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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Guest Blog: "Words Matter: Use Them Carefully"

Posted By Deborah Dixon, Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Words Matter: Use Them Carefully

 

We all remember the childhood saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That saying is far from true; in fact, it is actually completely false. As children, we all knew that words hurt, and as adults, we are keenly aware of how our words can hurt someone or, even, ourselves. As lawyers, we have an even more intimate relationship with the power of words. 


And, as women, we know the devastating effect words can have on our self-esteem, development, confidence and success. Not only are we cautious about how we are spoken to or about, but we have additional concerns about how our words are perceived: “Will they think I was mean, instead of assertive?” These considerations are a constant battle. 


We also face “women bashing” or “shaming.” It has become all too common in our society to shame women for what they wear, what they say, what they do – or what they don’t wear, say or do. And, worse yet, it is not just from men. In fact, sometimes it is more hurtful when women engage in disparaging remarks about other women, or when women sit idly by as men and/or women unfairly criticize or perpetuate hurtful words about another woman.

 

As women we have enough to deal with—our work, school, career, personal life, social life, volunteerism and the list can keep going—we don’t also need to spend our energy cutting down other women. We can be examples of true collaboration, by sticking together and building each other up. We know attitudes and words are contagious, whether they are positive or negative. We can compliment each other more, praise each other’s accomplishments more, and raise one another up with our words. 


What we didn’t learn when we repeated the childhood rhyme was this: While sticks and stones may break our bones, those wounds will heal faster than the wounds from our words. Let’s be mindful the next time we hear or start to engage in negative words or criticism. Let’s raise each other up with our words!


Deborah Dixon is a Senior Trial Attorney at Gomez Trial Attorneys, focusing on class action claims.

Tags:  guest blogger  LCB 

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Guest Blog: "Lawyers Club of San Diego has a New Committee Focusing on Reproductive Justice"

Posted By Mehry Mohseni, Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"Lawyers Club of San Diego has a New Committee Focusing on Reproductive Justice"

 

Lawyers Club of San Diego has two new committees – The Reproductive Justice Committee and the Women’s Advocacy Committee. The two are a split of the former Reproductive Rights and Women’s Advocacy Committee. Why the split and why change from reproductive rights to reproductive justice?

 

Many of the victories won under the reproductive rights movement have typically been limited to two topics: access to contraception, and the availability of safe and legal abortion. At the very core of the movement is a desire for these basic rights to be guaranteed under the law. But for many, particularly women of color, the fight does not end there. A much broader set of concerns stems from the barriers for many women in actually realizing these rights.

 

Thus, a change in the movement arose, and the term “reproductive justice” was originally coined to represent the unique fight of women of color for reproductive rights, blended with an ongoing fight for social justice. Reproductive justice moves beyond the focus of individual choice, and closely examines the way in which our communities and government may create inequality for women through limited or no individual reproductive choice.

 

The term Reproductive Justice has been defined as: “The complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women's human rights.” It’s important to note this movement stretches beyond a woman’s right to limit the number of children, if any, she wishes to have. It also addresses the right a woman has to raise her children with dignity in a safe, healthy, and supportive environment.

 

Including the important perspective of a diverse group of women allows the movement to unfold layers of oppression that our communities face, through an intersectional analysis of women's “real life” experiences. Some of these cross-sections include women of color, women with disabilities, incarcerated women, women involved in sex work or sex trade, low-income women, and LGBTQ women.

 

One alarming and complex example of the reproductive justice analysis occurred in Texas in 2011 after state lawmakers decreased funding for family planning services by 66 percent, closing 82 family planning clinics. Not only did low-income women in particular have less access to birth control, but the number of pregnancy-related deaths doubled from 78 in 2010 to 148 in 2011.

