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Monday, June 26, 2006

Exciting news!

On behalf of everyone at PrawfsBlawg, I'm very excited to announce that later this week, Prof. Orly Lobel (aka Orly) will be joining us fulltime as a permaprawf.  Orly teaches at University of San Diego and writes prolifically about workplace governance issues.  There's a wonderful profile of her over here.  Please welcome her to our ranks!Orly

Posted by Administrators on June 26, 2006 at 04:24 PM in Orly Lobel | Permalink


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I'm going to agree with Elizabeth, in "It's all Fun & Games until someone dreams about Orin Kerr," which is not in fact at http://feeds.feedburner.com/ConcurringOpinions?m=1000 no matter what bloglines has to say, and call this thread a "train wreck."

Bob, if you can't crack a good antifeminist joke that is either

- funny, or
- new,

then you might as well not do it at all.

Also, my two favorite contributions: Observer's satire (posted at Jun 29, 2006 10:13:45 AM) and the bit that went

"I suggest we all list our female best friends now.
Posted by: Kate Litvak | Jun 28, 2006 6:18:41 PM"

Kudos to y'all, and shame on most of the rest of you. :)

Also, I was once a member of a sorority: Sigma Beta Lamda Theta Delta Eta Alpha Pi! It was a co-ed sorority - and why does "co-ed" mean females when it clearly means it's co-educational? Is this another history thing?

Posted by: Eh Nonymous | Jul 11, 2006 12:15:00 PM

Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: That's not funny.

Posted by: Bob | Jul 11, 2006 12:12:17 AM

Or do you think that having some guy go "hubba-hubba" on a message board about the picture of a priviledged, powerful, indepedent member of society aka a law professor is really a more pressing issue than wage inequality, having control over one's body, etc.?

Bart, I've commented on "the pettiness" charge at some length at my blog. But, briefly:

1) Your question assumes that Ann faces an either-or choice between discussing "pressing" issues and objecting to a sexist comment on this blog. In fact, Ann can do both, and does do both.

2) You've written more on this thread than Ann. Surely there are more pressing issues you could be discussing, by your standards. Why aren't you holding yourself to the same standards you suggest Ann be held to?

I'd suggest it's because the standard you suggest is in practice unreasonable, for either you or for Ann. A standard that says we can never engage regarding any issues but the most pressing is simply too restrictive.

3) Your belief that sexist comments about professional women is not a pressing issue is dubious at best. You're ignoring that sexism is systematic. Wage inequality and attacks on reproductive freedom don't happen in contextless isolation; they happen in a context of a society in which women are consistently devalued. Sexism directed against female law profs is bad in and of itself, and that alone is enough to justify Ann's comment. But it's also bad because such ordinary day-to-day sexism normalizes sexism, and makes the more "pressing" concerns you cited more difficult to overcome.

Finally, regarding reading Katha Pollitt and considering yourself an "equality feminist," it's refreshing to read an ad hom defense, rather than an ad hom attack. But even as a defense, ad hom is still a logical error; who you are is not logically relevant to if your arguments are bad or good. And whether or not Ann's arguments are "mainstream political opinion" is not logically relevant, either; mainstream views can be mistaken.

That said, I'm glad you self-identify as a feminist (the more the better!). But with all due respect, a feminist self-identity shouldn't rule out taking feminist criticism of oneself seriously.

Posted by: Ampersand | Jul 7, 2006 2:52:27 PM

See also: http://amber.tangerinecs.com/viewentry.php?entry=1598

Posted by: bonnie | Jul 5, 2006 11:09:19 AM

Just for comparison purposes, an example of some truly tasteless and sexist remarks, although admittedly of one of the vilest people on the planet.


Posted by: Bart Motes | Jul 3, 2006 2:53:31 AM

Whoops. Wrong URL. Here's the correct address: http://sidebar.blogspot.com/2006/07/and-shes-easy-on-eyes.html

Posted by: Moi | Jul 2, 2006 8:49:31 PM

I posted about the issues raised in the comments above at my blog as well: http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=20346713&postID=115187960289472802&isPopup=true. Again, too long to reproduce here. And, since blogger doesn't allow trackbacks, kindly consider this to be my trackback.

Posted by: Moi | Jul 2, 2006 8:47:06 PM

Observer: classic. Very well executed satire. Remember, banana bruises fade, relationships heal, but art is forever.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 29, 2006 10:12:39 PM

Of course she'll be good. At the least, she'll be easy on the eyes.

Posted by: Chris Schmitt | Jun 29, 2006 7:56:21 PM

If I were Orly, I might be a tad taken aback that the nice but seemingly routine announcement about her status would have triggered all this. So I'll just predict that she will be a great contributor to this blog.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Jun 29, 2006 12:02:31 PM

Readers Debate Whether It is Dumb or Merely Inane

NEW YORK (AP) - Observers were stunned to learn today that several aspiring law professors carried on an extended debate over the question whether an insensitive sexist comment was "assholish" or merely "jerky."

"There's no doubt they were provoked by the phrase 'both cannons blazing,'" said Dr. Sigmund Freud of Vienna. "Now that's something even I could envy."

Blogs and chatboards across the legal academic internet reacted quickly to the news. One budding scholar took it as an opportunity to provide a link to his SSRN-posted article, "Sophism." When questioned, the young professor said, "I wanted to call it 'You're Making Me Crazy: A Call for Legislation Banning Spurious Distinctions' but I heard short is the new long." Dr. Freud refused comment.

In Indiana, state legislators took time out from impeachment hearings for federal judge David Hamilton, who had enjoined the use of a sectarian prayer at the opening of sessions of the Indiana House, to introduce legislation making it illegal to be a law professor in Indiana. When it was pointed out to one state representative that the body did not have the power to impeach a federal judge, he replied, "I'm sorry, remind me again what time zone we're in?"

In a related story, a working wife was charged with spousal abuse after allegedly beating her husband senseless with a frozen banana. According to neighbors who could hear the altercation, the melee started when the baby started crying at approximately 1:51 a.m. The wife, who had also done the grocery shopping and cooking that evening (despite the fact they both worked during the day), asked the husband to tend to him. "When he said, no, you do it, I'm posting a piece of satire on the web, he was lucky I just used a frozen banana," she said in a written statement.

Posted by: Observer | Jun 29, 2006 10:13:45 AM

Where I come from that is what we call lively intellectual discourse. And her response was pretentious and nonsubstantive + on her blog, she says that my comment was all part of "putting women in their place." Honestly, how weak, insular, and timid are we if comments like mine are insulting?

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 29, 2006 9:45:55 AM

Bart: the following remarks sound pretty insulting to me:

"zero-tolerance school of feminism"

"pretentious nonsubstantive responses"

"you are incapable of distinguishing real from imaginary slights, incapable of switching from outrage to engagement"

"I expected a bit more."

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 29, 2006 9:17:35 AM

Paul: That's cool. You never responded to my questions about whether you really thought my comments were insulting. For the record, I think "assholish" counts as "both cannons blazing."

Simon: I forgot to thank you/share your dread at being in agreement. Hell definitely at record low.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 28, 2006 11:29:01 PM

Bart -- where you and I differ, I think, is in the interpretation of Ann's comment as "both cannons blazing." I have no right to speak for her here, so I'll stop there.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 28, 2006 10:46:38 PM

Paul: That was my question. All I wanted to know was if she really thought that it deserved both cannons blazing. Instead, as I interprete her QED, she responded snidely and acted as if I was an accomplice. For the record, I think that the comment was inappropriate--but only at a level of jerky-ness, not assholishness. But still, come on, the woman is a law professor! She's not little orphan Annie.

Matt: Much like "mana points" in a role playing game, feminist points are acrued and may be spent in different causes. Only higher level players should attempt such complicated spells as "maybe we should rethink this whole right to choose thing," or "maternity leave is kind of a crock when you think about it." Spend your points wisely, brother.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 28, 2006 10:36:43 PM

I had lunch with Katha Pollitt's nephew a few days ago and was an honorary member of the Lesbian Avengers (motto: "We Recruit!") for a while. (Really, on both points.) Does that mean I get to say that, whatever I may think of her blogging comments, Kate really does seem pretty sharp looking? Or do I need more feminist points for that?

Posted by: Matt | Jun 28, 2006 9:44:24 PM

Kate: Do I get to count you as my female best friend? Because that would raise the mean humor level of my friends by at least ten percent.

Bart: Isn't Ann the best person to determine how her valuable and rare comment resources should be spent? Between this and Dan's debit card scandal, this blog will turn me into a revealed-preference loving economist yet.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 28, 2006 9:23:43 PM

Pretty good, Litvak. Uh-oh, I said pretty.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 28, 2006 6:51:04 PM

I suggest we all list our female best friends now.

Posted by: Kate Litvak | Jun 28, 2006 6:18:41 PM


1. Do you really think that my responses to Ann are insulting?

2. If so, are you also conflating the original jerkish response with my response?

3. Do you not think that there is a valid point to be made that criticizing the misapplication of the male gaze, or lookism, or whatever, is a misapplication of valuable and rare resources? Or do you think that having some guy go "hubba-hubba" on a message board about the picture of a priviledged, powerful, indepedent member of society aka a law professor is really a more pressing issue than wage inequality, having control over one's body, etc.?

