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boys will be boys, while their employers will be oblivious

Posted by pocochina on December 11, 2008

It’s not exactly a galloping surprise to the, uh, conscious that the President-Elect and his staff have a bit of a woman problem.  In that, we exist, walking around like we was people and shit.  As of this writing, Favreau has offered a private apology to the Senator, and taken the picture down.  He has not resigned.  He has not publicly acknowledged his behavior. He has not been fired.

But this is beyond excusable.  As is the fact that Favreau still has a job after not just participating in this behavior, not just posing for a picture, but publishing said picture online.  (And isn’t it ironic?)  Look at this picture.  Really look at it.  Laughing boys, standing around a woman who can’t react.  On either side, with their  shoulders behind her, and their hands in front of her – there’s no escape.  Completely surrounded.  One hand in her hair, as if to pull her head back and force the beer bottle in.  One hand cupped to suggest groping.  One head turned toward her, the other in her ear, both of them breathing down her neck.  And laughing.  Does this disturb you?  Because it should.

Reines’ reaction to this – “evidence of increased bonhomie between the formerly rival camps” – is, to my mind, a mastery of the backhand, as a snide re-interpretation of damnation with faint praise.  Of course Clinton can’t come out with guns blazing – Mr. “periodically feeling down” has taken intellectually honest discussion of sexism off the table – but, well, this is pretty emblematic of the President-Elect’s campaign towards his female rivals, and that of his supporters towards hers.  You’re a joke, and a toy.  Trivialization of violence against women? Check.  Reduction of women to our reproductive organs? Check.  Playing sexism for a laugh? Check.  Hey, lighten up, at least nobody was threatening her life! I suppose that is progress.

And yes, this is about Obama.  Haven’t we been hearing for two years now about how he was a CIVIL!  RIGHTS!  ATTORNEY!?  I can only assume he wasn’t a very good one, or he’d have a handle on the concept of a hostile work environment.  The knowledge that one’s co-workers find this behavior funny could well  inhibit a person’s comfort in hir place of work, particularly since at least one those co-workers considered themselves free to engage in it while wearing the company logo.  And you know what, I’d wager that the knowledge that this is tacitly condoned by the most powerful boss in the world will be a pretty effective means of silencing future claims next time a government worker is faced with a hostile work environment.  Oh, it’s change your lyin’ eyes can believe in.  It’s also change I’d hoped I’d never see.

You know who this isn’t about?  Hillary Clinton.  I mean, it’s not just about her, though of course as the target of this scorn she has more than a right to react in whatever way she chooses.  This is about women in the American public square.  Favreau’s continued employoment is further indication that it’s open season on women in public.   Speak out of turn, and you’re a whiny bitch.  Let it go, and you deserve to be groped in effigy.  As I said at Red’s, what kills me is that I know these guys.  Okay, not Favreau and his comrade-in-groping, but young men with the world at their feet who like to hear their own words about justice and change and their own moral superiority, as long as the systemic oppression of others is always around for their easy amusement.  I see them every day.  I look around the lecture hall some days and think about who they’re going to be.  As much as a reminder of what they think of me is never fun, it really is something special from the voice of the President-Elect.

And yes, Campbell.  When you sanctimoniously tut-tut about how HRC isn’t reacting to your refined tastes to this simulated sexual assault, you are blaming the victim.  You are choosing to criticize someone who wasn’t even there over those who actually did this.  You are buying into the sexist expectation that women are the gatekeepers of morality, that everyone to whom something humiliating is done to them should take her lumps just to satisfy you.

Let me be quite clear.  The person responsible for this behavior is Favreau.  The person responsible for this picture’s presence on our news, our websites, burned into our brain is the person who put Favreau in front of all of us as someone deserving of a lofty position in the United States government.  President-Elect Obama has chosen, so far, to fail to even mention Favreau’s behavior, or the widespread pattern of this behavior in our country, or the severe impact this has on women.  I get that policy-wise, he’s better than a Republican, and I get that in the current political climate that’s  a valuable quality.  What I do not get is why that insultingly low bar is satisfactory for the former candidate of Hope (TM) and Change (patent pending).*  All President-Elect Obama needs to do is to behave in the way the EEOC – which, for those keeping track, he will be running in a few weeks – wishes American employers to behave.  So far he has chosen not to do so.