 

A task force was created to examine this increase and discovered a shocking statistic - African-American mothers accounted for 11.4 percent of Texas births in 2011 and 2012, but 28.8 percent of pregnancy-related deaths. The task force stated the overall increase in deaths was likely due to a “multitude of factors," including the funding decrease coupled with a lack of affordable health care for low-income women. The reproductive justice framework analyzes the effect of these drastic funding cuts from the perspective of women of color and low-income women who are already at risk of not realizing their full reproductive health needs.

 

I’m excited to Co-Chair the new Reproductive Justice Committee this year and to challenge Lawyers Club members to view reproductive health not just from the legal stand point that we are used to, but in a more complex and broader context of well-being and community. I hope you will join us!

 

(Meetings are held the first Friday of the month at 12:00-1:00p.m. at DLA Piper downtown. Contact Mehry Mohseni or Chelsea Mutual with any questions on how to get involved.)

Mehry Mohseni is a family law attorney with Cage & Miles, LLP and co-chair of the Reproductive Justice Committee. 

 

Tags:  guest blogger  LCB  reproductive justice  reproductive rights  womens advocacy committee  women's advocacy committee 

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Guest Blog: "The Painted Door - Stories of Sex Trafficking Survivors"

Posted By Daphne Delvaux, Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"The Painted Door - Stories of Sex Trafficking Survivors"

 

During the past three years I have organized regular workshops at GenerateHope. GenerateHope is a home where young girls who have been subjected to sex trafficking can live and heal. We have visited this home regularly with a small group of Lawyers Club members. During these visits, it has been our goal to provide the women with a safe environment where they can express their desires and ambitions. Together, we talk about their future, a future often previously considered unattainable. We encourage them to dream again, while brainstorming career paths and proposing practical steps to achieve these objectives. Here are some of the stories from GenerateHope. For privacy purposes, the names have been altered:

 

Eva wants to be a writer. She wants to write a screenplay about her experience being trafficked. She wants to share her story because she wants young women to know, “usually it starts with falling in love with the wrong guy.” She said, “Writing gives you so much freedom.” We encourage her to send us her screenplay so we can review it and provide feedback. Softly, she responds, “I used to think I had no right to have a voice.” 

 

Olivia wants to work in the tech world. As a child, she was isolated, scolded, and abused. She was not allowed to play with other children. She said, “Video games helped me escape my own reality.” Now, as an adult, she wants to create video games herself. She wants to remove the stigma of the female gamer. We encourage her to visit community colleges to learn about technology, and to let us know if she needs help applying for scholarships.

 

Grace wants to go to the police academy. She said she has had bad encounters with the police, and she feels like officers should understand how it feels like to be on the other side. Alternatively, she wants to volunteer with an animal shelter, and search and care for abandoned animals. We connect her with a local dog walker who needs help.

Emily wants to be a cook or a florist. She likes working alone and she likes creating beautiful things. After our visit, we reach out to caterers and florists to ask if she can shadow them for a day.

 

Sophie wants to be able to support her son. She lost her son to “the system” due to her trafficking experiences. She grew up in a foster home. She is upset that her son is also not in a stable environment. She wants to get a job as a barista because she loves people. She then wants to manage and eventually own a coffee shop. She has decided that she will call the coffee shop “The Painted Door.” It will be a place for children without a stable home to gather and play. The children will be allowed to paint the door a different color every day. She wants to provide them with purpose and a community. For herself, all she wants is her son back. She said, “I don’t want to drive a fancy car, I just want to get by, and see my son’s smile every morning.” We tell Sophie we are happy to help her write her resume, look for barista jobs, and prepare for any interviews.

 

I was shocked by my own biased presumptions when I went into this experience. First, I assumed all these women would come from an unstable, neglected, or abusive home. This is not the case; there is no one profile of a trafficking survivor. Second, I assumed trafficked women would mostly be foreign. Turns out I was usually the only foreign-born person in the room. Trafficking is an American issue happening to local girls. Third, I assumed they would be emotionally fragile and reluctant to speak with attorneys. It is true that some were skeptical towards our visit, as most of their interactions with lawyers and law enforcement had been punitive and some of did not feel ready to share their hopes and desires. But overall, these women possess a high level of intelligence, perseverance, strength, and courage. They are eloquent and poised, and ready to take on the world.