4. Do you think that when you get to the point where you are mau-mauing a guy who read Katha Pollitt's column in the Nation from age 16, whose sister went to Smith, and who considers himself an equality feminist that you might be out on the fringes of mainstream political opinion? Just asking.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 28, 2006 6:10:47 PM

On the subject of distinguishing "real from imaginary slights" I am finding several threads originating here at Blac(k)ademic's site uncomfortably illuminating. Nubian there describes an offensive remark made to her by a clueless white colleague; the comments explore the degree to which the ignorance or good intentions of the privileged can or should matter. Highly recommended.

Posted by: KC | Jun 28, 2006 5:04:19 PM

uh, "badly" should have been "blandly."

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 28, 2006 3:11:46 PM

Simon: A3G is a joke site. There's a difference between physical commentary on a joke site and physical commentary in response to a serious profile listing someone's qualifications.

But lets set aside the debate over whether it was appropriate and ask about the response to Ann. Assume, with me please, for sake of argument that the original comment was inappropriate. How was Ann's response "overreacting?" She didn't post in all caps, file a lawsuit, or stalk Chris and demand he be fired from his job. She identified the behavior as what -- I agree and am asking you to assume -- it was -- "assholeishness."

This is a serious issue. Part of the reason that feminism has an unfairly bad rap is because every time a woman points out sexist behavior, no matter how badly, it gets characterized as some kind of over the top overreaction. The reason this happens, in the simplest non-theory-head form, is because we men are so used to experiencing our privileged position as normal that we experience critique of it as strange and out of left field. Awareness is the first step...

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 28, 2006 3:10:24 PM

My real life alter-ego has a unisex name, and though it is now more commonly used for women; I still encounter men with this name. It wouldn't really bother me if anyone reading my article couldn't figure out my gender identity. In fact, some academics prefer that--check out N. Pepperell at http://www.roughtheory.org/ , according to her comments once on Acephalous she has purposely kept her gender enigmatic (writing in neither the female or male "voice" so as not to affect his/her readers' appreciation of him/her for the ideas alone.

And with respect to Simon's comment, well, I too respectfully dissent. If you bring up A3G as an example of a "person" who would gratuitously comment on a male law prof's appearance, well, you should remember that A3G turned out to be a _man_, David Lat. This is an interesting bit of gender stereotype bending, as if Mr. Lat felt compelled to assume the persona of a "judicial diva" in order to make more risque and trivial judgments (bench slaps, judicial hotness meter, litigatrix). That is, to be more sexist and sexualizing, he probably thought it would be safer writing in the "female voice." But I hardly think that qualifies as a "turn the tables" use of the "female gaze"--it's just the male gaze in "drag." And in both cases, rather inappropriate and insulting.

Posted by: Belle Lettre | Jun 28, 2006 2:23:51 PM

Belle's post on this subject is pretty good. I think the bottom line is that individual intent is difficult, if not impossible, to read outside of cultural context, at least where strangers are involved.

Posted by: Bruce | Jun 28, 2006 1:46:34 PM

Paul:who would make gratutious comments about the appearance of a male professor?Is that a Volokh Conspirary class photo, or Playgirl? Hubba hubba! Hoo boy, that Doug Berman's a hottie. And, of course, who can forget UTR's "Big Swinging Gavels: The Male Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary" feature (controversially placing David "fit" Souter ahead of John "beefcake" Roberts)...Do I really have to go on, or do you feel any better for some balance, being injected now?

I don't often have cause to agree with Bart, but on this one, he is assuredly correct. Whether or not the original comment was warranted, appropriate (and, I scarcely dare add, correct) is one question, and whether Ann's response was mind-numbingly tedious and the precise trite overreaction that blackens the reputation of feminism is quite another. That this is even still being discussed approaches the very pinnacle of tomfoolery.

Posted by: Simon | Jun 28, 2006 1:22:25 PM

I never would have known Orly was a female without the picture. I always thought she was a man.

Posted by: anon | Jun 28, 2006 12:11:46 PM

Bart, please. The original comment was uncalled for (who would make gratutious comments about the appearance of a male professor?) and your insulting responses to Ann are possibly even worse. It is you who are "incapable of switching from outrage to engagement," as you are obviously incapable of listening to sexism pointed out without slurring it as a "zero-tolerance school of feminism."

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 28, 2006 10:23:58 AM

I have further thoughts on this topic at http://lawandletters.blogspot.com/2006/06/pictures-and-patriarchy.html , but I don't want to take up too much space on PrawfsBlawg by pasting portions of it here.