Once is happenstance.  Twice is coincidence.  Three times is Enemy Action.  Logic suggests that dozens, if not hundreds, of times is a deliberately chosen strategy of passive enjoyment of and outright capitalization on the hatred of women.  The bad thing about a strategy is that it’s a conscious choice, and people intend the probable consequences of their actions.  The good thing about a conscious choice is that a better one can be made.

I’ll wait.

*Some restrictions, one observes, apply.


Posted in feminism, idiots, law school, obama, politics, sexual assault, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Who Institutionalizes Sexism? Man with Two Daughters Edition

Posted by pocochina on March 19, 2008

This makes me want to fucking gag.  I don’t even know what else to say about it, except that I am terrified by a father to whom it needs to be explained that the confirmation of an anti-woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is not politically expedient.   This is a snapshot of a removed, elitist, and – dare I say it?  I dare!  I dare! – ivory fucking tower of law approach to those who, with lifetime appointments, are the last defenders of our Constitution.

Such a detached, cold, rationalized, and deeply wrong assessment of the situation reminds me of some of the professors around here that have been out of practice and in their (FUCKING FABULOUS, BTW) offices for a while.  We spend so much time thinking about how far this precedent extends and where the potential analogies will lead, and that’s important, but some of the truly great theorists forget that at some point, you can’t keep babbling about How The Logical Outcome Is Always The End of Civilization* because out there in the system, some poor schmuck is waiting for a decision.  Those who make the system must not take for granted that they are above the system.  (See:  Spitzer, Eliot; Nixon, Richard)  I love academia.  I love professors, I love learning, I love going to class, I even love the 1200 page tome of international jurisdiction that’s open underneath my elbows right now.  But so help me God, I hope I never forget that the law impacts people’s lives – that in a county such as ours, we still grant the law the power to end people’s lives.  While that which is politically expedient must sometimes be the priority over ritual suicide by principle, there is also a time and a place for principle to come first, and the composition of the High Court is unequivocally within that time and place.

*We have this conversation once a week.   All things considered, I’m Little Mary Fucking Sunshine.

Posted in abortion, academia, feminism, law school, obama, politics, pregnancy, SCOTUS | Leave a Comment »

on academia

Posted by pocochina on March 14, 2008

For crazy_celebrian as requested here.

This post feels quite a bit like cheating, since I’ve looked at the class and gender dynamics in the legal academic world on and off for a while. And folks, it ain’t pretty. I’ve been doing a lot of wistful comparisons lately (grass is always greener, right?) to my undergraduate experience.

Undergrad and law school are different beasts in a lot of ways, but I’d imagine they’re also closer in experience to each other than undergrad and master’s or PHD programs. This is because with law school, we’re starting over, totally, using new fundamental skills – we research differently, and we’re taking 101s all over again after graduating with honors from prestigious schools, in all different fields. (This is probably only true in the US, by the way, I think that in most countries you study law at university and then maybe go on to a graduate LLM? We have a weird system.)

I majored in international affairs and women’s studies, and the view from those two departments couldn’t have been more wildly different. IA was very buttoned-up, wear-suits-to-class, have-I-told-you-about-my-internship; in a lot of ways, like my law school. Women’s Studies, however, was this tiny renegade little department, with deep intersectional and deconstructionist tendencies. Some of our professors exactly the Liberal Secular* Marxist East Coast Ivory Tower Elites (TM) Bernard Goldberg dreams in his paranoid delusions are taking over the university system. (If wishing made it so, y’all, this world would be a much better place. As it were, those professors are few and far between, and not well recognized by their universities. I hate to bring the bad news, but the Revolution Will Not be Tenured.) I learned so much. What I am deeply dissatisfied with right now is that I’m learning stuff totally out of my framework of knowledge, rather than expounding on the intricate and far-reaching theories that I know and love so well.

