination law, where we have traditionally balanced religion and equality, constitutes a more useful lens through which to view religious accommodation.

The full paper is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

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Apps Can Teach You Anything: Yes, a Masturbation App

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I’m not making this up:

Forwarded to me by a friend who said he did *not* see this app and think of me (huh?).  Anyway, it’s HappyPlayTime (tag line: “female masturbation made friendly”).  Here‘s the app’s “mission”:

Sexuality is one of the most basic instincts of human beings. Being comfortable with your own sexual pleasure is a prerequisite to both being able to healthily accept pleasure from others, and pleasing others. How can you exchange pleasure with someone else if you don’t understand what your own body likes? That’s why masturbation, and learning how to masturbate is such a fundamental life lesson.

Unfortunately for many women, there has been a cultural stigma that blocks access to self-stimulation. HAPPYPLAYTIME is here to eliminate this barrier as much as possible. By talking openly and lightheartedly about female masturbation, we are taking the first step to becoming truly sexually liberated.

Reader reports welcome.

-Bridget Crawford

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Update on Kaitlyn Hunt Case

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Kaitlyn Hunt, the Florida high school senior accused of a sex offense for a lesbian relationship with a then-14 year old girl has rejected a deal that would have required her to plead guilty to third-degree felony child abuse.

A trial is scheduled for mid-July.

Here is an excerpt from the press release by Ms. Hunt’s attorneys:

Our client is a courageous teenager who chooses not to accept the current plea offer by the State of Florida.

This situation involves two teenagers who are the same sex, involved in a relationship. If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be little or no media attention.

Our client is a model citizen. She was placed in the incubating environment—a school with her fellow classmates. They attend classes and participate in intramural and extracurricular activities together. These fellow classmates eat lunch together and play on the same sports teams. They are allowed to communicate and have contact without barriers. Then, when as is natural, relationships develop between two teenagers in and as a result of the environment created by the State, it leads (in this case) to criminal prosecution.

If this incident occurred 108 days earlier, when Kaitlyn Hunt was 17, we would not be here with our client facing criminal prosecution.

See more news coverage here.

-Bridget Crawford

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Camille Paglia’s Review of Three Academic Studies of BDSM

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Camille Paglia reviews (here) for the Chronicle three recent books:

Three books from university presses dramatize the degree to which once taboo sexual subjects have gained academic legitimacy. Margot Weiss’s Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Duke University Press, 2011) and Staci Newmahr’s Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy (Indiana University Press, 2011) record first-person ethnographic explorations of BDSM communities in two large American cities. (The relatively new abbreviation BDSM incorporates bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism.) Danielle J. Lindemann’s Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon (University of Chicago Press, 2012) documents the world of professional dominatrixes in New York and San Francisco.

These books embody the dramatic changes in American academe over the past 40 years, propelled by social movements such as the sexual revolution, second-wave feminism, and gay liberation….[D]espite the refreshing candor displayed by the three books under review, a startling prudery remains in the way their provocative subjects have been buried in a sludge of opaque theorizing, which will inevitably prevent these books from reaching a wider audience. Weiss, Newmahr, and Lindemann come through as smart, lively women, but their natural voices have been squelched by the dreary protocols of gender studies.

It is unclear whether the grave problems with these books stemmed from the authors’ wary job maneuvering in a depressed market or were imposed by an authoritarian academic apparatus of politically correct advisers and outside readers. But the result is a deplorable waste.

Read the full review here.  It is acerbic, erudite and brutally honest.

-Bridget Crawford

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Fla. Asst. State Attorney Prosecuting High School Senior for Same-Sex Relationship

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There is a petition here at change.org urging the Indian River County (Florida) State Attorney and Assistant Attorney to stop the prosecution of 18-year old Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year old high school senior in a consensual relationship with a fellow 15-year old student.

Here‘s Gawker’s take:

Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old high school senior from Indian River County, Florida, is facing felony charges for engaging in a sexual relationship with another girl at her school.

Kate, then 17, reportedly met the unnamed then-14-year-old toward the beginning of the school year.

The two began dating last September shortly after Kate’s 18th birthday, and their relationship eventually became intimate.

Everything was fine until a few months later, when Kate was suddenly arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery on a person 12-16 years old.

It seems Kate’s girlfriend’s parents found out about the relationship, and went straight to the police.

…Sebastian River High School, where Kate was voted “Student with Most School Spirit,” has taken a similarly prejudiced approach toward dealing with the situation, according to Kate’s father.

First she was kicked off the school’s basketball team by the coach in order to avoid “drama.”

Then, caving to pressure from the parents of Kate’s girlfriend, the school board voted to expel her.

Kate is now faced with a Sophie’s Choice: Accept Assistant State Attorney Brian Workman’s plea deal, which would require her to admit to a felony, spend two years under house arrest, and possibly end up on the sex offender registry for life — or go to trial.

She has until this Friday to decide.

I’d love to know how many 18-year old high school boys in Indian River Country, Florida have been charged with violating the state’s age-of-consent laws.

-Bridget Crawford

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Sexual Behavior and Critics of Consent Theory

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Over (here) at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has in interesting take on whether consent is an appropriate litmus test for measuring ethical sexual behavior. Unfortunately, the article’s title — The Ethics of Extreme Porn: Is Some Sex Wrong Even Among Consenting Adults? — is overly sensational and not especially illuminating of the article’s content.  To be fair, he does start with an evaluation of some pornography, but his subject is sexual behavior of all kinds.

Here is an excerpt:

[Critics of consent] seem to imply (but may or may not believe, were it to come up directly) that consent as a cultural lodestar is a shameful moral abdication, indicative of an age where other, much more important norms have been abandoned. As I see it, the emphasis on consent in today’s sexual morality isn’t decadence. However incomplete, it is a historic triumph. And growing reverence for consent would gradually make our culture radically more moral.

A good read.

-Bridget Crawford

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Corbin on “Compelled Disclosures”

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Carolina Mala Corbin (Miami) has posted to SSRN her article Compelled Disclosures, Ala. L. Rev. (forthcoming).  Here is the abstract:

Courts have faced a wave of compelled disclosure cases recently. By government mandate, tobacco manufacturers must include graphic warnings on their cigarette packages, doctors must show and describe ultrasound images of fetuses to women seeking to abort them, and crisis pregnancy centers must disclose that they do not provide contraception or abortion services. Although applying the same compelled speech doctrine to similar issues, appeals courts have reached very different results in challenges to these laws. Drawing from First Amendment theory, this Article first identifies why compelled disclosures undermine free speech values. It then applies those insights to the specific examples above. In doing so, it examines not only compelled text but the new phenomenon of compelled images, particularly compelled images designed to provoke an emotional response. The Article concludes that recent appeals court decisions have it backwards: It is mandatory abortion counseling laws that offend free speech principles, not laws requiring cigarette warnings or crisis pregnancy center disclosures.

