By Jill Filipovic • March 07, 2007•Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Discrimination
J.F. has asked to be withdran her from this competition, which she believes is sexist and racist. For a woman who has made 4,000 pictures of herself publicly available on Flickr, and who is a self-proclaimed feminist author of a widely-disseminated blog, she has gotten pretty shy about overexposure. Others must think that decrying this competition as "sexist" and "racist" really dilutes the meaning of those words. Click above for access to J.F.'s Flickr account.The link to my flickr account went straight to a picture of me in a bathing suit, which I immediately blocked. Nevertheless, that image received almost 2,000 views in a few days. The commenters on the message board continued posting nasty comments about the women in the contest. Eventually, the guy who started the contest screwed up and, on the message board, posted the information of a Sullivan Cromwell attorney who had apparently emailed him to let him know that he reads it (and is a fan). Now, posting the personal pictures and information of female law school students so that a bunch of scummy internet guys can vote on their favorite is totally a-ok. Posting information about a male attorney started a shit storm, which eventually ended in the Hot Girls contest getting shut down, essentially as punishment for the creator outing someone. From WaPo:
Ciolli persuaded the contest site owner to let him shut down the "Top 14" for privacy concerns, Cohen said. "I think we deserve a golden star for what we did," Cohen said. The two men said that some of the women who complain of being ridiculed on AutoAdmit invite attention by, for example, posting their photographs on other social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace.Sure, Jarrett Cohen, you deserve a fucking gold star for finally deciding to stop being an asshole. This is male entitlement in a nutshell: He thinks he can do whatever he damn well pleases, even if it has significant negative effects on the lives of several women, and then, when backed into a corner and pressured to behave like semi-decent human being, he thinks he deserves a golden star. How special. As for women "inviting attention" by posting their pictures online just like millions of other people, what else does that sound like to you? You knew what you were doing when you posted that picture/left the house in that outfit/went out to that bar/drank that beer/walked down that street/went to that part/came over to his house. What did you expect? Different context, same conclusion: When boys behave badly, blame the bitches. I didn't post on this while it was happening precisely because I wanted the whole thing to die down and didn't want to give them any more attention. But now that WaPo has covered it, I think the cat's out of the bag. And now that Ann Althouse, tenured law professor, has added her sexist two cents, I have to respond. Ann quotes a part of the WaPo article:
Another Yale law student learned a month ago that her photographs were posted in an AutoAdmit chat that included her name and graphic discussion about her breasts. She was also featured in a separate contest site -- with links posted on AutoAdmit chats -- to select the "hottest" female law student at "Top 14" law schools, which nearly crashed because of heavy traffic. Eventually her photos and comments about her and other contestants were posted on more than a dozen chat threads, many of which were accessible through Google searches. "I felt completely objectified," that woman said. It was, she said, "as if they're stealing part of my character from me." The woman, a Fulbright scholar who graduated summa cum laude, said she now fears going to the gym because people on the site encouraged classmates to take cellphone pictures of her.Sounds familiar. From reading the AutoAdmit threads, I know exactly who this girl is. Commenters did talk about seeing her in the gym. They specified what she was wearing, and one said he wanted to lick the sweat off of her face. He was encouraged to take a picture of her with his camera phone. You'd have to be pretty damn steely to not be freaked out by that. When they were posting semi-threatening comments about me last year, I became extremely paranoid, and ended up skipping a lot of class because I felt like people were staring at me -- I kept thinking that maybe they were going to get on their computers and write about me, or that they read AutoAdmit and recognized me and were mentally evaluating my appearance. It sounds silly, but it's maddening. And I'm a feminist blogger who is pretty used to being attacked online -- I can't imagine what it must be like for your average law school student, who has never encountered anything like this. And now they've posted her full name and her law school email address on their site. But Ann's response to a perfectly valid fear of being stalked and harassed is,
