More Discussion of Online Safety and Privacy

Here are a few excellent recent articles about online privacy, harassment, and the silencing of women:

Amanda Hess, The Next Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet
Conor Friedersdorf, When Misogynist Trolls Make Journalism Miserable for Women
Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger, Why Grandma Shouldn’t Have Posted Instagram Pics On Facebook

Posted in Feminism and Technology, Invasion of Privacy | 1 Comment

Online Voter Information and Privacy

Donny-Osmond-007Did you ever want to know Donny Osmond’s birthday, along with his voter registration status? Now you can find out, through a simple website which has posted the entire Utah state voting roll to the internet in easily searchable form. What if you’re looking in Colorado, Connecticut, or a half dozen other states? Their voter rolls are online too, sometimes with additional information like addresses.

Is this troubling? It’s one thing to post Donny Osmond’s birthday to the internet; that information is on Wikipedia anyway. It’s more troubling to post the private information of tens of thousands of everyday people, many of whom may have no idea that this online database exists.

The website pooh-poohs potential privacy concerns and touts the potential value of this information — it could help in genealogical projects, for instance. The site also points out that this information is legally available already as public records which anyone could order. That is troubling itself (it illustrates what kind of information marketing companies and others could be buying right now).

But I’m also not convinced by the “this is available anyway” argument. As scholars like Dan Solove and Danielle Citron have pointed out, sometimes structural barriers and transaction costs create a sort of informal, de-facto privacy protection, which everyday citizens may depend on. When a company acts to strip away those barriers, it threatens everyone’s privacy.

(Cross-posted from Concurring Opinions; this issue may be especially relevant for women due to privacy and safety concerns.)

Posted in Feminism and Technology, Invasion of Privacy | Comments Off

Documentary on “Media Coverage and Female Athletes”

From the Tucker Center at the University of Minnesota, a new documentary on “Media Coverage and Female Athletes.”

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Feminism and Sports | Comments Off

Latina Feminist Reader Suggestions

Via Amsterdam-based writer Flavia Dzodan over at Red Light Politics, this list of suggestions for a Latina Feminist Reader:

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color – Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza – Gloria Anzaldua

Unequal sisters: An Inclusive Reader in U.S. Women’s History edited by Vicki Ruiz

Since this is a pretty expensive book and not widely available online to read, at the very least, I would recommend reading the chapter “The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse” by Alma M. Garcia. Found in pdf format here.

From Bananas to Buttocks: The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture – Myra Mendible

Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism – Daisy Hernadez and Bushra Rehman

Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From The Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado – Elvia Alvarado

Especially for migrant women of color, this is a must read:
Uprootings Regroundings: Questions of Home and Migration Sara Ahmed, one of my favorite feminists, edited this book with a Latina feminist, Claudia Castañeda.

As an aside, Sara Ahmed’s The Cultural Politics of Emotion is a must read. It’s not specific to Latina feminism but it is invaluable in its insights

Women of Color and Feminism – Maythee Rojas

Women’s Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean: Engendering Social Justice, Democratizing Citizenship various editors

For those who do read Spanish, I would also recommend Sexualidades migrantes. Género y transgénero edited by Diana Maffia

Read the full post here.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Recommended Books | Comments Off

CRR-CLS Reproductive Rights Fellowship – apply by February 28th

The deadline for the 2014-2016 Columbia Law School – Center for Reproductive Rights Fellowship (CRR-CLS Fellowship) has been extended to February 28, 2014!

The CRR-CLS Fellowship is an exciting opportunity for recent law school graduates who are interested in careers in teaching law. Please keep your eye out for promising scholars and keep in mind that experience in reproductive rights is not required. You can download the application here.

Here is our track record thus far:

Here is a little more information about the Fellowship:

The CRR-CLS Fellowship is a two-year, post-graduate fellowship offered by the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center) and Columbia Law School (CLS). Those committed to women’s rights and/or human rights would be a great fit for this fellowship – although we don’t require experience in these areas. More than anything, this is a fellowship for serious emerging academics. Fellows will be affiliated with the Center and CLS, and will participate in the intellectual life of both programs. Applicants do not need to be graduates of Columbia Law School to be eligible for this program and do not need prior experience in reproductive rights.

The deadline for applications for the 2014-2016 cycle is now February 28, 2014.

If you would like to learn more about CRR’s Law School Initiative, which supports the Fellowship, please visit our website here; email the Senior Director of the Law School Initiative, Diana Hortsch,; or email Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law,

We would be grateful if you could forward these materials to your colleagues and to promising recent graduates interested in academic careers.

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

National Council for Research on Women’s “Gender Stat”

From the FLP mailbox, this notice of a research aggregation tool:

The National Council for Research on Women is proud to announce the launch of Gender Stat, a tool that collects statistics on gender equity, annually and by topic. This first installment, Politics 2013, highlights data on women’s political leadership in 2013, along with a few recent papers that explore barriers to women’s greater political participation. It includes several comparisons of regional and global metrics.

More About Gender Stat
  • Provides an annual overview of quantitative data from around the web as we attempt to answer the question, How are things changing on the gender equity landscape? 
  • Highlights research findings from academic, policy, government, and NGO/NPO sources around the web.
  • Links to primary sources for data and analysis to allow readers to explore the numbers more deeply.
  • Over time, it will become a clearinghouse for top-level numbers on where gender equity is progressing and where it is regressing and/or stalled.
  • Topics covered over the next year include: politics, wages and benefits, sexual assault, and poverty.

More info here.

-Bridget Crawford


Posted in Feminist Legal Scholarship, From the FLP mailbox | Comments Off

The Academic Shark? Jed Rubenfeld and Amy Chua Just Jumped It

If he didn’t jump the academic shark with that rape-by-deception article (see here), then Jed Rubenfeld certainly did with his new book, co-authored with wife Amy Chua.  Even the New York Post senses that something is not right in Rubenfeldville:

In “The Triple Package,” Chua and her husband, co-author Jed Rubenfeld, gather some specious stats and anecdotal evidence to argue that some groups are just superior to others and everyone else is contributing to the downfall of America.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Chua and the Jewish Rubenfeld belong to two of the eight groups they deem exceptional. In no seeming order of importance, they are:

  • Jewish
  • Indian
  • Chinese
  • Iranian
  • Lebanese-Americans
  • Nigerians
  • Cuban exiles
  • Mormons

These groups — “cultural,” mind you, never “ethnic” or “racial” or “religious” — all possess, in the authors’ estimation, three qualities that they’ve identified as guarantors of wealth and power: superiority, insecurity and impulse control.

If you have never clicked through to a New York Post article before, this one (here) is worth it.  But then again, what do I know?  My people aren’t exceptional.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

Online Harassment and Silencing

Over a period of weeks, law professor Nancy Leong posted several short, informal essays about cyber harassment and discrimination. The first post, entitled “Identity and Ideas,” is available here. The second post, “Anonymity and Abuse,” is available here, with a short addendum here. The third post, “Privilege and Passivity,” is available here. The fourth post, “Consequences and Conclusions,” is available here.

The posts are provocative, and it was not unexpected that some readers might disagree with her. What was unpleasantly surprising was the vitriol in this post, entitled “Law professor tries to leverage phony claims of racial victimization into better job.”

In the post author Paul Campos refers to “Leong’s almost completely imaginary “victimization”” and her “wholly false accusation of racism,” and further accuses her of being the true wrongdoer, writing: “Indeed, in what appears to be a classic case of projection, the only actual harasser in this context appears to be Leong herself, who, after tracking down her critic’s identity, both emailed him and called him at his place of employment, demanding that he have a telephone conversation with her, and threatening to “out” him if he refused. When he declined her offer, she decided to file the bar complaint.” He also writes: “Leong is giving off every sign of trying to get out of Denver faster than the protagonist of a Bob Seger song, so I tend to interpret her decision to try to make a huge deal out of Dybbuk’s comments as a tactical career move (Oppressed Woman of Color Fights the Power — “the power” here being a couple of scamblogs of all things).” As it was likely intended to do, this post is drawing a large number of comments that echo the scathing discourse tone set by Campos.

I don’t know where Paul Campos draws the line between phony and legitimate claims of racial victimization, but one thing that seems clear from his post is that he does not have all of the information in front of him about this issue. He admits this himself in the post, noting: “Per JDU posters some offensive comments were scrubbed by the administrator from at least one of the JDU threads. So the links probably don’t give a complete picture of the extent to which Leong was the target of sexist or racist comments.”

My understanding is that Nancy Leong believes her bar complaint was justified. There are neutral parties who will sort out the facts, and decide where justice lies. After they weigh in, it might or might not be appropriate to accuse people of lying or leveraging. It certainly isn’t when you do not have all the information about a dispute. I do not know what it was that motivated Paul Campos to write that ugly post, but a search for truth seems unlikely.

Update NB: I must also add that the post refers to another law professor, Brian Leiter, as a “cyber-stalker extraordinaire.” Basically Campos is accusing Leiter of engaging in gross criminal behavior, without any evidence, just because he can. This is not very professional, to put it lightly. It’s sad and it is wrong.

Posted in Feminism and Law, Feminism and the Workplace, Feminists in Academia | 2 Comments

Gay polygamy in Utah?

mUX_twETB9XdG_75sgCSB3ABy now you’ve heard the news. A federal judge in Utah just ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This follow on last week’s ruling, from a different judge, that portions of Utah’s polygamy statute were also unconstitutional.

What does it mean? Obviously, it means the advent of gay polygamy!! It won’t stop until everyone is married to everyone else, in one giant gay-polygamous-mega-wedding. Let the festivities begin!

Okay, maybe not. Let’s go through the rulings, piece by piece, to see what they say, and what their effects may be. Continue reading

Posted in LGBT Rights | Comments Off

Catharine A. MacKinnon Wins Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award

The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2014 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award is Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon. Professor MacKinnon is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, long-term James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and an internationally-acclaimed scholar and lawyer.

The award will be presented at the Section Luncheon on January 3 at 12:15 p.m. at the New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York.  Advance ticket purchase is necessary.  Tickets may be purchased by conference registrants only at on-site registration until 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 2.  The price is $85.  The award will also be announced at the Section’s Business Meeting to be held on January 3, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at the same hotel.  There is no cost to attend the Business Meeting.

According to the award criteria, “[T]he purpose of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award is to honor an individual who has had a distinguished career of teaching, service, and scholarship for at least 20 years. The recipient should be someone who has impacted women, the legal community, the academy, and the issues that affect women through mentoring, writing, speaking, activism, and by providing opportunities to others.”  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first recipient of the award that is now named in her honor.  This is the second time the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is making its most prestigious award.

Professor MacKinnon’s nominators cited her groundbreaking scholarship and her legal activism that has made it possible to address sexual harassment and violence against women as forms of sex inequality.  Professor MacKinnon will also be recognized for her inspiration of several generations of law students toward creative careers in a variety of legal and policy pursuits.  As one nominator said, “No one in our field has had more impact on women’s rights, possibilities, and self-respect.  Professor MacKinnon’s leadership and co-operation with peers has opened doors and inspired hope in women everywhere.”

Please join us at the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education to honor Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon’s outstanding career of law teaching, scholarship, and service.

Questions or comments about the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award may be directed to Dean and Professor Cynthia Fountaine,

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Academia, Chutes and Ladders | Comments Off

Consequences and Conclusions

This is the fourth and final blog post in a series that discusses discrimination and harassment in cyberspace, its perpetrators, and its consequences.  The first post, “Identity and Ideas,” is available here.  The second post, “Anonymity and Abuse,” is available here, with a short addendum here.  The third post, “Privilege and Passivity,” is available here.

In my final post, I’ll discuss some of the options for people targeted by identity-based online harassment.  I intend this post to complement the broader social responsibilities I outlined in my previous post.

One of my starting premises is that there isn’t a “right” way to respond when you are the target of identity-based online harassment.  People who experience such harassment have a range of legitimate reactions, and differences in individual circumstances may dictate the best approach for a given individual.  I’ve tried a number of these options myself, and I’ll share my experiences–not as a definitive assessment of the merits of each option, but simply as a way of highlighting some of the potential advantages and disadvantages.

Before I do that, I want to address a point with which some readers seem to struggle.  By calling attention to identity-based online harassment, I am not denying that some people who engage in such harassment, and who have engaged in such harassment of me, also have substantive things to say.  What I am saying is that the mere fact that people have something substantive to say doesn’t entitle them to engage in identity-based harassment, nor does it excuse them from turning a blind eye when others do so in threads they start or on blogs they administer.  Lots of  infamous people have had lots of substantive things to say–Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, is one example.  That doesn’t mean these people should be excused for the hateful ideas intertwined with their substantive ones.  My point is obviously not that anonymous online harassment is equivalent to, for example, a nationwide bombing campaign.  The point is that having substantive things to say doesn’t give you a free pass to spew racism and misogyny, and that criticizing people for refusing to engage substantively in forums that tolerate such harassment is a weak attempt to deflect attention from the harassment itself.

With that said, I’ll move on to some strategies for dealing with identity-based online harassment.

1. Ignore.

Many harassers have short attention spans, and will move on if you ignore them.  Certainly this has happened with respect to some of the people who have posted racist and sexist comments about me.  Sometimes, however, for whatever reason, one or more harassers becomes really fixated on you.  I waited for over a year for my most persistent harasser to move on.  He showed no sign of doing so.  That’s when it might be time to take other action.

Even if you ultimately find it impossible to completely ignore pervasive harassment, there are ways of limiting its salience to your daily life.  As a colleague suggested to me, one can ask a trusted friend or family member to monitor the forums where harassment takes place.  I found this advice very useful.  Alternatively, one might choose to visit certain sites only occasionally to check for statements that contain an imminent threat.

I want to emphasize that it’s not a sign of personal weakness or mental frailty if you’re unable to ignore identity-based online harassment targeted at you.  The claim that women and people of color are “too thin-skinned” when they don’t overlook racist and misogynistic remarks is an old standby, but that doesn’t make it true.  Perhaps it would make things easier if everyone could ignore the bad things said about them.  But when ignoring is impossible, there are other options.

