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From the FLP mailbox:

Call for Papers

Special Issue of Gender & History:

Marriage’s Global Past


Sara McDougall, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)

Sarah Pearsall, Cambridge University

This special issue of Gender & History explores marriage’s global past from the medieval to the modern era. We solicit contributions that examine aspects of the history of marriage in societies and cultures throughout the world, with special attention to ideas and practices of monogamy and polygamy. Of particular interest is the role of gender in the construction and reconstruction of marriage. We also solicit papers that interrogate the relationship of marriage to various forms of power, including those of state, religious, and colonial institutions as well as the complicated dynamics of authority within households. We welcome both broad, comparative studies and more narrowly-focused ones.

Many imagine marriage as a timeless institution. In fact, as William Alexander wrote in 1779, in his History of Women, From the Earliest Antiquity, to the Present Time, “Marriage is so far from having been an institution, fixed by permanent and unalterable laws, that it has been continually varying in every period, and in every country.” This historian thus acknowledged both the shifting nature of marriage as an institution in a global context, as well as the ways that marriage profoundly shapes, and is shaped by, the role and status of women and men. This special issue similarly assumes varieties of marriages, in terms of both chronology and geography.

This special issue will also interrogate the profound interconnection of gender and marriage, especially with reference to issues of rank, race, age, nationality, culture, religion, and sexuality. Indeed, what might constitute “traditional” marriage in one context might appear radical in another. Indeed, while many contemporary scholars and advocates have called for a redefinition of what is termed “traditional marriage,” recent scholarship has also emphasized how very little is traditional about what is currently described in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.”

One of the goals of this special issue is to explore how the idea of so-called “traditional marriage” took root and spread in many cultures. Often, of course, it did so even as local social practices deviated, sometimes notably, from this norm. Christian teachings beginning in the first millennium endorsed a particular model of marriage that became not only a centerpiece of Christian faith but also a potent political and social force across the world. In this model, marriage had to be exclusive and indissoluble, a monogamous and enduring commitment between one man and one woman. At that time and in subsequent centuries, as Christian teachings spread throughout the world, this model of marriage came into contact with cultures that had a variety of different ideas about the best ways to marry, and the purpose of marriage. Clashes between different practices of marriage lay at the heart of many early modern and modern encounters.  This special issue of Gender & History hopes to offer new interpretations of this complex and fascinating history.

The volume will begin with a colloquium to be held 18-20 March 2016 at Cambridge University. Paper proposals (750 words maximum) are to be submitted by 15 January 2015. Invitations to present at the colloquium will be issued in February 2015. All those presenting must submit articles for pre-circulation by 15 January 2016. Participants will also be expected to read all the other articles and to participate fully in the two-day colloquium. This participation will include commenting on the paper of another participant, as well as more general discussions.  After the colloquium, participants will be invited to submit their revised papers for publication. Those accepted by the editors for publication will be expected to submit their manuscripts by 1 September 2016. This timeframe will allow the editors to work with authors to produce the final text of the issue for publication in 2017.

Please send paper proposals to by 15 January 2015, with “Marriage’s Global Past” in the subject heading.

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TED Talk by Karima Bennoune Nearing One Million Views

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Photo credit:

Professor Karima Bennoune’s powerful and inspiring TED Talk® When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism, posted online this summer, is already nearing one million views.  From the TED site (emphasis added):

Karima Bennoune shares four powerful stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities — refusing to allow the faith they love to become a tool for crime, attacks and murder. These personal stories humanize one of the most overlooked human-rights struggles in the world.

 It must have been a daunting task, to distill into a short talk the essence of the 286 interviews of incredibly brave people she conducted for her book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight against Muslim Fundamentalism (W.W. Norton 2013).  Yet she succeeds brilliantly.  Her talk can be viewed here.

Praise for the book behind the talk includes these ringing words from Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka:YourFatwaDoesNotApplyHere

This work redefines courage in a humbling dimension. Bennoune’s meticulous testament serves as a warning to the complacent and rebukes ‘politically correct’ posturing that makes excuses for the inexcusable and canvasses tolerance for the intolerable.

 Additional features on Karima’s TED Talk page include:

  • Take Action — which links to Women Living Under Muslim Laws, the NGO that grew from an action committee formed in 1984 by women from Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Mauritius, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  •  Karima recommends – a terrific compilation of resources, with links to interviews and NGOs.

Hold the press!    

As I was preparing to post this blog, I saw in a press release issued today that Karima’s book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here is a finalist for the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, this prize is “the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace.”

Heartfelt congratulations, Karima!

Cross-posted on IntLawGrrls
Posted in Activism, Acts of Violence, Feminism and Religion, Feminists in Academia, Recommended Books | Tagged , | Comments Off on TED Talk by Karima Bennoune Nearing One Million Views

Herma Hill Kay Receives AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015

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From the mailbox:

The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is delighted to announce that Professor Herma Hill Kay, the Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, is the 2015 recipient of the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award.  Professor Kay is the third recipient of this award; the first award went to Justice Ginsburg in 2013, and the second was given to Professor Catharine MacKinnon in 2014.

Professor Kay’s nominators described her this way:

In her fifty-plus years at Berkeley, Herma has been an award-winning teacher, a productive scholar, a generous colleague, and an inspiring leader.  . . . Appointed dean of the law school in 1992, she was the first woman in the school’s history to serve in this capacity.  She has served on boards and committees for almost every significant legal academic institution in the country, including the AALS, which she served as President in 1989.  . . . Beyond her excellent teaching and support of students, Herma is currently finishing a book on the first fourteen women law professors in the United States.  She also continues as a principal author on two casebooks: Text, Cases and Materials on Sex-Based Discrimination (Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of her original co-authors) and Conflict of Laws: Cases-Comments-Questions.  . . . Herma was an active participant in the women’s rights movement.  As a member of Governor Edmund Brown’s Commission on the Family, she paved the way for California’s adoption of a no-fault divorce statute in 1969, and later served as co-reporter of the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act.  Herma was also active in the passage of California’s therapeutic abortion statute and testified in favor of California’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.   Herma has generated opportunities for generations of Berkeley Law graduates, men as well as women, to engage in legal activism on behalf of women and other underrepresented groups.  Indeed, to honor Herma’s legacy at Berkeley and in the profession, in 1999 the Boalt Hall Women’s Association established the Herma Hill Kay Fellowships.  For over ten years, the fellowships have been used to encourage and support public interest work benefitting women. . . .  Throughout her career, Herma has been a pioneer, blazing a trail for all women in the legal academy.

The Section will present Professor Kay with her award at the Annual Meeting Section Luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 3, 2015, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. at the Marriott Park Wardman Hotel.   We are happy to note that Justice Ginsburg is also scheduled to be at the luncheon to formally accept the award she received in 2013.  We hope that you will be able to attend.

Thank you to all who nominated individuals for the award.  We had a large number of wonderful nominations; it was a pleasure to read about the many valuable contributions of Section members.

Congratulations again to Professor Kay!

The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Executive Committee

Kirsten Davis, Chair

Wendy Greene, Chair-Elect

Bridget Crawford, Immediate Past-Chair

Rebecca Zietlow, Secretary

Kerri Stone, Treasurer

Cindy Fountaine, Member-At-Large

Posted in Academia, Feminist Legal Scholarship, Feminists in Academia, Law Schools, Law Teaching, Legal Profession | Comments Off on Herma Hill Kay Receives AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015

Save the Date: Family Law Scholars and Teachers Conference, June 22, 2015

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From the FLP mailbox:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We would like to invite you to a working-paper conference that we are planning to hold in the days before the AALS mid-year family law conference in Orlando next summer. Our group, the Family Law Scholars and Teachers Conference, has been known in the past as the Emerging Family Law Scholars and Teachers Conference (EFLS). That group held an annual conference for the past eight years, but until now has been limited to junior scholars. This year we are opening the conference to scholars at all levels of seniority, and are hoping that many of you can join us.

            The conference will take place on Monday, June 22, 2015, in Orlando, Florida—the day of the AALS workshop’s opening reception. Since our conference will be held earlier that day, these two events will not conflict. We will be hosted for the day by Florida A&M University College of Law, which is just a few minutes’ drive from the Doubletree Hotel that hosts the AALS workshop.

            For those of you who are not familiar with the EFLS conference, the main purpose of the meeting is to allow family law scholars to receive detailed, constructive feedback on their work in a supportive, collegial environment. In addition, the meeting is a forum to meet others in the field and talk about teaching, service, developments in the law, and other relevant themes raised by participants. Scholars present their work—either in its very initial form (an incubator session) or in its more developed form (a work-in-progress session)—in intimate groups. We have a very strong norm that participants carefully read drafts of the papers in advance of the sessions, and there are no formal presentations. Many of us feel that this has been a very meaningful conference that significantly contributed to our development as scholars and teachers.

            Although we have decided to open up the conference to scholars at all levels, we are still committed to preserving the conference’s intimate and supportive character. Therefore, we can accommodate only 45 participants, selected on a first-come-first-served basis. Additionally, although we will try to fulfill all requests for an incubator or work-in-progress session, if space is limited, we will give some preference to junior scholars. As always, there is no registration fee, and people only need to pay for their meals and accommodation. The Doubletree Hotel will give the discounted rate for rooms a couple of days prior to the conference.

            We will open up the registration and submission, via TWEN, in February 2015. For now, if you would like to receive announcements about the conference, please sign in on our TWEN page. To do that, go to “Add Courses” and select “Family Law Scholars and Teachers 2015 Conference.” If you have already selected the course in 2014, we will migrate your e-mail automatically and you do not need to register again. You should expect to receive an e-mail with further information about submissions and registration in February 2015.

            If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact co-chairs Erez Aloni ( or Jessica Dixon Weaver (

Best wishes,

FLST Planning Committee,

Erez Aloni

Anibal Rosario Lebron

Dara Purvis

Sarah Swan

Bela Walker

Jessica Dixon Weaver

Posted in Feminism and Families, Upcoming Conferences | Comments Off on Save the Date: Family Law Scholars and Teachers Conference, June 22, 2015

Women of Color In Legal Education

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Carmen G. Gonzalez, Seattle University School of Law, has published Women of Color in Legal Education: Challenging the Presumption of Incompetence in the Federal Lawyer (July 2014). Here is the abstract.

Female law professors of color have become the canaries in the academic mine whose plight is an early warning of the dangers that threaten legal education and the future of the legal profession. As legal education is restructured in response to declining enrollments, tenure itself is coming under fire, and downsizing and hiring freezes are becoming more common. Female law professors of color, who tend to be concentrated at middle- and lower-tier law schools, are particularly vulnerable. But this vulnerability may foreshadow the predicament of all but the most elite law faculty if academic employment becomes increasingly precarious. This article discusses the importance of faculty diversity to the health of the legal profession, and examines the barriers that female law professors of color encounter in the academic workplace. Drawing upon the author’s co-edited book, Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González & Angela P. Harris eds., 2012), the article sets forth best practices that can be adopted by academic leaders to remove these barriers, to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate, and to ensure that the upheavals in legal education do not sabotage these efforts. The article includes recommendations for the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, and US News & World Report.


Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

Posted in Academia, Feminism and Law, Feminist Legal Scholarship, Feminists in Academia, Law Schools, Law Teaching | Comments Off on Women of Color In Legal Education

CFP: Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network at Law & Society 2015

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From the FLP mailbox:

Call for Papers – Friday September 19th Deadline
Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network
at the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting
Seattle, May 28 – 31, 2015

Dear friends and colleagues,

We write to invite you to participate in panels sponsored by the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network at the Law and Society Annual Meeting in 2015.
Information about the Law and Society meeting (including registration and hotel information) is at:
Within Law & Society, the Feminist Legal Theory CRN seeks to bring together scholars across a range of fields who are interested in feminist legal theory. There is no pre-set theme to which papers must conform. We would be especially happy to see proposals that fit in with the LSA conference theme, which is the role of law and legal institutions in sustaining, creating, interrogating, and ameliorating inequalities. We welcome proposals that would permit us to collaborate with other CRNs, such as the Critical Research on Race and the Law CRN or the Gender, Sexuality and the Law CRN. Also, because the LSA meeting attracts scholars from other disciplines, we welcome multidisciplinary proposals.

Our goal is to stimulate focused discussion of papers on which scholars are currently working. Thus, while proposals may reference work that is well on the way to publication, we are particularly eager to solicit proposals for works-in-progress that are at an earlier stage and will benefit from the discussion that the panels will provide.
Our panels will use the LSA format, which requires four papers, but we will continue our custom of assigning a commentator for each individual paper. A committee of the CRN will assign individual papers to panels based on subject and will ask CRN members to volunteer to serve as chairs of each panel. The chair will develop a 100-250 word description for the session and submit the session proposal to LSA before their upcoming deadline on October 15, so that each panelist can submit his or her proposal, using the panel number assigned. Chairs will also be responsible for recruiting commentators but may wait to do so until panels have been scheduled later this winter.

If you would like to present a paper as part of a CRN panel, please submit a 400-500 word abstract, with your name and a title, on the Feminist Legal Theory CRN TWEN page (details provided below). If you would like to serve as a chair or a commentator for one of our panels, or if you are already planning a LSA session with four panelists (and papers) that you would like to see included in the Feminist Legal Theory CRN, please let Cynthia Godsoe know ( In addition to these panels, we may try to use some of the other formats that the LSA provides: the “author meets readers” format, salon, or the roundtable discussion. If you have an idea that you think would work well in one of these formats, please
let us know.

TWEN is an online resource administered by Westlaw. If you have access to Westlaw but haven’t yet registered for the TWEN page, signing up is easy:

Sign onto Westlaw, hit the tab on the top for “TWEN,” then click “Add Course,” and choose the “FLT CRN 2014” from the drop-down list of National TWEN Courses.
Once you arrive at the Feminist Legal Theory CRN TWEN page, look to the left hand margin and click on “Law & Society 2015 – Abstracts.” If you do not have a Westlaw password, please email Aziza Ahmed at and ask to be enrolled directly.

Please submit all proposals for paper presentations by Friday, September 19. This will permit us to organize panels and submit them prior to the LSA’s deadline on October 15. If we cannot accept all proposals for the CRN, we will notify you by early October so that you can submit an independent proposal to LSA.

We hope you’ll join us in Seattle to discuss the scholarship in which we are all engaged and connect with others doing work on feminism and gender.


LSA Planning Committee

Aziza Ahmed
Cynthia Godsoe
Leslie Harris
Courtney Joslin
Ummni Khan
Dara Purvis
Julie Shapiro

Posted in Call for Papers or Participation, Upcoming Conferences | 2 Comments

The New HHS Regulations Can’t Win A Zero-Sum Game

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Kara Loewentheil is the Director of the Public Rights / Private Conscience Project and a Research Fellow at Columbia Law School. You can find out more about the Project here. This blog was originally posted on the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law Blog.

Yesterday the Obama Administration released the long-awaited updates to the regulations that govern the availability of an accommodation for religious objectors to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement. They came in two parts:

1. A final interim regulation that allows objecting religiously-affiliated organizations who decline to fill out the original form required for an exemption to instead notify the government in writing that they object and to provide the government the contact information for their insurance company or third-party insurer.This, in effect, is the Wheaton College regulation. After such notification is received HHS will then take on the responsibility of contacting  that insurance company or third-party insurer to inform them that they must provide contraceptive coverage to the eligible employees at no cost to the employer in question. This regulation is effective immediately, but comments may be submitted for 60 days, after which a final regulation will be issued (which may or may not end up differing from the interim final regulation).

2. A proposed regulation to govern the process for closely-held corporations or non-corporate-form businesses to seek an accommodation from the contraceptive coverage requirement. This is the Hobby Lobby regulation. Under the regulation, closely-held for-profit businesses that object would have access to the same accommodation as non-profit organizations (i.e., the insurance company or third-party insurer must provide the coverage at no cost to the eligible employees or the company). The regulation is not in effect yet, and the government is actively seeking comments as to a number of elements, including how the regulations should define a closely-held corporation, and how the administering departments should evaluate the existence and scope of a religious objection (if at all). Comments may be submitted for 60 days, after which the government will issue a final regulation.

If you’re interested in the details of how this will all work, logistically, Marty Lederman has written up a nice concise explanation here; no reason to reinvent the wheel on that score. What I want to draw attention to in this post is the fact that none of these accommodations will satisfy the objectors who seem to believe that any type of notification to the government makes them impermissibly complicit in what they believe to be a sin. This may well turn out to be some of the for-profit businesses as well as some of the non-profit organizations. As I explained when the order was issued, this was always a problem with the logic of the Wheaton College order, and nothing in these accommodations will solve that problem. Instead, at least some of the plaintiffs will continue to maintain their suits on the grounds that nothing apart from a full exemption will satisfy their religious obligations, and the courts will likely end up drawing the line somewhere, which makes the entire Wheaton College order and all this rigamarole seem fairly silly. If courts are going to have to end up telling these plaintiffs that they have to notify the government in some way even if they believe that violates their religious beliefs, then it’s hard to understand why the Supreme Court shouldn’t have just required them to fill out the original form and be done with it. The alternative, that courts will eventually grant blanket exemptions to some of these plaintiffs, is an unacceptable outcome given the great harm that such an exemption would impose on the women covered by the insurance plans at issue.


Posted in Academia | Comments Off on The New HHS Regulations Can’t Win A Zero-Sum Game

CFP: Applied Feminism and Work

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From the FLP mailbox, this CFP:


The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Center on Applied Feminism seeks submissions for its Eighth Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference.  This year’s theme is “Applied Feminism and Work.”  The conference will be held on March 5 and 6, 2015.  For more information about the conference, please visit

As the nation emerges from the recession, work and economic security are front and center in our national policy debates.  Women earn less than men, and the new economic landscape impacts men and women differently.  At the same time, women are questioning whether to Lean In or Lean Out, and what it means to “have it all.”  The conference will build on these discussions. As always, the Center’s conference will serve as a forum for scholars, practitioners and activists to share ideas about applied feminism, focusing on the intersection of theory and practice to effectuate social change.  The conference seeks papers that discuss this year’s theme through the lens of an intersectional approach to feminist legal theory, addressing not only the premise of seeking justice for all people on behalf of their gender but also the interlinked systems of oppression based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, immigration status, disability, and geographical and historical context.

Papers might explore the following questions:  What impact has feminist legal theory had on the workplace? How does work impact gender and vice versa?  How might feminist legal theory respond to issues such as stalled immigration reform, economic inequality, pregnancy accommodation, the low-wage workforce, women’s access to economic opportunities, family-friendly work environments, paid sick and family leave, decline in unionization, and low minimum wage rates?  What sort of support should society and law provide to ensure equal employment opportunities that provide for security for all?  How do law and feminist legal theory conceptualize the role of the state and the private sector in relation to work?  Are there rights to employment and what are their foundations?  How will the recent Supreme Court Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn decisions impact economic opportunities for women?  How will the new EEOC guidance on pregnancy accommodation and the Young v. UPS upcoming Supreme Court decision affect rights of female workers?

The conference will provide an opportunity for participants and audience members to exchange ideas about the current state of feminist legal theories.  We hope to deepen our understandings of how feminist legal theory relates to work 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.

The conference will begin the afternoon of Thursday, March 5, 2015, with a workshop.   This workshop will continue the annual tradition of involving all attendees as participants in an interactive discussion and reflection.   On Friday, March 6, 2015, the conference will continue with a day of presentations regarding current scholarship and/or legal work that explores the application of feminist legal theory to issues involving health.   The conference will be open to the public and will feature a keynote speaker. Past keynote speakers have included Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, Dr. Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sheryl WuDunn, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Amy Klobuchar, and NOW President Terry O’Neill.

To submit a paper proposal, please submit an abstract by Friday, 5 p.m. on October 31, 2014, to  It is essential that your abstract contain your full contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address where you can be reached.  In the “Re” line, please state:  CAF Conference 2015.  Abstracts should be no longer than one page.  We will notify presenters of selected papers in mid-November.  We anticipate being able to have twelve paper presenters during the conference on Friday, March 6, 2015. About half the presenter slots will be reserved for authors who commit to publishing in the symposium volume of the University of Baltimore Law Review.  Thus, please indicate at the bottom of your abstract whether you are submitting (1) solely to present or (2) to present and publish in the symposium volume.  Authors who are interested in publishing in the Law Review will be strongly considered for publication.  Regardless of whether or not you are publishing in the symposium volume, all working drafts of symposium-length or article-length papers will be due no later than February 13, 2015.   Abstracts will be posted on the Center on Applied Feminism’s conference website to be shared with other participants and attendees.   Presenters are responsible for their own travel costs; the conference will provide a discounted hotel rate, as well as meals.

We look forward to your submissions.  If you have further questions, please contact Prof. Margaret Johnson at

I’ve been to the Feminist Legal Theory Conference at Baltimore and find that it hosts high-quality programming, so definitely check this out!

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Call for Papers or Participation, Upcoming Conferences | Comments Off on CFP: Applied Feminism and Work

A New Tampon to Prevent Against HIV

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From NPR:

When it comes to protecting themselves from HIV, women need more options.

About of 84 percent of all women diagnosed with HIV contract the virus through heterosexual sex. And right now, the female condom is the only contraception available that stops HIV — and is controlled by the woman. These devices can be hard to find and tough to use.

Now engineers at the University of Washington in Seattle have come up with an experimental technology that may one day make HIV protection for women as easy as using a tampon.

For years, scientists have been developing gels or creams that contain anti-HIV drugs known as microbicides. But these topical ointments can be problematic. They’re messy to apply. They can leak. And the medication absorbs slowly, so women have to use the gels or creams at least 20 minutes before sex.

A new delivery method could solve all these problems, say bioengineers Cameron Ball and Kim Woodrow. The secret? An electrically spun fabric.

Read the full story here.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Women's Health | Comments Off on A New Tampon to Prevent Against HIV

New OUP Book: Evans and Riley, “Technologies of Sexiness”

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Later this month, Oxford University Press will publish Technologies of Sexiness, a new book by Adrienne Evans  (Media, Coventry University, UK) and  Sarah Riley (Psychology, University College Wales, Aberystwyth).  Here is the publisher’s description:

Key cultural shifts have enabled a “new sexualization” of women. Neoliberal, consumerist, and postfeminist media culture have shaped ways of understanding female sexuality, embodied by the figure of the choosing, empowered, entrepreneurial consumer citizen-woman, whose economic capital determines feminine success (and failure). Informed by older constructs of privilege such as class, sexuality, race and (dis)ability, this version of sexiness also constrains by folding contemporary femininity back into previous panics about youth, excess, “bad” consumption, and appropriate feminine behavior

In Technologies of Sexiness, Adrienne Evans and Sarah Riley identify how current understandings of sexiness in public life and academic discourse have produced a “doubled stagnation,” cycling around old debates without forward momentum. Developing a theoretical and methodological framework, they expand on the notion of a “technology of sexiness.” They ask what happens and what is lost when people make sense of themselves within the complexities and contradictions of consumer-oriented constructs of sexiness. How do these discourses come to “transform the self”?

