By sintecho • March 10, 2008•Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Discrimination
The word on the street seems to be that if you think you're the victim of sexism, you are either paranoid or looking for excuses for a non-gender-related failing. I myself am guilty of blaming sexism--when I blogged about a male colleague who changed one of my recommendations at work behind my back, I bitterly recounted the story to friends with the added conclusion: "he never would have done that if I were a male colleague." But, maybe he would have. How can I really be sure? Likewise, Jessie posted on a new law review article that indicates how little progress has been made in the last 20 years in equalizing pay and partner positions between women and men in firms. Is the cause sexism? Is it women's own choices to opt out of the profession? Are those choices based on a sexist society? What does that even mean? Again, how can we know for sure?
I drive myself crazy thinking in circles, and I am left wondering how we can ferret out (and exterminate) sexism when it's often so deeply undercover in our workplaces or whether sexism is already dead. Hillary's campaign for the White House has really brought this issue home. Did sexism damage her campaign or not? I read an interesting article today by Chris Reed about all the completely gender-neutral reasons (except, perhaps, for Obama's ability to generate more excitement than Clinton, which may have something to do with a sexist tendency to value men's points more than women's) that Hillary's campaign faltered. I read this article, and I nodded to myself that these points logically explained why voters would reject Hillary regardless of her gender. However, just because there are gender-neutral explanations for why something is so, it doesn't necessarily mean that those logical, neutral reasons actually had a causal relationship with the outcome. For example, just because we can logically explain why women would be less likely to make partner because of their own personal choice to take time off to raise families, it doesn't mean that this neutral, logical reason is the actual cause of women's less than stellar represenation as firm partners.
Though we don't often have an insight into the behind-the-scenes thoughts of our work colleagues, we do have a lot of insight into the behind-the-scenes thoughts of at least some voters. For example, we've all probably heard about the Hillary nutcracker, complete with spikes between the legs; the video "How It Will Feel if Hillary Gets Elected", which features a woman kicking a man repeatedly in his most sensitive area (the assumption being that a woman in power is somehow emasculating to men); or the variety of anti-Hillary t-shirts, with mottos like "Hillary's a c*nt" or "Hillary is not a c*nt, a c*nt is useful" or "Face it bitch you're fu**ed" with a dog with Obama's face mounting a dog with Hillary's face. These are only a few examples. I'm not even a Hillary supporter, and I felt sick and insulted and defiled reading these t-shirts as they seemed to denigrate all women and not just one presidential candidate. By point of comparison, the exact same website featured anti-Obama t-shirts with slogans much more specific to his own qualities as a candidate like "The Audacity of Inexperience" and "Barack OBummer" and "Empty Suit." It is nearly impossible to read these t-shirts in a way that says something derrogatory about all men whereas the anti-Hillary t-shirts make points using stereotypes about women in general. If sexism were dead, why would it be funny to watch a video of a woman kicking a man in the balls in relation to a woman running for president? Why would everyone get a good laugh from displaying a nutcracker in the shape of a female presidential candidate? I'm not saying that Hillary's problems are due entirely to sexism, but I have no doubt that this campaign has brought sexism out of its dark closet. It's out there, ladies, and it's ignorant to think that we as lawyers aren't affected by it in our jobs the same way that Hillary is affected by it in hers.