Thursday, April 27, 2006

Men's Law Caucus - How DARE They!?!?!

Earlier this year, a small group of friends jokingly created the "UW Men's Law Caucus" over lunch. The joke spread, and the idea caught on. The chief instigator had T-shirts made, and sold quite a few of them to men (and women) throughout the law school. Part of the proceeds went to a testicular cancer research charity, and yet more of the profits went to send care packages to soldiers in Iraq, as one of the MLC Founders has a brother there now. I proudly own one of the shirts myself.

But there have been rumblings about this insidious organizations. Is it dedicated to the chauvinist belief that women should stay barefoot and pregnant in the home, and have no business in the courtroom? Is it a sexist group? Have men in today's society NOT yet learned that they have no rights to assemble? Have they not heard women have a right not to be offended?

Even worse - is there an unsaid implication that it's the WHITE Men's Law Caucus? Are they all racists, too?!?

This culminated in a complaint to the Student Bar Association. From the agenda for today's meeting:

Some women at UWLS were offended by the idea of a Law Men's Caucus, and reported their concerns to an SBA board member. Should the students themselves fail to raise their concerns direct at the SBA meeting, the SBA board member will do so on their behalf.

So - the implication is that someone is asking us to disband our loose little group, and to ban a form of expression at the school by not allowing the T-shirts as a form of hate speech against women. They'll probably demand an apology, too. They won't get it from me. If it comes to that, I'll wear my shirt every stinkin' day.

There is, of course, a UW Law Women's Caucus, and good for them. My wife is an attorney, and I understand that there are unique issues that women face in this profession. I don't think the LWC is involved - in fact, I just talked to a fellow student who's on the LWC board, and she thought the MLC shirts were "hilarious."

So what's the problem? Is being 60% of the student body not enough for today's women? Are a bunch of guys getting together and grunting and scratching and talking about issues that concern them such a terrible thing? Are there no unique issues that impact men? How many more women do we need as Deans before we're not discriminating against women any more? Is Dean Knight a raging sexist? Is the Seattle legal community REALLY a bastion of "old boys" who don't want to hire women? Seriously?

When I see a Che Guevara T-shirt, I'm offended. I hate seeing the thoughtlessly anti-conservative, "Republicans are baby killers and war mongers" fliers, shirts, and posters littering the campus. Snarky anti-Bush and anti-conservative comments by professors, ubiquitous in this most liberal of law schools in this most liberal of cities, is an irritation you just learn to live with. But as obnoxious as all those things can be, it would never occur to me to complain to the Student Bar Association about it, or demand they be censored or forced to apologize. I guess free speech at this school only extends to transients looking at porn in our law library.

The T-shirts were, in part, a tongue-in-cheek ribbing of some students who are perceived as taking themselves a little too seriously. This outrage seems to prove that perception was correct.

UPDATE: The SBA complaint went no where, but the MLC spokesman got in a T-shirt plug in. A victory for sanity. Awesome.


nicolekovite said...

Dear, FedSoc (and really, O.J.):

I'm writing as a woman who also considers the T-Shirts to be "hilarious". You haven't offended me - I'll take it and dish it right back.

But you have, apparently, offended someone else. I say, "apparently" because I don't have any substantive information on the actual complaint beyond a barebones SBA announcement.

And, judging from your post, neither do *you*.

Perhaps before 1) making assumptions about what these individuals are upset about/why and 2) publically belitting those assumed concerns, you might want to do the decent thing and talk with one of them.

(Yes, yes, I'll pre-empt your knee jerk objection: "but THEY didn't talk to US first!")

Look, here's the deal: I suspect the reason why whomever is upset about this did *not* walk right up to you and tell you about it is because he/she probably guessed (rightly) that you would paint her concerns as grossly overstated/man-hating platitudes that may not have anything at all to do with the stated purpose of a women's networking organization in the legal field.

To feign shock that your prank - whether good natured or otherwise - would have garnered a reaction from those at which it was meant to poke fun is simply disingenuous.

Go ahead - make your statement. But really, when your target expresses a negative reaction to being made fun of, don't just explode online by way of throwing around cliched and trite statements like: "Is being 60% of the student body not enough for today's women?" Are we raging sexists??? Huh? HUH???