I remember being so relieved by the concept of safe space, which we discussed Very Seriously at the beginning of most courses, and that is, on balance, what I miss most right now. I am used to the classroom being treated as a place where above all, if you walked out with nothing else – even though that never happened in those classes – you walked out with a new perspective on how to fucking respect everyone around you. The legal academy isn’t like that, not one little bit. Sexism, racism, classism, and -isms I’m probably not sensitive enough to pick up on yet, are tolerated and sometimes encouraged. And forget about having any sort of room to fuck up. You will be criticized, embarrassed, and remembered for your mistakes at my law school. You will not only have to hand over your excruciatingly mistake-ridden first draft to a randomly selected classmate, you will not only have the constant expectation that your work will pop up on the projector screen for criticism (as if blacking out someone’s name makes the experience any less excruciating), you will be taught that you are absolutely fucking powerless to change your experience, and that power comes only in the knowledge that it will be someone else’s self-respect on the line soon. It is deeply silencing.

What the academy teaches in a lot of ways is privilege. It can teach you how it exists systemically, or it can teach you how to ignore your own privilege, or even worse, it can systemically teach you how to abuse that privilege. And what sends a cold chill down my spine is that the understanding presented to the legal profession is one that refuses to acknowledge privilege, even while it creates more of it. Most of our elected representatives are lawyers, many of the people working for the executive branch are lawyers, and certainly our entire judicial branch is made of lawyers. What I am learning, right now, is how we make the people who make society. There are many good and wise and brilliant people – I’m thinking of public defenders and county prosecutors as well as the likes of Justices Ginsberg, Brennan, and Marshall; of Catherine MacKinnon, and of course of Senator Clinton, though there are hundreds more – who come out of law school and go on to public service, but they are not products of this system, they are in stark and amazing defiance of it.

*I actually have no idea what the religious, or non-religious, identities of my professors were. Which makes them excellent models of secular, which is distinct from atheist, educators, in my opinion; it is wrong for a professor to pressure a student in any way towards a religious persuasion or lack thereof, and I’m proud to say I as an alum am part of a community where that just isn’t done.

Posted in academia, feminism, law school | Leave a Comment »

law students say the darndest things

Posted by pocochina on February 4, 2008

In a case where a couple having an extramarital affair signed a contract and one breached:

“Once he signed it, she probably shut up, and that’s a benefit!”*


Posted in feminism, law school | Leave a Comment »

Jerk-Ass Law Student Comment of the Day

Posted by pocochina on January 30, 2008

“Engagement rings aren’t really a gift!  They’re conditional!  More like a down payment!”

At first, I didn’t understand why everyone was laughing, what with my tiny girl brain and all, but then it clicked!  It was a joke about how marriage is prostitution and women are property!   HAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAAHA!  OMG GEDDIT?

People ask me why I’m angry, I swear to God.

Posted in feminism, law school | Leave a Comment »

on Legally Blonde

Posted by pocochina on November 29, 2007

So I love Legally Blonde.  I’ve seen it a hundred times, I think they did their research on law school life,* and it passes the Mo Movie Measure, and it’s endearing and funny, just the thing to clear away six weeks of 1L stress.

Posted in feminism, law school | Leave a Comment »

in which our heroine drops the self-silencing

Posted by pocochina on November 14, 2007

I mentioned in an earlier post that talking about pregnancy in class makes me uncomfortable, and then I waffled and abdicated and apologized on the why.  Then I realized that I was silencing my own opinion on a pseudonymous livejournal that almost nobody reads, so it was stupid on a lot of levels.