2. Engage.

Other people find engaging with harassers to be empowering, productive, and even enjoyable.  Bina Shah, for example, offers useful advice for smacking down trolls on twitter.   Linda Tirado, who writes about poverty under the name Killer Martinis, often takes a different approach, responding to hysterical commenters with dignity and empathy (see here for an example, particularly the first comment and response).

My own limited experience with engaging with harassers have been mixed.  The reality is that, like many people, I have minimal time to engage with anonymous and pseudonymous purveyors of hate speech in poorly-read forums.  As something of an experiment, I posted two brief comments in one forum, which produced an entertaining outburst of juvenile rage.  (One of my favorites:  “Lady Leong, this isn’t Afghanistan!  You can’t come in here, drop a few bombs, and then leave!”)  The downside, of course, is that harassers get angry when someone calls out their unacceptable behavior, and that can produce more harassment.

3. Use the law.

As I discussed in my previous post, we need a legal mechanism that wholly addresses the problem of identity-based online harassment.  Right now, such a mechanism doesn’t exist.  There are, however, various other legal doctrines that can address some of the harms of identity-based online harassment.  None of this is meant as legal advice, but here are some legal options that may be worth considering in individual situations:

First, if online harassment includes credible threats to your safety or the safety of those close to you, it becomes a matter for law enforcement.  I am fortunate that I have not experienced this firsthand, with the exception of one arguably threatening phone call from a blocked number, but other people certainly have experienced awful threats of rape and other violence.

Likewise, many states either have criminal cyberstalking or cyberharassment statutes that may cover identity-based online harasssment, and when laws specific to cyberspace are unavailable, more conventional criminal stalking and harassment statutes may apply.  A recently-updated list of such statutes appears here.  The scope of such laws varies considerably, so it’s important to examine the particularities of your jurisdiction, but some of them are quite useful.   Moreover, it is not necessarily an obstacle if a harasser is in a different state than you; many statutes explicitly provide that if an electronic transmission is either sent or received in a particular state, the statute applies.

Copyright law can provide another vehicle to address identity-based online harassment.  I succeeded in having a blog composed of pictures of me taken without permission from various online sources removed on the ground that it violated my copyright.  I also succeeded in having thread containing a 1000-word cut and paste of my writing, with no additional commentary, removed from a website where it provoked an outburst of racist and sexist vitriol.  I accomplished this by sending take-down notices, which non-lawyers can read more about hereFair use is, of course, a defense, but it would likely be unavailing in situations where, for example, harassers simply copy and paste photographs or large portions of written material and there is nothing transformative about the use of the material.  Moreover, website administrators will sometimes remove content even when fair use is debatable if the use in question is racist, sexist, or otherwise harassing.

And finally, defamation law can provide recourse if the statements about you are false and harmful to your reputation.  (“She slept with someone to get her job” is an example.)  Defamation law is notoriously slippery, and there are various practical obstacles to lawsuits that one must overcome.  But in some situations it may be the best alternative.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a useful brief summary of defamation law that can provide a starting point for someone who thinks that she has been defamed.

4. Investigate.

A lot of harassers are anonymous, but others write under pseudonyms.  Sometimes pseudonymous harassers and abusers build up entire personalities around their pseudonymous identities–for example, Violentacrez on Reddit, the instigator of popular subreddits “Creepshots” and “Jailbait”, later unmasked as Michael Brutsch.

Many pseudonymous people who engage in identity-based online harassment are trying to have it both ways.  That is, they are trying to have the benefits that come with having a known identity–the community recognition; the ability to form relationships with others; the claim to speak authoritatively on certain topics–as well as the benefits associated with anonymity–namely, the ability to avoid any consequences for racist and misogynistic comments in real life.

I encountered several such pseudonymous individuals in my own experience with online harassment.  Once I began paying attention to the various repeat players, certain rather disturbing preoccupations emerged.  For example, one pseudonymous commenter stated the following* about a recent female law graduate:


I hope I don’t have to explain why fantasizing about exploiting a recent law school graduate’s financial vulnerability to perform a violent sexual act is profoundly troubling.  Likewise, in previous posts, I’ve already referenced one of this particular commenter’s remarks about me, and noted that such a comment would constitute harassment in the workplace:


This specific comment is just one example; I’m making no effort to publicize all of them.  Over the course of about fifteen months, this particular harasser commented about me approximately 70 times on at least five different websites, frequently remarking on my physical appearance.  He started several derogatory threads devoted exclusively to me, in which other commenters also targeted me with racist and sexist harassment.  He wrote two lengthy plays about me.  The threads he started often attracted dozens or even hundreds of comments.  His sustained attention to me also incited other pseudonymous members of a blog where he often posts to author lengthy racist and sexist posts about me, which, again, often attracted large numbers of comments about me, including comments from him.  Moreover, he wrote offensive profiles of a dozen other law professors who were–so far as I could tell, with one exception–all women or people of color or both.  And, of course, these were just the comments under his pseudonym.  It would not surprise me to learn that some of the many anonymous comments about me were also by him, although I haven’t taken the time to investigate this.  This sustained attention and the ideas it contained became increasingly disturbing to me, and eventually I decided to figure out who he was.

Many people underestimate the ease with which they can be linked with their anonymous or pseudonymous comments on the Internet.  Kashmir Hill has described how to bait and catch a troll using a blog and IP address tracker–a relatively straightforward process even for someone with only limited technological capabilities.  For many people who experience online harassment, such techniques could provide a viable option.

With respect to my various harassers, even this rudimentary technique turned out to be unnecessary.  The pseudonymous individual I mentioned above had posted specific information about his alma mater, the city where he lived, his job, various professional organizations to which he belonged, and other miscellaneous information.  It took fifteen minutes to find out who he was using google and other publicly available databases.  The result was troubling in itself: he was a public defender in his late forties who apparently has nothing better to do than harass an untenured professor.

It was equally easy to identify a few other people who posted about me.  Indeed, someone had created a website dedicated to identifying one of them two years before he first crossed my radar.

There are a few lessons here.  One is that even in the online world harassers often feel compelled to develop continuous and stable personalities, perhaps as a way of compensating for the social deficiencies in their actual lives.  Another is that a lot of harassers are repeat offenders–that is, if someone is harassing you, odds are that you aren’t the first.

Particularly if identifying a pseudonymous harasser is minimally time-consuming, it can be a reassuring exercise.  I was glad to know that none of the pseudonymous harassers I identified were people who I had met or who lived anywhere near me.  Investigating and identifying a harasser is also valuable because it opens up other possibilities for addressing the situation, to which I will now turn.

5. Confront.

After I discovered the identity of my most persistent harasser, I decided to give him a call, which is something that adults do when they have a disagreement to discuss.  I did this for several reasons.  One was that I wanted to talk to him so that I could try to understand why an untenured professor he had never met could become the subject of a year-plus obsession.  Another reason was pure curiosity.  I have always been interested in what causes people to hate one another–or, at the very least, to write hateful things about other people, especially those they have never met.  But the main reason was simply that I truly wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.  People’s lives are complicated by mental illness, loneliness, personal hardship, and grief.  Although I have tried without success to find a definitive source for the saying “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” the words resonate with me and I try to live them.  My hope was that the person who had written so many hateful things about me was a good person who–prompted by difficult personal circumstances–had made a mistake.

To my regret, my harasser refused to speak to me.  I called him at his office (once) and left a message with the person (not him) who picked up the phone simply leaving my name and number and asking him to call me.  He didn’t call back.  A few days later I emailed him (once), explaining that I had identified him and that I wished to discuss his Internet posting activities.  The email was difficult to write.  It triggered emotions relating to an experience confronting a person who abused me many years ago.  I did my best to keep the email polite and professional and–to the extent I could–I tried to express some sympathy for circumstances in his life of which I might not be aware.  If anyone finds themselves in similar circumstances, they are welcome to borrow any of the language of my email (larger image available here):


Of course, I can only guess at the real reason my harasser refused to speak with me.  Was he really afraid to speak with an untenured professor nearly fifteen years his junior who had already explicitly stated that she wished to give him the benefit of the doubt?  If so, why?  His refusal leads me to think that perhaps John Kang’s assessment is correct.  But I may never know the answer.

6. Elevate.

Sometimes harassers are subject to various sources of discipline besides the law itself.  A number of professions, ranging from doctors to mental health providers to lawyers, are bound by profession-specific rules of conduct.  A few of my harassers turned out to be attorneys.  An examination of the rules of professional conduct in the states where one of them is licensed–followed by consultation with a couple of legal ethicists and an attorney staffing the ethics hotline–suggested that this attorney was in violation of multiple ethics provisions.  And so I decided to file a formal complaint with the bars in the states where he is licensed.

I don’t know what will happen as a result of my complaint.  Many state bars hesitate to stir up controversy, and attorney discipline is relatively rare.  But I do feel that it is important for others closer to his situation to have knowledge of his online behavior so that they can make an informed decision about what to do.

7. Expose.

Disclosing the identities of anonymous or pseudonymous Internet posters–also known as “outing”–is one of the most controversial issues confronting the Internet today.  One line of thinking is that cyberharassers deserve to live with their online behavior in the light of day.  A contrary position is that we have a strong social interest in anonymous speech, and that a regular practice of outing would chill such speech.

I think there are particular ethical concerns associated with using technological means to expose an individual, particularly if you administer a website that ostensibly does not log IP addresses.  In the interest of time, I’m not going to address that issue here, although I hope to write more about it later.  It’s a completely different issue when a pseudonymous person has disclosed so much information about himself online that ignoring his real-life identity would involve willful blindness on the part of anyone who knows how to use google.  It amazes me that someone who engages in racist and misogynistic behavior online would attempt to claim that the very people he is harassing owe him an ethical or moral duty to refrain from exposing him.  Such an argument is intellectually incoherent.  That is, I think it is ethically permissible to expose the name of a person who has engaged in unacceptable behavior online.

I thought about publishing the names of some of my harassers.  Several colleagues, both within and outside the academy, urged me to do so, particularly with respect to my most persistent harasser, and particularly after they learned that he was a public defender.  As one eloquently explained:  “This person is a public servant with a very important job. His work has a very direct effect on the lives and freedom of his clients. Even if this person is struggling with a mental illness, if that illness is manifesting itself as bigotry, then it’s important that his clients, the courts and his employer know that.”  Another agreed: “Out his ass. He is an officer of the court with duties and obligations to his ENTIRE community. People have a right to know. You do not control what is done with the information thereafter.”  And another:  “Public defenders have an incredibly important job and need to be held to incredibly high standards.”

I struggled with this decision for a long time.  Ultimately, however, I decided against publishing the person’s name for the reasons I have already described.  Without full information, I hesitate to expose someone else’s life to the permanent censure of the Internet.  I see a fairly obvious irony in the situation: I am protecting the online reputation of someone who has shown nothing but contempt for me and many other women and people of color, and who has polluted my google search results with hateful and disparaging statements.

But ultimately I found Leo Traynor’s riveting account of his decision not to report an awful troll to the police enlightening.  Justice is important, but so is mercy.  And I would much rather someone improve his behavior and learn from his mistakes than the alternative.

I have enjoyed blogging about these important issues, and am grateful to the Feminist Law Professors blog for providing a platform for me to do so.  I’ll continue to write about identity-based harassment, discrimination, and other issues both here and on my personal website.

* I have chosen not to link to, or to identify, the sources of the material I reference in this post because I do not want to drive traffic to websites that tolerate racial and sexual harassment.  If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me.


Posted in Academia | 2 Comments

CRR-CLS Fellowship Opportunity – Deadline Extended!

The deadline for the 2014-2016 Columbia Law School – Center for Reproductive Rights Fellowship (CRR-CLS Fellowship) has been extended to February 28, 2014!

The CRR-CLS Fellowship is an exciting opportunity for recent law school graduates who are interested in careers in teaching law. Please keep your eye out for promising scholars and keep in mind that experience in reproductive rights is not required. You can download the application here.

Here is our track record thus far:

Here is a little more information about the Fellowship:

The CRR-CLS Fellowship is a two-year, post-graduate fellowship offered by the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center) and Columbia Law School (CLS). Those committed to women’s rights and/or human rights would be a great fit for this fellowship – although we don’t require experience in these areas. More than anything, this is a fellowship for serious emerging academics. Fellows will be affiliated with the Center and CLS, and will participate in the intellectual life of both programs. Applicants do not need to be graduates of Columbia Law School to be eligible for this program and do not need prior experience in reproductive rights.

The deadline for applications for the 2014-2016 cycle is now February 28, 2014.

If you would like to learn more about CRR’s Law School Initiative, which supports the Fellowship, please visit our website here; email the Senior Director of the Law School Initiative, Diana Hortsch,; or email Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law,

We would be grateful if you could forward these materials to your colleagues and to promising recent graduates interested in academic careers.

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

CFP: Transnational Queer Activism

From the FLP mailbox, this CFP:

Transnational Queer Activism

Janice Irvine and Jill Irvine, eds.

This call for papers seeks contributions to an edited volume on transnational queer and LGBT politics, movements, and activism. This volume will feature work that bridges theoretical and empirical methodologies, and that is located within both disciplinary and interdisciplinary frames. Drawing upon current research on a broad range of cases, it aims to provide a comparative analysis of queer politics both within countries and across regions.  We are particularly interested in the notion of queer as it has traveled around the globe and the opportunities and/or obstacles it presents for various types of activism, movement building, strategic action, and identities. In addition, we are interested in articles that address the following questions:

1.) What political strategies have queer and LGBT movements pursued?  How have these strategies been shaped by factors such as nation, religion, gender, and other axes of difference?

2.) How do LGBTQ activists frame issues? How do global discourses, norms, and languages shape local issues and how, in turn, do local issues and frames shape global discourses?   Do queer politics versus LGBT politics create alternative or mutually reinforcing sets of issues and political demands?

