Friday, May 2, 2008

Blogging as Feminist Legal Method

Just saw this abstract on the Social Science Research Network:
Legal scholars and academic commentators have long written about the ways in which close-knit communities of people employ extra-legal or non-legal methods to structure conflict, resolve disputes, and advocate for their rights and interests. From cattle ranchers to diamond merchants to third-wave feminists, scholars emphasize how groups of people opt out of the legal system and instead use personalized and informal methods of rights assertion as a means of overcoming the ineffectiveness of state-sponsored laws, and because they reject the law as a viable means of achieving change. Similar to cattle ranchers and diamond traders, a growing number of women lawyers have developed their own method of rights assertion and conflict resolution that does not involve turning to the legal system. Despite the cottage industry of articles, books, and reports describing gender inequality in the legal profession, few, if any, have focused on what women lawyers are actually doing to address the challenges and grievances they face in the workplace, and to increase the proportion of women in leadership positions in the profession. Based on a detailed, empirical analysis of women lawyers in law firms, this Article argues that similar to cattle ranchers and diamond traders, a growing number of women lawyers have rejected the law as a viable means of personal advocacy and are instead, using blogging - an alternative, informal and impersonal form of engagement - to advocate for their rights and interests in the workplace. One would expect that women lawyers, when confronted with unfair hiring practices, unequal pay, or unjust choices, would turn to the legal system. They are legally trained and undoubtedly immersed in the law, and therefore, one might presume that they are particularly attentive to legal rights and predisposed to think of personal grievances in a legal framework. Nonetheless, 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.
The article's author is Alison Stein of the University of Pennsylvania. Her abstract reminded me of an email I received from one of you yesterday in response to my email to all alums (that original email, of course, being about blogging as feminist legal method!). She said her firm (a large national one; she is in the LA office) has a women's group, in which she participates. It made me wonder how all of you deal with gender issues at your firms/offices/workplaces? How do your employers deal with them? What informal strategies are used to keep people happy and resolve disputes?

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