By Anonymous • March 10, 2007•Curriculum and Classroom Dynamics
In the tumultuous life of a 1L, masking a sense of fashion and femininity should be the last thing on a woman’s mind. If women were equal to men, and their ideas held in the same esteem, perhaps it would be. It seems that despite a nation-wide effort to trump the pestilence of a patriarchal society, women are scrutinized more frequently than their male counterparts. Although during the first semester, I tried to hold onto my belief in the existence of gender equality, I could not keep the sexist reality at bay for too long.
Like all 1Ls, I spent countless hours in a study carrel of the library reading, re-reading, taking notes, outlining and studying. A particular male student sat two carrels in front of me nearly every day of the semester. We had three classes together and often discussed our notes or homework. Sharing a desire to succeed, we started doing practice exams during the early part of the second semester. Although both of us made attempts to bring others into our study group, our attempts were fruitless. As fate would have it, my study partner abandoned me as exams drew closer for an all-male study group, despite having praised our partnership to others, calling our study sessions ‘intense’ and a ‘great learning experience.’ Why the change, I asked myself?
Soon enough, I found my answer. I approached my former study partner at his study carrel one evening with a question that had been troubling me for some time. When he started to answer, he sensed my frustration with the problem and commented that girls think of the law emotionally and just don’t understand the way guys approach the law. He insisted that females could not think of law without emotion and that was the reason why females should study together, and males should study together. I found his response strange considering the prior circumstance, but I simply asserted that women have the same capabilities to understand the law as men. He agreed, but reaffirmed his belief that a woman’s path to the “right answer” is so different than a man’s that it is often too difficult to understand and riddled with unnecessary emotion. Great.
After acknowledging by absence from all study groups, I entered into a mixed group of three females and four males. The day before a final, we met up to discuss the answers we arrived at on the practice exam. Confident that my voice would be heard, I added to a previous answer of a question some excerpts from the sample answer on the same question in case one of the team members did not have the opportunity to read it. I was wrong. Two of the males in the group argued that the point was irrelevant and then proceeded to the next question. As the session progressed, and I tried to participate more in answering the questions, I realized that whenever I spoke, the men in the group would look at their computers, rarely acknowledge that I was speaking (other than by remaining silent), and move quickly to the next question on the agenda. What on earth is going on, I thought? The other girls in the group rarely participated or offered any answers, so I did not notice a trend. All I know is that I was not considered an equal.
The sexist comments were not limited to the end of the semester chaos. In the first quarter of the semester, I asked a male class mate for help with a text question. He replied, “perhaps you should have remained a secretary.” All-in-all first semester was a great experience. But the race to attain gender equality is far from over, especially in the legal profession.