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by Julia:

So I’m less than a month away from starting law school. In the tradition of other law school bloggers, I’m gonna withhold (for right now) where I’m attending in the fall for the sake of related Google searches. If you’re really curious, any of the clues I give away in the Top Five will easily lead you to the answer. Rest assured, I’ll reveal this information soon, and anyone who knows me even remotely knows where I’m going. Anyway, I’m obviously excited to start this new chapter in my life, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently perusing the site of my law school for various fun tidbits – course offerings, clinics, student organizations, etc. These factors were huge in deciding where I would ultimately attend school (location and $$$ were obviously up there, too), so it was a nice reminder to return to these traits that led me to choose my school a couple months back.

For fun, I also decided to look at the sites of some of the other schools I considered, but ultimately turned down, and compare their student programs/curricula. Some of the juxtapositions were too good, and needless to say, I’m super pleased with my decision.

Top Five Reasons My School is Better (at least for me):

5) Five of the professors featured on one of my favorite blogs, Feminist Law Professors, teach at my school. This is cool not only because of celeb status, but also because these profs offer some awesome classes and bring an ever-needed feminist perspective to the law. I’m happy that my views will not just be tolerated at my school, but hopefully welcomed with such a feminist-heavy faculty.

4) I have some great clinical opportunities in front of me. From immigration to domestic violence to older prisoners to vaccine injury to public justice, I’m confident that a lot of my interests in legal practice will be nurtured and guided by these clinical offerings.

3) My school has a large criminal justice reform project which aims to encourage re-entry programs rather than incarceration. With the US per-capita incarceration rate rivaling China (not to mention the mass incarceration of black men), this is a problem that needs to be addressed from both inside and outside of the legal fields.

2) Most large law schools have pretty diverse course offerings, especially when you reach the upper-level elective courses. Indeed, course offerings at one of the other contenders on my list were certainly enticing (so many Critical Legal Studies courses!) Nonetheless, my school’s size allows for a great diversity of courses. Hopefully I’ll be able to take some of these:

Feminist Legal Theory, Law and Literature (I’m looking at you, Dostoevsky/Kafka/Morrison, and others), Law and Psychiatry (Kevorkian!), Comparative Constitutional Law (mm, Scandinavia), Space Law and/or Law of the Sea, Seminar in Government Procurement of Intellectual Property, Law in Cyberspace (I’m really starting to get into the whole Intellectual Property field…), Employment Discrimination Law, Sexuality and the Law, Gender Discrimination and the Law, The Law of Democracy, White Collar Crime, Consumer Protection Law, Campaign Finance Law, etc.

1) My school has an active Anarchist Collective. A neighboring school has University-sponsored clubs for enthusiasts of beer, bridge, chess, board games, wine, Gilbert & Sullivan (actually…?),  and militia-building, but the only club which doesn’t receive funding from the University or the Student Bar Association is the club advocating reproductive justice. Law school fail. Meanwhile, my school fully funds the AC (mentioned above), a Feminist Forum, (a separate!) Law Association for Women, (and yet another “lady org”!!) Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Students for Drug Law Reform, The Innocence Project, and the Equal Justice Foundation, among many others.

But yea, we’ve got an Anarchist Collective. At the very least, this will provide me an insta-group of like-minded peers. I’m 100% ready to bridge the gap between my activism in college and my legal studies – can’t wait to forge ahead with that combination of skills.

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by Julia

I’ve been dealing a lot this summer with a not-uncommon state of conflict within myself (and with my elders) since graduation from college. A lot of me feels like the woman I write about on my résumé – a woman with a fabulously enriching college experience (in an academic and social sense) who is taking the next >2 months to relax in preparation for law school. A major part of this relaxation involves enjoying my independence. I’m grateful to have relative freedom in terms of how and with whom I spend my time during this transition.

Yet it would be disingenuous to paint this summer (and time in my life) as wholly independent of the opinions and pressures of those around me (in both a concrete and abstract sense). As a feminist in my early 20s, I have an indelible internal drive for achievement in every conceivable sense of the word. A major part of this quest centers on surrounding myself with the experiences, resources, people, and places who can both challenge and fulfill me. When I’m on this drive (which is almost always), I want little to stand in my way. I’m autonomous, god damn it!

