|"Finding Hope in a Tee Shirt...And in the Next Generation"
Over a decade ago, I gave a presentation on the topic of “Women in the Law: How Gender Shapes the Experience” to the women’s network group of a large Midwest law firm. The audience included women of various ages, from the first woman partner in the firm (who boasted of how she played the men’s game), to mid-level women attorneys who had negotiated their own creative work arrangements with the firm, to the young women associates who expected the firm to address and meet their needs for flexible work arrangements and family-friendly policies. During the “sticky” discussions that followed my presentation, I was reminded that the language of feminism is not embraced by many women, and I experienced firsthand how the perspectives and expectations of women lawyers of different generations are not necessarily aligned and may at times be at odds.
Many of us have benefited from the enormous gains of the feminist movement while recognizing that gender barriers still exist for women in our profession, and for women generally. Given that perspective, we naturally get discouraged at times when we perceive that some women (lawyers and others) do not see the need to embrace the feminist cause and continue the movement to ensure equal opportunity and advancement for women. We may even find ourselves losing hope for future generations of women.
Nowadays, we often hear young women eschew the importance of feminism and decline to identify as a “feminist.” They say they don’t see the need for the movement or the relevance of the label. Although I don’t have poll results to prove it, I suspect that many women law students today do not see their gender as a potential obstacle to their advancement in our profession, nor do they see an urgent need to continue the fight for gender equality. Notable exceptions include members (male and female) of women law student organizations across the country. The USD Women’s Law Caucus student organization at USD Law is a perfect example.
The USD Women’s Law Caucus recently tabled at our law student organization fair and sold tee shirts to support their events and activities. I excitedly purchased one for myself! The front side is branded with the group’s logo while the back has the following in bold lettering:
Feminist:/Fem-en-ist/: A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
Simple but powerful language. I hope to see many USD Law students sporting this shirt and spreading the message.
Given the recent climate on gender issues and the sexist rhetoric we've heard during the current presidential campaign, my fervent hope is that many young women and men will realize that we are clearly “not there yet.” We have a long way to go and we must fully commit ourselves to chasing the last wave of feminism. I have hope that all generations will join the chase, and now I have the tee shirt to prove it.
This blog was authored by Molly Tami. Molly Tami serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law. She previously designed and taught a course on Law, Gender and the Work/Family Conflict and is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession