Opinion

Lady Lawyers in the Limelight
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A Woman's Work

Summary: Gender equality and women’s issues dominated last week’s Above the Law. A central question was, “To what extent is it acceptable to emphasize female lawyers’ looks?”

SMACK! SPLAT! You could hear heads hitting the glass ceiling of the law world. The news seemed positive at first. Stephen Colbert asked George Clooney what it was like to be Amal’s “eye candy.” Then Above the Law’s Kathryn Rubino described the mistreatment of lady lawyers in the 1950s, setting a “look how far we’ve come” tone.

  
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See http://www.atlredline.com/you-wont-believe-this-law-firm-memo-from-the-1950s-1729622169 for more information.

Suddenly news of a scandal broke. ATL reported that a 57-year-old partner at Brown Rudnick complimented a 27-year-old human rights barrister on her LinkedIn photo early in the week: “I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture!!! You definitely win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen.”

Above the Law soon broadcast Proudman had “ruined her career” and “blacklisted” herself by speaking out. You could almost hear the sigh in Staci Zaretsky’s comment: “Unfortunately, sexism seems to be part and parcel of the legal profession, but that doesn’t mean women have to like it.”

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See Staci Zaretsky’s article: http://abovethelaw.com/2015/09/female-lawyer-who-called-out-biglaw-partners-sexist-remarks-now-considered-unemployable/

The coverage set off a barrage of discussion on Above the Law and elsewhere. Is it acceptable to compliment a woman’s appearance in the workplace? Should a woman speak up when she feels objectified? ATL’s Joe Patrice took the topic a step further, criticizing BMC Group for promoting a bikini girl party at a legal and financial conference. Patrice predicted lawyers wouldn’t be impressed by ads of scantily-clad bikini models. In fact, “those new-fangled ‘girl lawyers’” might be downright offended.



Of course the article, seemingly against the objectification of women, included no less than three pictures of bikini models (one on ATL’s homepage, one at the top of the article, and a copy of the original ad). One wonders if the images were included to attract the attention of ATL’s male readers.

See http://abovethelaw.com/2015/09/lawyer-bikini-party-not-the-ideal-marketing-plan/ for more information.

Also see these recent articles involving Joe Patrice: 

As if things weren’t confusing enough, Above the Law also ran an article about actress Viola Davis and her role on “How to Get Away with Murder.” Davis recounts the prejudice she has endured as a black woman in Hollywood. She gleefully reports her new role as a law professor is finally allowing her to be sexualized. As a black woman “I was not able to be sexualized. Ever. In my entire career,” she says.

See http://abovethelaw.com/2015/09/making-the-case-for-annalise-keating-as-an-important-fictional-lawyer/ for more information.

With some women against objectification and others wanting to be sex objects, it was inevitable that someone would flip the tables and make objectification a two-way street. Enter Shannon Achimalbe, who used her ATL column to encourage women to find wealthy, “better than perfect” husbands this week. Per Achimalbe, women should find spouses who boost their social standing and make them the envy of all their friends. Otherwise it’s not worth getting married at all.

See http://abovethelaw.com/2015/09/back-in-the-race-does-your-potential-spouse-have-to-be-better-than-perfect/ for more information.

I close my browser and look up at the glass ceiling. Is it my imagination or are there more cracks in it than a week ago? More importantly, are we going to break through and soar to new heights … or will the glass shatter, with the shards falling and cutting our skin? The discussion is just beginning. I’m looking forward to it.



 

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