3.) What alliances do LGBTQ movements and activists build locally, regionally and  internationally?  What factors have caused rifts or fissures in queer or LGBT movements? To what extent does queer activism intersect with other forms of activism/resistance?

4.) How have activists disrupted or been shaped by geographical and other binaries, such as east/west, north/south.  Are there different variants of queerness as it is understood and applied in transnational contexts?

Paper proposals of no more than 250 words should be submitted to Jill Irvine at and Janice Irvine at by April 1, 2014.  Proposals will be reviewed quickly and authors will be notified by May 15, 2014.   Draft papers, approximately 8,000 words in length, will be due January 15, 2015.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Call for Papers or Participation, Feminism and Politics, LGBT Rights, Sisters In Other Nations | Comments Off

Why Does This Reporter Find Street Harassment and Indecent Exposure So Funny?

According to the website of an Indianapolis, Indiana television station, a man was arrested for exposing himself to two women on the street.

An Indianapolis man is facing charges after reportedly “swinging” his genitals at two women on the street.

Shawn Harvell, 34, of Indianapolis, was arrested Tuesday afternoon on charges including public indecency, resisting law enforcement, criminal confinement and battery.

Police said a Metro officer driving on 38th Street near Lawndale Avenue was flagged down by two women.

One woman, 29, told the officer that Harvell approached her on the sidewalk from behind and grabbed her by the arm.

The woman said the man has his penis out of his pants and was “swinging it about in a rotary helicopter motion,” the police report said.

Read the full story here.

It’s an unusual story in terms of the method of exposure, but harassment of women is no laughing matter.  Unfortunately, Brett Snider, Esq., a reporter for, seems to find extraordinary humor in the incident, reporting here that the alleged perpetrator “dangled his doodle” and swang “his fantastic phallus,” opining that the alleged perpetrator’s ” ‘helicopter’ move was likely a gyration that was all in the hips,” and that the man was engaged in “puppetry of the penis.”

Really, Mr. Snider? I just don’t see what’s funny about a man exposing his genitals to women on the street and pulling a gun on them.  Then again, I’m a humorless feminist.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Sexual Harassment | Comments Off

Travel Grants for Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

From the FLP mailbox, this notice of grants for travel to the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke:

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, announces the availability of Mary Lily Research Grants for research travel to our collections. The Sallie Bingham Center documents the public and private lives of women through a wide variety of published and unpublished sources. Collections of personal papers, family papers, and organizational records complement print sources such as books and periodicals. Particular strengths of the Sallie Bingham Center are feminism in the U.S., reproductive rights, prescriptive literature from the 19th & 20th centuries, girls’ literature, zines, artist’s books by women, gender & sexuality, and the history & culture of women in the South.

Mary Lily Research Grants are available to any faculty member, graduate or undergraduate student, artist, or independent scholar with a research project requiring the use of women’s history materials held by the Sallie Bingham Center. Travel and living expenses while pursuing research at the Rubenstein Library will be reimbursed up to the grant amount after completion of travel. Applicants must live outside of a 100-mile radius from Durham, NC. The maximum award per applicant is $1,000.

The deadline for application is January 31, 2014 by 5:00 PM EST. Recipients will be announced in March 2014.

For more information and to apply, please visit:

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Fellowships and Funding Opportunities | Comments Off

Women in the Media: A Year in Review

Via Upworthy, here. H/T Joan Gaylord.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Sexism in the Media | Comments Off

Privilege and Passivity

This is the third in a series of four blog posts that discuss discrimination and harassment in cyberspace, its perpetrators, and its consequences.  The first post, “Identity and Ideas,” is available here.  The second post, “Anonymity and Abuse,” is available here, with a short addendum here.

Suppose you run a website, and the anonymous commenters on your site start hurling racial and sexual slurs at someone they’ve targeted.  Or suppose you start a thread in an online forum, and you notice that the commenters are engaging in identity-based harassment of someone–either a participant in the thread or otherwise.  Or suppose you didn’t start the thread, but you went to the site and you read it.

For anyone new to this series, when I talk about identity-based harassment, I’m talking about comments like the ones below, which are all comments about me:


Or this:


Or this:


Or this:


I confess that I am not particularly concerned with what “shithead” and “froyolo” think of me.  Their comments, however, helpfully provide a concrete context for my opening questions.  Suppose you encountered these comments.  What should you do?  Framed more broadly, what are the social and legal responsibilities triggered by identity-based online harassment?

I’ll start with the social responsibilities.  These are things you should do, not (necessarily) because they’re legally required, but as part of being a good person.  My definition of being a good person includes actively opposing racism, misogyny, and other forms of identity-based abuse.  If you disagree with this definition, I’m afraid the rest of this post may be difficult for you.

Here are some social responsibilities:  If you start a website and it turns into a rancid cesspool of racist and misogynistic vitriol,  it’s your responsibility to clean it up.  If you start a thread and the comments turn ugly, it’s your responsibility to intervene.  And if you read a thread and see the commenters abusing someone, it absolutely is your responsibility to call out the abuse.

Opposing racism and sexism is inconsistent with passivity in the face of online abuse.  Nobody gets to sit on the sidelines.  If you administer a website, you don’t get to sit back and play clockmaker god while your creation devolves into a racist monstrosity.  If you start a thread that turns into a misogynistic cybermob, you don’t get to shrug your shoulders and look away.  Or, to put it differently, of course you can do these things, but you can’t do them and still hold tight to your moral authority.  Your privilege–the privilege that you enjoy because the comments aren’t about you–doesn’t entitle you to blameless passivity.  I’m reminded of this message from a law firm partner to an administrator of the infamous AutoAdmit website:  “We expect any lawyer affiliated with our firm, when presented with the kind of language exhibited on the message board, to reject it and to disavow any affiliation with it. You, instead, facilitated the expression and publication of such language.”  In other words, we have a responsibility to act when we see identity-based online harassment.  This is particularly true for attorneys, and even more so for attorneys who represent vulnerable populations.  (I’ll have more to say about this in my next and final post.)

I am well aware that what I am proposing is a significant departure from current online norms.  Most people don’t call out racist and sexist comments–even people who would never make such comments themselves–because they prefer not to have to deal with the consequences. To justify their passivity, they hide behind platitudes, like “there will always be assholes on the Internet,” or “don’t feed the trolls,” or simply “it’s not my problem.”  But this is exactly my point.  You can decide it’s not your problem, or you can oppose racism and sexism.  You can’t do both.

I am also well aware that some of the things I posit as social responsibilities are arguably difficult to do.  For example, website administrators may find it burdensome to monitor comments.  But plenty of websites–from the New York Times to Jezebeldo manage to maintain a commenting environment largely free of targeted racism and misogyny, which suggests that the problem is not ability but effort. And even websites noted for awful comments are making progress in the right direction.  Moreover, technological tools are in the works that can make the task of moderation easier for everyone.  And if it’s really that difficult for a particular website to eliminate identity-based online harassment, perhaps that site should simply close down its comments.

Likewise, individuals may find it psychologically burdensome to call out identity-based online harassment, either in threads they started or in threads they read.  Obviously there are practical limits–everyone has only so much bandwidth to call out harassment–but I think it should be a shared burden, distributed evenly among everyone.  If you have the psychological wherewithal to start a thread–or read one–then surely you can also write a one-sentence comment calling out identity-based harassment.  It’s true that lengthy, detailed responses, might, in some circumstances, perpetuate a tornado of race- or gender-based abuse.  But even a short anonymous statement such as “This is sexist and I disagree” has many positive benefits.**  Such a statement lets the target know he or she is not alone.  It forces other readers to acknowledge the comments for what they are.  And sometimes it may shame the authors of such comments into silence.

Depending on the circumstances, calling out harassment might sometimes require a more involved response–including, for example, contacting the target to see whether he or she has a preference about the way the harassment should be handled.  The larger point is that good people don’t sit and scroll and sip their coffee and watch an online mob savage someone else’s life without doing anything about it.

Some people become enraged at the mere notion of moderating or closing down comments.  Some people become defensive at the idea that they have an affirmative duty to intervene in instances of identity-based online harassment.  But the alternative is to require women and people of color (among other marginalized groups) to bear a vastly disproportionate burden.  My previous posts have explained why, if we really care about having a robust marketplace of ideas, this disparate burden should be unacceptable to us.

On that note, I’ll turn to the legal implications.  Everything I have mentioned to this point involves private actors and therefore doesn’t implicate the First Amendment.  But I also think that–following the model of Title VII–Congress could legislate narrowly to proscribe online behavior whose purpose is to harass a specific person on the basis of traditionally protected categories including but not limited to race, gender, national origin, and religion.  As I have already mentioned, Title VII proscribes such targeted harassment in the workplace.  Cyberspace, of course, is not the workplace.  But it is a space where many of us do a lot of our work, and for many of us it’s a space that’s inextricable from our professional identities.

Other scholars have already devoted a great deal of time and careful thought to identity and online harassment.  In a previous post, I mentioned Saul Levmore and Martha Nussbaum’s anthology The Offensive Internet, which includes several essays that address these themes.  Daniel Solove’s outstanding monograph The Future of Reputation examines privacy, reputation, rumor, and freedom in cyberspace.  Jerry Kang’s work “Cyber-Race” examines the way that racial identity functions in online ecosystems.   And Danielle Citron emphasizes the notion of “Cyber Civil Rights“–the idea that identity-based online harassment “ought to be understood and addressed as a civil rights violation.”  I won’t retread ground that other commenters have already covered.  As a scholar of identity and discrimination, however, I would like to add an illustration of why we should think of identity-based harassment as a civil rights violation.  Consider the following three statements:

Statement One:  “Leong didn’t get that law professor position on her own merit.”

Statement Two: “Leong slept with someone to get herself a law professor position.”

Statement Three:


All three statements are false and defamatory.  Whether they are actionable is, of course, a different question, as there are various doctrinal and practical obstacles to defamation suits.  But my focus here is on whether the doctrinal mechanism, at least in theory, captures the injury.  The idea behind defamation nicely captures the problem with the first statement.  It’s a false statement that, if believed, would damage my reputation.  Defamation falters, however, with respect to the second statement.  It is defamation, but there’s more to it than that.  The statement no longer treats me as an individual, but instead applies offensive stereotypes about women’s presumed incompetence.  I simply could not have gotten that position on my own merit, I must have slept with someone, because however else could a mere woman get a law professor position?  And the third statement adds a racial dimension to the prior injuries of defamation and misogyny by very cleverly coupling my last name with a phrase that Asian women supposedly say, according to some white guys who make movies.  Asian women are stereotyped as sexually available: that’s why there are books like this, and songs like this atrocity, and documentaries like this, and AMA performances like this one.

It’s a simple point, but worth repeating: defamation doesn’t address the identity-based harms suffered by historically marginalized groups.  And this is why we need a civil rights regime for the Internet, not unlike the one we have in the workplace: to capture the unique identity-based harms that take place here.  Ignoring the fact that some identity groups enjoy greater privilege ignores reality.  As Louis CK explains, “I’m a white man!  You can’t even hurt my feelings.”

My final post will discuss the various avenues that people targeted by identity-based online harassment can pursue.

* I have chosen not to link to, or to identify, the sources of the material I reference in this post because I do not want to drive traffic to websites that tolerate racial and sexual harassment.  If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me.

**UPDATE: A thoughtful reader suggested the wording “This is sexist and unacceptable.”  I like that suggestion very much, and probably more than my original wording.

– Nancy Leong

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

Did Jed Rubenfeld Jump the Academic Shark with that Rape-by-Deception Article?

Jed Rubenfeld’s Rape-by-Deception article (previously blogged here) is the subject of four formal responses in the Yale Journal Online:

Tom Dougherty, No Way Around Consent: A Reply to Rubenfeld on “Rape-by-Deception”

Deborah Tuerkheimer, Sex Without Consent

Patricia Falk, Not Logic, but Experience: Drawing on Lessons from the Real World in Thinking About the Riddle of Rape-by-Fraud

Gowri Ramachandran, Delineating the Heinous: Rape, Sex, and Self-Possession

The Yale Law Journal Online also includes a response by Professor Rubenfeld to his critics.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Acts of Violence, Feminist Legal Scholarship | Comments Off

Anonymity and Abuse: An Addendum

In recent weeks I have begun a series of four blog posts that discuss discrimination and harassment in cyberspace, its perpetrators, and its consequences.  The first post, “Identity and Ideas,” is available here.  The second post, “Anonymity and Abuse,” is available here.  Given the upcoming holiday, today’s short post simply provides a few additional thoughts about anonymity.  The third and fourth posts will appear after the holiday.

I appreciate the thoughtful comments that my previous posts generated.  My purpose today is to respond to two reactions relating to anonymity.

First, many people claim that they need absolute anonymity in order to speak freely.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I have no inherent problem with anonymity; indeed, I think it can often serve a valuable function.  My issue lies with those who use anonymity as a means to engage in identity-based online harassment of the kind that silences historically marginalized groups.

Having said that, I tend to think that many people overstate their need for anonymity.  As I have throughout this blog series, I’ll use myself as an example.  I write under my own name.  I’m an untenured professor.  That means I have no long-term job security.  I don’t have an extensive financial safety net.  I graduated from law school with over $200,000 in student loans, which I will be paying back for decades.  Every time I post something on the Internet, there’s backlash in the form of crude comments, emails, and phone calls.

By writing under my own name, I expose myself to criticism from other people, including other legal academics, who disagree with me.  Many of them have the power to shape my career.  By writing under my own name, I experience tangible personal consequences.  These range from hateful phone calls to the persistent and disquieting idea that the author of an aggressively sexual comment could be someone who attends my school or lives in my apartment complex.  I am well aware that my personal circumstances make me more fortunate than many people, and for that I am grateful.  The fact remains that writing under my own name has risks and downsides, and yet I still do it.

It’s certainly true that if you hide behind your anonymity to engage in identity-based online harassment, then there may indeed be costs to posting under your real name.  If your contribution to online discourse consists of statements like “haha man i’d love to facefuck that AZN bitch,” then, yes, your employer, family, and any real-world friends you might have probably would not be particularly impressed with either the style or substance of what you have to say.