This book provides a framework for understanding how women make sense of their sexual identities in the context of a feminization of sexual consumerism. The authors analyze material collected with two groups of women: the “pleasure pursuers” and “functioning feminists,” who broadly occupy positions across the pre- and post-Thatcher eras, and the changes brought about by the feminist movement. As one of the first book-length empirical studies to explore age-related femininities in the context of what “sexiness” means today, the authors develop a series of insights into various “technologies of the self” through analyses of space, nostalgia, and claims to authentic sexiness.

More details here.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Recommended Books, Sexism in the Media | Comments Off on New OUP Book: Evans and Riley, “Technologies of Sexiness”

Contraception: A Prescription for Women’s Equality

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By Kara Loewentheil, Director of the Public Rights / Private Conscience Project in the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. This blog was originally posted as part of a set of pieces about contraception and the Hobby Lobby decision over at Cornerstone.
One of the few mercies of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Inc. last month was its acceptance of the Government’s argument that access to contraception is indeed a compelling governmental interest (see pages 39-40 of the majority opinion). Justice Kennedy’s concurrence (see pages 2-3), in particular, stressed that this vote for the majority’s holding hinged on his belief that the government could achieve its compelling interest in a different manner without burdening the rights of the women whose contraceptive access would be affected. But we should not be too sanguine about this aspect of the holding, because it too is under attack.
The evidence is clear even in the postings gathered together for this online forum about Hobby Lobby and contraception. It is hard to believe that in 2014 we are still arguing about whether access to contraception is crucial for women’s health and equality, or whether contraceptive access is a real problem. I could spend this entire post going over the overwhelming number of studies by doctors, sociologists, psychologists, demographers, and public health experts demonstrating that contraception works and explaining the importance of access to safe and affordable contraceptives and the centrality of family planning to women’s educational, economic, social, and political equality. Contraception literally saves lives—hundreds of thousands of them a year, all over the world. Don’t take my word for it—take the word of credible mainstream health authorities, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, just to name a few. Access to contraception improves women’s educational and economic prospects, allowing them to attend school, participate in the workforce, and support themselves and their families. (See also “The Power of the Pill”.) It also allows them to have sexual lives but not have children they do not want to have, which should be a good enough reason to promote access to contraception in and of itself.Furthermore, access is by no means easy for many women in this country—it is particularly challenging for women who want access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, like the IUD, which women vastly prefer when they can afford them, but which can cost $800-$1000 up front (about 80% of a full month’s wages on the federal minimum wage, in other words). Contrary to skeptics’ claims, many women are not eligible for subsidized contraception under any other existing program. (For a more thorough explanation of the barriers to access, see Kara Loewentheil, When Free Exercise is a Burden: Protecting “Third Parties” in Religious Accommodation Law.)Contraception is crucial for women’s equality, in all senses of the world. It is possible for women to have the kind of “full life” that a particular traditional conservative religious morality would allow without having access to contraception, because that life entails serving as a wife and mother, or being celibate. But it is impossible for women to have full and equal lives in the modern sense of the word without it.

So why we are still arguing about contraception? It is not because contraception doesn’t work. Obviously contraception is more effective the more correctly it is used, but to say that contraception as a general matter is ineffective or unimportant—much less dangerous—is simply ludicrous. We’re having this conversation because control of reproduction and fertility and sex implicate fundamental questions of individual autonomy: the autonomy to decide when to have sex, with whom, and when and how and whether to become a parent. And we’re having this particular conversation about contraception and how and whether it works because the anti-abortion movement wants us to have it. Hobby Lobby and its companion cases are part of a conservative social movement dedicated to the idea that contraception and abortion are the same thingboth that they have the same mechanism of action, and that their moral status is the same. (See also Pro-Life Wisconsin.) The former is simply untrue (see also Planned ParenthoodJen Gunter’s New Repulic article, andAmerican Society for Emergency Contraception); the latter is a matter of personal opinion.

One of the particularly peculiar elements of this contraception-is-abortion narrative is the way it conflicts with the argument that contraception doesn’t actually work. Were this actually the case, contraception would be a less pressing issue. Anti-abortion advocates occasionally reconcile these conflicting premises by arguing that use of contraception increases the incidence of abortion because it encourages people to have sex, and that since contraception doesn’t work, there end up being more pregnancies that are then terminated. (See alsoPriests for Life.) So contraception and abortion are linked in this discourse in two ways: (1) they have the same physiological mechanism (which is scientifically false), and/or (2) the former causes the latter.

This attempt to erase the distinction between contraception and abortion, or to suggest that they necessarily increase each other, results in tainting the former with the stigma and social rancor that surrounds conversations about the latter in this country. It also normalizes objections to not just the use or provision of contraception but even the association with contraception. The result will be to make the use or provision of contraception a Scarlet C, to match the Scarlet A that provision or association with abortion already entails. And then what would we have? A world without access to contraception (and abortion) is a world in which women cannot control their own destinies. The Supreme Court recognized this once*; let’s hope it still does.

*In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 856 (1992) the Court explained that “the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

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Race, Gender and Psychiatric Disabilities

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Katie Rose Guest Pryal (UNC) writes here for Chronicle Vitae on “Shattering the Madness Monolith: On the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Psychiatric Disability. She also wrote another powerful column on mental health and the academy, “She’s So Schizophrenic!”: How Not to Alienate Your Colleagues with Psychiatric Disabilities.

My guess is that most of us have colleagues who suffer from mental illness, but they may not be “out.”  How can we extend a helping hand without causing discomfort?  What do we need to do to make it more acceptable to get help? To be help?

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Academia, Women's Health | 1 Comment

Feminist Aesthetics and IP

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Carys J. Craig, Osgoode Hall Law School, is publishing Feminist Aesthetics and Copyright Law: Genius, Value, and Gendered Visions of the Creative Self in Protecting and Promoting Diversity with Intellectual Property Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

Copyright law is fundamentally concerned with the value of cultural works — both the recognition and the creation of this value. Yet it is seldom acknowledged that copyright law makes or requires any value judgment in the sense of an aesthetic evaluation of copyright’s subject matter. Indeed, it is often emphasized that copyright protects original works of authorship regardless of their quality or merit. That copyright protection demands the satisfaction of only the most minimal of qualitative standards does not, however, dispose of the larger claim that forms the basis of this chapter: our copyright system is dominated by a particular aesthetic theory or idea. Any attempt to justify the rights established by the copyright system over artistic works must presuppose an aesthetic theory of sorts in order to explain what is protected and why (as well as what is not protected or permitted, and why not). While not based on the quality of copyright’s subject matter, these explanatory efforts will point to its nature as original literary or artistic expression, which thus deserves or requires some form of legally recognized reward. We simply cannot justify the copyright system without ascribing some value to the particular expressive works in which it vests, and the creative acts and actors that it privileges. Seen in this light, it can hardly be claimed that copyright law is aesthetically agnostic. In this chapter, my goal is to uncover, in copyright’s most basic patterns, the hidden aesthetics of copyright law as viewed from a critical feminist perspective. My suggestion is that conceptions of aesthetic value and its production are stitched into the very fabric of copyright law, defining its contours and determining the purposes it serves — and what is more, these conceptions of aesthetic value are fundamentally gendered.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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CFP: AALS Workshop on “Next Generation Issues on Sex, Gender and the Law”

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From the FLP mailbox, this CFP:

Association of American Law Schools

Call for Presentations and Papers

AALS Workshop on Next Generation Issues on Sex, Gender and the Law

June 24-26, 2015

Doubletree by Hilton at the Entrance to Universal Studios

Orlando, Florida

We are seeking proposals for presentations and papers for the 2015 Workshop: Next Generation Issues of Sex, Gender and the Law, scheduled to take place June 24 – 26, 2015 at the Doubletree by Hilton at the Entrance to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

After more than forty years of formal sex equality under the law, this 2015 workshop will ask legal academics to look ahead to the future and identify, name, and analyze the next generation of legal issues, challenges, and questions that advocates for substantive gender equality must be prepared to consider. To this end, we seek paper and presentation proposals that not only pinpoint and examine future law-related concerns about gender equality but that also provide innovative new approaches to achieving equality for women and those who challenge gender norms in our society, with a particular attention to employment, violence against women, reproductive rights, women’s poverty, and women in legal education.

Our hope is to build on the insights of the participants in the 2011 AALS Workshop on Women Rethinking Equality by exploring new and forward-looking ideas for scholarship, law reform, and advocacy that can bring about women’s equality. An additional expectation is that each session will address the ways in which characteristics other than gender, including race, sexual orientation, immigration status, socioeconomic class, and disability, impact women’s lives. We also anticipate that each session will analyze the institutional strengths and weaknesses of courts, legislatures, and administrative bodies for bringing about change and offer suggestions for legal reforms that can better meet women’s needs. Our final goal is to provide a rich and supportive atmosphere to foster mentoring and networking among teachers and scholars who are interested in women’s equality and the law.

The format of the workshop will involve plenary sessions, concurrent sessions drawn from this Call for Presentations and Papers, and a closing panel. The closing panel, also drawn from this Call, will consist of a brainstorming session to consider projects and proposals for proactive measures to bring about gender equality.

Concurrent Sessions

The concurrent sessions will feature presentations related to gender equality issues, with preference given to presentations by junior scholars and those proposals related to the topics of employment, violence against women, reproductive rights, women’s poverty, and women in legal education. We will organize the presentations into panels based on the subject matter of the proposals. Each presentation will last for 15 minutes, followed by questions from the moderator and audience.

Interested faculty should submit a brief written description (no more than 1000 words) of the proposed presentation, along with his or her resume. Please e-mail these materials to by September 15, 2014. We will notify selected speakers by November 1, 2014.

Brainstorming Proposals

The final plenary session of the conference will consist of 10-12 five-minute presentations of ideas for future projects that will advance gender equality in the law. Each selected participant will be limited to five minutes to present his or her idea or project. The presentations will be followed by audience feedback and comments. Although we will grant preference to presentations by junior scholars and those proposals related to the topics of employment, violence against women, reproductive rights, women’s poverty, and women in legal education for the concurrent sessions, we welcome proposals for this brainstorming session on any topic related to gender equality.

Interested faculty should submit a written description of the proposed presentation (no more than 1000 words), along with his or her resume. Please e-mail these materials to by September 15, 2014. We will notify selected speakers by November 1, 2014.


Faculty members at AALS member schools are eligible to submit proposals.

Fellows at AALS member schools are eligible to submit proposals along with current curriculum vitae.

Visitors without faculty status at an AALS member law school and adjunct faculty members at AALS member schools are not eligible to submit proposals. Faculty at U.S. non-member law schools are not eligible to submit proposals. We do welcome your attendance at the workshop.

Proposers and panelists pay the registration fee and expenses.

Please direct questions regarding this Call for Papers and Presentations to

Planning Committee for the 2015 Workshop on Next Generation Issues of Sex, Gender and the Law:

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, University of Iowa College of Law, Chair

William Eskridge, Yale Law School

Aya Gruber, University of Colorado School of Law

Kimberly Yuracko, Northwestern University School of Law

Rebecca Zietlow, University of Toledo College of Law

FWIW, I’m thrilled to see that this AALS program is using a broad call for participation.  Too many AALS programs are insider-driven and characterized by a kind of “clubbiness” that can be off-putting to newcomers.  Great to see that this Planning Committee is doing things differently!

