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Blawging as Feminism

In 1872, after the Illinois Bar denied admission to Myra Bradwell, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the action in a decision best remembered for the concurrence of Justice Joseph P. Bradley, who notoriously wrote that "[t]he natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for the many occupations of civil life." Ever since, women have been fighting to assert their rightful place within the legal profession. That fight has taken many forms over the last century, but these days, women lawyers have turned to blogging as a key method of asserting their rights. So says University of Pennsylvania law student Alison I. Stein in a thoughtful commentary recently published on SSRN, Women Lawyers Blog for Workplace Equality: Blogging as a Feminist Legal Method.

"[A] growing group of women lawyers are using the Internet -- and, in particular, blogging -- to resolve their disputes, address their personal grievances, challenge implicit male bias engrained in the profession, and share and obtain the information they need to become stronger bargainers in the workplace. For a variety of reasons, these women have found it effective and rewarding to use blogging -- and not traditional legal and legislative avenues -- to advocate for their own personal rights in the workplace and to openly challenge 'the rules under which success is defined and the structures that continue to reinforce men’s dominance' in the legal profession."

After providing a brief history of women in the legal profession, Stein's article analyzes blog entries on topics such as equal pay, institutional discrimination and gender dynamics and then suggests reasons why women lawyers seeking equality might turn to blogging in place of legal channels. She concludes by defining blogging's place within the broader framework of feminist legal theory. Throughout, she uses the blog Ms. JD as her "representative blog," describing it as "not just an isolated blog," but "a movement."

Myra Bradwell eventually won her battle for admission to the Bar, but not before establishing the Chicago Legal News, which became the most widely circulated legal newspaper in the nation. Bradwell used the newspaper as a vehicle for change, Stein reminds us, advocating for reforms in women's rights and helping to transform the public's perception about women practicing law. In blogging today, we see echoes of Bradwell, Stein believes. "Confronting a legal system that has yet to achieve true gender equality in the workplace, women lawyers are following Bradwell's example and employing non-legal methods to advocate for their individual rights in the workplace."

[Hat tip to Feminist Law Professors.]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 11, 2008 at 03:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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