Of course there are people who have good reasons for anonymity.  Those expressing political dissent within totalitarian regimes provide one example.  Avoiding the real-world repercussions of saying sexist and racist things is not, in my view, a good reason.  And as I’ll discuss in my next full post, it’s possible to protect the former without sheltering the latter.

Secondly, I have encountered an argument that goes something like this: we should tolerate anonymous racist and sexist speech online because, to quote an acquaintance, “it’s good to know how much sexism and racism is out there.”

I understand the abstract appeal of this line of reasoning.  But in practice it’s a remarkably privileged argument to pursue.  Most women and people of color already know there’s plenty of sexism and racism in the world.  So saying “it’s good to know how much sexism and racism is out there” is really a demand for those of us who are targeted by sexism and racism to put up with its damaging consequences in order to educate the blissfully ignorant folks who will never have to put up with identity-based attacks themselves.  Such an argument minimizes the harm to targets of identity-based harassment while privileging an alleged benefit to people who are oblivious to discrimination — and who are apparently too lazy to educate themselves in any other manner than by passively observing anonymous online slurs.

I might find this argument marginally more persuasive if there were any evidence that the only way to raise awareness of racism and sexism was by passive observation of online harassment, or that those who gained awareness subsequently devoted themselves to activism against such harassment.  I know of no such evidence, and so, as an empirical matter, I remain unconvinced.

After the holiday, my next full post will continue with a discussion of appropriate social and legal responses to identity-based online harassment.

– Nancy Leong

Posted in Academia, Employment Discrimination, Feminists in Academia, Race and Racism, Sexual Harassment | Comments Off

Sex-Positive Law

Sexual pleasure is a good thing. It’s not just moral philosophy that supports the value of pleasure (although much of it does); it’s common sense. We value pleasure simply because it is pleasurable. People devote significant time and money to baffling pastimes ranging from to Twilight fan fiction to Farmville, and there is a sizeable portion of the population that is inexplicably obsessed with kale. Sexual pleasure is certainly no odder or less valuable than these pursuits.

In a Washington Post op-ed out this weekend, I argue  that, despite the inherent value of sexual pleasure, legislatures and courts continue to view it as having negligible or negative value. The piece is a reflection of a larger work I’ll be publishing this Spring in NYU Law Review called “Sex-Positive Law.” In particular, I look to obscenity law, the criminalization of BDSM, and constitutional law pertaining to sexual freedom to demonstrate that courts and legislatures routinely rely on the unwarranted assumption that sexual pleasure is valueless or even harmful. This blind spot leads to bad law and bad policies.

Truly progressive legal reform needs to acknowledge that sexual pleasure is a good thing even when engaged in for its own sake. This would require us to rethink and improve our approach to several areas of law, from obscenity to sex toys to rape law. Valuing sexual pleasure doesn’t mean we must value it above all else—we regularly regulate things that bring us pleasure. We value the pleasure derived from art, but we don’t allow people to steal Picassos or force artists to paint for their pleasure. But recognizing the value of sexual pleasure requires us to have a more honest discussion about what we choose to regulate, what we fail to regulate, and our justifications for these choices.

The Washington Post op-ed is available here:

“Sex-Positive Law” will appear in the 87th volume of the New York University Law Review in April 2014.

-Margo Kaplan

Posted in Feminism and Law, Feminist Legal Scholarship, Sex and Sexuality | Comments Off

Anonymity and Abuse

This is the second in a series of four blog posts that discuss discrimination and harassment in cyberspace, its perpetrators, and its consequences.  The first post is available here.

Last week I wrote about the way that people attack women and people of color online by demeaning their identity rather than engaging with their ideas.

Thanks to the Internet, harassment happens in real time.  Shortly after I put up my post, an unknown person started a blog* consisting solely of derogatory racial and sexual statements about me, accompanied by pictures of me copied without permission from various online sources.   Again, this helpfully demonstrates my claim that harassers use identity to avoid engaging with ideas:


The creation of this blog also aptly illustrates Slate columnist Katy Waldman’s thoughtful discussion of my previous post, in which she hypothesized that when men are harassed, they are treated as “less than men,” while when women are harassed, they are treated as “only women.”  There are, of course, other dynamics at play as well.  But the blog’s attempt to reduce a law professor acting in her professional capacity to a sexualized object for visual consumption readily demonstrates Waldman’s conception of harassment as reduction to identity as “only a woman.”

Although online harassment is nothing new to me, I was still surprised by how many people that I know personally revealed to me after my previous post that they had experienced such harassment.  A half dozen other professors disclosed that they used to blog and had either stopped or curtailed their blogging in response to harassment and — in some cases — threats of rape or other violence.  Another friend told me that the reason she gave up a prestigious job with a news organization was the relentless online harassment she experienced.  One of my students told me that she used to write for a feminist blog, but stopped after online harassers posted comments about her and even started a thread on Reddit that disclosed details such as her address.  Another student explained that she had been invited to post on a well-known blog, but had declined the opportunity because she was unwilling to expose herself to the blog’s aggressive and frequently sexist commenting environment.

All of the people who shared these stories with me were women, and several were women of color.  Although — as I said in my previous post — I don’t think that identity-based online harassment is limited to women and people of color, these groups are often the targets of online harassment.

What is it about the Internet that brings out this ugliness?  Some have hypothesized that the lack of face-to-face contact loosens normal social inhibitions.  A recent Wall Street Journal article, “Why We Are So Rude Online,” credits MIT Professor Sherry Turkle with the insight that “[b]ecause it’s harder [online] to see and focus on what we have in common, we tend to dehumanize each other.”  Or, as Louis CK puts it, the Internet keeps us from building empathy.

Online anonymity worsens the empathy deficit.  Unsurprisingly, evidence suggests that people behave in antisocial ways when granted anonymity.  Research such as this classic study has long implicated anonymity in group antisocial behavior, thus explaining the way that anonymous posters often seem to encourage one another.  And Saul Levmore and Martha Nussbaum’s excellent anthology The Offensive Internet explores the role of anonymity from a range of perspectives.  (Of course, anonymity is far less ironclad than some posters seem to think — indeed, I was easily able to discover the identities of a few of my harassers using google, one in less than ten minutes. I’ll discuss this further in a future post.)

Intuitively and from this research, most people conclude that anonymity has something to do with online abuse.  Yet some refuse categorically to question whether anonymous speech is inherently valuable.  For example, anonymous commenters sometimes point to the Federalist Papers as a paradigmatic justification for anonymous speech.  I happen to like the Federalist Papers a lot, so let’s take a look at an excerpt from one of my favorites, Federalist #51, written by James Madison under the pseudonym Publius:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

Now let’s compare Federalist #51 to a few anonymous and pseudonymous comments that were made about me in threads relating to my scholarship about race.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m using myself as an example because I don’t want to draw attention to the harassment of other people.  But such comments are typical of identity-based online harassment.

So for example, there’s this comment:


And this:


And this:


And this:


Most of us can see the difference between Federalist #51 and these crude comments.  Federalist #51 explains the need for a government involving both separation of powers and checks and balances — a framework that fundamentally informed the system of government that our founders developed.  These contentions implicate the core structures of a democratic society.

In contrast, the various anonymous comments about me have no purpose other than to harass and no content other than racially and sexually demeaning language.  And the reason they’re anonymous is obvious.  The commenters want to make racist, sexist, and sexually harassing comments without having to suffer the consequences of engaging in such speech in real life.  Such speech contributes literally nothing to discourse.  And to briefly retread ground I covered in my first post, it’s worth noting that each thread I’ve referenced above started out as a thread at least nominally about my scholarship and my ideas, but quickly shifted to comments about my identity.

The claim that anonymity inherently promotes First Amendment values thus makes little sense in a world of race- and gender-based online harassment.  To be clear, I have no problem with anonymity per se — indeed, I agree with the Supreme Court’s statement in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission that “[a]nonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.”  When people write anonymously, but do so in a way that contributes to discourse, it seems to me that the choice to withhold one’s name is up to the individual.  Indeed, anonymity might empower some marginalized speakers to engage in discourse who would otherwise remain silent.

But when anonymity facilitates harassing and abusive speech directed at marginalized identity groups, society has a strong First Amendment interest in regulating anonymity.  Harassing and abusive speech results in a net loss to the marketplace of ideas.  Online racial and gender harassment silences the speech of many women and people of color, diminishing the diversity of perspectives represented in online discourse and impoverishing the “free trade in ideas” within “the competition of the market” that Justice Holmes first discussed in his famous dissent in Abrams v. United States.  If we really care about the marketplace of ideas, we should care about eliminating online racial and gender harassment.

Some argue that racial and gender harassment are part and parcel of participation in online discourse.  As one white man commented on my prior post:  “Welcome to the jungle . . . . If you want to have a voice . . . just do what we have been doing for over a decade and laugh it off.”  (In context, “we” meant “white men.”)  Of course, it’s easy to talk about “laughing it off” when, because of your status as a white man, you’re virtually never the target of identity-based harassment that deploys historically subordinate or marginalized status as a silencing tool.

But in 2013 our social norms don’t actually condition having a voice on putting up with identity-based harassment.  Suppose that I gave a presentation at an academic conference, and that during my presentation a member of the audience began shouting racial and sexual epithets, or announced loudly, “I’m undressing you with my eyes!”  Would we laugh it off?  Of course we wouldn’t.  We’d remove him.  So why do some people insist that the norms applicable to anonymous online speech should be different?

In my view, they shouldn’t be different.  I think that the reason we would restrain a workplace harasser from certain racial and sexual comments (as, indeed, we do, under Title VII) is the same reason we should strive to prevent anonymous online abuse including the same content.

In my next post, I’ll outline some of the ways that we should engage in eliminating this type of harassment.  Socially, I think there is a much greater role for website administrators to play.  And legally, I think that we can draw a doctrinally sound distinction between anonymous speech that should receive First Amendment protection and abusive anonymous speech involving identity-based harassment.

* I have chosen not to link to, or to identify, the sources of the material I reference in this post because I do not want to drive traffic to websites that tolerate racial and sexual harassment.  If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me.
- Nancy Leong
Posted in Academia, Employment Discrimination, Feminists in Academia, Race and Racism, Sexual Harassment | 3 Comments

Identity and Ideas

This is the first in a series of four blog posts that discuss discrimination and harassment in cyberspace, its perpetrators, and its consequences.

Women and people of color are under-represented in online discourse.  As of August 2013, 87% of Wikipedia contributors were men.  Women are under-represented on the opinion pages of major news sources, and the number of people of color who write for newspapers is both low and declining.  Across disciplines, the most well-known bloggers are predominantly men.  The Freakonomics website notes that women economists rarely blog.  Closer to home, the regular contributors to many well-regarded group law blogs, such as the Volokh Conspiracy and PrawfsBlawg, are predominantly white men.    Why does this racial and gender disparity in online discourse exist?

One reason for the disparity is race- and gender-based online harassment.  Many outstanding scholars have already addressed this phenomenon.  One example is Danielle Citron’s influential article “Cyber Civil Rights.”  My intention with this series of posts is not to break new theoretical ground.  Rather, I’m writing because it’s worth reiterating that such harassment is a serious social problem that deserves attention.  In particular, I want to look closely at the technology of race- and gender-based harassment — that is, the way that internet harassers focus on identity rather than on ideas as a specific strategy for excluding women and people of color from online discourse.

Rather than draw additional and perhaps unwanted attention to the harassment of other people, I am going to use as examples things that people have said about me.  I write about race and gender discrimination (among other things).  A while ago I wrote an article called “Racial Capitalism” that was published in the Harvard Law Review.  It’s a controversial article.  A lot of people disagree with some of it or all of it.  And that’s fine.  I’m glad that the article prompted discussion of important issues.  I’ve enjoyed participating in some of the discussions.  For example, Richard Ford wrote a response to “Racial Capitalism” that appeared in the Harvard Law Review’s online forum (short version: he’s skeptical).  Then I wrote a reply to his response, which is available here and will soon appear in the Harvard online forum as well.  Other discussions were more informal.  For example, just a few days ago, the author of the very interesting Opus Publicum blog, who writes about religion, law, politics, and various other topics under the name Modestinus, wrote a brief review (short version: he’s skeptical).  I offered a few thoughts in the comments and he responded.

These are examples of different situations in which I was glad to engage with a thoughtful person who had read my work and taken the time to respond my ideas, regardless of whether that person agreed with me.  This is how discourse should take place, both online and offline.

Unfortunately, that kind of discourse is often not the norm for women and people of color in cyberspace.  Other responses differ in kind from mere disagreement.  The pattern is this:  When people don’t like what women and people of color are saying, they express that dislike in gendered and racial terms.  Here are some examples* of people responding in this way to “Racial Capitalism” and some of my other articles about race:


This comment reveals an important point about the strategies that some people (usually self-identified men) use to attack women and people of color.  Rather than explaining why (for example) he thinks that the racial capitalism framework is analytically flawed, the first commenter disparages my Native Hawaiian background with a reference to the “luau train.” He then attempts to undermine my intellectual contribution to an academic conference by claiming that the reason for my presence is to serve as an object of sexualized attention for a presumed heterosexual male audience.  That kind of comment would not be tolerated in any workplace.  It’s worth asking — at least as a normative matter, if not a legal one — why the internet should be any different, especially when a lot of us do a substantial portion of our work online and when the racial and gender harassment directly targets our work and our professional identities.

Here are some more comments about me:


Again, notice that rather than engaging in a substantive critique of my ideas, both commenters reflexively attack my identity.  The former comment attributes my professional achievements to gendered physical attributes.  The implication is that a woman simply could not have earned success through intelligence or hard work.  The latter comment—in addition to being defamatory and utterly false—also invokes tired stereotypes about Asian female sexual availability that pervade the media.  The latter comment also provides a useful example of the unique harms that women experience in cyberspace.  People rarely allege that a man achieved status within his profession by having sex with someone.  Successful women hear those accusations all the time.