Please. Using such statements as a passive aggressive comeback when you are apparently grossly misinformed about the purpose behind a network for women in a profession that was, until *this* generation, dominated by men, really undermines your point.

But then, I happen to work in an office full of women lawyers who routinely find themselves in receipt of written correspondence addressed: "Dear Gentlemen..."

So, what do I know.

In sum: You've apparently offended someone who works in the same, very small school/legal communinty that you do, whether you like it or not. Resist the school yard temptation to just point and laugh before thinking. Be an adult, and find that person and *listen* before offering your exhaustive list of how he/she is simply too sensitive.

In other words: You did something that hurt someone else. Don't whine about it - take it like a man.

Orrin Johnson said...

I don't think it's a stretch to "make an assumption" about what the complainer is upset about. I don't care if they talked to one of the guys or not. I defy you or anyone else to come up with ANY legitimate reason for someone to be so "concerned" that they complained to the SBA about it.

Anyone? Anyone? Beuhler?

And they're not complaining just to complain - they'll want something "done". It's not hard to guess what that "something" might be.

As I said, I'm fine there's a LWC. I think it's great. I know, recognize, and appreciate its purpose. And as I also said, I recognize that the LWC is not making this complaint, and is probably not offended. Good for them. They do good work. I'm glad they're there, even if I think they're somewhat less relevant in 2006 than they were in, say, 1956, for the very non-trite reason that they have by and large succeeded in their mission, as evidenced by the fact (not the cliche) that 60% of the students here are women.

But I PROMISE you that you would be outraged if a man "expressed concern" to the SBA or was offended that we have a gender specific women's group, whatever its purpose - and rightfully so. Such a complainer would be immediately labeled as a sexist woman hater - UNrightfully so - and no one would bat an eyelash. But it would be stupid and antethical to the free speech this school supposedly stands for for a man to make that complaint, just as it's equally stupid for someone to complain about the MLC.

And I take exception that wearing an MLC shirt "hurt someone else." Please. If you're "hurt" by seeing an MLC T-shirt, then the rough and tumble world of law probably isn't for you. Conservatives get called all kinds of nasty things at this school. I don't run to the SBA demanding that anyone feel bad about "hurting" me.

And frankly, if feminists want to get away from their stereotype as humorless, or that women are fragile creatures who need "protecting", then they should be even MORE outraged at all of this.

"Free speech. Unless I disagree with it." I have no problem belittling, ridiculing, and being outraged at that position, early and often.

PubliusRex said...

What is the origin of this sense of entitlement in people that they have a right to not be offended?

Taking as a premise that such a right exists leads to preposterous logical conclusions. The Law Women's Caucus trying to force the Law Men's Caucus to be booted is just one such example.

SirWhoopass said...

Orrin, you are incorrect. Seriously. You could not be more wrong. Things like this make it obvious you're just quickly typing up knee-jerk reactions without any careful consideration. Please, put some thought into your posts next time...

... it's spelled Bueller.

Cato said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cato said...

Blogs by nature tend to be over-aggressive, and I understand and appreciate Nicole's point of view on this.

At the same time, I'm very concerned by the fact that an actual complaint was brought to the SBA about this. Anyone who has seen the T-shirts can see that they are 1) a parody and 2) self-deprecating. While they poke gentle fun at the LWC, they also poke gentle fun at fraternal organizations, at least that's what I got out of the "Royal Water Buffalo"-style hat on the shirt.

I've seen a lot of political or social commentary that seemed fairly hurtful, which I reluctantly stood up for on free-speech grounds. But this group and these shirts doesn't even seem to rise to that level. I just can't believe that someone could take this seriously enough to complain about it.

I think one of Orrin's points is very well-taken: Nobody just complains about something, to student government. If you're going to complain to a deliberative body, it's because you want them to do something about it. And the fact that someone would "want something done" about this sort of harmless silliness is scary, especially when that someone is going to be in the legal profession., it's a good thing I found out about this before I started my "Henry Higgins Society"...I don't think there are very many men who have studied that U.S. v. Jaycees case who haven't wanted to fly a test-case like that.

P.S. That above deleted comment was this comment, but with typos. Next time I'm going proof-read before I post.

Anonymous said...

A bunch of FedSoc members are trying to get a Men's Law Caucus at SU Law School! Equality for all, not just the textbook defined insular minorities.