I am uncomfortable talking about pregnancy and abortion in class because it is a fundamentally unequal disruption of the imperfect but generally stable power dynamics in a law school classroom.  (There.  That wasn’t so hard.)

Posted in abortion, feminism, law school | Leave a Comment »


Posted by pocochina on October 16, 2007

Normally, I’d have some snark.  A couple hours ago, I did.  I had a great bit about how I feel like Annie Sullivan in that shitty movie version of The Miracle Worker.  (“Women are people!  W-A-T-E-R, HELEN, WATER!” It was especially good because Helen Keller was a badass socialist feminist who would totally back me up.  See?  Good snark.)  A couple days ago, I definitely did.

But right now I’m drained.

The future lawmakers of the next few decades are learning/saying things like:

“Premarital sex is analogous to heroin use.”

“Women should be liable for what happens to their fetuses from the time they know they’re pregnant.”

“Laws overturned by the Court haven’t really been that important recently.  Like the Violence Against Women Act.”

“Women who could be pregnant , even if they weren’t a few days ago, shouldn’t receive emergency x-rays.”

I’m so uncomfortable talking about pregnancy in class.  I don’t know why.  I’ve never been pregnant, and I don’t plan to be for the next few years.  Maybe it was because today I’d left open an article on my laptop before class had started, you know, the one about how 48% of abortions worldwide are unsafe, about how pregnant women die horribly just for being women and there’s people in this country who support that experience and call themselves pro-life. I despise that my casebook, put out by one of the most prolific publishers in legal education, lumps rape together with property crime.  I don’t like that whenever we discuss overturning Supreme Court decisions, it’s always Roe.  Our bodies, my body, a vague statistical hypothetical.  Usually in law school, to take the pain out of the tragic things we discuss, we go over the top and get all campy – it’s not just bad driving, there was a newborn baby convention in the middle of the highway!  That’s bizarre, which is why it works to at least partially distract us from the sadness we sometimes have to face.  Roe being overturned, forcing underprivileged women to suffer the fear and agony we thought we’d left behind, is all too possible.

I know this is why it’s important that I didn’t get that Master’s in Gender and Sexuality Studies.  I know that’s why I should be gratified I didn’t run off to write for Europe on a Shoestring.  I know this is why people like me – women and men and neitheroftheabove – need to be lawyers.  I know the injustice to my feelings is nothing compared to the damage this outlook does and will continue to do to other people.

That doesn’t make the endless litany of “bitches ain’t shit” any easier to hear.

The way I’m reacting tonight scares me.  I am used to feeling tired, frustrated, sofuckingangry, like a broken record, privileged, overprivileged, neither, both, confused, overwhelmed, ohsofucking not up to the task.  But hopeless is a new one for me.

Here’s to tomorrow.

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list of things i would tell anyone contemplating law school

Posted by pocochina on September 30, 2007

1.  Law school is an extremely class conscious place, for a lot of reasons.  Partially it’s because of the general skewing of higher education towards the wealthier segments of the country, but also for some other reasons.  I wonder how many people are here cause “my dad’s a lawyer” – and a successful corporate one with money.  I also wonder how many are here because they weren’t sure what else to do, but weren’t done with school.  Now, all those things are fine.  I think it’s great, and I’m NOT slamming anyone who has those opportunities.   However, a school skewed towards those with money, and even more heavily towards people who will be making lots of money in a couple of years, well, you’ve got a situation.  And your professors went to law school thirty years ago, when it was even more so.  Are they going to grade you down because you’re poor?  No, they’re okay with poverty, or else they’d still be in the private sector.  But a lot of groundbreaking cases involve rich people and their rich, rich problems, and your professors might forget that not everyone knows, say, how a trust fund works.  So know that.