This indignation, I’m sure, comes from a place of defense against attack. It is no surprise that woman today – even those of us standing in the wake of the second wave feminists – still face daily obstacles towards achieving autonomy. I’ve recently focused my feminism not so much on the idea of equality (with whom?…I don’t want to be like this), but on that of autonomy, which to me seems like I much more difficult, but ultimately more liberating, goal.

All of this is to say that,despite certainly sensing autonomous adulthood at times, I seem to crumble at the slightest sense of a challenge to my expression of choice. Am I aware that my emotional reaction might be a product of my youth? Sure. But I’m exasperated by constantly being told by those older than me (again, abstraction) that I’m incapable of making a choice – about my body, my relationships, my career – without outside input. At what point do young women cross over from being objects of others’s influence to subjects of our own choices?

As you can imagine, it was with great delight that I stumbled across Nancy Bauer’s new article on the New York Times’s feature, The Stone. This feature highlights modern day issues in a philosophical light, so clearly I’d be following it. But philosophy + feminism + dialectics + generational differences in understanding + Lady Gaga? Yea, I’m there, and then some.

I can’t think of a single category in modern society who wouldn’t benefit from reading this piece (maybe if you never interact with young women and never will…), so seriously, click through. Parents should read this. Partners and friends of young women should read this. Most of all, young women: read this.

In summary, Bauer uses the example of Lady Gaga to explain the phenomenon of post-second wave women. Lady Gaga is fabulously independent, seemingly impervious to outside criticism and speculation, and talented in her own right – not to mention progressive on issues of sexuality. At the same time, Gaga is often scantily dressed, pushing boundaries of “acceptable” entertainment, quite thin, and ultimately highly sexualized. What might seem like another analysis of a pop star’s antics quickly becomes entirely relevant to young women through political theory.

Bauer uses both Hegelian dialectics and Sartre’s philosophy on being-in-itself to explain that human beings at once experience themselves as subjects of their own desires and objects of society’s control. Explaining Sartre, Bauer writes:

On occasion we find ourselves pretending that we’re pure subjects, with no fixed nature, no past, no constraints, no limits.  And at other times we fool ourselves into believing that we’re pure objects, the helpless victims of others’ assessments, our own questionable proclivities, our material circumstances, our biology.

de Beauvoir takes this further by asserting that women experience this split more so than men, and often experience subjectivity in a sexual sense. Simone de Beauvoir also realized, however, that women are able to experience subjectivity without sexual objectification, but it is necessary to “re-describe how things are in a way that competes with the status quo story and leaves us craving social justice and the truly wide berth for self-expression that only it can provide.” This redefinition of the world in which we live requires struggle. Simone “warned that you can’t just will yourself to be free, that is, to abjure relentlessly the temptations to want only what the world wants you to want.”

Bauer stumbles when she asserts that Gaga’s autonomy centers solely on her sexuality. I disagree with Bauer (and others) that young women use solely sexual tactics to advance themselves – there are plenty of other choices that parents and elders do not understand that do not involve oral sex or fishnet stockings. What people of previous generations (and perhaps, all those outside of the experiences of young women) fail to realize is this: the choices that we make – even our mistakes – are self-interpreted as a type of power. Bauer admits:

What’s mind-boggling is how girls are able to understand engaging in it [read: deviance], especially when it’s unidirectional, as a form of power.

Until self-expression – sexual or not – is understood by others not as “mind-boggling” but rather natural behavior for female human beings, young women will continue to struggle against the divide between subjectivity and objectivity, until a separation no longer exists.

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by Julia

So the final short assignment for one of my classes asked me to answer the question, “Are you a feminist? Why or why not?” What follows is my rant, which will also answer some of the questions I’ve been getting about my previous post regarding feminism and capitalism.