I admit I find the program’s title a bit awkward…not sure what “Issues on Sex, Gender and the Law” (emphasis mine) are, but it looks like the organizers struggled a bit with the wording, too, because the call later refers to the “Planning Committee for the 2015 Workshop on Next Generation Issues of Sex, Gender and the Law” (emphasis mine).  “On” or “of”…whatever.  Equality matters, regardless of prepositions.  Looks like a great program.

-Bridget Crawford

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Cheryl Hanna Memorial Page Hosted at Vermont Law School Website

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Cheryl Hanna, 2005Vermont Law School’s website is hosting a memorial page/on-line “Remembrance Journal” here for Cheryl Hanna:

Professor Cheryl Hanna was a beloved teacher and role model to many within and beyond the Vermont Law School community. Her untimely death is a profound loss to our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Our hearts are with her family.

This online forum is a space for sharing your thoughts, condolences and memories of Professor Hanna, to be shared with her family and with the Vermont Law School community.

Funeral services will be held this Friday.  Details here.

She is very, very missed.  May her memory be a blessing.

-Bridget Crawford

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In Memory of Cheryl Hanna

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Professor Cheryl Hanna (Vermont) has died.

Vermont Dean Marc Mihaly sent an email to the Vermont Law School community earlier today.  It stated in part:

It is with the most profound sorrow that we announce the untimely death of our dear colleague Professor Cheryl Hanna.  

Professor Hanna was a beloved teacher, a role model to many within and beyond the Vermont Law School community, and a powerful force for innovation. We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Professor Hanna was an expert in constitutional law, the United States Supreme Court, and women and the law. Her scholarship has been published in leading journals, including the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Michigan Journal of Gender and the Law. Professor Hanna was also a frequent media commentator, including on Vermont Public Radio and WCAX-TV 3.

She consulted on constitutional cases and represented public interest organizations through the filing of amicus briefs in cases before state and federal courts. This included the amicus brief she and Vermont Law School students wrote on behalf of the Vermont Commission on Women in Dreves v. Hudson, the first case implicating Vermont’s Equal Pay Act. The book she co-authored, Domestic Violence and the Law: Theory and Practice, was the leading casebook on violence against women.

Professor Hanna is survived by her husband and two children.

The Burlington Free Press has coverage here.

I will pass along more information as I receive it.

May her memory be a blessing.

-Bridget Crawford

UPDATE 7/29/14: A funeral for Professor Hanna will be held on Friday, August 1, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. in the Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  Details here.  Vermont Law School has a memorial web page here.

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Feminist Law Prof Profile: Polly Morgan

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Polly Morgan is a Lecturer in Law at the University of East Anglia School of Law. UAE is located in Norfolk, England. She recently answered these questions for Feminist Law Professors.

What is your educational and professional background?

I hold an undergraduate degree in law, a master’s degree in family law and policy, and also the professional qualifications to practise law as a solicitor. (In the UK, Law is an undergraduate degree followed by a further stage of more practical procedural training to become either a solicitor or a barrister.) I spent about eight years in practice as a family solicitor, which culminated in my co-founding my own specialist family law firm. However, in 2012 I was approached to teach family law at the University of East Anglia, and am now full-time faculty. I do not regret leaving practice, although I sometimes miss being obliquely rude in that way that lawyers can do so well.

What courses do you teach?

I teach two undergraduate modules, Child Law and Adult Relationships Law. Both are very popular options which look at different aspects of the state’s relationship to the family and in both we make use of a range of feminist perspectives. In my Adult Relationships Law module, for example, I draw on readings by fellow Feminist Law Professors Nancy Polikoff, Elizabeth Scott, Martha Fineman, and Nicola Barker, among others.

I also teach on two first year undergraduate modules, Law in Practice (which draws on my professional skills) and Legal Method, Skills, and Reasoning. As part of Law in Practice, I deliver some lectures on feminist legal theory. I have to begin my lectures by explaining what feminism is, and what it is not.

How does feminism influence your teaching/scholarship/service?

During my years in practice I represented both men and women in disputes over children or on divorce. I always did so from an inherently feminist perspective, in that I believe that fathers should take part in child care and that women’s lesser economic position is partly explained by parenting responsibilities falling mainly on them. One of the things we analyse in Child Law is why there is a perception that men are treated less favourably on matters relating to contact with their children, and we consider the extent to which this is traced back to the status quo of parenting arrangements during the parents’ relationship.

I also believe that women, post-divorce, should be able to become financially independent, but that this is not always possible and should not be at the expense of recognising what our Supreme Court has called ‘relationship-generated disadvantage’, i.e. that overwhelmingly during relationships women sacrifice their career and earning opportunities in a way that men do not. It was a proud moment when a male Conservative party candidate submitted an essay that called for the abolition of marriage on the grounds that it was oppressive to women.

I gain enormous pleasure from teaching and I like to believe that I get students to think, and that that thinking ability will enable them to question the status quo throughout their lives. There is a feminist student group at the university and in the city, and it is nice to see young women, and a few men, engaged and enthusiastic about feminist issues.

When did you first make a connection between feminism and the law?

My mother’s career opportunities were limited by gender: she wanted to go to university, but her parents sent her to secretarial college. She worked her way up from there. When I was about eleven, my parents swapped roles: my father gave up work outside the home to do part-time work that fitted around the child care and housework, and my mother went to work outside the home. So I grew up with the belief that traditional gender roles were not fixed and presented no barrier to me.

However, I don’t think I really identified as a feminist until after my first degree. It was at Master’s level that I first engaged with feminist legal scholars, for example Lenore Weitzman on post-divorce financial outcomes, and started to question the role of law. I began to see how law creates and/or perpetuates traditional gender roles and privileges the powerful. Law is not neutral, I tell the students.

What is the “feminist climate” at your school?   Does your self-identification as a feminist impact the way you are perceived by students, colleagues or university administrators?

After working in a law firm which thought Mad Men was a guide to employee relations, the academic environment is a refreshing change. A (male) former head of department laid in a Law School stock of the feminist bestseller (yes, there is such a thing) How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, and emailed the entire law student body to invite them to borrow a copy: a valiant attempt to introduce students to the notion that feminism may have something to offer them. I am thus fortunate in that throughout the university there are feminist colleagues, although of course there are also those who believe in equality but do not identify that as being related to feminism. So it is necessary to educate colleagues as well as students.

What are you working on now?

I am trying to establish a Masters level module in Gender, Sexuality, and Law as part of an interdisciplinary Masters in Gender Studies. I am also updating my Adult Relationships course materials on same-sex marriage from ‘what if’ to ‘what now?’ following the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales in 2014 as an alternative to civil partnerships.

I have also recently been appointed to lead the Law School’s Athena Swan submission. Athena Swan is a national programme that promotes women’s career progress in science, technology and medicine, but which has now been widened to non-STEMM subjects, including Law. As part of this, I will be analysing women’s progression and opportunities as faculty members and as students, and making recommendations to address some of the barriers they face.

Could you recommend at least one book/article/theorist to law students who are interested in feminism’s relationship to the law?

One thing I do give my students is Catharine Mackinnon’s 1989 Yale Law School address, in which she talks about the responsibility of those practising law to ‘hold yourselves accountable including for the uses to which you are put.’


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Over 50 Legal Scholars Urge President Obama to Deny Religious Exemption Clause in LGBT Executive Order

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More than 50 legal scholars today strongly urged President Obama to resist calls for an overly broad religious exemption in a proposed executive order prohibiting sexual orientation and/or gender identity discrimination by federal contractors.

The effort is being spearheaded by Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, as part of its recently launched Public Rights/Private Conscience Project. The new initiative is one of the first independent law school projects aimed at re-conceptualizing religious exemptions and the law, particularly as the exemptions impact reproductive and sexual liberty and equality rights.

In a letter signed by 54 legal scholars from around the country, Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Director Kara Loewentheil, and Brooklyn Law School Professor Nelson Tebbe argue that the broad exemption urged by some religious leaders and several law professors is not required by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), or accommodations of religious liberty in other federal non-discrimination laws, including Title VII.

“The Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Hobby Lobby and order in Wheaton College do not compel in any way the inclusion of religious exemptions language in an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors,” said Franke. “Including an exemption for religious discrimination in an executive order securing work-place rights for LGBT people sends a message that the federal government has a more ambivalent commitment to sexual orientation and gender-identity based discrimination as compared with other forms of workplace equality.”

Loewentheil said the letter “reflects an emerging consensus among legal scholars that a proper balance between religious liberty and equal rights can be struck without creating carve-outs for religion in new laws protecting LGBT or reproductive rights.”

“We are delighted that many prominent scholars in the legal academy signed this letter,” Loewentheil said. “The views of these scholars provide responsible counsel to the White House as it considers the wording of an important new executive order securing LGBT and gender identity non-discrimination rules for employers who receive public funding.” 

Read the letter.


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The Case Western Law Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Claim Has Settled

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The story and a host of links are available at TaxProf Blog. One question I have is whether the man accused of sexual harassment and retaliation will continue to teach students. I assume the answer is yes, but given the nature of the allegations against him, I wonder whether this is an appropriate outcome. Based on what I read about the dispute, which is all I know about it, Ray Ku showed a lot of courage by stepping up and reporting activities that he believed were inappropriate. The price he appears to have paid for that was significant. Will anybody else step up if the misbehavior, assuming it occurred, continues?

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What A Difference Three Days Make: The Hobby Lobby Fallout Arrives

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fallout image

By: Kara Loewentheil

Kara Loewentheil is a research fellow and the director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project in the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. You can see her interview on Bloomberg News with more of her thoughts on the Hobby Lobby decision here.

The Supreme Court is supposed to be the final word on our legal questions, but apparently it reserves the right to change its mind at a moment’s notice. When the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores on Monday June 30th, holding that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act required the government to allow for-profit businesses with religious objections to contraceptives to opt out of complying with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement, the majority opinion stressed at length the idea that the law was not narrowly tailored because the government could have offered for-profit businesses the same accommodation available to non-profit religiously-affiliated organizations. Under the regulations implementing the ACA, religiously-affiliated non-profit organizations are allowed to certify that they object to providing insurance coverage for contraception. They send that form to the government and to their insurance company, at which point their insurance company is required to pay for the coverage out of its own funds. The majority opinion relied on the existence of this program as proof that the government had a better option available to achieve its goal of universal contraceptive coverage. As Justice Alito wrote, that accommodation “does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious belief that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion, and it serves [the government’s] stated interests equally well.”[1]

One might have thought this meant that the accommodation was, in fact, a legally acceptable system that would withstand a challenge under RFRA (given the lack of enforcement or monitoring in the regulation, it’s far from a morally acceptable system anyway). But only three days later the Supreme Court has issued an order enjoining the government from enforcing the requirement that a non-profit religiously-affiliated organization certify that it objects to coverage. There are almost 80 cases pending in the lower federal courts brought by non-profit organizations that claim that even signing the certification form is a substantial burden on their free exercise, because they believe that signing the form “triggers” the insurance company to provide the contraceptives and thereby makes them – the nonprofit organization – complicit. And not just complicit, but socomplicit it violates their religious freedom. Let me just be clear again, we’re talking about signing a form, the entire purpose of which is to excuse the organization from being required to pay for contraceptive coverage. The majority held that these organizations need not sign the form nor send the required notifications. Instead the majority arbitrarily rewrote the applicable regulations, making it the government’s responsibility to make sure that women receive seamless contraceptive coverage once they have received some kind of undefined written notice that an organization objects. (One presumes that a scrawled note on a cocktail napkin will suffice).