The full article is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

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A Creative Photographer’s Birthday Gift to Her 5 Year-Old Daughter (and the Rest of Us)

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Texas-based photographer Jamie C. Moore wanted to take pictures of her daughter Emma on the occasion of Emma’s fifth birthday.  She writes (here) on her blog:

So my amazing daughter, Emma,  turned 5 last month, and I had been searching everywhere for new-creative inspiration for her 5yr pictures. I noticed quite a pattern of so many young girls dressing up as beautiful Disney Princesses, no matter where I looked 95% of the “ideas” were the “How to’s” of  how to dress your little girl like a Disney Princess. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Disney Princesses, from their beautiful dresses, perfect hair, gorgeous voices and  most with ideal love stories in the mix you can’t help but become entranced with the characters. But it got me thinking, they’re just characters, a writers tale of a princess (most before 1998)…an unrealistic fantasy for most girls (Yay Kate Middleton!).

It started me thinking about all the REAL women for my daughter to know about and look up too, REAL women who without ever meeting Emma have changed her life for the better. My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters. I wanted her to know the value of these amazing women who had gone against everything so she can now have everything. We chose 5 women (five amazing and strong women), as it was her 5th birthday but there are thousands of unbelievable women (and girls) who have beat the odds and fought (and still fight) for their equal rights all over the world……..so let’s set aside the Barbie Dolls and the Disney Princesses for just a moment, and let’s show our girls the REAL women they can be.

Here is just one of the results:

ameliaandemmapostsizelogo

Brava!

Check out the rest of Ms. Moore’s photographs here.

-Bridget Crawford

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Gender and Curse Words

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From Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Moher (via Slate here) :

With the development of feminism, many swearwords have become more equal-opportunity, not less. Bitch can now be applied to men and women, as can cunt. In the 19th century shit as a noun was reserved exclusively for men — the “West Somerset Word-Book” defines it as “a term of contempt, applied to men only,” as in “He’s a regular shit.” Now, women too can work, vote, own their own property, and be called a shit.

When swearwords don’t become more equal-opportunity, they often begin to be used solely for women — Geoffrey Hughes calls this the “feminization of ambisexual terms.” Words such as scold, shrew, termagent, witch, harlot, bawd, and tramp were all at one point in their histories terms for men; furthermore, the terms were usually neutral and sometimes even adulatory. Scold, for example, comes from the Old Norse word for “poet.” When these terms were feminized, they perjorated, going from neutral or positive to insulting. Bugger bucks this trend, too, going from a word used of men and women equally to an insulting term reserved almost exclusively for men.

My anecdotal experience suggests that “b*tch” or “c*nt” are not as “equal opportunity” as the author suggests, but I’m definitely curious to read the full book.

-Bridget Crawford

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Spindelman’s Review of Dale Carpenter’s “Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas”

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Marc Spindelman (OSU) has published Tyrone Garner’s Lawrence v. Texas at 111 Mich. L. Rev. 1111 (2013).  Here is the abstract:

Dale Carpenter’s Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas has been roundly greeted with well-earned praise. After exploring the book’s understanding of Lawrence v. Texas as a great civil rights victory for lesbian and gay rights, this Review offers an alternative perspective on the case. Built from facts about the background of the case that the book supplies, and organized in particular around the story that the book tells about Tyrone Garner and his life, this alternative perspective on Lawrence explores and assesses some of what the decision may mean not only for sexual orientation equality but also for equality along the often- intersecting lines of gender, class, and race.

Lawrence emerges in this light not as a singular victory for lesbian and gay civil rights, or perhaps even for civil rights more generally, but as a complexly mixed opinion about and for equality in society and under law.

The full review is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

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Persad on “What Marriage Law Can Learn from Citizenship Law (and Vice Versa)”

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Govind Persad (Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania; PhD Candidate, Philosophy, Stanford University) has posted to SSRN What Marriage Law Can Learn from Citizenship Law (and Vice Versa)Here is the abstract:

Citizenship and marriage are legal statuses that generate numerous privileges and responsibilities. Legal doctrine and argument have analogized these statuses in passing: consider, for example, Ted Olson’s statement in the Hollingsworth v. Perry oral argument that denying the label “marriage” to gay unions “is like you were to say you can vote, you can travel, but you may not be a citizen.” However, the parallel between citizenship and marriage has rarely been investigated in depth. This paper investigates the marriage-citizenship parallel with a particular focus on three questions prompted by recent developments in law and policy:

1) Should we provide second-best statuses? Some couples — in particular gay and lesbian couples — have been offered permanent statuses, like civil unions, that bear legal privileges but fall short of full marriage equality. In contrast, similar differentiations within citizenship are generally resisted. The history of citizenship may presage the increasing unacceptability of differentiations within status in the gay marriage context. Meanwhile, the history of marriage equality efforts may help present-day citizenship advocates choose legal strategies.

2) Should statuses be a gateway to rights? Some early gay rights advocates unsuccessfully argued that advocates should challenge the primacy of marriage, rather than seek access to the institution. Advocates attempting to expand the rights of current noncitizens face similar choices: should they seek to give current noncitizens greater access to citizenship, or challenge the reservation of important rights to citizens?

3) Can status relationships be plural? Many critics of dual and multiple citizenship argued that allegiance to multiple states was immoral, unadministrable, or both. More recently, polygamous marriage has become a topic of legal and political discourse, first as a foil in anti-gay marriage arguments and later as a political possibility in its own right. I will consider whether polygamous marriage advocates can profitably draw on arguments for multiple citizenship, and how multiple-citizenship advocates should responsibly respond to the analogy with polygamy.

The full paper is available here.  Readers may be interested to know that Persad’s work won the 2012 Michael Greenberg Award for student scholarship from the National LGBT Bar Association.

-Bridget Crawford

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Posted in Feminism and Families, Feminist Legal Scholarship, Immigration | Comments Off

Ben-Asher on “The Lawmaking Family”

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Noa Ben-Asher (Pace) has posted to SSRN her working paper The Lawmaking Family.  Here is the abstract:

 Increasingly there are conflicts over families trying to “opt out” of various legal structures, especially public school education. Examples of opting-out conflicts include a father seeking to exempt his son from health education classes; a mother seeking to exempt her daughter from mandatory education about the perils of female sexuality; and a vegetarian student wishing to opt out of in-class frog dissection. The Article shows that, perhaps paradoxically, the right to direct the upbringing of children was more robust before it was constitutionalized by the Supreme Court in Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925). In fact, the position of U.S. courts on opting-out conflicts has shifted dramatically over the twentieth century. In the early twentieth century, parents mostly prevailed in such conflicts. Today, the state typically prevails. Contemporary conflicts often involve public-school management of health, sexuality, and liberal development of students through surveys, nudges, and mandatory readings. When these techniques infringe on familial liberty, lawmakers lack conceptual tools to respond. A new understanding of familial liberty is needed.