Here’s yet another:


The phrasing of the post is different than the previous ones, but the strategy is identical.  Rather than offering a substantive critique of a person’s ideas, it attempts to diminish that person by reference to identity.   Put another way, it disparages my accomplishments by sexualizing them.  Moreover, the vulgarity and aggression of this post and others like it is a tactic to exclude women and people of color from discourse.  Again, it’s worth asking why, when so many of us do much of our work online, people often shrug their shoulders at a comment that would be grounds for termination in any workplace.

Here’s another, lengthier comment:


This comment provides a particularly useful example of the way that online critics grasp at identity rather than engaging with ideas.  First, the commenter replaces substantive critique of my article with a critique rooted in my presumed race and gender.  With respect to race, he begins with an entirely unsubstantiated claim that—as a woman of color—I must be a beneficiary of affirmative action.  Moreover, he suggests that Chinese people are poor spokespersons for racial justice because they don’t suffer discrimination, seemingly oblivious to both historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary, as well as to the irony that the very existence of his post contradicts his claim.  And he concludes with a factually erroneous statement that fails to contemplate the possibility that my background is, in fact, Native Hawaiian.  Likewise, the commenter focuses on my personal life—who I marry, the race of my partner—rather than my ideas.  In so doing, he invokes well-worn stereotypes about Asians women desiring white men and other indicia of the status associated with whiteness.  His response attempts to situate me as women have historically been situated—that is, in relation to men, rather than as autonomous agents.

I could provide literally hundreds of other examples of racial and sexual comments just about myself, although this seems like enough for now.  The examples reveal an important phenomenon.  Many posters (mostly self-identified men) use identity as a basis for disparaging women and people of color rather than engaging substantively with their arguments.  This practice is a thinly-veiled attempt to “put women in their place” or to “put those minorities in their place” by focusing on identity rather than ideas.

I chose to use these examples because they are about me, rather than granting additional exposure to the harassment of someone else.  But troubling as these comments are, they are far less so than those directed at many other women and people of color.  I am hesitant to draw more attention to incidents that have not already received publicity.  But for those who remain unconvinced that this is a widespread phenomenon, Soraya Chemaly has documented many such instances of harassment here, and another recent article provides additional examples.

Why do men, and especially white men, engage in this specific version of hostility and harassment when confronted with the ideas of a woman of color?  In many instances I suspect the strategy arises from insecurity triggered by the success of the target of harassment.  It’s much easier on the ego to believe that a woman of color is more successful than you because of her identity, rather than her intelligence or her work ethic.  And so posters choose to direct attention to identity rather than ideas.

With that said, the anxieties and insecurities of anonymous internet bloggers are considerably less interesting to me than the consequences of the way that these anxieties manifest themselves.

The result of gender and racial harassment is that many women and people of color withdraw from cyberspace.  Friends and colleagues have told me that they stopped blogging, or never started, or avoided certain topics, because they felt that they simply could not deal with the online harassment that they would draw.  And beyond my own anecdotal evidence, there are many documented instances of women withdrawing from online discourse after identity-based harassment is directed their way.

To be clear, I’m not saying that men never experience identity-based online harassment.  Many of them do—particularly men who are (or are presumed to be) members of other disfavored groups, such as poor people or queer people, as well as men who promote unpopular ideas.

My point is simply that online harassment disproportionately affects women and people of color, as well as members of some other groups, and that this phenomenon helps to explain the absence of those groups from online discourse.  The loss of such perspectives is a loss to discourse.  My point isn’t the essentialist one that women or people of color have any particular perspective.  Rather, it’s that women and people of color tend to have different life experiences in a society that’s neither race nor gender blind, and that, in the aggregate, different experiences lead to different perspectives.  If we think it is a problem that some perspectives are under-represented in online discourse, a good first step is to do away with the serious obstacles that race- and gender-based harassment create to online participation.

*I have chosen not to link to, or to identify, the sources of these comments because I do not want to drive traffic to websites that tolerate racial and sexual harassment.  If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me.

– Nancy Leong

Posted in Academia, Employment Discrimination, Feminists in Academia, Race and Racism, Sexual Harassment | 2 Comments

Dance As If Your Life Depends On It

San Francisco-based OB-GYN Dr. Deborah Cohan had breast cancer surgery on Tuesday. Before going under anesthesia, she and her surgical team did something unexpected: they danced to Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied.”  Dancing is good for the soul no matter where you do it. Dr. Cohan was discharged Wednesday.  As Lee Ann Womack says, “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance/ I hope you dance.” Check on Dr. Cohan’s recovery  here.

Posted in Feminism and Medicine, If you're a woman | Comments Off

Another Thoughtful Take on “Leaning In,” This One By bell hooks, and Called “Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In”

Read it here at The Feminist Wire. Below is an excerpt:

Sandberg’s definition of feminism begins and ends with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. From this perspective, the structures of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy need not be challenged. And she makes it seem that privileged white men will eagerly choose to extend the benefits of corporate capitalism to white women who have the courage to ‘lean in.’ It almost seems as if Sandberg sees women’s lack of perseverance as more the problem than systemic inequality. Sandberg effectively uses her race and class power and privilege to promote a narrow definition of feminism that obscures and undermines visionary feminist concerns.

Contrast her definition of feminism with the one I offered more than twenty years ago in Feminist Theory From Margin To Center and then again in Feminism Is For Everybody. Offering a broader definition of feminism, one that does not conjure up a battle between the sexes (i.e. women against men), I state: “Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” No matter their standpoint, anyone who advocates feminist politics needs to understand the work does not end with the fight for equality of opportunity within the existing patriarchal structure. We must understand that challenging and dismantling patriarchy is at the core of contemporary feminist struggle – this is essential and necessary if women and men are to be truly liberated from outmoded sexist thinking and actions.

Posted in Academia, Activism, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Economics, Feminism and Law | Comments Off

Rubenfeld’s Big Step Backward in Rape Law

Earlier this year Jed Rubenfeld authored, in the Yale Law Journal, one of the strangest articles about rape law that has ever been written. While it is often a mistake to draw unneeded attention to dangerous ideas, a response to the piece is warranted because of Rubenfeld’s privileged position as a professor at Yale Law School and the high-profile forum in which he published. I hope the article I have written addressing Rubenfeld’s scholarship offers at least part of the reply that is necessary.

Under even a charitable reading of Rubenfeld’s article, he advocates the legalization of approximately 90% of rape in America. Rubenfeld supports removing the nonconsent element and implementing a new force requirement which would be even more difficult for prosecutors to meet than existing statutory provisions. He writes: “sex is rape whenever exacted through the kind of force that turns labor into slavery: roughly speaking, physical incapacitation, whether through restraint or imprisonment, or serious physical assault (or the threat of either).” If Rubenfeld’s proposal were implemented, it would legalize almost all acquaintance rape (where such a high level of force is rarely used) and rape by virtue of a victim’s excessive intoxication. Indeed, Rubenfeld is even willing to entertain the idea that rape of an unconscious victim is not necessarily criminal when he writes:

“But really: is it so clear that all unconscious sex should be criminal? Among well-settled couples, long used to sharing the same bed, sexual contact of various kinds with a sleeping person is common. No one thinks all such touchings are criminal. Doesn’t this undermine the idea of an ipso facto rule against sexual contact with the unconscious?”

Rubenfeld wants almost all of the gains of the rape law reform movement undone and would make the law worse in certain aspects than it was in the middle of the Twentieth Century. Rubenfeld’s position in supporting retrograde rape policy is not unusual. Indeed, since the run up to the 2012 elections, the following phrases were uttered by politicians:

“So the way [my father] said it was, ‘Just remember, Roger, some girls, they rape so easy. It may be rape the next morning.’” – Wisconsin State Representative Roger Rivard

“And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” – United States Senate candidate from Indiana Richard Mourdock

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out [and not get pregnant]” – Texas State Senator Jodie Laubenberg

and, of course:

“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” – United States Senate candidate from Missouri Todd Akin

I mention these comments because they add context to Rubenfeld’s article. Indeed, among all of those positions, Rubenfeld’s may be the least defensible. Rubenfeld does not support acquaintance rape decriminalization because he is concerned about innocent men being convicted. He is not driven by beliefs about abortion that intersect with discussions about rape. He is not writing out of a mistaken understanding of rape kits and pregnancy. Rubenfeld supports his regressive turn in rape law only in the name of doctrinal coherence. His hope is merely to resolve what he sees as a doctrinal inconsistency in not punishing rape-by-deception. And it is just the so-called “riddle” that is at issue (and not concern about actual cases of rape-by-deception) because Rubenfeld’s solution leaves the present law in such cases intact.

There are many more problems with Rubenfeld’s piece (such as ignoring or misreading almost all feminist legal scholarship regarding rape in the last twenty-five years). I ultimately decided to write a full-article length response to document and correct Rubenfeld’s extensive errors while addressing his one potentially valuable contribution (refocusing on the foundational values of rape law). It is rare that this can be said about law review scholarship, but Rubenfeld’s article is genuinely dangerous and Yale Law Journal should be ashamed to have published it.

I want to add just one more bit of context for Rubenfeld’s article. Yale University was the recent target of a Title IX claim, which it ultimately settled, because of sexual assault and rape culture problems. From fraternity members chanting “No means yes, yes means anal” while marching around campus to a “preseason scouting report” of prospective women on campus, Yale has been at the center of recent attention regarding campus rape culture. Earlier this year, Yale failed to expel any of the students who were found guilty of sexual assault against other students. Just months after Rubenfeld’s article was published, the campus issued its new policies regarding sexual assault on campus. Already, these policies are the subject of reactionary backlash. Rubenfeld’s article unfortunately contributes to the Yale’s rape culture problem by providing intellectual cover to those who want to maintain a hostile sex environment at the school.

-Corey Rayburn Yung

Posted in Academia, Law Schools | 1 Comment

Read Susan Faludi on “Facebook Feminism”

Unlike so many trite reviews of the “Lean In” phenomenon, Faludi brilliantly contextualizes her critique. Available at The Baffler, excerpt below:

… In 1834, America’s first industrial wage earners, the “mill girls” of Lowell, Massachusetts, embarked on their own campaign for women’s advancement in the workplace. They didn’t “lean in,” though. When their male overseers in the nation’s first large-scale planned industrial city cut their already paltry wages by 15 to 20 percent, the textile workers declared a “turn-out,” one of the nation’s earliest industrial strikes. That first effort failed, but its participants did not concede defeat. The Lowell women would stage another turn-out two years later, create the first union of working women in American history, lead a fight for the ten-hour work day, and conceive of an increasingly radical vision that took aim both at corporate power and the patriarchal oppression of women. Their bruising early encounter with American industry fueled a nascent feminist outlook that would ultimately find full expression in the first wave of the American women’s movement.

Capitalism, you could say, had midwifed feminism.

And capitalism, Sandberg would say, still sustains it. But what happened between 1834 and 2013—between “turn-out” and “lean in”—to make Lean In such an odd heir to the laurels of Lowell? An answer lies in the history of those early textile mills.

The Lowell factory owners had recruited “respectable” Yankee farmers’ daughters from the New England countryside, figuring that respectable would translate into docile. They figured wrong. The forces of industrialization had propelled young women out of the home, breaking the fetters binding them to the patriarchal family, unleashing the women into urban areas with few social controls, and permitting them to begin thinking of themselves as public citizens. The combination of newly gained independence and increasingly penurious, exploitative conditions proved combustible—and the factory owners’ reduction in pay turned out to be the match that lit the tinder. Soon after they heard the news, the “mill girls”—proclaiming that they “remain in possession of our unquestionable rights”—shut down their looms and walked out.

Capitalism, you could say, had midwifed feminism.

From the start, the female textile workers made the connection between labor and women’s rights. …

Posted in Employment Discrimination, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Economics, Feminism and Law, Feminism and Technology | Comments Off

Family Status, Federalism, and the Windsor Decision

Courtney G. Joslin, University of California, Davis, School of Law, has published Windsor, Federalism, and Family Equality at 113 of Columbia Law Review Sidebar 156 2013). Here is the abstract.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Kennedy, the Court held in Windsor v. United States that section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Advocates had attacked section 3 on two primary grounds. The principal argument leveled at section 3 was that it violated principles of equal protection by denying one class of married spouses — lesbian and gay spouses — all federal marital benefits.

Section 3 was also attacked on a number of federalism-based grounds. Some advocates pushed a particularly strong federalism variant, arguing that DOMA was unconstitutional because Congress lacked the authority to define or determine family status. I call this the categorical family status federalism argument. Others endorsed a more moderated claim. Under this theory, the fact that a law — here section 3 of DOMA — deviated from the historic allocation of power as between the federal government and the states was simply a basis for applying a more careful level of equal protection scrutiny. Under this theory, the federalism-based concerns were not an independent basis for striking down the law.

This Essay argues that civil rights advocates dodged a bullet when the Windsor Court declined to embrace the categorical family status federalism theory. While its acceptance would have brought along the short-term gain of providing a basis for invalidating DOMA, it also would have curtailed the ability of federal officials to protect same-sex couples and other families.

 Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

Posted in Feminism and Families, Feminism and Law, Feminist Legal Scholarship, LGBT Rights | Comments Off

Job Announcement: Project Director, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law seeks a Project Director for its new Public Rights/Private Conscience Project.  The Director would lead the Project’s research and advocacy on the multiple contexts in which assertions of conscience and/or religious convictions are used to carve out exceptions to otherwise universally binding rights of equality and sexual liberty.