So why should we care? After all, what does it matter whether the organizations have to sign a form or send some other kind of written notice? It matters for a few reasons. First, it matters for the actual women employed by these religiously-affiliated organizations, which includes Catholic hospitals, religiously-affiliated universities, and other large complicated institutions that employ thousands and thousands of women. The accommodation already suffered from a lack of monitoring and enforcement mechanism, and now objecting institutions need not even sign a standard form, and the government is supposed to somehow ensure that all these women don’t fall through the cracks, if it chooses to do so – the order doesn’t require it to do so, and neither do the current regulations. We can hope for the best, but should be prepared for the worst on that front.

The dangers of this order go far beyond those women though. Misguided as the opinion in Hobby Lobby was – inaccurate and poorly-reasoned though it might have been – at least the objectors were arguably requesting relief from an actual legal requirement.[2] The objectors in these non-profit cases are already being given an accommodation. The idea that signing a form that allows one to get an exemption can itself be a substantial burden on one’s free exercise boggles the mind. It makes a mockery of the substantial burden standard – forget the word “substantial,” even of the word “burden.” It effectively deprives the test under RFRA of any real meaning, and hollows out the court’s evaluative role in adjudicating these claims. If signing a form that gives you access to an exemption is a substantial burden, then anything is a substantial burden, and there’s absolutely no check on what religious objectors can refuse to do.

The only silver lining is that these cases – and this result – make clear what we have long suspected: religious objectors to the contraceptive coverage requirement (and other equality measures) aren’t looking for a reasonable compromise. They are looking to reject secular governmental authority altogether in favor of obedience to a religious law, regardless of the fact that the vast majority of the actual individuals affected do not share their religion or their beliefs. It’s the tyranny of the minority, and it looks like it may be here to stay.


[1] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, slip. op. at 34 (available at

[2] I say arguably because there was a strong argument in the case, first proposed by Marty Lederman but not accepted by the majority, that in fact there was no legal requirement to provide insurance coverage for contraception – rather there was a choice to provide comprehensive coverage or to provide no coverage and pay a tax to subsidize insurance on public exchanges instead. See e.g. Marty Lederman,

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Krause, “Some Thoughts from a Health Lawyer on Hobby Lobby”

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Over at Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Joan Krause (UNC) has posted “Some Thoughts from a Health Lawyer on Hobby Lobby.”  Here is an excerpt:

As a health law professor who teaches a course on women’s health care issues, I have been following the ACA contraceptive mandate debate with great interest and more than a little trepidation. I admit to rather mixed feelings about the outcome: disappointment, relief that the decision wasn’t broader (at least on its face), concern for what comes next, and frustration regarding the choices that created this situation in the first place. With the benefit of hindsight, I can’t help wishing we’d found another way right from the start.

Many aspects of the contraceptive mandate debate have long struck me as curious. For one thing, it’s clear that the government does indeed have less restrictive alternatives to ensure broad access to low- or no-cost contraceptives. The Obama Administration could have extended to closely-held religious corporations the same accommodation it offered to religious non-profits, which essentially requires insurers to cover these costs. Whether the Administration should do so now, before the Court has squarely addressed the wide-open question of the sufficiency of that accommodation, is a different matter, however. Others have suggested alternative means to provide access to contraceptives, ranging from government-funded distribution to tax credits. Each has disadvantages, of course, and I can understand how the mandate would appear to be a more efficient option. But that choice relied heavily on the assumption that RFRA would not be applied to corporations – an assumption that, in a post-Citizens United world, was a risky proposition. * * *

Does Hobby Lobby spell the end of the ACA, or the end of contraceptive access for women? Clearly not. But with the benefit of hindsight, I can’t help wishing we’d found another way right from the start.

Read the full post here.

-Bridget Crawford

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Guttmacher Institute on Hobby Lobby Case: “After Supreme Court Ruling, Focus Shifts to How Obama Administration and Congress Will Ensure Contraceptive Coverage for Affected Employees”

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The Guttmacher Institute has issued a statement on the Hobby Lobby case.  Here is an excerpt:

[D]espite its potentially limited impact, the decision is very troubling for multiple reasons. Chief among them is the fact that five Supreme Court justices singled out contraception as a health service against which private companies may discriminate. More than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.

As far as finding a less restrictive means to ensuring coverage, the Court suggested that employees of companies that reject covering contraceptives could come under the umbrella of an existing accommodation for a broad range of nonprofit organizations (such as universities, hospitals or social relief agencies) that object to contraception on religious grounds. The Obama administration last year set up a mechanism so that employees of such organizations will have seamless coverage of contraceptive services without out-of-pocket costs. (A narrow group of religious employers closely tied to houses of worship are exempt entirely.)

Under this accommodation, coverage is arranged through a third-party insurer or administrator and, as the administration puts it, “an eligible organization need not contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage” to which they object on religious grounds. The Court’s majority opinion indicated that such a mechanism would not violate the beliefs expressed in these cases by the for-profit employers that challenged the requirement. However, this accommodation—as applied to nonprofits—is itself subject to numerous court challenges, one or more of which will likely be heard by the Court during its next term.

The Obama administration has not yet indicated what specific actions it might take in response to the Court’s ruling, but it has stated that it “will work with Congress to make sure that any women affected by this decision will still have the same coverage of vital health services as everyone else.” The administration could take the Court’s suggestion and expand the existing accommodation to closely held for-profit corporations that assert a religious objection to some or all contraceptive services and methods. Congress, too, could act through new legislation to protect employees and their family members from their employers’ objections.

It is noteworthy that, given the opportunity to do so, the Court’s conservative majority did not reject the premise that the government has a compelling interest to promote contraceptive access, instead stating that for purposes of argument, “we assume the HHS regulations satisfy this requirement.” Indeed, in an impassioned dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—citing the Guttmacher Institute’s amicus brief —made it clear that the government’s case for the contraceptive coverage policy is very strong. Decades of scientific evidence and the life experiences of millions of women show that contraception enables women to prevent unintended pregnancies and to plan and space wanted pregnancies. That, in turn, has numerous health benefits for mothers and babies and promotes women’s educational, economic and social advancement.

Read the full statement here.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Courts and the Judiciary, Reproductive Rights | Comments Off on Guttmacher Institute on Hobby Lobby Case: “After Supreme Court Ruling, Focus Shifts to How Obama Administration and Congress Will Ensure Contraceptive Coverage for Affected Employees”

Guest Blogger Emily Gillingham, “This is Inconsistent with What She’s Been Telling Us”: Why the Criticism of Hillary’s Record on Women Matters

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There has been quite a hubbub lately over Hillary Clinton’s criminal defense of an alleged child rapist in 1975, when she was 27 years old and just starting out as a legal aid attorney. (See, e.g., here.) Her client was accused of sexually assaulting a 12 year old girl and beating her so severely that she spent five days in a coma. He was charged with Rape in the First Degree, but Clinton (then Rodham) successfully negotiated a deal in which her client pled guilty a lesser charge. A reporter found the victim in 2008, while she was serving a prison sentence. She had been in therapy for a decade following the attack, suffered fear of men, turned to drugs, and eventually landed in prison. At the time, she was quoted by Glenn Thrush (then of Newsday) as saying, “I’m sure Hillary was just doing her job,” although the victim now asserts that she was misquoted.

The story recently resurfaced because of an article in The Washington Free Beacon, an online newspaper which posted an interview from the mid-1980s between reporter Roy Reed and Hillary Clinton that had been archived at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. In the interview, Clinton said that her client passed the polygraph test that was administered to him, and then she chuckled and said that she didn’t trust polygraph tests after that. She also discussed one of the pieces of physical evidence in the case, her client’s underwear. The blood on the underwear linked her client to the crime, but when she asked to see the underwear, she learned that the portion with the blood which was tested by the lab had been disposed of. The court file for the case, which is available online (here), includes Clinton’s affidavit for psychiatric evaluation of the victim in which she wrote, “I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and to engage in fanaticizing. I have also been informed that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body. Also that she exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way.”

After the Reed interview tape was released, The Daily Beast reached out to the victim for a new interview. The victim expressed her anger with Clinton’s statements in the affidavit and in the Reed interview, saying (here) “I would say [to Clinton], ‘You took a case of mine in ’75, you lied on me… I realize the truth now, the heart of what you’ve done to me. And you are supposed to be for women? You call that [being] for women, what you done to me? And I hear you on tape laughing.”

Following The Daily Beast’s piece, several news outlets ran articles and discussions discussing Clinton’s legitimacy as an advocate for women and viability as a presidential candidate. Kimberly Guilfoyle of the Fox News debate program “The Five” said (transcript here), “I hope that women are going to be smarter and intelligent, and say ‘Listen, this is inconsistent with what she’s been telling us. Who would I believe? Which is the real Hillary Clinton? The one back then, taking cases on, voluntarily choosing to represent a child rapist?’ That’s a big choice.” Another speaker on “The Five” described Clinton’s representation of the client (here) as “declaring war on women when it’s politically convenient.” Washington Post reporter Melinda Henneberger characterized Clinton’s interview (here) as “not . . . typical talk for a lifelong defender of women and children,” and asked, “wouldn’t her apparent willingness to attack a sixth-grader compromise a presidential run?”

These criticisms of Clinton should matter to feminists and ethical members of the legal profession, regardless of political ideology. It is important not to discount the victim’s feelings about Clinton’s role in what she had experienced. However, what often gets lost in the discussion of Clinton’s role in this case is her ethical duty as an attorney to zealously advocate for her client. The issue of the conflicting moral obligations to a lawyer’s client and to the dignity of the opposing party, particularly in cases involving rape, has been written about at length. There is little debate about the role of a criminal defense attorney as a zealous advocate, regardless of what the client has been accused of, or how much evidence there is against him.

It was not Hillary Clinton’s job to unilaterally decide her client’s guilt or innocence and to temper the quality of her representation accordingly. An individual accused of rape is entitled to an attorney, and that attorney is bound to zealously advocate for his client. Being a steadfast advocate for a criminal defendant, no matter how reprehensible he might be, or how many prior convictions he has, is a feminist issue. If defense attorneys are expected to ignore missing evidence and allegations that the accuser is untruthful, no self-respecting advocate for women can trust that the system is convicting guilty individuals. In short, it is precisely our current system, wherein every ‘t’ must be crossed and every ‘i’ must be dotted in order to obtain a conviction, that lends legitimacy to rape convictions. Certainly, the way that the system operates is cruel and off-putting for victims of rape to go through, and the low conviction rate in rape cases points to other systemic problems. Yet it is patently unreasonable to fault Clinton for fulfilling her ethical and professional responsibilities in the system that exists, especially since she has advocated for victims of sexual violence in the decades that have followed.

An attorney has an ethical duty to listen to his client, to assess the client’s arguments in his own defense, and where there is a credible argument that makes strategic and legal sense, to pursue that argument. What Hillary Clinton wrote in the affidavit requesting the psychiatric evaluation reflects an assertion by her client, or someone else with knowledge about the victim, that the victim had fabricated her allegations and had made false accusations in the past. What she wrote in her affidavit is exactly what advocates for reform point to when they describe the revictimization of rape victims by the justice system. But the possibility that the victim was not being forthright warranted investigation. No competent criminal defense attorney in Clinton’s shoes would have acted differently. It unfortunately is a valuable way of mounting a defense to a charge like this, but the blame for that does not rest on the 27-year old shoulders of a new attorney in 1975. Henneberger, the Washington Post reporter, (here) described Clinton’s defense of her client as an attack on a sixth grade girl, but it was no more an attack on a sixth grade girl than defending an accused robber is an attack on the person who was robbed or defending a speeding ticket is an attack on Sunday drivers.