I have to say, I was giddy when I saw the question for this assignment. “Easy!” I thought, of course I am a feminist. I have feminist pins on my bag, feminist books on my shelf, feminist  bumper stickers on my laptop, and a facebook page absolutely dripping with feminist quotations and affiliations. But it is this very immediate association that I had – the things that “made me feminist” – that is also making me question my identification with the word, “feminist.” Certainly, I believe in the tenets of feminism – I intend to devote my life to gender equality under the law. I believe in access to abortion for women who need one. I believe in access to parental leave so that women can work and not be burdened unequally with raising a child. I believe in health care reform so that women are not discriminated against for their preexisting conditions or gendered medical conditions by insurance companies. I believe that girls and boys have equal opportunities for accession to whatever career they choose and that biology does not determine one’s intellectual potential.

I believe all of these things, but I simply cannot fully “own” the term feminist in our current culture. As I wrote in my gendered institutions paper, feminism has been co-opted by capitalism to represent a certain type of woman: thin, hyper-sexualized, heterosexual, white, and affluent. Femininity is constructed by capitalism to be an unattainable goal, yet the modern conception of feminism is something that is already attained – by employed women and their self-purchased products of fun.

Feminism to me represents much more than one’s own identification. Feminism is the creation of a community of women with the power to overcome patriarchal controls on their lives. Feminism should never be unattainable for anyone. Feminism is not individual – it is at its core built from commonalities. If to be a feminist is to strive towards this goal in one’s daily actions, then yes, I am a feminist. But I will not identify as a feminist if all that means is someone who buys a vibrator and isolates herself from the rest of her comrades who are striving to eliminate barriers and realize a common struggle.

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by Elizabeth

Note: A version of this post first appeared on My Life. My Choice. My Vote., the blog of NARAL Pro-Choice CT, where Elizabeth just finished her policy internship.

This month marks the 50th birthday of the birth control pill in the United States, prompting a TIME Magazine cover story, various histories of contraception, and the looming question: why, after half a century, are almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. still unplanned?

Of the 3.1 million unintended pregnancies per year, almost half (48%) involve contraceptive failures. In 52% of the cases, couples used no birth control at all. As Melinda Beck of the Wall Street Journal points out, to begin to answer this question, we must untangle a complex web of cultural, religious, behavioral, educational and economic factors.

Contraception still presents a financial barrier for many people, often complicated by culture and religion. Though most insurers now cover contraceptives, co-pays and deductibles can still present obstacles, and as was drilled into our heads earlier this year, before the reform bill, over 49 million Americans were uninsured.

Yet more importantly, Beck points to the behavioral tendencies which have failed to stop unplanned pregnancies:

And many young people are in “the fog zone” in which their beliefs about pregnancy don’t match their behaviors, according to a 2009 report by the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. In a survey conducted by the Guttmacher Institute of 1,800 single men and women aged 18 to 29, more than 80% of both sexes said it was important to them to avoid pregnancy right now, yet 43% of those who are sexually active said they used no contraception or used it inconsistently.

Though we’ve gone a long way in the 50 years since the pill’s FDA approval, it’s clear that the need for education, support, and resources is still immense.

There is no doubt that sex education works and yet 29 states do not mandate these programs in their public schools. According to the Guttmacher Institute (please hire me!!):

  • Some 35% of US public schools with a policy to teach sex education require abstinence to be taught as the only option for unmarried people and either prohibit the discussion of contraception altogether or limit discussion to its ineffectiveness. The other 51% have a policy to teach abstinence as the preferred option for teens and permit discussion of contraception as an effective means of preventing pregnancy and STIs.
  • More than one in five adolescents (21% of females and 24% of males) received abstinence education without receiving instruction about birth control in 2002, compared with 8–9% in 1995.
  • Every year, roughly nine million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur among teens and young adults in the United States, an extremely high rate as compared among teens in Canada and Western Europe.

So why, in a world of countless pills, the ring, the patch, implants, and condoms for women and men, do women still get pregnant unintentionally? Because without comprehensive services, adequate public funding, or supportive laws and policies, a victory fifty years ago can only take us so far.

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by Elizabeth

At a forum in his honor at Fordham University Law School in 2005, Justice John Paul Stevens declared an important principle not often recognized by the Roberts Court: “Learning on the job is essential to the process of judging.”

Stevens exemplified this M.O. during his 34 years as a Supreme Court Justice, becoming one of the more liberal members of the Court through a varied trajectory. His announcement to retire at the end of this term marks the regrettable loss of both an ally for women’s rights and of a certain integrity in jurisprudence.

