Monday, October 07, 2013
HLR has more women. Discuss.
The Crimson has a story reporting that since the Harvard Law Review adopted a gender consideration for its discretionary slots, the review has almost doubled the number of female admittees to its membership. See here (reporting that women went from 9 to 17 out of roughly 45 people admitted for this year).
Those six of you who have followed this issue with some interest over the years may remember that both Justice Kagan (in her former decanal role) and Professor Carol Steiker (a former President of HLR herself) opposed adding gender to the list of considerations that would figure into the "discretionary" slots. Their stated concern was that it would cast doubt on the accomplishments of those women (including themselves?) who got onto HLR through the "blind" means (writing competition or grades-inflected scores of writing competition). Of course, this is the same rationale often thrown against affirmative action measures for visible minorities, so one wonders a) do they oppose the use of AA for race/ethnicity or other considerations? and b) if not, what are the distinguishing features are of race/ethnicity versus gender? Is it some kind of critical mass theory to the effect that women have without benefit of affirmative action policies still formed roughly 25% of the law review membership? I confess I'm puzzled by these reactions and not entirely sure what I would do if I were in a decision-making capacity on the HLR. Helping or inspiring people to Lean In during law school doesn't seem nearly so sufficient, though it does seem necessary. Am I wrong?
Anyway, here are some other relevant sources: a story on the HLR internal study a decade ago and some of the more recent coverage on Shatter the Ceiling, a project meant to facilitate female achievement at the Law School.
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Because, frankly, while racism and sexism on an institutional level are impossible to compare - in *political discourse*, Americans are more screwed up about gender than race. To quote from Gloria Steinem's 2008 election op-ed, "the sex barrier [is] not taken as seriously as the racial one." When black people lag behind white people, mainstream political discourse rightly blames racism, the path dependent effects of prior racism, or at least the systemic disadvantages experienced by black people. Unlike their 19nth century and early 20th century counterparts, no one blames biological differences between races except transparent bigots at the margins. When women lag behind men however, the mainstream blames women's biology first and women's biologically inspired choices second, only speculatively but unseriously considering that there may still be pervasive sexism and bias against women and structural advantages afforded to men.
And when people make demands for racial equality they are met with a sort of hushed deference by all but the far right, and issues that disproportionately effect black people are everyone's issues. Those who make demands for women's equality or on issues that mostly effect women however are ridiculed as shrill and divisive, stepping into 'culture wars.'
If you're a woman and you want a position of respect and esteem the rational strategy remains distancing yourself from "women's issues" and being maximally non-threatening to male privilege.
Posted by: Anonsome | Oct 10, 2013 1:02:39 PM