This Article offers that understanding. The approach here is based on the idea of family laws. Family laws are legal systems that families create or adopt to govern their day-to-day lives. These rules exist independently of state laws, and can be religious, such as Amish or Buddhist family laws, or secular, such as feminist or vegetarian family laws. The Article identifies three basic characteristics of family laws: They are (1) general and articulable; (2) grounded in religion, ethics, or morality; and (3) perceived as binding by members of a particular family. The Article argues that, with some limiting principles, lawmaking families should possess a liberty to opt out of programs and policies that conflict with a family law. Through an examination of three different types of family  laws–religious, feminist, and vegetarian–the Article demonstrates how the proposed approach would empower existing lawmaking families. Almost a century has passed since the Supreme Court declared the liberty of parents to educate their children in Meyer v. Nebraska. It is time to breathe new life into this moribund liberty by empowering the Lawmaking Family.

 This is an important theoretical piece. The full paper is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

 

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Angelina Jolie On Preventive Mastectomy

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Actress and activist Angelina Jolie writes about her decision to undergo a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Her op-ed, “My Medical Choice,” lays out her reasons, which include a discussion of the death of her mother from cancer, and her own decision to go public, and is published in the New York Times.

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Student-Teacher Loses Her Job Over SlutWalk

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From the Las Cruces (New Mexico) Sun News (here):

[Theresa] Illgen, 23, appeared in a front-page photograph in the Las Cruces Sun-News wearing a bra and appearing to motivate those who marched to educate students, and the public, about the issue of rape culture and victim blaming. The national march typically includes participants who dress in skimpy clothing who peacefully protest against excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance.

“I didn’t know the picture would be published,” Illgen said. “The next day, I started thinking that there was going to be something that will happen from this.”

During her lunch hour Thursday at Mayfield, Illgen met with a vice principal and counselor at the school who Illgen said, “Told me the best option was to consider my student teaching done.” Illgen was also told to gather her personal belongings and leave Mayfield quietly.

“I was told my actions interfered with student learning,” she said.

Illgen added she was led to believe the decision to cease her student teaching, inhistory and sociology, came from Las Cruces school district officials rather than school administrators.

The offending photo?

(image credit: Robin Zielinski/Sun-News, here)

-Bridget Crawford

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Where are the Women? Stanford Law School “CodeX FutureLaw Conference” Edition

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Check out the line-up for yourself, here. 26 speakers; 25 men.  One woman who is a student.

Conference organizer Tim Hwang said this in a Law.com article about the purpose of the conference. He said the inspiration behind the conference was “what awesome things are people working on [in legal services field] that should be shared more widely?”

He perhaps didn’t say that he only wanted to hear what men were doing, but the impact of the conference line-up is precisely that.

-Bridget Crawford

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After More Than a Century, the Netherlands Gets a King

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For the first time in 123 years, the Netherlands has a male sovereign. Queen Beatrix has abdicated, somewhat ironically on Queen’s Day, paving the way for her oldest son, Willem-Alexander, to become the nation’s king. Beatrix follows in the tradition of her mother, Juliana, who abdicated to make way for her in 1980, as did Juliana’s mother Wilhelmina, who left the throne in 1948 for Juliana. Male tenure in the House of Orange may be a blip: Willem-Alexander’s heir is his daughter Catherine-Amalia, now Princess of Orange. Lining up after her are her two sisters. Photos of female royals (with glittering headgear) celebrating the investiture here from the Daily Mail. In any case, the Dutch sovereign no longer gets a coronation. There’s just a secular ceremony, and a lot of celebration. More coverage from the CBC. the Guardian (with video), Le Monde.

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Defining Pregnancy In Law

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Khiara M. Bridges, Boston University School of Law, has published When Pregnancy Is an Injury: Rape, Law  and Culture, at 65 Stanford Law Review 457 (2013). Here is the abstract.       

This Article examines criminal statutes that grade more severely sexual assaults that result in pregnancy. These laws, which define pregnancy as a “substantial bodily injury,” run directly counter to positive constructions of pregnancy within culture. The fact that the criminal law, in this instance, reflects this negative, subversive understanding of pregnancy creates the possibility that this idea may be received within culture as a construction of pregnancy that is as legitimate as positive understandings. In this way, these laws create possibilities for the reimagining of pregnancy within law and society. Moreover, these laws recall the argumentation that proponents of abortion rights once made – argumentation that one no longer hears and sees in the debates surrounding abortion. However, recent developments in antiabortion argumentation – namely the notion accepted in Carhart II that it is abortion that injures women – counsel the retrieval of the argument that unwanted pregnancies are injuries to women. Thus, the sexual assault laws are means to legitimatize a claim that may serve as an effective counterdiscourse to prevailing antiabortion argumentation.

The exploration proceeds in three Parts. Part I provides an overview of sexual assault statutes that punish more severely perpetrators who cause their victims to become pregnant and suggests that these laws are worthy of cultural analysis because they define pregnancy as an injury and, as such, are wholly at odds with positive constructions of pregnancy. Part II moves the discussion outside of the context of rape. It contends that the definition of pregnancy as an injury does not solely describe women’s experience of pregnancies that result from rape, but generally describes women’s experience of unwanted pregnancy. Indeed, it is the profound unwantedness of the pregnancy that results from rape that makes it an injury. Thus, the criminal law gives legitimacy to a subversive phenomenology of unwanted pregnancy, which may have repercussions for how pregnancy – and abortion – is understood within society. Part III looks at representations of pregnancy in other areas of the law, revealing that the law frequently embodies positive constructions of pregnancy even when negative constructions might be expected. The rare times that the law appears to represent pregnancy subversively are when laws index the social effects of pregnancies. Accordingly, while the law in these instances represents pregnancy as an injury, the injury is to the body politic. Thus, the subversive nature of the representation is mitigated, as it does not endeavor to describe a bodily experience of pregnancy. A brief conclusion follows.

Download the full text of the article from SSRN at the link.