  1. Develop strategy on a local, state and federal level to respond to the uses of religion to limit the scope of reproductive and sexual rights;
  2. Develop model policy language and ideal workplace practices for dissemination in settings such as employees who seek to refuse services on the basis of a religious or conscience-based objection, or professional/medical ethics policy on conscience-based refusals of service;
  3. Create a Best Practices toolkit for LGBT and women’s rights advocates aimed at offering model language for religious exemptions policies and legislative language;
  4. Undertake legal analysis of proposed religious exemption laws to provide to affected stakeholders such as hospital general counsels, professional associations, and others explaining not only the complex interactions between rights and religion, but also the complications of hospital accreditation and licensing as well as other unintended consequences that may flow from the assertion of religion as an exemption from otherwise secured rights;
  5. In conjunction with the Center’s Co-Directors, the incumbent will undertake and coordinate scholars in the field of law, religion, medical ethics, and civil/constitutional rights to generate analysis, arguments and research that contextualizes and re-frames the current polarized arguments for and against religious liberty;
  6. Promote new understanding and support for frameworks developed through engagement in public sphere through op-eds, media appearances, symposia, articles in general and scholarly publications and reports;
  7. Lead coalition work among key stake-holders (such as policy staff for educational, medical and other professional organizations, hospital and university general counsel, and attorneys general) to develop and disseminate new scholarly framing of the legal issues at stake with religious exemptions.

Position Qualifications:

Bachelor’s degree required; J.D. and bar admission strongly preferred; a minimum of 5-7 years related experience strongly preferred. Excellent writing, research, analytic, leadership and communication skills; Two to five years of litigation and/or advocacy experience; A demonstrated ability to bridge academic and advocacy communities; Familiarity with civil rights issues highly desirable; knowledge of LGBT, reproductive rights, religious liberty, and/or of health care issues a plus; Leadership, self-motivation and an ability to work collaboratively.

To apply:

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

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

The Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School invites applications for a sabbatical visitor for the 2014-2015 academic year to undertake research, writing and collaboration with Center faculty and students in ways that span traditional academic disciplines. The CGSL welcomes applications from faculty from any field who are interested in spending a semester or the academic year in residence at Columbia Law School working on scholarly projects relating to Gender and/or Sexuality Law.

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

For more information:

Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

Where The Girls Aren’t

Ryan A. Malphurs, Courtroom Sciences Inc., Jaime Bochantin, DePaul University, L. Hailey Drescher, University of Kansas, and Melissa Wallace Framer, Arizona State University, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, have published Too Much Frivolity, Not Enough Femininity: A Study of Gender and Humor at the U.S. Supreme Court. Here is the abstract.

The four authors in this study took on the exhilarating task of listening to 79 oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 term. After two years spent recovering from oral argument overload, the authors have prepared a study that ingeniously tricks readers into reading a study on humor that is really about gender inequality at the Supreme Court and in the field of Law. Initially tallying instances of un-transcribed laughter, the authors — prompted by Hillary Clinton’s urging — began noticing gender and humor discrepancies between the justices and the advocates; what started as a simple humor tabulation devolved into important research. In the following study, the authors lull readers into complacency by offering data related to humor, but then shock their audience with serious data about gender inequality — ruining any fun that readers might have had. It’s true the authors show that the Supreme Court is far funnier than previously thought, and that Justice Scalia enjoys bullying Justice Breyer; however, potential readers should turn back now, because what follows is mind numbing boredom and “PC” discussions about gender veiled within a “humor” study.


The authors would like readers to know that the following study, if you haven’t been able to tell already, does not follow traditional scholarly conventions. “Why?” you may ask, because it would be boring and no one would read it, duh. The authors have endeavored to make this study both interesting in the data and entertaining to read — a truly ground-breaking feat in scholarly studies. Great risk comes with great rewards, and we’re just hoping someone other than ourselves will read this study.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

Posted in Feminism and Law, Legal Profession, The Underrepresentation of Women, Where are the Women? | Comments Off

Ada Lovelace Day

Even though we missed it by a day…a tribute to Ada Lovelace on her day, October 15. She’s unfortunately generally less well known as the mother of computer programming than as the daughter of George Gordon, Lord Byron and Anna Isabella Milbanke. More about remembering Ada and her work here at the Wellcome Trust’s blog. A mini bio here by Agnes Scott College’s Dr. Betty Toole.

Posted in Feminism and Science, Feminism and Technology | Comments Off

Converge! Re-Imagining the Movement to End Gender Violence

DUE DATE: Friday, October 18, 2013 (may be extended)

For more conference information see

CONVERGE! Re-imagining the Movement to End Gender Violence, will bring together survivors, activists, and academics from law and social sciences to consider opportunities to focus U.S. priorities in funding, activism, legal responses, and social services in ways that better address the economic, racial and other structural inequalities that create and maintain gender violence. This conference offers a unique combination of strategy exchanges, activist/academic cross-fertilization, and hands-on training, with the overall objective of fostering a transformative agenda for addressing gender violence.

Proposals for Papers & Presentations

We are currently accepting proposals for papers and presentations. Proposals should relate to one or more of the following conference themes:

(1) Structural Inequality and Gender Violence
(2) Re-Imagining Mobilization Against Gender Violence
(3) Alternatives to Criminal Justice Strategies
(4) Reframing Gender Injustice as a Violation of Human Rights
(5) Responding to Retrenchment and Stalemate in Reform Efforts

We will review proposals for their relevance to the conference themes and with an eye towards maintaining a balance between academics and activists presenters and subject matter coverage. We are committed to having a diverse group of presenters, including diversity of race/ethnicity, age, sexuality, gender identity, and ability. We are seeking funding to provide simultaneous translation in Spanish and Creole (two of the most prominently heard languages in south Florida.)

Please note that limited scholarship funding is available for those who are without the means to attend. Please indicate in your submission if your attendance is contingent on receiving scholarship funding. Our working assumption is that academic participants have access to travel funds, but we recognize that this is not always the case. (We are continuing to raise funds and hope to offer more funding. Information is available on the website for those who are interested in contributing to the scholarship fund.)

Submission Requirements

If you are interested in making a presentation, or in organizing a panel, please submit a proposal and email it to Space is limited.

Your submission should be no more than 500 words and should include the following:

1) Your Name & Contact Information

2) Your Organization Affiliation (if any)

3) Indicate information about you (include all that apply):
a. Academic and, if so, in what discipline?
b. Attorney, and if so, what are your areas of practice (if applicable)?
c. Activists, non-lawyer, and if so, what are your areas of focus?
d. Survivor, what areas of work are you involved with?

4) Indicate the kind of presentation in which you are most interested:
a. Individual Presentation (talk) on a Panel (about 15 minutes)
b. Organizing a Panel (60 minutes). Include the names, affiliations and information outlined above for each panel member. Please also indicate that each has agreed to participate if chosen and indicate if the participation for any panel member is contingent on receiving a scholarship. Panel members applying for scholarships must make their own application.
c. Providing a training session or engaging in a strategy sharing session.
d. Leading (or co-leading) a break out discussion

5) Indicate if your participation is contingent on receiving a scholarship. (You must complete a separate scholarship application, available at the website.) Scholarships are limited.

6) Write an abstract that includes the following information:
• title;
• description of your proposal;
• the conference theme(s) your proposal best fits;
• how your talk contributes to the diversity of the conference in terms of social identity, experience, knowledge base, or area of expertise.


Speakers have the opportunity to publish a short essay in the University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review. The Review will also publish edited transcripts of selected panels and presentations. More information regarding publication will be forthcoming. The publication will be available electronically as well as edited podcasts of selected presentations (with the permission of speakers).

Submissions are due Friday, October 18, 2013.

Posted in Academia, Activism, Acts of Violence, Call for Papers or Participation, Coerced Sex, Courts and the Judiciary, Employment Discrimination, Feminism and Economics, Feminism and Families, Feminism and Law, Feminism and Politics, Feminist Legal Scholarship, Feminists in Academia, Human Trafficking, Immigration, Legal Profession, LGBT Rights, Masculinity, Reproductive Rights, Sex Trafficking, Sexual Harassment, Socioeconomic Class, Upcoming Conferences | Comments Off

Call for Nominations: AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award

The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to open nominations for its second Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year, the inaugural award honored Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her remarkable impact and contributions to the Section on Women in Legal Education, the legal academy, and the legal profesison.

The purpose of the Lifetime Achievement Award is to honor an individual who has had a distinguished career of teaching, service, and scholarship for at least 20 years.  The recipient should be someone who has impacted women, the legal community, the academy, and the issues that affect women through mentoring, writing, speaking, activism, and by providing opportunities to others.

The Section is seeking nominations for this most prestigious award.  Please submit your nomination by filling out this electronic form by November 8, 2013Please note that only nominations submitted via the electronic form by the deadline will be accepted.

Please email Dean Cynthia Fountaine, chair of the Lifetime Achievement Award Subcommittee, if you have any questions or difficulty with your online submission.

Posted in Academia, Call for Papers or Participation | Comments Off

Professor Mary Anne Franks discusses “Revenge Porn”

What is a “threatened sexist”? What is “revenge porn” itself, anyway?

Check out this discussion with Professor Mary Anne Franks to learn all about this topic, to discuss ways that law is responding to online harassment, and to find out what you can do to support this work.

Posted in Activism, Feminism and Technology, Feminist Blogs Of Interest, Pornography's Harms, Sexual Harassment | Comments Off

2014-2015 Visiting Scholar Positions at McGill U Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

From the FLP mailbox:

2014-2015 VISITING SCHOLAR POSITIONS, McGill University (Montreal)

The Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF) invites applications for the competitive position of Visiting Scholar. These positions are open to professors who wish to spend one or two academic terms in a university environment in order to carry out research on gender, sexuality or feminist studies. The Institute offers work space and support, an ongoing seminar program, contact with other scholars within McGill and in neighbouring universities – all this located at the centre of a stimulating, bilingual, urban environment.

The Visiting Scholar positions are ideal for faculty with research leave funding, a portable research fellowship, or sabbatical. Preference will be given to scholars who already hold faculty positions. Research funding in the amounts of $1,000 and $5,000 (for the Muriel Gold Senior Visiting Scholar position) is available from IGSF.

If interested, please send a proposal that describes in 1-2 pages the research that would be undertaken while in residence as a Visiting Scholar, a copy of a recent publication, an up-to-date curriculum vitae and an indication of what period you would be interested in being in residence as an IGSF Visiting Scholar to (email applications preferred):

Carrie Rentschler, Director

Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF)

3487 Peel Street, 2nd floor

Montreal, QC H3A 1W7

Phone: 514.398.3911

Fax: 514.398.3986


While we may be able to provide administrative advice on the following matters, IGSF visiting scholars assume full responsibility on matters relating to visa applications, health insurance, housing and living expenses. Please note in particular that Canada does not pay for hospital or medical services for visitors. All visiting scholars must ensure they have health insurance to cover any medical costs for the duration of a visit to Canada.

APPLICATION CLOSING DATE: Monday, 9 December, 2013

Candidates requiring assurance of a position in order to obtain funding elsewhere are invited to apply one year in advance.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Fellowships and Funding Opportunities | Comments Off

Hasday on “Women’s Exclusion from the Constitutional Canon”

Jill Elaine Hasday (Minnesota) has posted to SSRN her article “Women’s Exclusion from the Constitutional Canon,” forthcoming in the University of Illinois Law Review.  Here is the abstract:

This Essay asks why sex equality is outside the constitutional canon. While race discrimination is a canonical concern of constitutional law, the story of America’s struggles over and against sex discrimination is not widely taken to be a central, organizing part of our constitutional tradition — a defining narrative that exemplifies and expresses the nation’s foundational values and commitments. I offer three potential explanations for the exclusion of sex equality from the constitutional canon. First, the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence developed in ways that suggested that sex discrimination was not a core constitutional problem and concern, especially when compared to race discrimination. Second, the Court’s sex discrimination case law has focused narrowly on state action that draws explicit distinctions between women and men. The Court has little interest in reviewing facially neutral laws, no matter their contribution to women’s unequal status, so the Court hears few sex discrimination suits anymore. This paucity of case law contributes to the sense that conflicts over sex equality are no longer central to constitutional law, if they ever were. Third, the story of women’s resistance to sex discrimination may be less prominent in American constitutional law because this story is less prominent in American popular culture, and vice versa. The Essay concludes by exploring why sex equality may ultimately become part of the constitutional canon. The Court’s reading of the Equal Protection Clause to prohibit sex discrimination has become much less controversial since the 1970s. Moreover, new analogies have emerged in constitutional law, which over time have pushed sex discrimination closer to the core of the Equal Protection Clause. Courts, lawmakers, advocates, and scholars seeking constitutional protection from sexual orientation discrimination now routinely analogize sexual orientation to sex. The frequency and prominence of these analogies, which presuppose that struggles against sex discrimination are already central to our nation’s understanding of equality and equal protection, may help move sex into the constitutional canon at last.

The full article is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Feminist Legal Scholarship | Comments Off

Call for Signatories to Report to UN Human Rights Committee on Domestic Violence and Gun Violence in U.S.

From colleagues at the University of Miami’s Human Rights Clinic:

Attached and available here is the final shadow report submitted recently to the United Nations Human Rights Committee by the Advocates for Human Rights, the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami, Legal Momentum, and Women Empowered, in response to the Committee’s inquiry regarding domestic violence and gun violence in the United States.

We will publish the version with the sign-ons on the web, send the revised version to the Committee, and use that revised document in our Geneva-based advocacy on domestic and gun violence issues in October.

If you would like to sign on to the report, please email Dan Kinney at by October 8, 2013. Please indicate if you are signing on in your individual capacity or on behalf of your organization/institution.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Acts of Violence, Feminism and Families | Comments Off

Swedish Exposure Redux, Redacted

[This is the longer version of a post originally titled “Swedish Exposure.” It was originally edited down and posted at another site but ran into sociotechnical difficulties: too many words were deemed “pornographic.”  I think it was the u-word and the m-word, each of which was used once in the edited down version; of course, it might also have been the s-word, or even my first name, which has real L-word frissonne. To protect both spam filters and sensibilities, I have redacted certain portions of the text below. I trust that readers will use context and/or their imaginations to fill in blanks.]