 

One constant I discovered is that most women seek a future in care. They want to care for others because they know what it feels like not to be cared for themselves. I always leave feeling humbled and inspired, and ready to pursue life with more compassion, more empathy, and more conviction to help those in need.

 

Daphne Delvaux is an employment lawyer and wrote this on behalf of Lawyers Club's Human Trafficking Collaborative.

Tags:  guest blogger  htc  httf  human trafficking  human trafficking collaborative  LCB  pro bono  volunteering 

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Guest Blog: "Consider the numbers, but let the stories move you"

Posted By Angelica Sciencio, Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2016
I have always strolled peacefully at the intersection of white and black, foreign and homegrown, poor and prosperous. I have heard about many injustices but experienced few.  So like you, I usually scroll through my news feed glancing over lives lost, vocalized racism, masked xenophobia and just plain bigotry. I usually feel sad but somewhat detached from that reality, so I shrug and move on to the puppy videos. But not today.

Today, I cried. I saw the video of Philando Castile bleeding in front of his girlfriend, a child, a cop, and a camera phone. I read about the protests, police officers getting shot and I felt extreme sadness. But what took me over the edge to tears were the excusatory comments from my “friended”, the news headlines, the opportunistic political advances and above all, my own inaction.

I thought about posting #blacklivesmatter on my feed, but I wondered if people would think I was playing victim. You see, I am a foreign-born-woman-of-mixed-race.  My black father was a policeman, who was murdered by a white guy.

Despite that drama, I have always lived in this perpetual middle of the road that has shielded me from extremes. I am black enough to have been made fun of for my hair and to prevent closet-racist friends from using slurs in my presence, but not too black to be stopped and frisked for no reason, to be thrown in jail for minor violations or to be shot in my car. I am foreign enough to have worked long hours at various undesirable jobs for minimum wage and will probably forever mess up my prepositions, but I am not too foreign to make people anxious when I board a plane or to be called a terrorist because of the way I dress or the language I speak. I am poor enough to get my yoga classes on Groupon and to buy dog food on sale, but not too poor to be chastised for using government assistance to feed myself and my family.  I am womanly enough to have been called “doll” and “love” by former male bosses, to have been told to smile more times then I can count, but not a woman who was prevented from getting an education and trying to succeed in a male-dominated profession. And thank heavens I am straight for that I have always been allowed to love and marry (and subsequently divorce) whoever I damned pleased. Don’t get me wrong: it hasn’t been easy, but it has been possible.

My point is: I am part of pretty much every minority group out there, and I don’t even understand what they go through. But I try. When (sometimes unwillingly) I enter into discrimination discussions with more privileged, sheltered friends, I feel the need to formulate arguments based on statistics, logical reasoning and contradictions by the other side. But maybe we shouldn’t have to bring up the numbers to convince. Perhaps, we should just listen and give the other side the benefit of the doubt. 

If you have been blessed with opportunities to succeed, and are tempted to believe that everyone in the world has had the same, do yourself a favor lest you sound like a fool: consider the historical oppression of certain people, the widespread institutional discrimination of certain groups and most importantly, listen to the stories. Then, concoct and implement your own moral affirmative action: give those who have traditionally had less (money, opportunities, freedom, respect, rights) just a little extra love and support.  If we shoot for equity, not equality, we might not need hashtags to shine a light on systemic racism and other inequities. For now, however, #blacklivesmatter, #equalpay, #reproductiverights, #stopbullying, #loveislove. 


This post was authored by Angelica Sciencio, an Immigration Attorney at Law Office of Angelica Sciencio and co-chair of the Diverse Women’s Committee. 

 

Tags:  advocacy  discrimination  diverse women's committee  diversity  guest blogger  LCB  race  social media 

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