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Posted in Acts of Violence, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Law, Women's Health | Comments Off

Of Husband Hunting and Diamond Mines

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There has been a tremendous dust-up in response to Susan Patton’s (a member of the Princeton class of 1977) letter to the Daily Princetonian.  In her letter, Patton exhorts Princeton women to begin the task of husband hunting in their freshman year, warning them that “[f]or most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”

Below is my response, a version of which was also published in the Daily Princetonian:

I have to say that while I disagree with most of Patton’s assertions, I don’t find them especially offensive. After all, women can take Patton’s advice or leave it. While Patton’s tone does seem overwrought and off key in several respects, I don’t find her message much different from any other piece of alumni advice. In fact, I find myself uneasier with the assumption by some women that Patton’s point of view is one that should be suppressed. I don’t agree with much of what Patton says. But neither do I think that Patton’s view should be silenced. Haven’t men told women to shut up long enough without women telling each other (for it is mostly women doing the silencing) to shut up? I for one think Patton ought to speak louder and longer to her points. If she did, we might engender fuller and more constructive engagement on the issue of women’s family lives.

I am especially uneasy with the class and race privilege evidenced in the outraged responses to Patton’s letter. There seems to be at work here an implicit understanding that elite college women who look for early marriage with classmates (or perhaps for any marriage at all) are turning their backs on stellar opportunities or are being untrue to bedrock feminist principles such as autonomy or equality. This is problematic because although women come in all stripes, too often norms of feminism are shaped by the elite few. Feminism has been and continues to be the province of the wealthy, the white and the well-connected. Many of these women want to have it all or want a larger piece of the pie. Other women might be content to get any of it at all or might be content with some of the crumbs from the pie much less a piece of it. It is difficult to frame a broad-based emancipatory feminist program in the face of such starkly contrasting metaphors for female success.

continue reading the post here

-Lolita Buckner Inniss

cross-post from Ain’t I a Feminist Legal Scholar, Too?

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Posted in Academia, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Families, Race and Racism, Socioeconomic Class | Comments Off

All-woman team from Ethiopia looks to compete in Jessup moot competition

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Here’s an excerpt from a message Diane Marie Amann has posted over  on IntLawGrrls:

“For the 1st time in history, a team made up solely of women will represent Ethiopia in the final rounds of the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition, which begin this Sunday, March 31, in Washington, D.C.

“Competing for Ethiopia will be 5 women, Adiam Zemenfes, Aklile Solomon, Liilnna Kifle, Maya Fresenay, Mintwab Afework, all of whom are students at the Addis Ababa University School of Law. They’re coached by a 6th woman, Blen Sahilu. The team is described in an ASIL Cable by New York Law School student Kienan D. Christianson, as follows:

 These women are exceptional students and are ranked at the top of their class. Moreover, they are dedicated leaders and volunteers for the campaign ‘To End violence against Women’ known as the ‘Yellow Movement.’

“But there’s a hitch: The Jessup does not fund competitors, so the team has been fund-raising to assure its way to D.C. These women are still $4,000 short of their goal. If you’d like to support their efforts, please donate here, typing “Ethiopian Moot Court team” in the “on behalf of” box. I did.”

Ditto.

 

 

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Parade of Male Dean Candidates

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As a soon-to-be-tenured female faculty member, I have been watching the news of recent law school dean appointments at Connecticut, UNLV, IU-Indy, and Northern Kentucky with interest. Three points stand out among all the announcements. First, these candidates are all distinguished and deserving candidates. [My own institution, IU-Indy, is fortunate to have Andy Klein at the helm to make some difficult decisions that lie ahead.] Second, one must have a certain degree of courage to agree to guide legal education in this time of change and challenge. Finally, one cannot help but notice that all of the appointments are male.

I cannot help but wonder if the source of this gender disparity  is the fact that women are relucant to take the helm of institutions where there may be inadequate resources or a faculty culture that is resistant to change. Or is the problem that the key decision-makers don’t believe that women have the leadership credentials to manage schools in difficult times? I do find it difficult to believe that in 2013, women are still regularly excluded from the leadership ranks of law schools. Of course, the empiricists will point out that there is a problem with a sample size of only four. But my problem with this particular sample size is that it conveys the impression that women are continuing to be shut out at the top ranks of legal academia.

Because of issues of confidentiality, we will never know whether any of the female candidates brought back for campus interviews for these positions selected to make the process look fair on the surface or whether they were “real” candidates that were the subject of true deliberation. It would be helpful to know how many women applied for each of these jobs and how much consideration did they receive. Finally, if experience as an associate dean is the required gateway to a deanship, do certain law schools stand out in terms of the number of women they have appointed to associate dean positions. Do others lag behind?

-Shawn Marie Boyne

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Colorado Civil Unions: Marriage Minus

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Did anyone notice that Colorado’s new civil union law purports to create a status that is the legal equivalent of marriage–except that parties to a civil union are prohibited from filing a joint state income tax return? (See § 14-15-117.) The purported reason for this is that couples who are not “married” for federal tax purposes cannot file a joint federal income tax return and the Colorado state income tax piggybacks on the federal income tax. But other states that have civil unions or same-sex marriage don’t seem to have a problem with requiring joint filing by same-sex couples (however much in the way of extra administrative burdens and extra costs it might add). (See Carlton Smith & Edward Stein, Dealing with DOMA: Federal Non-recognition Complicates State Income Taxation of Same-Sex Relationships, 24 Colum. J. Gender & L. 29, 33 (2012).) This also ignores the fact that different-sex couples (who are eligible to enter into a Colorado civil union) are apparently (at least according to the IRS) eligible to file joint federal income tax returns so long as their relationship is the legal equivalent of marriage. But will different-sex parties to a Colorado civil union now be allowed to file a joint federal return if their relationship is something less than a marriage? What about same-sex parties to a Colorado civil union if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to strike down section 3 of DOMA?

-Anthony Infanti

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Marc Stein’s “Sexual Injustice” Available in Paperback

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Marc Stein’s Sexual Injustice: Supreme Court Decisions From Griswold To Roe is now available in paperback from the University of North Carolina Press.

The publisher gives the following infor for professors interested in course adoption:

To order a print exam copy,   email me the name, enrollment, and semester of your course. Then go to the   book’s page, click ADD   PAPER, and enter 01EXAM at   checkout. To order by mail, use our exam copy order   form. Print exam copies are $6.00. 

To order an   electronic exam copy, visit our electronic exam   copy request page, fill out the form, and submit it. If it is available,   a book previewer widget will be sent to you.

 

You may also purchase   this book at 20% off by entering 01ENEW at checkout.

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On the Importance of Recognizing Women’s Role in Parenting

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I read with interest the post Why we should be careful about taking the ‘maternity’ out of ‘parental leave’ over at Blue Milk.  I think the piece nicely summarizes some of the conservative undercurrents in the arguments surrounding gender-neutral parental leave policies and other parenting conversations:

It presents care as a transferable and marketable commodity, further marginalising questions about the impact different forms may have on those who depend on care the most (in this case, babies). It also fails to challenge work-practices that demand impossibly long working hours, and measurements of performance that ultimately devalue children and caring responsibilities.