Some of my colleagues and I have been discussing the recently decided Swedish case in which a 65-year-old man was acquitted of charges of s______  assault after taking off his shorts at a beach near Stockholm and m______into the ocean. You can read about it here. There has been so far a pretty even split between my colleagues who think public m_______  should be punished (though not as a s______ assault, as was the charge in the referenced case) and those who think that public m_______ is acceptable, or at least, should be treated no differently than public u______.  Public u_______, even though deplored and subject to penalty, often goes widely unpunished. Here are some of my thoughts on all of this from a gender, spatial and visual regulatory perspective.

The gendered aspects of this situation intrigue me, starting with the comparison between public u________ and public m________. This is a real Scylla and Charybdis dilemma for me: I don’t want to see either public m_______ or public u______. I will concede that both public m_______ and u_______ often involve exposure of s____ organs, either of which I could conceivably turn away from.   Were I forced to choose which one to view, I am tempted to prefer u_______. I see u_______ as a more compelling sociobiological function whose public performance I am more willing to forgive, though only slightly more willing. I must note that with public u_______, however, I am struck by the gender differences typically involved: men u_____ in public because they can. It is rare for Western women to u_______ openly in public. This is mainly because of a combination of physiological impracticability (it’s easier to stand as men typically do for u_______, than to squat as women do) and social norms that frown deeply on women publicly exposing themselves. At least there is no physiological barrier to women’s public m________ (though there would still be immense social barriers with which to contend), so there is theoretically greater gender parity in regard to the practice of public m__________.

But, since I assume, (and the assumption is not always true, I’ll grant) that the public m________ often uses other members of the public as the impetus for his (and it is usually a he) actions (such as staring at persons he finds s________ desirable), public m______ to me reeks of gross s_______ objectification of others and of breaching the boundaries between public and private. Although the public/private dichotomy has long inhered to the disadvantage of women, keeping n________ g________ and s_________ acts in the private sphere is an example of where the public/private divide serves women. Because of the way in which male public m_______ and g______ exposure have historically been and continue to be used to s_______ harass women, it is not possible to accord male public m_______ and/or other male g______ exposure a neutral valence (“it’s just another bodily function/bodily part”) that ignores this history. Keeping m_______ private is a legitimate, well-founded constraint that protects the public (mostly women) from a potential form of harassment and accords a measure of dignity to m_______ as an intimate sexual act. Allowing public m________, in contrast, promotes what is chiefly a masculinist prerogative all while cheapening it as a s_________expression.

A larger concern that I have has no bearing on whether the public m_________ uses another member of the public to fuel his m______ or merely uses his own imagination. I am concerned with the way in which the public m______, the public u________ and the public g______ exposer, all of whom typically display their s______organs, wield what some social theorists have called synoptic power: the power of an actor to compel others to look at the actor or at a place the actor directs.  Via display of his s_______organs in a context where such displays are not only non-normative but socially and morally offensive to many, the public m_______ and his ilk shape public behavior patterns, commanding attention or repulsion, and thereby exercise social control. This is true even where, as in the Swedish case, the actor did not “target” a specific person with his m________ (or so the court says). This even stands true where the public m________ does not particularly seek an audience but performs where an audience is in fact present. Public m________ features what is often an intensely coercive, oppressive, and obscene power of “made you look” and of “made you look away.”

So, while I understand the impulse to treat public m_______ as an aspect of broader social and personal freedom, it is a freedom whose exercise threatens to constrain the liberty of many others to enjoy public space.

-Lolita Buckner Inniss

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

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

Announcing the Penny Pether Award for Law and Language Scholarship

From the FLP mailbox, this announcement of a new award in honor and memory of Penny Pether:

A passionate advocate for interdisciplinary scholarship in law, literature, and language, Penelope J. Pether was Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law and former Professor of Law and Director of Legal Rhetoric at the American University Washington College of Law. Her own scholarship focused not only on law, literature, and language, but also on constitutional and comparative constitutional law; legal theory, including constitutional theory; common law legal institutions, judging practices, and professional subject formation.

Beginning in November 2013, the Penny Pether Award for Law & Language Scholarship will be given annually to an article or essay published during the preceding year (September 1 to September 1) that exemplifies Penny’s commitment to law and language scholarship and pedagogy.

1. “[S]cholarship concerning itself with the unique or distinctive insights that might emerge from interdisciplinary inquiries into ‘law’ grounded in the work of influential theorists of language and discourse.”

2. Scholarship that “attempts to think through the relations among subject formation, language, and law.”

3. Scholarship that provides “accounts of—and linguistic interventions in—acute and yet abiding crises in law, its institutions and discourses.”

4. Scholarship and pedagogy that is “[c]arefully theorized and situated, insisting on engaging politics and law, [and that] charts ways for law and its subjects to use power, do justice.”

More explanations and descriptions of these characteristics can be found in Penny’s chapter from which these quotations are drawn: Language, in Law and the Humanities: An Introduction (Austin Sarat et al. eds., Cambridge U. Press 2010).

Nominations should be sent by October 25, 2013 to Jeremy Mullem at mullem@law.duke.eduYou are free to nominate more than one work and to nominate work you’ve written.  Please provide a citation for each work you nominate.

The Selection Committee includes Linda Berger, David Caudill, Amy Dillard, Ian Gallacher, Melissa Marlow, Jeremy Mullem, Nancy Modesitt, and Terry Pollman.  Members of the Selection Committee and other faculty at their schools are not eligible for the award.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Call for Papers or Participation | Comments Off

Two Carleton University Hiring Announcements

From colleagues at Carleton University (Canada), two hiring announcements:

Law and Legal Studies (lndigeneity and the Law) – Assistant Professor

The Department of Law and Legal Studies invites applications from qualified candidates for a preliminary (tenure-track) appointment in “lndigeneity and the Law” at the rank of Assistant Professor beginning July 1, 2014.

The successful candidate will be expected to teach core courses in our undergraduate program and contribute to the development of our graduate offerings including our new PhD in Legal Studies in the area of domestic and/or international issues of lndigeneity and the Law. The successful candidate may also wish to participate in the new Masters concentration and Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Policy and Administration offered by the School of Public Policy and Administration. The Department of Law and Legal Studies is the home of the oldest and largest undergraduate and graduate programs in Legal Studies in Canada. The Department emerged in 1967 as the first unit in Canada to study law with multidisciplinary academic concerns in mind. The Department offers a B.A. & B.A. (Honours) in Law to over 1000 students within the Faculty of Public Affairs and includes concentrations in Human Rights & Transnational Law, Business Law, and Law, Policy and Government among its undergraduate programs.

The Department of Law and Legal Studies is committed to interdisciplinary legal inquiry and is composed of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary teaching and research from a range of disciplines including criminology, history, law, legal anthropology, political economy, political theory, mass communications and sociology. The Department currently offers a B.A. in Law and a M.A. and Ph.D in Legal Studies.

Candidates should hold a doctoral degree, or the equivalent, in legal studies, law or a related discipline and demonstrate a capacity for theoretically-informed, interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. The successful candidate will have the ability to develop an externally-funded, high quality research program; will be committed to effective teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level; and will contribute effectively to the academic life of the Department, the Faculty and the University.

Applicants should send a cover letter of application; a curriculum vitae; a statement of research interests; a teaching portfolio, including evidence of teaching performance and a statement of teaching philosophy; and have three referees forward supporting letters by the closing date of December 1, 2013 to: Chair, Department of Law and Legal Studies c/o Gina Freitag, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1 S 5B6.

The Department of Law and Legal Studies invites applications from qualified candidates for a preliminary (tenure-track) appointment in “Criminology and Socio-legal Studies” at the rank of Assistant Professor beginning July 1, 2014.

The successful applicant will teach and conduct research in the field of Criminology and Socio-legal Studies. Substantive research interests are open. At the undergraduate level, the successful applicant will be expected to teach core courses in criminal law and/or criminology and contribute to the Department’s support of the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice. At the graduate level, the successful applicant will contribute to the Department’s offerings in the specialization areas of “Crime, Governance and Security” for the MA and “Crime, Law and Security” for the PhD in Legal Studies.

The Department of Law and Legal Studies is the home of the oldest and largest undergraduate and graduate programs in Legal Studies in Canada. The Department emerged in 1967 as the first unit in Canada to study law with multidisciplinary academic concerns in mind. The Department offers a B.A. & B.A. (Honours) in Law to over 1000 students within the Faculty of Public Affairs and includes concentrations in Human Rights & Transnational Law, Business Law, and Law, Policy and Government among its undergraduate programs. The Department of Law and Legal Studies is committed to interdisciplinary legal inquiry and is composed of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary teaching and research from a range of disciplines including criminology, history, law, legal anthropology, political economy, political theory, mass communications and sociology. The Department currently offers a B.A. in Law and a M.A. and Ph.D in Legal Studies.

Candidates should hold a doctoral degree, or the equivalent, in legal studies, law or a related discipline and demonstrate a capacity for theoretically-informed, interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. The successful candidate will have the ability to develop an externally-funded, high quality research program; will be committed to effective teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level; and will contribute effectively to the academic life of the Department, the Faculty and the University.

Applicants should send a cover letter of application; a curriculum vitae; a statement of research interests; a teaching portfolio, including evidence of teaching performance and a statement of teaching philosophy; and have three referees forward supporting letters by the closing date of December 1, 2013 to: Chair, Department of Law and Legal Studies c/o Gina Freitag, Carleton University, 112S Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6.

Located in Ottawa, Ontario, Carleton University is a dynamic research and teaching institution with a tradition of leading change. Its internationally recognized faculty, staff, and researchers provide more than 27,000 full- and part-time students from every province and more than 100 countries around the world with academic opportunities in more than 65 programs of study. Carleton’s creative, interdisciplinary, and international approach to research has led to many significant discoveries and creative work in science and technology, business, governance, public policy, and the arts. As an innovative institution, Carleton is uniquely committed to developing solutions to real world problems by pushing the boundaries of knowledge and understanding daily.

Minutes from downtown, Carleton University is located on a beautiful campus in the central portion of Ottawa, bordered by the Rideau River on one side, and the Rideau Canal on the other. With over 12 national museums and the spectacular Gatineau Park close by, there are many excellent recreational opportunities for individuals and families to enjoy. The City of Ottawa itself, with a population of almost one million, is Canada’s capital city and reflects the country’s bilingual and multicultural character. Carleton’s location in the nation’s capital provides many opportunities for research with groups and institutions that reflect the diversity of the country.

Carleton University is strongly committed to fostering diversity within its community as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to the further diversification of our faculty and its scholarship including, but not limited to, women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. All positions are subject to budgetary approval.

Posted in Chutes and Ladders, Law Teaching | Comments Off

Feminist Law Prof Renee Newman Knake as “Legal Rebel”

Renee Newman Knake (Michigan State) is one of the “legal rebels featured in this month’s ABA Journal magazine.  Here is an excerpt from the profile:

Two years ago, professional responsibility law professor Renee Newman Knake knew she could no longer tout a rewarding and meaningful career in the law. As she saw it, the profession was plagued by wasteful inefficiency, a precipitous market drop, and the inability to serve a growing swath of the U.S. population.

“If I was going to stand up in front of my students and really believe that having a legal degree and a career as a lawyer can be among the most fulfilling career choices a person can make,” says Knake, “I needed to be doing something to make sure that would be true going forward for future generations of lawyers.”

Knake, 39, co-founded and co-directs Michigan State University’s ReInvent Law Laboratory with fellow prof Daniel Martin Katz. “We needed to create a space where we could build an on-the-ground tool for rethinking the ways we deliver legal services, and then train our students and practicing lawyers to do it,” Knake says.

Read the full story here.

Professor Knake’s full bio is here.

And she’s on the cover of the ABA Journal. Cool!

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Feminists in Academia, Legal Profession | Comments Off

New Gender and the Law Blog

Tracy Thomas (Akron) and John Kang (St. Thomas) are the editors of the new Gender and the Law Prof Blog, “A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network Sponsored by Wolters Kluwer.”  Check it out here.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Gender and the Law Prof blog.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Feminist Blogs Of Interest | Comments Off

In Memoriam: Penelope Pether 1958-2013

Villanova Law Professor Penelope (Penny) Pether died on September 10, 2013.

Penelope Pether, 55, of Haverford, a law professor at Villanova University, died Tuesday, Sept. 10, of cancer at Pennsylvania Hospital.

Dr. Pether was a widely published legal scholar, specializing in the theory and practice of judging in the federal courts; feminist legal theory; the history of racial discrimination; and rape-law reform.

“Penny Pether was a well-respected educator, dedicated mentor, and beloved friend and colleague,” said John Gotanda, dean of the Villanova School of Law. “Her passion for teaching was immeasurable, and her death is a tremendous loss for the Villanova Law community.”

Over the last eight years, she taught courses there about criminal law, comparative constitutional law, and law and literature.

She also brought Villanova law students and inmates together in an unusual seminar at Graterford Prison to study issues of crime and justice from behind prison walls, Gotanda said.

Her husband, David Caudill, said that even in failing health, Dr. Pether went to the prison to teach. She insisted that the inmates could master the difficult legal concepts, and that they should try.

“She really cared about those guys,” her husband said.

From the Villanova Law School website (here):

The Villanova University School of Law community mourns the passing of Penelope Jane Pether, Professor of Law. Professor Pether was a respected educator, dedicated mentor and beloved friend and colleague. Her passion for teaching was immeasurable, and her death is a tremendous loss for the our community.

In 2005, Professor Pether joined the VLS faculty from American University Washington College of Law where she was Professor of Law and Director of Legal Rhetoric. During her tenure at Villanova, she taught a wide variety of constitutional law, law and literature, criminal law and criminal procedure courses. Professor Pether distinguished herself by the positive impact she has had on so many students over the years at VLS and the contributions she has made to the field through her scholarship. She will also be remembered for her work with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which brings law students and incarcerated men and women together to explore and learn about issues of crime and justice from behind prison walls. Though she will be sorely missed, her legacy lives on through the students whom she instructed and inspired.