Too beautiful to appear in public? Too hot to be hired? Come on! What rational employer would deny you a job because idiots chatted about you on line in a way that made if obvious that the only thing you did was look good?No, Ann, no one is worried about being too hot to be hired or too beautiful to appear in public. We're worried about going to school or to the gym and having our fellow professional school classmates -- our future professional colleagues -- stare at us, evaluate us, take pictures of us, go online and post details about us. The AutoAdmit posters may not be stalkers, but when they post about what time they saw you in the gym, where they saw you on campus, which class they have with you, they share details of your life which open you up to potential stalking and harassment from others. I go to the gym at the same time every day. If someone posted, "I saw Jill on the treadmill at XYZ gym at XYZ time," you can bet it would be damn easy for some other creep to track me down. So, first and foremost, this is compromising our personal safety. It is also compromising our employment prospects. Now, I run a feminist blog where I curse and say all sorts of inflammatory things, and I wrote a feminist newspaper column for two years, and I've written a series of other articles and stories which make my political perspective pretty obvious -- so I'm fairly confident that the message boards didn't have much of an impact on which firms extended me offers. Nonetheless, an AutoAdmit thread comes up on the first page of Google hits for me -- before Feministe, before my columns, before most of my writing. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be doing with my life and legal career, and I did receive offers from law firms for summer work, although I'm sure that some of the more conservative firms did google me and decided that I'm too much of a liability. It's not great, but I'm ok with that, if it's based on choices that I've made and what I've written. What I worry about is possibly seeking a position at a feminist-minded or progressive public interest organization and having them come across these message boards, or the Most Appealing Women contest. I'm sure that there are plenty of feminist lawyers out there who would rather not work with a woman who appears to have volunteered her pictures for a Hot Law School Women contest. For women who aren't as public as I am, whose names don't bring up almost 2,000 Google hits, this could very well be the first thing an employer comes across. And middle-aged Big Law attorneys may not be the most savvy people in the world when it comes to internet communities. They see a thread talking about the promiscuity of a woman they're considering hiring, and that raises red flags. They see a link to a contest, where that woman's smiling pictures are on first glance it appears that she fully consented to participate, and it might be a deal-breaker. While, from a feminist perspective, I think it's silly that participation in a beauty contest can make or break your job prospects, the reality is that it can. It looks unprofessional, narcissistic and childish, and definitely not what they want clients to see if they end up hiring you and your name is on their employee website. And it's worth noting that this isn't the Miss America pageant -- it's a contest specifically for law school women. Who wants to hire someone who thinks that law school is just another opportunity to look sexy for male attention? Who wants to work with someone who uses her professional status, along with her appearance, to get attention from her colleagues and classmates? It's not feminist and it's not fair, but it's the reality of women in the workforce. On Monday I wrote about the difficulties that professional women face in being both sexual/attractive and being taken seriously. Professional women cannot win -- if we're outspoken and make waves, then we're ball-busting ugly bitches. If we go along with people who sexualize us, or don't say anything, we're sluts who are demonstrating bad judgment. Lindsay writes about the problems in letting message-board gossip influence hiring decisions. She is right on the money, and I would love to see the system change. But until it does, we should be held accountable for what we write and what we do, not what a bunch of mouth-breathing socially inept law school creeps say about us. *UPDATE: The site is back up. A few gems: -"Dear Nigger Phelps, please die. tyia." (a thread posted today) -One of dozens of threads about their contest -From a thread about the WaPo article: "bah, we're under the fold. will someone have to get raped to make it above?" and "blackpeoplelikeporkchopsbecausetheyareshapedlikeafrica" and "More evidence that WashPo is liberal? EDIT: and run by jews?" -Here's one of the more profane threads about the contest (tidbit: "If you all sue, I hope someone raw dogs it right in your ass and kicks you out of their god damn house. Farthermore, I hope you all don't get offers @ OCI and have to walk barefoot to liquor store everyday b/c if you don't, your husband will beat the shit out of you. EAT AIDS SLUT BAG CUM DUMPSTERS"). -Google search for "autoadmit nigger" -Search on AutoAdmit for threads with the term "Jew" in the headline Cross-posted at Feministe.