By jessie kornberg • July 30, 2007•Bar Exam
Last week I sat for the California Bar exam. Like other law school exams and traditions the bar exam has been criticized as being insufficiently gender-neutral. It's a racehorse style exam, which rewards quick thinking and automated recall rather than reflection. This is not the best measure of many women's abilities or knowledge of a topic. You know what, though? I'm used to dealing with whatever possible disadvantage that test format might create for me. Here's what I'm not used to: having to carry my tampons in a clear plastic bag for inspection by my proctor, not to mention having to sit for 4.5 hours without going to the bathroom.
I don't have a lot of useful commentary here--it's just so ridiculous and blatantly disadvantageous to women. You can study and improve your mental ability to take these kinds of tests. So the fact that the bar exam tests skills which men generally possess innately, but women must cultivate, isn't ideal, but it's not insurmountable either. The size of my bladder and the fact of menstruation, however, are immutable. The bar exam really ought to consider drafting policies which allow both sexes an equal opportunity to sit for the bar without fear of physical detriment or embarrassment.
In case you work for the bar association and are having trouble coming up with solutions, let me be more explicit:
1. If you need to limit what we can bring into the exam, and won't allow a toiletry bag or purse, then provide feminine hygiene products in the bathroom.
2. If you can't test in shorter intervals, then allow a bathroom break after the first 45 minutes of directions and after testing before the 45 minutes of directions which follow the exam.
3. Do not choose a location which does not have adequate facilities for the women taking your exam. You need enough bathrooms so that every woman can actually go to the bathroom before the exam and after, and not because she waited in line for 30 minutes, thereby missing the first five minutes of testing or her lunch break. If no such venue exists, I suggest port-a-potties.