2.  Then there’s the groupthink.  No, the dean at that school wasn’t lying to you about the groupthink, and no, you’re not above it either, so stop looking at me like that.  These people will be your entire world, or the vast majority of it, for the next three years, and a significant portion of them will be your colleagues for the rest of your life.  So it’s not a bad idea to want to be friends, to go along to get along when it doesn’t bother you.  That said, know that’s what’s going on.  Your new BFFs are just as nervous as you are, and it’s part of the reason you’re bonding so quickly.  It will be weirdly hard to just not want to do something.  That’s okay.

3.  Now take the groupthink, and drop the class-consciousness into the test tube, and back away slowly.  Now watch it bubble, and sizzle, and maybe if you’d been able to do this six years ago, you’d be thinking about med school right now, wouldn’t you?  Well, too bad.  Yes.   There are lots of people there on partial or whole loans,but a large number of your circle of friends won’t be worried about it.  There’s going to be school-sanctioned social activities, and they will sound fun, and they *will* cost more than a week’s worth of groceries.  Do it, if it sounds fun.  But that’s a place where it’s probably good not to do something just because all the other kids are doing it.  And this, though your 1L Ethics Seminar would probably tell you otherwise, is a place where it’s okay to lie, if that helps you get by.

4.  Nobody was lying to you about the time law students spend studying.  In fact, they’re probably thinking of finals and underestimating.  Sorry.  Don’t be pressured to go into the library, though – if you hate the library (and it’s especially scary when it’s full of 3Ls) go scope out a cafe or something.

5.  There’s ups and downs to living on campus.  I live on campus, and I love it.  It’s made it much easier to make friends, and since it’s much more convenient to be around people, the pressure is oddly a little bit decreased.  It’s also more convenient for classes, and if you do choose to study in the library, it’s going to be safer if you study late at nght.  That said, though, it is ground zero for all the crazy come exam time.  That Guy in your class that you hate?  He’s going to be on your floor.  (And no, That Guy didn’t get a job after graduation.  He’s in law school.  So know that, too.)

6.  Theres going to be a couple of people in your class that you wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire.  (See #5, cf That Guy.)  However, don’t let them poison your judgment of your classmates in general.  Most of them will be hard working and honorable and witty and energetic, just like you.

Posted in classism, law school | Leave a Comment »


Posted by pocochina on September 27, 2007

Seriously.  Not okay.

So this morning in Torts, we start off with a case about a woman who gets in a car crash, has an abdominal xray, and later finds out she was pregnant.  The fetus – not baby, asshole Torts textbook, and not child, otherwise liberal dude in my class, the fucking zygote – was dead upon abortion.  The plaintiff sued the doc for negligence.  The judge found for the doc, especially as she’d been to the gyno a couple days before and hadn’t been told she was pregnant.

See, normally, I’d be all into discussion this case.

What I am not into is the way we discussed it.

The first several people to raise their hands, of course, were dudes.  She was maybe one or two days late, they argued, the doc should’ve known.

All the girls in the class looked at them incredulously.  Two days late, our faces said, is nothing, FOOLS.  But none of us were comfortable – well, I know I wasn’t – contradicting them.  And honestly, I know we’re all victims of abstinence-only education, but it’s not my fucking job to go “Hey, Section X, boys and girls have different parts!”  NOBODY – well, not until I mustered up a sufficiently “neutral” turn of phrase – said “it would have been MORE NEGLIGENT not to give her the GODDAMN XRAY!” Because I know if I was in a car crash and was told “take that uterus home, little lady, and don’t come back until menopause for your possibly fractured spine” – I would flip the SHIT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD.  Some probably well-meaning guy argued that it was the 1970s, it was the feminist revolution, so they were learning about pregnancy.  I shit you not.  And God, how many women there have had a pregancy scare?  Been treated poorly by doctors?  One in three of us will have an abortion, and there had to have been fifty of us in that room – let’s all do that math!  FUCK!

Of course, if we weren’t all abstinence-only victims, we’d have known that half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage anyway, plus car crashes have been known to spontaneously terminate pregnancies, so if anyone had been paying attention, they would’ve seen that it totally failed the legal principle we were supposed to be discussing anyway.

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