Posted by: Belle Lettre | Jun 28, 2006 7:21:38 AM

Bartow: pretentious nonsubstantive responses are always better than simple nonsubstantive response. If your QED is in response to my response, it does demonstrate a point, but the point is that you are incapable of distinguishing real from imaginary slights, incapable of switching from outrage to engagement. As a fellow fan of Katha Pollitt, I expected a bit more.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 28, 2006 12:32:50 AM

--the comment served no purpose whatsoever other than to demean her in an underhanded way

If you don't want people to comment on your picture, don't post your picture.

Posted by: Feministaprof | Jun 27, 2006 4:53:54 PM

I would like to reassure all interested parties that most women still welcome and encourage complements. For example, you can never go wrong with comparing me to Angelina Jolie.

I think the incorrect spelling of compliments as "complements" reveals a careless error made as Kate was cackling to herself at her own cleverness. Which is not to imply she isn't extraordinarily clever. I just doubt comparing her to Angelina Jolie would work. Kate is too hot to care about her looks; the compliment would be a waste. You're better off nitpicking her spelling.

Posted by: KissMeKate | Jun 27, 2006 4:51:20 PM

I'm in full agreement w/ Ann Bartow and anon. I'm not really sure how you can defend commenting on her looks--the comment served no purpose whatsoever other than to demean her in an underhanded way. And, I don't really think that that's a viewpoint espoused only by the "zero-tolerance school of feminism".

If that's a perfectly acceptable way to behave, then I'll make sure to add gratuitous comments re: the looks of each and every male professor who posts on this blog and elsewhere. I bet that would go over just fabulously.

That being said, I wish Professor Lobel the best of luck in her new endeavor.

Posted by: Nicole Black | Jun 27, 2006 3:47:05 PM

Objectification aside, that's an awesome profile, and everyone should be jealous not of her looks, but of the fact that she's in San Diego, which is paradise.

We should all be jealous of Kate's looks.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 27, 2006 10:49:16 AM

Just to supply a little boomer historical (if not scholarly) perspective, back from the days when my teen-age boy drivel was rightly, well... teen-aged. I have a distinct recollection when Ms. Magazine first came out in 1973 or so, one of the first issues had on the cover the following as a lead-in to a story: "Q: Do You Know the Women's Movement Has No Sense of Humor? A: No, But Hum Me a Few Bars and I'll Play It." I can still picture it on the kitchen table in my roommmate's girlfriend's apartment.

Of course, those were the days at the University of Michigan (pre-VCR and DVD) when the film societies would show My Fair Lady in the Natural Science Building Auditorium, and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins would get roundly hissed during "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?"

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Jun 27, 2006 10:05:42 AM

Ann Bartow has a very valid point that deserves recognition - commenting on permaprof's looks has nothing to do with her acumen or bright future contributing to the commentary on this blog. Rather, it is the same type of teenage-boy media drivel that emphasizes the trivial over the substantive when talking about women -- even smart women.

Posted by: anon | Jun 27, 2006 9:21:30 AM

[Y]ou can never go wrong with comparing me to Angelina Jolie.Jolie? She's cute, but she's no Kate Litvak.


Posted by: Simon | Jun 27, 2006 9:02:15 AM

I would like to reassure all interested parties that most women still welcome and encourage complements. For example, you can never go wrong with comparing me to Angelina Jolie.

Posted by: Kate Litvak | Jun 27, 2006 6:39:03 AM

quod erat demonstrandum

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jun 27, 2006 6:02:20 AM

Prof. Bartow seems to come from a zero-tolerance school of feminism, but maybe when one's interests is in promoting the rights of a discriminated set of people, the picking only the best fights philosophy is superior?

Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 27, 2006 4:36:51 AM

New permaprof is easy on the eyes as well.

I was going to wish you good luck even before reading that bit of assholishness. Now I wish you good luck more emphatically still.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jun 27, 2006 2:27:58 AM

New permaprof is easy on the eyes as well

Posted by: Chris Schmidt | Jun 26, 2006 8:48:21 PM

Welcome aboard; we're lucky to have you. In addition to your legal knowhow, your thoughts on the Backstreet Boys are always welcome.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jun 26, 2006 7:01:50 PM

Nice profile.

I knew that there were "sensible shoes." But "sensible salads"?! Anyway, glad to know you came under the influence of the Kennedy School. (I am a Public Policy PhD with a JD.) And I already really like this blog. I look forward to your contributions. Please say hi to my old friend, Les Oster! -Ross Cheit

Posted by: RCinProv | Jun 26, 2006 6:16:13 PM

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