Moreover, as an example of a dominant strand of feminism in Australia, the gender-equity paradigm is paradoxically de-gendered. Indeed, Cannold argues for ‘the parenthood conundrum’ to be ‘articulated in gender-neutral ways’. This, however, taps into a productivist ethos entirely consistent with the demands of the neoliberal marketplace, with caregivers replaceable or interchangeable in much the same way as employees in workplaces. In addition, a feminism promoting gender neutrality (in the name of equality) denies the bodily experience of women after they have given birth. Though a boon to the productive workplace, the breast pump may not necessarily protect the emotional needs of women and babies. To deny that baby leave is a women’s issue, to decouple ‘maternity’ from ‘leave’, is also to conceal human vulnerability and dependence. It reproduces what Iris Young has called ‘the normalising but impossible ideal’ that we are autonomous, unencumbered self-sufficient individuals, somehow beyond human dependency.

Emphasis in the original.

I’m all in favor of getting more men involved in caregiving, and recognizing men’s contributions as caregivers, but we also need to be conscious of what gets left out of the conversation when parenting or even mothering is constructed as gender-neutral by some scholars.

The full post (here) is worth a read.

-Bridget Crawford

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Student Reflection: Obstacles to Gender Equality at Work and Home, in Reaction to Rosenblum

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The following is a guest post by Margaret Serrano, a student at Pace University School of Law (JD expected 2013).

Pace Law School Professor Darren Rosenblum posted yesterday to his Huffington Post Blog (here) to criticize Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In for failing to recognize the “central role played by public policy” in to increasing gender equality in the work place. “Reversing centuries of corporate sexism will not happen just because women wish it,” he explains. Private sector focused efforts such as those advanced by Sandberg “are doomed to fail,” he predicts, “because they ignore how our legal system establishes rules to stack men into high-power jobs and women onto the ‘mommy track’…only if the state ‘leans in’ to shift public policy and expectations will people be permitted to contribute to work and family, without regard to one’s sex.”

I reacted strongly to this post (not to mention Rosenblum’s 2010 Unsex Mothering Article) because it stirred up so many of the stereotypes that have been affecting my own life in the five years since I became a parent. In my family, beyond the breastfeeding, which, of course I do, my husband is the one who spends more hours of the day with our children, while I take on more professional and financial activities and responsibility.

As such, we have endured years of comments from friends, relatives, and passers-by to the effect that my husband must be some kind of a lazy bum for wanting to spend so much time in the home. Then there are those like Hanna Rosin who feel a need to point out how undesirable and sexually unappealing men who care for children are, despite advocating that more of them should take on this role (see her 2012 book The End of Men and the Rise of Women, especially the chapter “The Seesaw Marriage: True Love (Just for Elites),” replete with anecdotes of men who feel emasculated by their role in the home sphere, and women who look down on them in various different ways because of it). Also, pretty much every time my husband comes home from taking our children somewhere, he tells stories of nosy strangers who feel entitled to ask him if he has thought of whether our not our crying baby is hungry (would that not obviously be anyone’s first thought?!), and who always want to know where the baby’s mother his (because, of course, I am really the one whose responsibility this really is if our child is crying).

On the flip side of this same coin, I have had it suggested many times that I am an irresponsible woman, or at best silly and naive, for not having had the good sense to have married a wealthy man who can take care of me while I can stay home with my children. Further, I have received much purportedly well-meaning advice to the affect that my children will necessarily turn out stupider or emotionally scarred because I have periodically sent them to daycare settings. These are all very typical experiences in the mommy wars; I know I haven’t been a particular target of abuse.

Until I became pregnant with my daughter Jasmine in 2007, I more or less unexaminedly believed that today’s world was free of gender discrimination, because everyone seemed to express feelings that it should be and, well, hadn’t we all come a long way? Then, of course, I became a parent and I quickly learned, even before I gave birth, that the world may claim to be ready to treat women as equals to men, but not if children are involved. I have been on about 14 job interviews while visibly pregnant (thankfully each string of interviews did eventually lead to a job, both in 2007 and in 2012). It was interesting to observe each of the interviewers squirm around the fact that he (yes, actually all but two were men!) was dying to ask me how in God’s name I planned to do good work for him once I had the baby. Many of them even went ahead and asked, or had their secretaries ask me, purportedly outside of the interview. Then, I had to wonder if those who didn’t ask were worse, because that probably meant they were writing me off without the chance to explain how I planned to do it.

Around this same time I started to notice that most women who do make it to elevated professional positions, let’s say Supreme Court justices or corporate board members, don’t have children. Things like this made me begin to wonder why there aren’t quotas, not for women, but rather in favor of people who are caregivers for children? Wouldn’t that be what would really show that society is really supporting families and the best interest of children? If that can’t happen in our society, aren’t we then setting a clear expectation that all people choose between having families and fully participating in the professional world? Are we OK with that as a society? Isn’t there a valuable perspective that people who know what it’s like to care for children bring? Isn’t it unacceptably sad that those who run our world are denied the opportunity to be close to their family (don’t we all know a rich and powerful older man who regrets all the time he never could spend with his family, or his children who are still in therapy over it)? We really need to think hard about what this all means and make sure that we, as a people, can live with our the consequences of our actions in this regard.

I also had one last thought regarding policies to advance gender equality in the work place. I agree that it would be much, much better for our country to have a leave policy, like that of Sweden (as Rosenblum details in both pieces of writing cited here), which comes much closer to supporting all parents in childcare roles. If that cannot and will not be in our society for now, however, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more honest for all jobs to be openly, explicitly designated as jobs for primary caregivers and jobs not for primary caregivers.

I know this is a very problematic proposal, and not at all practical, but the fact that it would be more honest says something important. That way, at least, employers could stop pretending that they are not having to gain information through backdoor methods about who they want to hire, or simply avoid hiring or promoting women in general. Additionally, applicants, men or women, could have a clear idea about what jobs they can or should apply for, and perhaps there would be jobs more clearly available for those who wanted to ramp down but still remain in the work force for some years. I am not sure how to express what I am getting at with this idea yet, but I guess I would like to find a way to shed some light on the suppressed dishonesty of workforce discrimination today, if we can’t get a leave policy like Sweden’s at this point in time. Or maybe I am seeking a way to articulate a remedy for discrimination centered around on disclosure about employer’s true requirements. I will keep pondering this idea.

-Margaret Serrano

title of post updated 3/17/13 – ed.

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Emens on “Compulsory Sexuality”

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Elizabeth Emens (Columbia) has posted to SSRN her article Compulsory Sexuality, 66 Stan. L. Rev. (forthcoming). Here is the abstract:

Asexuality is an emerging identity category that challenges the common assumption that everyone is defined by some type of sexual attraction. Asexuals — those who feel no sexual attraction to others — constitute one percent of the population, according to a prominent study. In recent years, some individuals have begun to identify as asexual and to connect around their experiences interacting with a sexual society. Asexuality has also become a protected classification under one state’s antidiscrimination law, but legal scholarship has thus far neglected the subject.