As the first Justice named to the Supreme Court after the decision of Roe v. Wade, Stevens initially exhibited a slight conservative bent, voting against requiring the government to pay for abortions for women who could not afford them. As Linda Greenhouse notes in her piece about the eras of judicial politics Stevens’ tenure straddles, “little in his early performance suggested that he would come to play an important strategic role in preserving the right to abortion, let alone that he would retire three decades later as the leader of the court’s remaining liberals.”

But, learning in the process, Stevens came to consistently vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, supported affirmative action, and championed lesbian gay and transgender rights. Stevens is now among the strongest supporters of the right to choose currently serving on the Supreme Court, as his record reflects a respect for individual freedom and opposition to political interference in personal decisions.

As this summer is bound to bring an ardent battle over Steven’s replacement, it is my hope that whomever is nominated not only learns from their job, but also learns from Justice Stevens.

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by Julia

First of all, congratulations to the New Orleans Saints. A great game, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving city. Also this:

The Super Bowl, unfortunately, is not just about the game. The commercials often dominate the news cycle the following day more than the results of the game itself. This year’s ads seemed less funny and more sexist than in years past.

Jezebel has a good summary up of some of the particularly unsavory culprits. Also, see Elizabeth’s previous post for a sweet flow chart. Not surprisingly, the majority of the offenders are car and beer manufacturers. The worst ad, in my opinion, was from FloTV.com (not gonna link here), in which a man was rendered “spineless” by his wife and *horror* prevented from watching the game because he was shopping with his wife. I was also disappointed in Dove for creating such a sexist ad depicting more stereotypes than I care to mention. This was especially sad given Dove’s fantastic Campaign for Real Beauty that works to combat these very constraints on women. I guess creating Dove for Men necessitates washing all other efforts for gender equity down the drain (pun intended).

Jezebel also published before the final Bud Light ad aired. This one depicted a woman’s book club discussing a book in which “two women are thrust towards confronting the hardships of war.” One woman’s male partner enters the room with his buddies and proceeds to sexualize the possibility of “two women” and the word “thrust” in one sentence. He also expresses shock at the idea that a group of attractive women could actually read (“I’d like to hear you read some words,” he says to one of the women.) All of the women look on disgusted while the men consume all the beer and cheer about how great book club is for them.

I was underwhelmed by the infamous Tim Tebow ad. I echo Tracy’s sentiment of “that’s what all the fuss was about?” Honestly, I’m much more disturbed by some of the aforementioned ads, or the creepy kids singing about foreign debt in a suspiciously Tea-Party-esque spot.

This year’s ads carried a very overt theme of emasculation at the hands of women (see Elizabeth’s post), as though men are suddenly under attack in our society. This mirrors the current trend (parodied fabulously by The Daily Show last week) in which men, when faced with the possibility of even a semblance of gender equity in the workplace, rush to assert themselves against the onslaught of female domination. 40% of the Super Bowl audience is now women, yet this year’s ads were so overtly sexist, one would almost think the companies did not care what their female/feminist consumers thought. Newsflash: they don’t care, and that’s because they don’t have to. Y’all know my rant on sexism’s inherent link to capitalism, but suffice it to say, this stuff still sells, revealing a deeply systemic sense of patriarchy. Where is the uproar about CBS allowing blatant sexism in advertisements? That’s “advocacy” if I’ve ever seen it – advocacy for the reinforcement of a destructive system of male hegemony.

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by Elizabeth

If you watched tonight’s Super Bowl– or, like me, put the game on mute until the commercial breaks- you were probably pissed off.  It seems this year’s big trend in advertising is what Jezebel has deemed the “woes of bros” who have been emasculated by their claustrophobia-inducing, hyper-feminine, worth-less-than-tires girlfriends.  I know I just can’t wait to buy these products!

More analysis of these blatantly sexist and just plain annoying ads is on the way, but in the meanwhile check out Lauren Wick’s brilliant flow chart to determine “if Super Bowl commercials are helping you be all the man you can be”:

Stayed tuned and congrats to the NOLA Saints!

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