Professor Pether was an active member of the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education and a member of the Feminist Law Professors blogroll.  Our condolences to Professor Caudill and to her family.  Penny will be missed.

May her memory be a blessing.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Deaths | Comments Off

Formal Equality on Yom Kippur

Writing the Jewish Women’s Archive (here), student Dina Lamdany has these reflections on the “gender-neutral” quality of Yom Kippur:

The morning Torah reading is about the Kohen Gadol’s (high priest) Yom Kippur service in the temple, and the afternoon reading is about forbidden sexual relationships (a topic for a different time)–neither features anything particularly special for women. Similarly, there is nothing to be found in the Haftorah portions: the morning Haftorah is from Isaiah, and talks about sincere repentance (like fasting), while the afternoon Haftorah is from Jonah, and talks about how through repentance, the people of Ninveh were able to prevent themselves from being destroyed (and, you know, a whale.) * * *

On Yom Kippur, it’s not just the stories that don’t differentiate between men and women. Women have the same prohibitions as men throughout the holiday: no food, no drink, no sex, no leather shoes, and no creams/oils. While there are exceptions for women in labor or who just gave birth, even pregnant women are supposed to fast (but encouraged to stay in bed if going to synagogue would cause them to feel ill.)

* * * Yom Kippur, often regarded as the holiest day of the year, is not about women or men or gender–it’s about people. People repenting, people trying to step back from earthly habits and objects–we’re supposed to be like angels–and people trying to look at themselves from outside of their normal selves. And maybe a part of that is stepping away from gender lines and the way we normally associate ourselves with female or male roles, and instead just thinking about who we are as people.

Read the full post here.

-Bridget Crawford

Posted in Feminism and Religion | Comments Off

Shaken and Stirred, Women Leaving (Wall Street) Finance

Margo Epprecht on “The Real Reason Women Are Leaving Wall Street: Gentlemen Prefer Bonds.” Title cute, reasons not. But they’re also pretty predictable: a lot of sexism, along with the long hours, the financial crisis that caused many people to rethink their priorities, and the preferences many women tend to make for home and family. In 2013, would bringing more women back to Wall Street change the ethical and management dynamics of the place? It’s certainly up for discussion. Very interesting read.

Posted in Feminism and Economics, Feminism and the Workplace, If you're a woman, The Underrepresentation of Women, Where are the Women? | Tagged | Comments Off

CFP: Canadian Journal of Women and the Law

Canadian Journal of Women and the Law

Call for Submissions: Volume 26(2)

The Canadian Journal of Women and the Law invites the submission of articles for publication in Volume 26(2) in the Autumn of 2014.  The CJWL is Canada’s oldest feminist legal periodical. Since it began in 1985, the Journal has provided a forum in which writers from diverse backgrounds, speaking from a wide range of experience, can exchange ideas and information about legal issues that affect women.

We invite submissions from people who are engaged in feminist analysis of socio-legal issues that reflect a range of approaches, including multidisciplinary, action-focused, theoretical, and historical, and that reflect linguistic and regional differences in Canada. We particularly encourage submissions authored by women from different backgrounds and disciplines who are doing new feminist work.

While submissions are accepted on a rolling basis, the submissions deadline for Volume 26(2) is December 31, 2013.  Submissions should conform to the Style Guide available on our website: The text should not exceed 35 pages (10,000 words), double-spaced, including notes and appendices, and should include an abstract.

Please send submissions in a Word document (not PDF) to

For further information please contact:

Rosemary Cairns Way, English Language Co-Editor, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 

Louise Langevin, Corédactrice francophone, Revue Femmes et droit


Appel de textes

Revue Femmes et Droit : Volume 26(2)

La Revue Femmes et Droit désire recevoir des textes pour publication dans son numéro 26(2) à paraître aux automne 2014. La Revue Femmes et Droit est la plus ancienne seule revue juridique féministe au Canada. Depuis le début de ses activités en 1985, la Revue a créé un forum permettant aux auteures féministes venant d’horizons différents et ayant une vaste gamme d’expériences d’échanger des idées et des renseignements sur les questions juridiques intéressant les femmes.

La Revue désire recevoir des tapuscrits d’analyse féministe concernant des questions socio-juridiques qui reflètent tant une diversité d’approches multidisciplinaires, stratégiques, théoriques et historiques que les différences linguistiques et régionales du Canada. Nous accueillons volontiers des textes d’auteures qui émanent de diverses professions, disciplines et provinces et qui se consacrent à de nouveaux domaines de l’action féministe.

Bien que la Revue accepte des textes en tout temps, la date limite de soumission pour le numéro 26 (2) est le 31decembre 2013. Les textes devraient respecter le Manuel canadien de la référence juridique et ne pas dépasser 35 pages (10 000 mots), à double interligne, y inclus les notes et les annexes et comprendre un résumé.

Veuillez envoyer vos textes en format Word à l’adresse

Pour toute information, veuillez contacter

Rosemary Cairns Way, English Language Co-Editor, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 

Louise Langevin, Corédactrice francophone, Revue Femmes et droit

Posted in Call for Papers or Participation | Comments Off

University of Baltimore School of Law Seventh Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference


The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Center on Applied Feminism seeks submissions for its Seventh Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference. This year’s theme is “Applied Feminism and Health.” The conference will be held on March 6 and 7, 2014. For more information about the conference, please visit

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) and renewed attacks on reproductive health in the United States, the time is right to consider the relationship between feminism and health across multiple dimensions. This conference seeks to explore the intersections between feminist legal theory and physical, mental, public, and community health in the United States and abroad. Papers might explore the following questions: What impact has feminist legal theory had on women’s health policy and practice? How might feminist legal theory respond to the health challenges facing communities and individuals, as well as increase access to health care? What sort of support should society and law provide to ensure good health? How do law and feminist legal theory conceptualize the role of the state in relation to health rights and reproductive justice? What are the links between health, feminist legal theory, and sports? Are there rights to good health and what are their foundations? How do health needs and conceptions of rights vary across cultural, economic, religious, and other identities? What are the areas where health justice is needed and how might feminist legal theory help?
This conference will attempt to address these and other questions from the perspectives of activists, practitioners, and academics. 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 health 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 6, 2014, with a workshop for conference participants. This workshop will continue the annual tradition of involving all attendees as participants in an interactive discussion and reflection. On Friday, March 7, 2014, the conference will continue with a day of presentations by legal academics, practitioners and activists 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, and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Amy Klobuchar.
To submit a paper proposal, please submit an abstract by Friday, 5 p.m. on November 1, 2013, 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 2014. 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 7, 2014. 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 papers will be due no later than February, 14, 2014. Abstracts will be posted on the Center on Applied Feminism’s conference website to be shared with other participants and attendees.
We look forward to your submissions. If you have further questions, please contact Prof. Michele Gilman at

Posted in Academia | Comments Off

Two New Female Lego Minifigures Have Been Released: Let’s Call Them “Progress” and “Backlash.”

The first is a female scientist:
According to this site, “This latest minifig is significant because she’s the first female Lego scientist. For reasons unknown most Lego STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) minifigs are male.”

The second Series 11 Lego Minifigure of interest is a female robot. Below is a picture of it that pretty much speaks for itself I think.


–Ann Bartow

Posted in Feminism and Culture, The Overrepresentation of Men, The Underrepresentation of Women | Comments Off

“For most Americans, life expectancy continues to rise—but not for uneducated white women. They have lost five years, and no one knows why. “

TAP story by Monica Potts entitled “What’s Killing Poor White Women?” here.

Posted in Feminism and Economics, Race and Racism | Comments Off

What’s Feminism Got to Do with It? “The Super Woman Myth”

Once again there is an article blaming feminism for “raising the bar too high” and making it impossible for real women to “have it all. “The Super Woman Myth: Where Feminism Went Wrong  (Unfortunately this article is behind a pay wall in The Chronicle of Higher Education) Barnard President Debora Spar writes: “My generation made a mistake. We took the struggles and the victories of feminism and interpreted them somehow as a pathway to personal perfection. We privatized feminism and focused only on our dreams and our own inevitable frustrations.” And she argues that we need a feminism based on difference and resurrects this frustrating refrain about women’s differences, again putting the obstacles women face squarely back in the court of their supposed “differences.” I am very wary of these kinds of prescriptions even as I agree with some of what she says. But the indictment of “feminism” is my first gripe.

Let me humbly suggest that it was not feminism that “privatized” the interpretation of what equality for women meant, or even that it was Spar’s generation (which is mine too by the way) that made “a mistake.” Rather it was a combination of several factors: the increasing commercialization and privatization in the culture as a whole; hostility from both men and women to women’s equality which took many forms, the fact that house work and child-rearing tasks remained largely women’s responsibility, that marriage is still viewed as a “career option” for many women, that recessions and economic stalls that have always represented obstacles for those who in habit the underclass and women are no exception.  There are probably other causes as well, but I don’t think it is feminism.

Of course, some of the problems chronicled  in Spar’s article are mainly those of upper-middle class, well-educated women, those students of hers who were earning Harvard MBAs. Less affluent women have never had the option to just work for a couple of years before dropping out of the work force to have children. That “option” is predicated on a spousal breadwinner (or a trust fund) and the only way in which equality for women figures into this option is that these women got access to a career that in times past they would have been completely excluded from, a career they are now apparently so eager to throwaway, or at least resigned to throwing away.

Perhaps, however, this was just pretend complacency. Perhaps these young women were voicing the attitudes they thought their peers, families and society would approve of. It is hard to be too critical of their attitudes when it is undoubtedly true that they will shoulder more of the burden of childcare, etc. and are under pressures to not only do well in the careers those degrees prepared them for, but to bake perfect cupcakes for their kids school events.  Spar is right. That is indeed ridiculous. No man is ever put to that choice. Still, I am unsure how you blame feminism for this.

My second gripe with her article is that she offers up several tired stereotypes about women, sex and biology rehashed.  We are urged to acknowledge that biology matters, that having “wombs, breasts and ovaries” is a critical difference that makes a difference for purposes of equality.  While I am prepared to say breast feeding and pregnancy surely mean that reproduction and its burdens fall disproportionately on women as a result of biology, I am not convinced that this means that these facts should represent any special obstacle to women in the workplace. That they do is because of the absence of policies which take these facts into account and perhaps that is what Spar has in mind. On that score we agree.

But when she writes: “Most women—not all, but most—approach sexual relations differently than men do. They are more interested in romantic entanglements than casual affairs, and more inclined to seek solace in relationships” I want to just spit. She makes a concession that there may be exceptions (and one wonders how she would characterize those exceptions; we know how society at large would – slut-shaming).

All I can say is that this conventional picture does not conform to my own experience or that of many women I know, although I also would concede that women often feel inhibited from talking about their experiences in a truthful way and they are encouraged to embrace this model of women’s sexuality in order to avoid said slut-shaming.  Not all women want to have children just because they have ovaries any more than every man wants children  just because he has sperm. But women who don’t are often treated as bizarre or tragic while men who remain single and childless are often celebrated.

When you get praise for acting a particular way and shamed for reflecting attitudes that are at odds from your society it is hard to know what attitudes and behaviors would be like in the absence of these social constructs. Suffice it to note that there really isn’t a male corollary to the word “slut.”  Women still get punished for their sexual behavior and they get blamed and shamed for sex even when they are victims. (See the cover story in this past Sunday New York Times Magazine for the story of a woman kidnapped in Somalia whose bid for escape appears to have been foiled in part when she disclosed she had been raped. She apparently thought she would be treated as the wronged party rather than as responsible for her own attack as unclean as a result. This is true almost the world over and continues to be more true that it ought to be even in countries which criminalize rape).

I applaud and second Spar’s exhortation to return to feminism’s roots in collective action and to recognize that we are in this together so to speak. But it is frustrating to see so rehashed so many distressing stereotypes about women’s supposed differences that mean, according to Spar, that women should just accommodate or accept diminished expectations by taking the world as it is as a given. I wish that in addition to urging that we support women candidates for office and better maternity leave child care policies, that she had advocated that we try to advocate that those of us who have male partners not accept anything less than full partnership in  child rearing and housework, that we protest against all the various ceremonial “wife” roles in public life, starting from the First Lady, that perpetuate the idea that “wife” is a career option.

And how can it be otherwise when in thousands of ways we are reminded that “wife” is a job – still. We still have the “Real Housewives” franchise (although this is an oxymoron if there ever was one). There is no “Real House Husbands” male equivalent. And a recent article in the Sunday New York Times chronicles the wives and girlfriends of tennis stars and almost completely ignoring the pairings of the women players except to subtly or not so subtly suggest that they are sad figures with a string of failed relationships). Here is a frame shift. What if they, like the male stars before them are just playing the field and aren’t actually that into settling down? And men or women with same sex partners are virtually ignored.  I suspect the reason is not necessarily homophobia. It is that the women’s romantic partners aren’t viewed as performing a function merely by being in a relationship with the athlete. The women who are married or attached to male stars are, even when, as is true in some cases, they have their own careers.

This is culture not feminism. It is culture not feminism that when a search goes out for a university president some have trouble imagining a woman for the job. I wonder if Spar encountered these problems or whether at a college like Barnard this is not the same problem it is at a college that has never had a woman as university president. And lest we think this is a problem of the Midwest or just certain parts of the country let us remember that we still have not had a woman president for the country. Perhaps no small part of that is because we cannot imagine what her partner would do. Everyone (or many) seem thrown into a state of confusion trying to imagine what we will do with no First Lady or what in the world  a First Husband to do.  It exposes the essential silliness and way in which the concept of First Lady is deeply gendered. And it is gendered in a way that exposes that the First Lady job is just a more elevated, more ceremonial expression of the same role that Spar’s students expressed interest in.

We should indeed work collectively to support equality for women but it is hard to see how that will happen while those who identify as feminism contribute to the notion that feminism is somehow a dirty word or is to blame for the continuing lack of progress we see.  We should aim to make it possible for  women to exploit their talents without having to sacrifice everything else even if no one, men or women, can “have it all.” And let’s stop blaming feminism.

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