This article introduces asexuality as a category of analysis, an object of empirical study, and a phenomenon of medical science. It then offers a close examination of the growing community of self-identified asexuals. Asexual identity has revealing intersections with the more familiar categories of gender, sexual orientation, and disability, and inspires new models for understanding sexuality.

Thinking about asexuality also sheds light on our legal system. Ours is arguably a sexual law, organized around the assumption that sex is important. The article traces several ways that our sexual law burdens, and occasionally benefits, asexuals. These indirect legal burdens combine with recent research on bias against asexuals to suggest a plausible case for legally protecting asexuals from discrimination. New York has included asexuality in its antidiscrimination law, and the article uses original research to tell the story of that legal innovation. The article concludes by exploring the common intuition that asexuality is a poor fit with existing antidiscrimination law. A close study of protected classifications identifies the core criteria that track the degrees of protection achieved by different identity categories, few of which are currently met by asexuality, though this could change with time. In so doing, the article provides a novel approach for understanding the landscape of antidiscrimination law.

The full piece is available here.  This is a great piece, and one I recommend.

-Bridget Crawford

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For International Women’s Day, a Google Doodle

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It’s International Women’s Day. Google heralds the event with a special Doodle from Google.

 

 

 

 

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Sabbatical Visitorship: Columbia Law School Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

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869c1f8711eb01b6c673e7134dd39635_biggerThe Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School invites applications for a sabbatical visitor for the 2013-2014 academic year to undertake research, writing and collaboration with Center faculty and students in ways that span traditional academic disciplines. The CGSL welcomes applications from faculty from any field who are interested in spending a semester or the academic year in residence at Columbia Law School working on scholarly projects relating to Gender and/or Sexuality Law.

Sabbatical Visitors will receive an office with phone and computer, secretarial support and full access to university libraries, computer systems and recreational facilities. In addition, Sabbatical Visitors will be expected to participate in CGSL activities and present a paper at the Center’s Colloquium Series.  Application deadline is April 15, 2013.

For more information: http://www.law.columbia.edu/center_program/gendersexuality/sabbatical

Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School

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What Continues to Motivate the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement 40 Years After Roe?

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The Washington Post (op-ed): Why pro-lifers keep fighting abortion, by Helen Alvaré & Meg T. McDonnell:

Pro-choice Americans must wonder from time to time what keeps pro-lifers going. Why don’t we lay down our signs, cease our marching and admit that we’ve been good and beaten for these 40 years since Roe v. Wade? One of us is a baby boomer, the other a millennial; our views may help others understand these things and, along the way, think about some rarely considered aspects of the U.S. experience with legal abortion. . . .

__________________________________________

Two points in particular jumped out at me upon reading this op-ed. First, Alvaré and McDonnell describe abortion as “the destruction of a human life, at its most vulnerable stage, with the consent of the mother.” Seeing the pregnant woman as complicit in “the destruction of human life” (although it is interesting that they shy from the word “murder”) is certainly consistent with seeing a fertilized human egg as morally equivalent to a fully developed person. However, the anti-choice movement typically disavows any desire to punish women for abortions, despite this complicity, preferring to cast women as helpless victims of predatory abortion doctors. This undermines any claim that embryos are persons, for it is highly doubtful that they would view with compassion mothers who “consent” to the “destruction” of their children once they are born. It would be enlightening to know how Alvaré and McDonnell feel about this issue.

Second, Alvaré and McDonnell rightly point out that “poor and minority women and girls get the short end of the stick” when it comes to governmental support for child-rearing. To their credit, the authors blame Republicans as well as Democrats for this. But the fact is, Republican policies are particularly hostile to mothers who struggle financially. Yet the anti-choice movement chooses to direct its fervor toward preventing abortion rather than promoting policies to help low-income mothers. Indeed, the states that enforce the most vehemently anti-abortion policies spend the least to educate children, facilitate adoption, and provide assistance to poor children.

For more on the inconsistencies between the anti-abortion-rights movement’s rhetoric and its positions, see my article, The Meaning of ‘Life’: Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate. For my assessment of the anti-abortion-rights movement forty years after Roe, see Roe v. Wade’s 40th Anniversary: A Moment of Truth for the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement?

-Caitlin Borgmann (cross-posted at Reproductive Rights Prof Blog)

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Male Fragility and Law

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Mary Anne Franks collects examples of the male fragility narrative in law and in society. It’s a fascinating observation, reminiscent of a recent discussion at Slate: Societal constructions of masculine identity are actually quite fragile, and as a result society regularly establishes social structures (such as no-gays-in-the-military) to protect the fragile identities of straight men.

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Lean In (Toward the Everlasting Glass)

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I think about all the moments I just didn’t believe in myself. Every test I was sure I was about to fail, every job I wasn’t sure I could do,” she says. “It was after watching so many women quietly lean back, after watching myself quietly lean back and miss opportunities, that I started to see the pattern and started to talk about it.

–Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, has caused a national discussion of women’s success (and failure) in the workplace with her assertion that women often lose ground because they “lean back,” that is, they choose to forego opportunities. In her upcoming book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sandberg details how women can overcome what could, I suppose, be called a pathological unwillingness to power. Women need, per Sandberg, a Nietzschean kick in the butt to get out of their career torpor.

I am, in general, a strong believer in the value and importance of hard work. I know, however, that no amount of hard work and determination can overcome certain types of workplace barriers for some women. The historical and current states of gender, class and racial inequality make leaning in futile in some cases. This is chiefly because Sandberg’s lean in notion relies upon the primacy of ideas such as formal equality and rationality. Lean in ignores the extent to which women have been excluded in shaping the substantive content of equality norms. As to rationality, it has long been clear that many employers will persist in gender or other types of discrimination even where they cause harm to their own interests. In short, employers can and frequently do cut off their own noses to spite their faces.

So, for the Sheryl Sandberg’s of the world I offer this paean to leaning in:

“Lean In Toward the Everlasting Glass” (Sung to the Tune of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”)

If you seek a job advance or want your career enhanced then

Lean in toward the everlasting glass

The glass is oh so thick

Work, wheedle, politick and

Lean in toward the everlasting glass

                        continue reading here at Ain’t I a Feminist Legal Scholar, Too?

