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Monday, February 28, 2011

Negging of Law Professors

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, negging (according to the urban dictionary) is when a man relies on low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of an attractive woman so she might be more vulnerable to his advances.  It is a way for a man to attract a woman more beautiful than he would normally be able to attract. 

Try this classic example of negging: “Hey, I really like your dress.”

 **pause for her response**

Yeah, my (mother/aunt/grandmother) has one just like it." 

Or another one:  “It is so cute how your nose moves up-and-down when you laugh.”

**point and chuckle**

“So cute.” 

Negging is insulting—but in a subtle back-handed way—so that the woman is not angry that a man has insulted her but her self-confidence is damaged just enough that the woman becomes insecure (and in need of the man’s approval) so that he may now have a chance with her.

 So, what does negging have to do with law professors?  Well, I think in general law professors have the temptation to become like beautiful women: arrogant, self-important, and with a belief that the world and all things revolve around them.  I remember having this thought for the first time when I had a student come into my office to ask my opinion on an issue.  After about 15 minutes of talking on and on about a certain topic, I realized that this student was going to smile and nod to everything I said and write it all down as if it was Truth (with a capital T).  It can be dangerous to be in a profession where we have a weekly pulpit to discuss our views on issues (with little opposition), where we are often called “experts” on a wide-variety of topics, where we are surrounded by flattery from students and colleagues (with a notable exception discussed in Mike Madison, Michael Risch, and Jeff Lipshaw’s posts on “tough love” at faculty workshops), and where we generally get paid to write, think, and speak about whatever we find interesting.

Generally speaking, as law professors our egos get flattered more often than other lawyers.  Maybe this is why we tend to like our jobs better than other lawyers.  I can think of two exceptions to this that occur at four different times of year: law review submission periods and student evaluations.  This is where the negging comes into our profession, allowing our egos not to get unmanageable such that they explode or allow us to become unbearable to be around.  With every separate rejection we get from law reviews who do not want our amazingly innovative law review article, we are negged.  Our egos are kept in check.  Our first response to law review negging may be: “clearly they didn’t read the article” or “well, I didn’t want to publish in that journal anyway,” but as other rejections come in (regardless of who they are from), we realize, “well, maybe my article *isn’t* objectively the best article ever written.”  This is good for us.  And even when we eventually place our article in an acceptable law journal, we have still gone through this process that allows us to feel the rejection and pain of negging.

Negging with women and law reviews isn’t a perfect analogy, of course, because the law review editor has no devious plan to eventually date the professor.  But the effect of the person being negged is similar with both examples; and that is what I want to highlight.  In sum, negging of law professors and beautiful women may both be positive developments.  Less attractive men are able to end up with more beautiful women.  Law professors are able to keep from dispelling all friends and family who used to be able to tolerate us.  And so on.  At least this is what I am telling myself as the rejections pile in on my latest submission...

Posted by Shima Baradaran Baughman on February 28, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Permalink


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You note, "In sum, negging of law professors and beautiful women may both be positive developments."

I can't agree that these are remotely similar or that negging women is positive. Negging, which is intentionally undermining a woman's confidence for personal gain, is ethically suspect and hurtful. People who engage in this type of manipulative behavior are practicing the same mindset that leads to psychological abuse in relationships. It is irresponsible to encourage it and it won't lead anyone to a healthy relationship.

Constructive, respectful criticism of papers in a professional environment is helpful. Could we have just left it at that?

Posted by: Christa L. | Dec 13, 2019 12:58:48 PM

Law professors neg students and it is a horrible instructional manner.

Posted by: Kim | Dec 12, 2019 10:23:01 PM

Your nose is so cute when you write posts like this, Shima. So cute. :P

Posted by: Kaimi | Mar 4, 2011 4:02:26 PM

@TJ: very good point

@Lady Prawf: another good point. I think when it's time for student evaluations we should highlight some of the best examples of student negging.

@Kristen: *some* beautiful women are arrogant, self-important, and believe that the world and all things revolve around them?

Posted by: Shima Baradaran | Mar 2, 2011 5:09:59 PM

Beautiful women are arrogant, self-important, and believe that the world and all things revolve around them?

Posted by: Kristen | Mar 2, 2011 4:59:48 PM

Note that the offensive "negging" of women doesn't stop at the door of the law school. I can't be the only young female law professor who has read something like "Wow, she really knows the material" on her course evaluations. My internal response? "Yes, of course I know the material. This is why I was hired to teach you. Why are you surprised?" Somehow, I doubt that a student would make the same comment when evaluating a graying male professor...

Posted by: Lady Prawf | Mar 1, 2011 6:57:51 PM

One hole in the theory is that the more a professor is flattered in other arenas, the less likely a law review is to give that professor a rejection.

Posted by: TJ | Feb 28, 2011 8:59:23 PM

The moron trying to undermine the self-confidence of a woman fails if he tries this kind of negging on women who do not waste any time on their physical appearance . As I have never been at a hairstylist's ( very long hair), never used make-up and as I buy new clothes only when the previous ones are totally worn out, I would reply :
" Really ? Your grandmother/ aunt / mother must be super . I love vintage clothes"
or " you say our noses are alike . How cute !"

How can a law professor, a lawyer , any professional man or woman lose their self-esteem for something related to their profession ? Most of revered billionaires are idle good for nothing sons or daughters of billionaires. Though they do absolutely nothing useful, relying on their employees'skills, they have self-esteem .

Self-esteem should be related to your human qualities : courage, generosity, empathy, certainly not to your profession .
Your profession essentially depends on your studies, that is on circumstances you are not really responsible for : your geographical and cultural origin, if you had to earn your living during your studies and if you were lucky enough to find the right job allowing you to spend enough time studying...

Posted by: Mianne | Feb 28, 2011 2:22:27 PM

Thanks for your comment lp. The post is meant to be a lighthearted one--and I do not intend for anyone take it too seriously.

Posted by: Shima Baradaran | Feb 28, 2011 11:10:46 AM

I don't disagree that experiencing rejecting is a good thing, especially when warranted. Most of us can use being taken down a notch. But I have a hard time taking your post seriously when you cite as a "positive development" what you've described as the systematic and purposeful attempt to destruct a woman's self-esteem.

Posted by: lp | Feb 28, 2011 11:01:08 AM

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