After accepting that our criminal justice system can only function when those accused of serious crimes are provided with competent, zealous representation, it is also hard to condemn Clinton’s investigation of the forensic evidence from the underwear. The justice system doesn’t allow the government to simply declare that forensic evidence indicated a certain conclusion, and then dispose of the evidence so that the defense cannot rebut it. Clinton was criticized for being boastful in her interview about her work on the missing evidence. But it’s hard to blame her for being boastful after her legwork helped to protect her client’s rights. It begs the question of whether such boasting would have been criticized if she were male, since it has been well-documented that while women are penalized in the workplace for aggression and self-promotion, men are rewarded for such characteristics.

Throwing away the sample that was tested is such an enormous error that it is hard to characterize her work on the missing evidence as an attack on the victim. Clinton’s critics seem to be confusing victim-blaming tactics with a legitimate investigation that a competent criminal defense attorney would undertake. If Clinton had not made the efforts that she had in the case, she would have been derided as unethical, someone who substituted her own judgment for that of the justice system. It would have been difficult to argue with that characterization.

Clinton was also criticized for helping to negotiate a plea deal for her client. It may seem seedy to someone outside of the legal profession, but around 90% of criminal cases end with a plea deal. Plea deals have special value in cases like this, where they can protect the victim (here, a 12-year old girl) from having to testify in front of strangers about the attack. Although this case involves an allegation of an extremely vicious sexual assault, it is worth noting that the cumulative year that Clinton’s client spent in jail is more than most rapists are sentenced to today. According to RAINN (here), including the estimated 60% of rapes that are never reported, only 3% of rapists ever spend a day in prison. It’s not as though Clinton’s client received an overly lenient deal that was outside of the normal range of outcomes for a case like this, whether or not the client’s attorney was aggressive.

Defense work has been political poison in recent years, but Clinton has suffered doubly because she has been characterized in the media as a hypocritical traitor to her gender and a woman who is not fulfilling her role by protecting children. Male candidates who have a background in criminal defense, even those who advocate for victims of sexual assault, have not endured the same treatment. They have not been criticized for the zealousness and aggressiveness that they put into their work, only on the outcomes they have produced. Perhaps this is reflective of Clinton’s higher profile as a potential presidential candidate, or the greater number of details available about this case, but it does smart of a double-bind that penalizes Clinton as a woman for the work that she did. What Clinton’s critics have failed to recognize is that there is no conflict between ensuring that criminal defendants are treated as the Constitution and the legal profession require that they be, and being a feminist and an advocate.

-Emily Gillingham

Emily Gillingham is a rising 3L at Michigan State University College of Law. She received her BS from Eastern Michigan University in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies in 2012. She is the incoming president of the MSU Law chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice and volunteers at a local domestic violence shelter.

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Vasectomy as Part of Plea Agreement

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A 27-year old Virginia man has agreed to a vasectomy as part of a plea deal in Virginia.

“It’s a condition of his probation, and I’m sure he’ll have to provide documentation to his probation officer,” [prosecutor Ilonia L.] White said of the vasectomy.

White said her motivation in offering the vasectomy option to [the defendant] stemmed from concerns raised at sentencing hearings in earlier cases about how many children have been traced to him from different women.

“It was primarily due to the fact he had seven or eight children, all by different women, and we felt it might be in the commonwealth’s interest for that to be part of the plea agreement,” White said of the vasectomy provision.

But the defendant in this case, Jessie Lee Herald, was facing charges related to a car crash.  The charges included child endangerment, hit-and-run driving and driving with a suspended license.  Mr. Herald fled the scene of the accident with the child who had been traveling with him.

The Northern Virginia Daily has the story here.

It is difficult to read this report against Virginia’s history with forced sterilization, most notably the Buck v. Bell decision.

-Bridget Crawford

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Women’s Tennis and (Gratuitous) Grunting vs. Shrieking

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Writing (here) for the (UK) Telegraph, reporter Kathryn Dobson covering the Wimbledon beat asks, “Why do women grunt?”  The explanations proferred in the article include a tennis player’s desire to gain psychological advantage over one’s opponent, facilitate application of maximum force to a shot, enhance relaxation, and release tension. Some tennis insiders criticize the sounds as unsporting and distracting to other players.  Indeed even the casual fan can tell you that the sounds can be distracting enough to cause television viewers to reach for the mute button on their remote controls.

To be sure, the “grunting” phenomenon is not limited to the women’s game.  As quoted in the Telegraph article, Ivan Lendl said of Andre Agassi’s vocalizations that “when he goes for a big shot, his grunt is much harder, like he thinks he’s a winner. It throws off your timing.”  But the vocalizations from women seem to be more pronounced and louder than their male counterparts’.  To my ear, 104+ decibels from Maria Sharapova are more than “grunts.”  They are in a far higher register than her speaking voice, too.  As gendered as it sounds, I’d have to say that Maria Sharapova shrieks, whereas male tennis players grunt.  Her noises bother me in a way that Agassi’s never did.

Why is that?

The knee-jerk analysis is that I am inappropriately criticizing a female athlete for doing what a male athlete does.  If a woman and a man engage the same biomechanics, then it would appear that I register a “shriek” from a woman and a “grunt” from a man.  The only physical difference is the register of the voice.  Thus it is my sexist cultural conditioning that makes me label the female athlete a “shrieker” (always negative) and the male athlete a “grunter” (could be positive if I think it is “manly;” neutral if I think that’s just what guys do or it is “athletic”; or negative if it reflects bad manners).

But is there more going on?  My suspicion is that female tennis players who vocalize to gain psychological advantage over one’s opponent, facilitate application of maximum force to a shot, enhance relaxation, or release tension could do so in a lower register.  In other words, female tennis players could grunt like the men if they wanted. But vocalizing in a higher — and perhaps the highest possible — register emphasizes and maintains gender distinctions.  In other words, even if the psychological/tactical/biomechanical motivations are the same for men and women, exaggerating pitch differences makes the female athletes as least like men as possible, under the circumstances.  The athlete may be sweating like a man and performing a traditionally male activity (hey, look at the history of sports), but she makes herself audibly recognizable as a female.

That being said, I don’t think that vocalizing in a higher register is a necessarily a gender-aware, deliberate choice.  News reports say that some of the female tennis players who are “noisy” in their 20’s were vocalizing even as youth players.  But to say that any of us has ever existed pre-gender is to suggest a utopia that does not exist.  Elite athletes certainly are not thinking about gender or sex while in a game situation.  But is it too far-fetched to suggest that to the extent that female tennis players vocalize, it sounds a teensy-weensy orgasmic?  Cultural tolerates certain sounds and not others from women.

-Bridget Crawford


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Huntington on “How Law Undermines Family Relationships”

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Clare Huntington (Fordham Law School) has published a new book, Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships (Oxford University Press 2014).  Here is Oxford’s description:

 Exploring the connection between families and inequality, Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships argues that the legal regulation of families stands fundamentally at odds with the needs of families. Strong, stable, positive relationships are essential for both individuals and society to flourish, but from transportation policy to the criminal justice system, and from divorce rules to the child welfare system, the legal system makes it harder for parents to provide children with these kinds of relationships, exacerbating the growing inequality in America.

Failure to Flourish contends that we must re-orient the legal system to help families avoid crises and, when conflicts arise, intervene in a manner that heals relationships. To understand how wrong our family law system has gone and what we need to repair it, Failure to Flourish takes us from ancient Greece to cutting-edge psychological research, and from the chaotic corridors of local family courts to a quiet revolution under way in how services are provided to families in need. Incorporating the latest insights of positive psychology and social science research, the book sets forth a new, more emotionally intelligent vision for a legal system that not only resolves conflict but actively encourages the healthy relationships that are at the core of a stable society.

Looks interesting!

-Bridget Crawford

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Lyme Disease as a Feminist Issue

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Over here at, there is a write-up of radio host Dennis Bernstein’s interview with filmmaker Sini Anderson.  Anderson is the former director of the National Queer Arts Festival and the director of the documentary The Punk Singer about former Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna.  During the course of filming, Anderson was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which Hanna also battled.  Here is a portion of the interview:

As you know, we’ve been doing this series on Lyme disease. We interviewed recently Dr. Richard Horowitz. We asked him why there seems to be a larger percentage of women with Lyme disease. He was explaining to us that Lyme can cause an autoimmune-type reaction and studies found that greater percentages of women have other autoimmune diseases, which seems to be related to hormonal reactions that can accelerate the autoimmune process. What are your thoughts about why so many women are being hit with such a crippling disease? Any thoughts on that?

Sure Dennis. I mean I think that we’re talking about a few different issues here. And Dr. Horowitz is one of my doctors. Another doctor of mine is Dr. Leo Galland who is in New York City. The two of them collaborated together to get me to a place of better health and I’m immensely grateful to both of them.

I think that the amount of women that are being diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease is . . . it’s infuriating. And I think that what is happening is that women are going to their doctors and are presenting with these symptoms and they are being brushed off by their doctors in a way that I don’t think men are experiencing at the same rates. So what ends up happening is they just say, “Oh, yeah, I must be making this up” or “I must be making this worse than it is. And I should suck it up.” And then they go a few more months and then something else happens. And, you know, often times by the time they end up getting so incredibly sick that their systems can’t take it anymore, we’re talking 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line. And they’re so sick at that point that it’s really hard to get them well.

As far as like the hormonal stuff and the autoimmune responses, yeah definitely. I mean, I’m not a scientist; I am just shocked at the lack of knowledge that we have around this. And I’m not entirely convinced that this is the only thing that we’re dealing with. I don’t know what to put behind that statement, but there is something very, very, very complex going on with peoples’ immune systems right now. I have Lyme disease, Babesia and Bartonella. And with whatever else is going on in my system, it is . . . it had created a crippling response where I was taken out so quickly.

And it’s completely terrifying, you know. I don’t know what’s going on. I cannot believe that we don’t know more about it. And I think it’s going to take a lot of enraged people in order to get to the bottom of this. And there are a lot of parallels between what’s going on right now and what was happening with the AIDS epidemic in the late ’80s. And I think that, as time goes on, more is going to be revealed. And I think there’s going to be a lot of people, especially from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the IDSA, which is the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

They’re going to have to be giving us some answers that they haven’t been forthcoming about up until now. I mean really the key part is, we’re ignoring the answer to the question, which is, “What happens if you don’t catch it?” How are a bunch of doctors telling people that, you get it, you take six weeks; you should be good on antibiotics; you’ll be fine. We’re ignoring everybody who doesn’t catch it. And are we just made to believe that it should just disappear? Or that six years down the line, we should take six weeks of antibiotics, and it’s going to disappear? That’s ridiculous.

So, you know, for me, I’m a feminist activist; I’m a part of this community. I am also a queer activist and I come from activism roots. And we have got to make noise. I lost many friends to HIV and AIDS in the ’90s and I watched as we struggled to fight the CDC and to fight the American Medical Association and demand answers, and demand treatment. But this is a little bit different. This is much quieter and people are so, so sick. Unfortunately the people that really are infuriated and wanting to protest are the ones that are sick and they are unable to get out there and have their voices heard.

Read the full interview here.

-Bridget Crawford

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Historic Preservation and LGBT History

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Last month, the National Park Service announced (here) a “theme study” focused on sites related to LGBT history.  The study’s aims (described here) are:

  • engaging scholars, preservationists and community members to identify, research, and tell the stories of LGBT associated properties;
  • encouraging national parks, national heritage areas, and other affiliated areas to interpret LGBT stories associated with them;
  • identifying, documenting, and nominating LGBT-associated sites as national historic landmarks;
  • increasing the number of listings of LGBT-associated properties in the National Register of Historic Places.

The public can nominate places for inclusion at the website or via

-Bridget Crawford

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Why Are (Almost All of) the Most-Cited Legal Academics White Men?