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Internship for Law Students: Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

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From colleagues at Brandeis:

HBI Summer Internship Program Seeks Graduate Student Intern for Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law – June 10 – August 2, 2013

The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University has an opening for a graduate student with a background in law for their eight-week summer internship program.  An intern is needed to assist Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, Director of the HBI’s Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law, in writing a chapter for her upcoming book, “Gender, Justice and Dialogue:  Women’s Rights and Jewish Law.”  The chapter will deal with the status of sex segregation practices under international human rights law.

The HBI Internship Program is an eight-week program for both undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in Jewish gender studies.  Graduate students receive a weekly stipend, housing on the Brandeis campus, and the opportunity to work with senior scholars in the field.  Interns divide their time between providing research assistance and carrying out their own research.

For further details: http://www.brandeis.edu/hbi/internship/index.html

Application deadline: March 28, 2013

The mission of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute is to develop fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide by producing and promoting scholarly research, artistic projects and public engagement.

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CFP: Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World

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Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World

Throughout 2013, five law schools in the Delaware Valley will hold events exploring various aspects of reproductive justice in the 40 years post-Roe v. Wade. The final event in this series is a conference sponsored by the Rutgers School of Law – Camden that will take place on Friday, October 11 on the Rutgers campus in Camden, New Jersey.* You can find more information about the conference here.

We are now pleased to invite proposals for papers and panels. The conference theme is Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World. We welcome submissions on any topic related to the law, policy and reproduction, including avoiding reproduction, public policy related to reproduction, and reproductive regulation post-Roe.

Paper abstracts should be no more than 500 words, accompanied by a descriptive title for the paper proposed. Proposed panels should include a description of the overall topic, as well as a panel title and the titles of all the papers and panelists to be included in the panel.  Panels should include no less than 4 proposed panelists. Panel proposals should also be no more than 500 words. All submissions must include the names, e-mail addresses, and full affiliations of all authors.  In the case of panels and co-authored papers, please identify a corresponding author and provide sufficient detail in your abstract or proposal so that reviewers can fully assess your proposal and determine how it will fit with other proposals being reviewed.

There will be two plenary sessions at the conference and some submitted papers might be selected for plenary presentations. If you wish for us to consider your paper for a plenary session, please indicate that desire on your submission.

Please e-mail submissions (in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format) to beyondroe@camlaw.rutgers.edu by April 1, 2013. If you have any questions about the conference, please direct them to Kimberly Mutcherson at mutchers@camden.rutgers.edu.

Though the conference will have a primary focus on law, we also invite submissions from other disciplines including philosophy, the social sciences, critical cultural studies (gender and sexuality studies, disability studies, critical race studies, etc.), public health, and others.

We urge you to interpret the conference theme broadly. While this conference emerges from the Roe anniversary, we seek to initiate and support discussion across a wide range of reproductive justice topics and want to build a conference program that looks forward to the world created in the wake of Roe rather than focusing narrowly on the Roe decision itself or on issues related to abortion. Possible topics for inclusion on the program include:

- Burgeoning markets in reproduction fueled by assisted reproductive technology (“ART”), including cross border fertility care (“reproductive tourism”), the market in gametes, creating of kinship ties without biological or genetic links, and informed consent in the fertility industry;

- Public health approaches to abortion, contraception, assisted reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth;

- Race, class, sexual orientation and access to childbearing and the economics of reproduction;

- The medical market and insurance issues related to abortion/contraception, prenatal care, childbirth and fertility services;

- Reproductive justice in the courts, including the future of the Supreme Court’s evolution on abortion access, treatment of pregnant prisoners, access to contraception, reproductive health services for undocumented immigrants, prenatal testing, etc.;

- Issues of abortion access, including training for a new generation of abortion providers, harassment of providers, and TRAP laws;

- Racialized and woman protective arguments against abortion and their impact on abortion access and reproductive health;

-  Familial privacy and the state, including the relationship between access to reproduction and parenting and the power wielded by child protective services;

- Intimate partner violence and reproduction;

- Affordable Care Act implications for reproductive health services;

- Pregnancy and the workplace; and

- Human rights discourse and access to reproductive health services.

There may be a publishing opportunity for interested conference participants. We will share more information about that possibility with panelists whose work is selected for inclusion in the conference program.


* For those unfamiliar with our campus, we are located a few short minutes from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Amtrak’s 30th street station is a 10-minute cab ride from campus and the Philadelphia International Airport is approximately 20 minutes from campus by cab. Philadelphia offers a wealth of cultural opportunities, including world-class museums, fine dining, theater, and an extensive public park system that can be enjoyed while away from the conference (http://www.visitphilly.com/).

 

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University of Baltimore School of Law’s Sixth Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference

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The sixth annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference will be hosted by the University of Baltimore School of Law on Thursday and Friday, March 7-8, at the school. Featuring a series of workshops and a keynote address, this year’s conference will focus on “Applied Feminism and Families.” Both family law specialists and experts from other areas of the law will present papers, join in discussions, and consider a host of questions related to the important issue of applied feminism’s impact on families in the United States and in other countries. The event is free and open to the public; attendance details are listed below.

Papers presented during the conference are expected to address questions such as:

What have been the accomplishments or shortcomings of feminist legal theory for families?
How might feminist legal theory respond to the challenges facing families?
What sort of support should society and law provide to families?
Does feminist legal theory support state interventions into family life? In what circumstances?
How do law and feminist legal theory conceptualize the roles of family members, including mothers, fathers, caretakers, children, and others?
How does feminist legal theory help us understand changes in the institution of marriage and family structure?
How do the needs of families vary across cultural, economic, religious, and other differences?
Are theories of essentialism and intersectionality necessary or helpful in shaping laws that impact families?
In what areas outside of family law could or should feminist legal theory be applied to assist families?
This year’s conference will attempt to address these and other questions from the perspectives of activists, practitioners and scholars. The conference will provide an opportunity for participants and audience members to exchange ideas about the current state of feminist legal theories. Conference organizers say they hope to deepen the understanding of how feminist legal theory relates to families and to move new insights into practice. In addition, the conference is designed to provide presenters with the opportunity to gain feedback on their papers.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. The first woman elected to represent the State of Minnesota in the Senate in 2006 and a strong advocate for middle-class families on a range of critical issues including economic growth, job creation and fiscal responsibility and accountability in government, Klobuchar will speak on Friday, March 8 beginning at 2 p.m. in the Venable Baetjer Howard Moot Court Room in the School of Law.

There is no charge to attend the conference, but pre-registration is requested as seating is limited. RSVP at law.ubalt.edu.

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Qualifications of a Supermodel

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Model Cameron Russell gives a remarkably candid and articulate explanation:

I am not a uniquely accomplished 25-year-old. I’ve modeled for 10 years and I took six years to finish my undergraduate degree part-time, graduating this past June with honors from Columbia University. If I ever had needed to put together a CV it would be quite short. Like many young people I’d highlight my desire to work hard. But hard work is not why I have been successful as a model. I’m not saying I’m lazy. But the most important part of my job is to show up with a 23-inch waist, looking young, feminine and white.

