Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Misogynism, 21-century style

Today, I attended a lunch organized by Association of Women Lawyers (AWL). At the event, a magistrate judge Gorrence (Eastern District of Wisconsin) said that when she applied for her first job out of law school (20-odd years ago), a male interviewer (there were few, if any, female interviewers back then) asked her if she is one of those "feminists." Another member (a state court judge) noted that for those times, that was an enlightened question. Everyone at the table agreed.

Today, misogynism is much more subtle. For example, one of Scott's former law school classmates - she is a law professor now - says that students ask her to substantiate her propositions of law. That, by itself, is ok, except that students do not ask male professors questions like that. I am guessing that students themselves do not realize that they treat female professors differently from the male ones. This is an innate subconscious mistrust of women. (Does she really know what she's talking about? Sounds like she's making it up.)

I am not sure if this is progress. On the one hand, it is not ok to denigrate women overtly. On the other hand, the subconscious mistrust of women is harder to eradicate. First, people would have to acknowledge it, and no one would, because it is simply not cool anymore. Everyone considers himself enlightened, and who wants to be uncool?

I am happy to report that I myself do not have this prejudice. In law school, I gave a hard time to all professors. Just ask Johnson - he still has nightmares about me raising my hand in class every two minutes and making all kinds of unintelligent statements (ok, I was going to say "all kinds of stupid crap," but that would be uncool, and, as this posting demonstrates, it's not cool being uncool).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is another very interesting topic- on a related point, I think women are confused by the expectations of modern working society. For example, take a woman just starting her career in law at a private law firm. Does she show that (1) she is exactly like her male counterparts and performs her work in precisely the same way; (2) because she is a woman she has certain qualities to bring to the law firm that most of her male coworkers cannot; or (3) while she may deal with issues in a different manner than her male counterparts, she can deliver the same, if not better product?

I bring this up because I have noticed a movement away from "men and women function the same way and a woman can do anything a man can do" to a resurgence (bringing back some of the ideals of the 1950's) of "women are distinct from men in that they deal with problems in different ways, which in some circumstances, may better serve the client."

I would like to agree with this theory because I want to move women up the ladder of equal pay and respect in the work force as fast as I can.

But at the same time I cannot help but wonder if this new movement was constructed by some insecure conservative males who are trying to push us back down.

Has anyone else noticed this in their workplace?

Just curious...

11:00 PM  
Blogger think-knitter said...

I think it's interesting that society tries to define women's, and, for that matter, men's, working style as if all men and women are the same. This is, to put it politely, a myth. Not all men make decisions quickly (Scott definitely doesn't), and not all women are sensitive and caring.

I've noticed that women of my mother's age (late 50s) who have made it professionally tend to be more aggressive. They've had to be. If they were "soft" like other women, they wouldn't have made it.

A few years ago I read in The New Republic that stereotypes about women being caring and sharing is bogus, and as an example, they cited Senator Boxer, who can give any guy a run for his money.

My point, however, that anyone who tries to say that women work in this way or that way is simplistic. There are 6 billion people on the planet, and roughly 3 of them are women. How is it possible for 3 billion people to operate in the same way?

8:21 PM  

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