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On Wednesday, Brian Leiter posted a list of the ten most-cited legal scholars during the years 2009-2013 (really eleven, due to a tie for tenth place). All eleven are men, and to the best of my knowledge, 10/11 are white. Following in the footsteps of other contributors’ “Where are the Women” posts, I’ve written a post at my personal blog considering possible explanations for the disparity. I thought I’d link to it here in case it’s of interest to readers of this blog.

– Nancy Leong

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Bryan Adamson: Media Images of Michael Sam and Vito Cammisano Showed Us More Than We Thought

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From my in-box: published here with permission, Bryan Adamson’s essay on Michael Sam, the media, and why challenging norms is not comfortable (or, apparently, welcome).

The “Problem” With Michael Sam: It Wasn’t the Kiss

Bryan Adamson, Associate Professor, Seattle University School of Law

Through the ensuing furor over ESPN’s coverage and the NFL Network’s simulcast of Michael Sam’s draft selection to the St. Louis Rams, we have heard so many people—even well-meaning people—say that there is nothing wrong with Sam being gay, but that ESPN should not have aired the kiss and celebration between Sam and his partner Vito Cammisano. We can be quite certain that Sam’s draft (No. 249!) would be less than a non-story had he kissed a woman and smeared cake on her face. But because he didn’t, and Cammisano isn’t, we must now have a conversation about heteronormativity and heterosexual privilege.

Lately, there has been a good deal of talk about privilege in the news—of the white kind. Tal Fortgang’s adolescent tirade against the concept of white privilege—or rather, his rant against what he thinks it is…Donald Sterling’s bigoted babble about how he has done more for black folks than black folks have done for each other….Welfare Rancher Cliven Bundy’s far-reaching life experiences that apparently bestowed upon him the select ability to tell us “one more thing” he “knows about the Negro.” (On the last especially: I. Can’t. Even.). I submit that the vehement reactions of disgust to Sam’s televised lip-lock with Cammisano—occurring in the hyper masculine context of professional football, and captured by the most male-oriented networks on television—illuminate an odious variation on the privilege theme.

The outrage over Sam’s celebration wasn’t because he cried—we’ve long been good with seeing men shed tears. And, strictly speaking, the outrage wasn’t about the male-to-male affection demonstrated. Again, we’ve seen it before: fiction and non-fiction broadcast television history is rife with examples of men—as friends, brothers, fathers or sons—kissing each other. What caused not an insubstantial number of viewers fits had everything to do with the knowledge of Sam and Cammisano’s relationship, the setting, and that cake.

Continue reading

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What Does It Mean to Design a Car “Specifically for Women”?

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According to this story about Tesla Motors, it means doors that are “perfect for tight parking spots at the mall” and seats placed to make it easier to climb over the baby seats. In terms of appearance, says Tesla designer Franz von Holzhausen, “Women don’t want an overly feminine vehicle — they want to feel secure. But it has to be aggressive enough for a guy to feel confident as well. We didn’t want to make a Hello Kitty edition.”

— Jennifer Hendricks

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How Not To Review Women’s Writing

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Over at The Toast, Mallory Ortberg writes:

I have gone back and forth several times over the last few days on whether or not it would be worth addressing Adam Plunkett’s New review of poet Patricia Lockwood’s latest book here. I don’t write much on topical issues to begin with, there have been plenty of more noteworthy stories about women’s issues in the public eye over the last week or so, and it’s not exactly hurting her career any.

Also, if I am being perfectly honest, I didn’t want to seem mean by criticizing a man twice in public. I have since overcome this reluctance.

And yet! It is such a perfect illustration of Joanna Russ’ How To Suppress Women’s Writing that I think it merits mentioning, if only as a cautionary example for all you future New Yorker (dot com) reviewers out there. (Have you forgotten her main points? Let us revisit them briefly here. How many points do you think Plunkett’s review scores? By my count, he nets at least six out of eleven, but I’m open to a recount.)

Prohibitions Prevent women from access to the basic tools for writing.

Bad Faith Unconsciously create social systems that ignore or devalue women’s writing.

Denial of Agency Deny that a woman wrote it.

Pollution of Agency Show that their art is immodest, not actually art, or shouldn’t have been written about.

The Double Standard of Content Claim that one set of experiences is considered more valuable than another.

False Categorizing Incorrectly categorize women artists as the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, or lovers of male artists.

Isolation Create a myth of isolated achievement that claims that only one work or short series of poems is considered great.

Anomalousness Assert that the woman in question is eccentric or atypical.

Lack of Models Reinforce a male author dominance in literary canons in order to cut off women writers’ inspiration and role models.

Responses Force women to deny their female identity in order to be taken seriously.

Aesthetics Popularize aesthetic works that contain demeaning roles and characterizations of women.

Find the complete essay, with plenty of supporting links, here.

Posted in Academia, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and the Arts, If you're a woman | Comments Off on How Not To Review Women’s Writing

New Book Announcement: Jill Elaine Hasday, “Family Law Reimagined”

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Jill Elaine Hasday (Minnesota) has published a new book, Family Law Reimagined (Harvard U. Press, 2014).  Here is the publisher’s description:

One of the law’s most important and far-reaching roles is to govern family life and family members.  Family law decides who counts as kin, how family relationships are created and dissolved, and what legal rights and responsibilities come with marriage, parenthood, sibling ties, and other family bonds.  Yet despite its significance, the field remains remarkably understudied and poorly understood both within and outside the legal community.

Family Law Reimagined is the first book to explore the canonical narratives, stories, examples, and ideas that legal decisionmakers repeatedly invoke to explain family law and its governing principles.  These stories contend that family law is exclusively local, that it repudiates market principles, that it has eradicated the imprint of common law doctrines which subordinated married women, that it is dominated by contract rules permitting individuals to structure their relationships as they choose, and that it consistently prioritizes children’s interests over parents’ rights.

In this book, Jill Elaine Hasday reveals how family law’s canon misdescribes the reality of family law, misdirects attention away from the actual problems that family law confronts, and misshapes the policies that legal authorities pursue.  She demonstrates how much of the “common sense” that decisionmakers expound about family law actually makes little sense.

Family Law Reimagined uncovers and critiques the family law canon and outlines a path to reform.  The book challenges conventional answers and asks questions that judges and lawmakers routinely overlook.  It calls on us to reimagine family law.

-Bridget Crawford

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Death of Maya Angelou

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image source:

Maya Angelou died today.  Here is an excerpt from her obituary in the New York Times.

Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.

* * * Throughout her writing, Ms. Angelou explored the concepts of personal identity and resilience through the multifaceted lens of race, sex, family, community and the collective past. As a whole, her work offered a cleareyed examination of the ways in which the socially marginalizing forces of racism and sexism played out at the level of the individual.

Read the full obituary here.

May her memory be a blessing.

-Bridget Crawford

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In Honor of Memorial Day

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A crowd of African American Women’s Army Corps members waving at the camera, Staten Island Terminal, New York Port of Embarkation, March 13, 1946. Image source: NY Public Library.

And check out the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation’s web site here.

-Bridget Crawford

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A Feminist Theoretical Take on Virginity Auctions

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Various press outlets (not linked here) have reported that a medical school student planned to auction her virginity and then cancelled that plan.  Over at Feminist Current, Elisa Haf writes thoughtfully about the situtation in “Student Virginity Auctions and Sexual Economics.” Here is an excerpt:

There is a lot to analyze here….I’m more interested in the context of such choices (so how free they really are) as well as in why they are women’s to make in the first place. Why do women go there? Why do we consider sex work?

Student virginity auctions are particularly telling on this point. Because both men and women have to pay for higher education, yet the only student virginity auctions I’ve heard of have been flogging a woman’s first time. This could be about heightened scrutiny of women’s sexual choices, but I actually think (though I can’t think of a way of proving this) that a story about the auction of a man’s virginity would attract more page views and scandal. It would at least be novel. So in this case, at least on the most basic level, if we ill-advisedly forget about women being more likely than men to have dependents and probably getting paid less for doing the same work if they have a job alongside their studies and so on and so fourth — if we basically pretend for a minute that men and women are on an economically equal playing field when it comes to higher education and paying for it, and if we factor in that most people in higher education — including, apparently, the woman of the latest virginity auction story — probably have more economic options than your standard issue young person, then why do female students sell their virginities (and enter sex work in other ways)? Why are they seemingly more likely to do so than their male counterparts? On the admittedly flawed terms we’ve set up, it isn’t economic necessity driving them to it.

Does this mean that “transactional” is just the way women’s sexuality is — meant for commodification somehow?

The theory of sexual economics, widely unpopular among feminists, has been interpreted to claim so. But an insight of the theory which is often overlooked is its emphasis on the role of equality in shaping socio-sexual norms. Basically, the idea is that sex is something women have and men want (a “female resource”) which women exchange with men for access to some of the resources men have that women don’t to the same degree — wealth, status, earning power. Women police each other’s sexualities in order to keep sex in low supply for men, enabling women as a class to demand a higher price for it. However, when women have greater access of their own to resources like wealth, status and earning power, women are less bothered about the price they can get for sex. Conversely, a woman in particularly dire straits — with little to no access to such resources — is more likely to take whatever she can get for sex. So really well off and really badly off women are more likely to have sex in exchange for less, but better off women’s choice to do so is freer.

Read the full post here.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Feminism and Economics, Prostitution, Sex and Sexuality | Comments Off on A Feminist Theoretical Take on Virginity Auctions

Emory Hiring Announcement

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From the FLP mailbox:

Good news for those interested in the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative! One of Emory Law’s hiring priorities for Fall 2015 is Vulnerability and Law.

Emory Law is doing a search for a scholar interested in vulnerability theory, structural disadvantage and inequality, and social justice generally.  The scholar’s “traditional” subject matter can be anything – health, corporations, family, education, employment, human rights, etc.- the point is that they are using a theoretical approach that considers the implications of human vulnerability and the need to structure a more responsive state through law and regulation. This is an exciting development for the vulnerability approach, which grew out of the work on dependency, care, and social justice undertaken by the Feminism and Legal Theory Project and other feminist organizations and is now embodied in the Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative at Emory.

Anyone interested should send a CV and email inquiry to Martha Fineman – (chair of the Vulnerability and Law sub-committee).

-Bridget Crawford

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“Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit

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Soraya Chemaly published an interview with Rebecca Solnit here. Below is an excerpt:

You know, I had a wonderful conversation about a month ago with a young Ph.D. candidate at U.C. Berkeley. I’ve been a little bit squeamish about the word “mansplaining,” because it can seem to imply that men are inherently flawed, rather than that some guys are a little over-privileged, arrogant and clueless. This young academic said to me, “No, you don’t understand! You need to recognize that until we had the word ‘mainsplained,’ so many women had this awful experience and we didn’t even have a language for it. Until we can name something, we can’t share the experience, we can’t describe it, we can’t respond to it. I think that word has been extraordinarily valuable in helping women and men describe something that goes on all the time.” She really changed my opinion. It’s really useful. I’ve always been interested in how much our problems come from not having the language, not having the framework to think and talk about and address the phenomenon around us.

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CFP: Lavender Law Junior Scholars Forum

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From the FLP mailbox:

This year the Lavender Law® Conference & Career Fair will be held August 21-23, 2014 at the Sheraton New York in New York City. Lavender Law brings together the best and brightest legal minds in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

To celebrate our community of scholars, Lavender Law® is hosting a Junior Scholars Forum again this year. This year, the forum will be devoted to individuals who intend to participate in the AALS annual entry-level hiring conference in Washington, D.C. If you are planning to participate in the entry-level hiring process this year, and your work focuses on the nexus between the law, gender, and sexuality, we encourage you to apply.