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In Defense of Law Review Affirmative Action

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As you may have seen, the new Scholastica submission service allows law reviews to collect demographic information from authors. A flurry of blog posts has recently cropped up in response; as far as I can tell, they range from negative to negative to kinda-maybe-negative to negative to still negative. The most positive post I’ve seen comes from Michelle Meyer at the Faculty Lounge, who discusses whether Scholastica’s norms are like symposium selection norms, and in the process implies that Scholastica’s model might be okay. Michael Mannheimer at Prawfs also makes a sort of lukewarm defense that editors were probably doing this anyway.

But is it really the case that law review affirmative action would be a bad thing? Continue reading

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Posted in Feminists in Academia, Race and Racism, The Overrepresentation of Men, The Underrepresentation of Women, Where are the Women? | Comments Off

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg headlines Thomas Jefferson Law School Women and Law Conference

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Last Friday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke at the 13th Annual Women and Law Conference at Thomas Jefferson Law School. A packed house listened as panelists discussed a variety of issues relating to women in the judiciary, and the highlight of the day was an extended and candid Q&A with Justice Ginsburg herself.

Justice Ginsburg spoke at moderate length on the unfortunate politicization of the confirmation process. She noted that, “I hope for the day that we can get back to where the system was when I was nominated in 1993. There was a true bi-partisan spirit prevailing in our Congress. We are heading in the wrong direction. We need to reverse gears and go back to the time when there was bi-partisan support for the president’s nominees. I wonder if the president would even nominate me now with my longtime affiliation with the ACLU. During my confirmation, not one Senator asked me about it.”

Justice Ginsburg was also very clear about the need for women on the bench, emphasizing that women judges bring perspective that the court otherwise lacks, and that a commitment to equality requires more than just tokenism. She spoke of how, during her first year on the bench, lawyers would refer to her as Justice O’Connor, although they look nothing alike. But in recent years, the confirmation of additional women Justices has changed the dynamic of the Court.

Justice Ginsburg also gave background on a fascinating case from her days at the ACLU, ultimately involving a woman’s right not to have an abortion. A military servicewoman became pregnant, and the military ordered her to terminate the pregnancy or leave the base. The ACLU took her case, and was successful in defending the woman’s choice. Afterwards, Justice Ginsburg asked the woman if there was anything else that she wanted, and she replied, “I’d love to do flight training.” And they both just laughed at the impossibility of such an idea. But today, women can receive flight training; and in fact the female TJSL student on the Q&A panel was a military pilot prior to law school. My, how times have changed.

The rest of the conference was also fantastic. Continue reading

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Where are the Women? Florida Law Review Edition

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Here’s the TOC for Volume 64, Number 6 of the Florida Law Review:

Martin H. Redish & Matthew B. Arnould, Judicial Review, Constitutional Interpretation, and the Democratic Dilemma: Proposing a “Controlled Activism” Alternative

Erwin Chemerinsky, The Elusive Quest for Value Neutral Judging: A Response to Redish and Arnould

Gary Lawson, No History, No Certainty, No Legitimacy . . . No Problem: Originalism and the Limits of Legal Theory

Sergio J. Campos, Erie as a Choice of Enforcement Defaults

George W. Dent, Jr., Corporate Governance: The Sweedish Solution

Ben Trachtenberg, Confronting Coventurers: Coconspirator Hearsay, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause

Derek W. Black, Civil Rights, Charter Schools, and Lessons to be Learned

-Bridget Crawford

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Gilman on “The Class Differential in Privacy Law” and “The Poverty Defense”

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Michele Gilman (Baltimore) has posted two articles to SSRN. 

The Class Differential in Privacy Law, 77 Brooklyn L. Rev. 1389 (2012)

This article analyzes how privacy law fails the poor. Due to advanced technologies, all Americans are facing corporate and governmental surveillance. However, privacy law is focused on middle-class concerns about limiting the disclosure of personal data so that it is not misused. By contrast, along the welfare-to-work continuum, poor people face privacy intrusions at the time that the state or their employers gather data. This data collection tends to be stigmatizing and humiliating, and it thus not only compounds the harmful effects of living in poverty, but also dampens democratic participation by the poor. The poor interact with the government and low-wage employers in ways that are on-going and interpersonal, and as a result, the “right to be left alone” embodied in current privacy law does not protect their interests in dignity and autonomy. This article argues that poor Americans experience privacy differently than persons with greater economic resources and that the law, in its constitutional, statutory and common law dimensions, reinforces this differential. This class differential in privacy law has costs not only for the poor, but for all citizens.

The Poverty Defense, 47 Univ. of Richmond L. Rev. 495 (2013)

Poverty is correlated with crime, but it is widely assumed that it should not be a defense. In the 1970s, Judge David Bazelon challenged this assumption, proposing a rotten social background defense, that is, how growing up under circumstances of severe deprivation can subsequently impact a criminal defendant’s mental state and actions. Relatedly, other theorists have posited that poverty should be a defense to crime based on poverty’s coercive aspects or because society forfeits its right to condemn when it tolerates significant economic inequality. Critics counter that a poverty defense should not be adopted because it is not only inconsistent with American norms of individual responsibility, but also practically impossible. This vigorous debate has been deemed an ivory tower exercise. Yet scholars have entirely overlooked that a poverty defense is utilized in thousands of cases a year. In both civil and criminal child neglect cases, various states excuse conduct that would otherwise be neglect on account of a parent’s poverty. In short, a poverty defense is not hypothetical. Courts’ interpretations of the poverty defense in child neglect cases reflect the various theoretical strands posited by scholars. The case law reveals that a poverty defense is workable, but that its potential to help poor defendants is limited unless courts have a rich, multi-dimensional understanding of the causes and effects of poverty. This article explains how the poverty defense works in practice in child welfare cases, and can guide scholars, and more importantly, lawmakers and courts, in considering whether to extend a poverty defense to other areas of the law.

-Bridget Crawford

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Bernette Johnson Becomes Louisiana’s First African American Supreme Court Chief Justice

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Bernette Johnson has been sworn in as Louisiana’s first African American Supreme Court Chief Justice, succeeding Catherine (Kitty) Kimball. Chief Justice Johnson filed a federal lawsuit last year after Justice Jeffrey Victory claimed that he had more seniority than she did and should assume the position of Chief Justice. The dispute arose because CJ Johnson had served as an appointed justice of the Court as well as an elected Justice, and Justice Victory argued that the years for which she had been appointed should not count toward her years of seniority on the Court. The remaining Justices finally decided that total years of service, not merely elected years, should count toward seniority.

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