To submit a proposal for consideration, please email (1) a 5-10 page overview of your job talk; and (2) a copy of your cv to Courtney Joslin ( and Joseph Landau (

The deadline for submissions is Friday, June 13, 2014.

If you are selected to participate, a complete draft of your job talk will be due by August 1, 2014.

-Bridget Crawford

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Mae Quinn on “Policing Puberty, Purity and Sex Positivity”

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Mae Quinn (Washington University in St. Louis) has posted to SSRN her article From Turkey Trot to Twitter: Policing Puberty, Purity, and Sex Positivity, 38 NYU J. L. & Social Change 51 (2014).  Here is the abstract:

From outward appearance, to physical presence, to intimate communications and engagements, young people have continually faced familial, community-based, and state-sponsored management of their most basic day-to-day actions and interactions. This obsession with policing puberty has, at times, reached the level of panic. This article seeks to examine this recurring phenomenon and suggests that adults find more productive ways to grapple with the teen identity formation process in this country.

It focuses on one particularly powerful panic-producing intersection of adolescence with American life – young girls and the big city. It describes reform efforts that took place in emerging urban centers at the turn of the last century, comparing them to the policing strategies that are taking place in our newest metropolis – the internet.

In doing so this article analyzes how the state has repeatedly worked to proscribe and prosecute a wide range of popular adolescent activities in the name of protecting youth from the dangers of modern life. It further argues that instead of providing a sense of security for young girls, such punitive actions often have sent mixed messages about intimacy and sexuality, discounted youthful and female agency, and unnecessarily attempted to prevent social change. In the end this article argues we should take some lessons from the failed efforts of the Progressive Era and respond differently to adolescent girls’ identity exploration in the 21st century.

The full article is available here.

A worthwhile read!

-Bridget Crawford

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#BringBackOurDaughters, #BringBackOurGirls

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#BringBackOurDaughters, #BringBackOurGirls

The kidnapped girls of Chibok are on my mind. On April 15, 2014, armed men kidnapped well over two hundred Nigerian schoolgirls (estimates range up 276) from their school. The kidnapping occurred at the Government Girls Secondary School, in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria. Chibok is a rural village in the northeastern portion of Nigeria near the borders of Chad and Cameroon. The kidnapped girls were in the midst of taking examinations. While some of the kidnapped girls have escaped, the majority of the girls remain either in the hands of the captors or in parts unknown. As horrifying as the kidnappings are, perhaps more distressing is the fact that to date there is apparently no official, state-based or international effort to recover the girls. Instead, parents and concerned citizens have formed groups to attempt the rescue of the girls.

#BringBackOurDaughters, #BringBackOurGirls

The kidnappings are a reminder that despite the freedoms that some women enjoy today, there is an ever-present fact that shadows the scene: women’s bodies are often the field on which political, social and legal battles are fought. These battles are seen in the continuing threat of sexual assault and gender-based violence; these battles are also seen in efforts to control reproductive freedom and access to education, and in proliferating pornographic norms that elide art, aesthetics, commerce and political speech and in the process demean and diminish women. While in some ways some women gain power, at the same time many women’s rights are reduced, and their voices are frequently silenced. Women too often find themselves not only muted but transmuted from members of the body politic to principal objects in the politics of the body.

#BringBackOurDaughters, #BringBackOurGirls

The politics of the body put the human body, and especially women’s bodies, at the center of political engagements and manipulations. The kidnapping of the girls of Chibok, in order, say some, to make then “wives,” not only terrorizes the girls and their families, but also serves as a means of relegating girls and women to civic outsiders, mere pawns in a cynical game of political brinksmanship. And the tepid response of the international community makes it difficult to distinguish condemnation from condonation.

#BringBackOurDaughters, #BringBackOurGirls

So please join me in moving this matter to the center of public consciousness. Don’t be saddened. Be outraged. Command, demand. Speak, write, march to bring our daughters, our girls, home.

-Lolita Buckner Inniss

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

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Faith Stevelman on the Credibility Gap for Women in Teaching Business Law

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The following was posted by Faith Stevelman (NYLS, Visiting Professor at University of Washington) to the Section on Women in Legal Education’s listserv and is reprinted with permission:

Yes indeed, as the enrollment and jobs crises roll along, there will be more and more pressure for faculty to obtain favorable evaluations. Favorable evaluations are all about the match between students’ expectations and whatever the reality is in the classroom (ie, not necessarily an objective measure of quality of instruction by any means, we know this, right?). If we find latent expectations in the objective features of the classroom, what does that say about the rest of the classroom experience in terms of gender, stereotypes and failed conformity?

My impression, along with constant media reports about women and glass ceilings in technical fields, is that there is still a credibility gap for some students with women teaching corporate finance, as well as business law subjects, and indeed all other subjects where expectations of power, mastery and hierarchy linger. Consider, as I read in the NYT this weekend (on the subject of the relative paucity of women in senior media positions): “The closer you get to money and power the more the people talking about the subject are expected to look like the people being covered.” … What does that say for women  law professors?

You can flip this of course: what does this ‘matching’ assumption mean for women faculty being ‘validated’ in our teaching of family law or poverty law or ADR … ? How to avoid implicitly validating stereotypes of concern for families/children, poor people and reducing contentiousness being marginal/outsiders’ concerns?

Again,  I teach business law classes, usually in very large rooms. If I set myself back to the podiums, I will not see or hear my students. I usually move a stool and often a low desk closer to the students. I also use slides and set all that up, along with a remote and microphone, etc. I have to spend fifteen minutes, at least, readying the classroom. As I putter around doing this, to different students I simultaneously look very organized or very disorganized, depending on their frame of reference.  Also, I cannot always access my classroom with all the time required to make all the technology and furniture adjustments prior to the exact starting moment of the class – disorganized? Can I tell you how silly I feel dragging a desk or stool into the well of the room? (No one ever offers to help … fear of looking like teacher’s pet?)

Also,  I walk around the room to see and hear the students better. I had a senior male colleague tell me that perhaps I lose authority in doing that. What’s clear is that perhaps I aggravate the students in doing that, because they cannot be safely away from my seeing their laptops and speaking with them about the day’s topics. I go with the option of shaking them out of their comfort zone in the hope that they are stimulated to pay attention and be present, but it doesn’t necessarily help me garner favor with students.

So here is the final, extremely painful thing I will share: I recently was asked to watch and critique tapes of my teaching. I had never done this before. Although nothing is more important to me than the quality of my teaching, I was concerned that watching myself on tape would result in my being self-conscious later on, in real time, in the classroom  … So guess what? It was awful and it did.

As I watched myself, I had the twin experience of being both “excessively” female (hair, breasts, hips, feet not in wingtips, ugh!) and insufficiently attractive as a female (bags under my eyes… wow, when did I get ‘old’?). I could not turn off the experience of myself as being vulnerable and disappointing as a WOMAN professor and being vulnerably and disappointing as less than perfectly groomed and fit as a female leader. This is one of the most embarrassing things I have ever felt; I was horrified at myself. Here is the point:  If I myself – a committed feminist —  cannot really displace this experience of my gender, how can the students be free of this experience? And if they are not free of the gendered view of my teaching, can their evaluations be free of material bias?

We will need to be protective of our hardworking sisters in these perilous times!

-Faith Stevelman

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Should Connecticut’s New Campus Sexual Assault Legislation Be a National Model?

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Yesterday, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy “signed legislation into law that will strengthen sexual assault prevention and response procedures at institutions of higher learning in Connecticut.” Today, an editorial in The Courant asserted that the legislation should be a national model. So, what exactly does the legislation accomplish?

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What to Buy at a Certain Big-Box Store

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According to the venerable Consumer Reports (here), consumers are making a mistake in stocking up at Costco on bathroom tissue or dishwashing detergent.  What’s cheap and great quality there, according to CR?

-Bridget Crawford

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Case Western Law School retaliation law suit update

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Here. Oy.

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“As Dartmouth makes efforts to combat sexual assault, posts on an anonymous online forum have students terrified.”

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Below is an excerpt from “How Cyberbullying Is Making Sexual Assault on College Campuses Even Worse” by Katie Van Syckle:

Less than two months ago, a commenter on an anonymous online forum threatened to gang-bang me at a fraternity house. “Is the Cosmo writer actually coming to Dartmouth?” the poster wrote on, a forum open to anyone with a email address. “We should invite her to AD and run train on her. Take pics. Publish it in the next Cosmo issue.” Two commenters supported the plan. One suggested peeing on me too.

AD, or Alpha Delta, is Dartmouth’s rowdy cool-boys frat, the inspiration for Animal House and where current college president Phil Hanlon (Dartmouth ’77) pledged. I had contacted Hanlon — a 60-something mathematician — for an article on the new sexual assault policy at Dartmouth. I hadn’t heard back from him, but I’d spoken to enough people on campus to make my presence known.

I found the post while sitting on my couch in Brooklyn in late March, four days after it was posted. I called the college’s campus police, Safety and Security, and they offered to send an S&S officer. I told them I was off campus. They took my class year — I graduated from Dartmouth in 2005 — my birthday, and asked for a screenshot. Two hours later, the Hanover Police called.

“Do you know who would have written it?” the officer asked. I told him I didn’t. He wasn’t optimistic that he could find the author or hold anyone responsible. He said the Hanover Police get calls like mine about Bored at Baker once a month. …

Posted in Academia, Coerced Sex, Masculinity, Sex and Sexuality | Comments Off on “As Dartmouth makes efforts to combat sexual assault, posts on an anonymous online forum have students terrified.”

Sir Young and the “Typical Sex Offender”

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A sexual assault case out of Texas is making national headlines based upon the comments and sentence imposed by the judge. From the CNN article on the case:

She could have sentenced him to 20 years in prison after he admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl in her high school.

Instead, a Texas judge gave the defendant a 45-day sentence and probation after implying that the victim was promiscuous. next in Texas rape case?

Judge Jeanine Howard told The Dallas Morning News that she based the sentence, in part, on medical records indicating that the girl had had three sexual partners and had given birth.

She told the newspaper that the victim “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be” and said the defendant, 20-year-old Sir Young, “is not your typical sex offender.”

This, of course, begs the question: What is the typical sex offender?

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Where are the Women? U of Illinois Law Review Edition

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Illinois Law Review, Issue 2014:2

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University of Illinois Law Review, Issue 2014:2

4 articles; no female faculty authors. 3 student notes; 1 female student author.

-Bridget Crawford

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Judith Butler’s Interview with TransAdvocate

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Cristan Williams of The TransAdvocate interviews Judith Butler here.  Here is an excerpt:

nothing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world. This will happen only when transphobia is overcome at the level of individual attitudes and prejudices and in larger institutions of education, law, health care, and kinship. – See more at:


nothing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world. This will happen only when transphobia is overcome at the level of individual attitudes and prejudices and in larger institutions of education, law, health care, and kinship. – See more at:


nothing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world. This will happen only when transphobia is overcome at the level of individual attitudes and prejudices and in larger institutions of education, law, health care, and kinship

othing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world. This will happen only when transphobia is overcome at the level of individual attitudes and prejudices and in larger institutions of education, law, health care, and kinship

[N]othing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world. This will happen only when transphobia is overcome at the level of individual attitudes and prejudices and in larger institutions of education, law, health care, and kinship.

Read the full interview here.

-Bridget Crawford

nothing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world. This will happen only when transphobia is overcome at the level of individual attitudes and prejudices and in larger institutions of education, law, health care, and kinship. – See more at:
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