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Should Female Legal Academics Blog?

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14 Responses

  1. John Armstrong says:

    Brooks describes gendered challenges to academic success. The most salient is the time many women spend engaging in caretaking and housework — to the detriment of scholarship.

    This is a step shy of repulsive. Why in this day and age is “caretaking and housework” a gendered challenge? If (one assumes) married male legal academics ask their wives to take on the housework so that they can both blog and do “more serious” research, why cannot married female legal academics ask the same of their husbands?

    Have we truly only come from “a woman must choose between career and family” to “a woman must choose only two of career, family, and hobby”? Just because of the observational fact that “women—including women employed full-time outside the home—still do far more ‘care-taking’ than men” doesn’t remotely mean that any given woman must go along with the norm. In fact, I’d lay money that a woman who has the drive to enter legal academia in the first place is already much less likely to accept such an unfair burden at home, if she marries and bears children at all.

    The problem is not in blogs themselves, it is in the prospective academic who refuses to take what she deserves, which in the case of a mother includes asking for help caring for her children just as a male academic with children asks for help caring for them when he needs to.

  2. FP says:

    1. I’m a bit puzzled by Leiter’s critique, as reported here. (I’m afraid I haven’t read it yet.) Must one be a “first-rate scholar” in order to have something relevant or important to say? Couldn’t a “second-rater” have a good day and, say, point out some assumption in an argument that “experts” in the field are unable to spot simply on account of their immense familiarity with the field? Might a succession of such “good days” eventually transform a “second-rater” into a “first rater?”

    Certain the power of rhetoric may well depend on the reputation of the speaker. But I would think reasons should stand on their own, regardless of who speaks them.

    2. Given these concerns, I am a bit closer to Yochai Benkler’s views on the internet’s democratizing impact on relevance and accreditation mechanisms. To the extent that women have been marginalized by less-than-democratic or opaque modes of evaluation, that should be a healthy development. And to the extent women’s views are discounted b/c of implicit or subconscious biases against the feminine, the dematerializing aspect of the medium (i.e., no one knows if I am a man or a woman who is writing this) may help neutralize that disadvantage.

  3. John,

    I am with you to some extent — I think both men and women need to challenge the norms which would presume that women bear a greater burden of childcare and house work. As someone who has benefited enormously from a spouse willing to be primary caretaker of our children at various times, I also think more women should seek out men who expressly eschew traditional gender roles. That being said, it is a great deal easier said than done simply to abandon the rigors and demands of childcare. I also think that even with an egalitarian partner, Brooks’ discussion of visits and regular travel raise important questions. For these reasons, I think it is worth thinking about whether blogging justifies the time spent.

    I think this is an interesting cultural moment where the balance of work and family — and gender difference — is in flux. At the height of the second wave of feminism, few feminists would have written with any acceptance that women are more likely to spend time on family. That idea would have been met with the repulsion you describe. But I think the assumption that many women want to abandon family responsibilities as easily as your tone suggests is being contested somewhat. A quick note — you claim that “a woman who has the drive to enter legal academia in the first place is already much less likely to accept such an unfair burden at home, if she marries and bears children at all.” Brooks cites data from a study of economists — are legal academics likely to be so different? And I don’t think I like your suggestion that we are unlikely to “bear children at all.” That brings us back to the bad old days of choosing between work and family. Likely you were probably writing quickly (and still responding to your repulsion)and didn’t mean to suggest that women legal academics are unmarriable or not likely to have children.

  4. notwithstanding that Mr. Leiter kinda legal blogged to diss legal blogging, his posting also seems of the self-serving type. He laments the overal lack of quality control for legal blogs because first rate scholars may not blog as well as the second-raters. From the tenor of his post, I’m assuming he considers himself a first-rater and can therefore unquestionably identify others of his ilk better than the market at large…(which, in a nutshell, is modern-day liberalism)…and Bob Shrum is probably considered a first-rate political advisor even though his team never wins…

    I was especially struck by this line:

    “The most visible and highly trafficked law-related blogs have one, and only one, thing in common: they were started relatively early in the “blog boom,” that is, in 2001 or 2002. (Many, but not all, also tilt noticeably to the right.) Latecomers, like the Becker-Posner Blog or the University of Chicago Law Faculty Blog, which generally have much higher intellectual content, get nothing like the traffic of the early arrivals.”

    Tilt to the right?? Which ones are those? He is certainly not talking about Concurring Opinions which I gather is one of the more popular legal blogs out there. As to the Chicago Law Faculty Blog, it’s less than a year old and if it’s as good he says it is (and from what I’ve read over there: not bad, rather predictable, nothing extraordinary) it’ll take off…of course, now that Mr. Leiter is visiting at Chicago this fall, maybe they’ll let him play on it and really boost those unfairly low numbers.

  5. Bruce Boyden says:

    I think Leiter’s concern is primarily that blogging as a source of information about legal scholarship is prone to manipulation or distortion due to the influence non-law-prof audiences — students and journalists — have in identifying meritorious scholars. Put differently, blogging could cause lock-in on suboptimal professors due to network effects (a/k/a availability cascades). I still don’t buy Leiter’s argument, though, for the reasons I stated in this somewhat long and dry comment over on Prawfsblawg.

  6. The first mover right-leaning blogs with a lot of traffic are the Volokh Conspiracy and Professor Bainbridge.com. There may be others, but those two generate huge traffic. Concurring Opinions is a very good blog, but it is a bit player in terms of relative readership. bh.

  7. John Armstrong says:

    Prof. Godsil,

    I want to be clear that I didn’t say it’s unlikely that female legal academics will marry and have children. I meant that they are less likely than the population at large. There are so many reasons that the statistics of the female population of the United States in general is completely inappropriate for analysis of female legal academics that you may as well ask about how 1900′s Prussian women behaved. It’s a red herring.

    On the other hand, maybe the Pocket Part illustrates the point that internet-published articles are not held to academic standards and so women end up wasting their time on them rather than properly researched and reasoned articles in print journals. This article being a case in point.

  8. NJLS says:

    Rachel,

    I think you are right in concluding that the answer to whether female academics should blog is largely tied to the overall success of blogs becoming a legitimate form of scholarly debate.

    You noted that “…the challenge for those not already in the club is to find vehicles for their work to be read. Once it is read, hopefully it will be judged on its merits. If Leiter’s view is widely shared, blogs will not prove useful alternatives to conferences or visits.”

    In a similar vein, Leiter derides “Sextonism” which he describes as “a disease familiar to law faculty, in which a good school suddenly lapses in to uncontrolled and utterly laughable hyperbole in describing its faculty and accomplishments to its professional peers.”

    Deriding self-promotion brings about the same results that you highlight with respect to his derision of blogging — namely, it tends to protect the schools already part of “the club” of elite law schools from competition from lesser known, but on-the-rise, schools. To the detriment of the legal community, both arguments tend to mitigate against a elements of meritocracy in the legal academia.

  9. Ann Bartow says:

    John Armstrong wrote:

    On the other hand, maybe the Pocket Part illustrates the point that internet-published articles are not held to academic standards and so women end up wasting their time on them rather than properly researched and reasoned articles in print journals. This article being a case in point.

    If you want to take issue with particular assertions Brooks has made, that’s one thing, but this sort of glib, nasty insult is unfair and inappropriate.

  10. Garrett says:

    Answer: Absolutely not.

  11. Just a girl says:

    Mr. Armstrong either has not read the article excerpted by Rachel, or he is willfully misunderstanding it, or he is just obtuse, or maybe all three. Brooks isn’t arguing that it is never possible for women to get their spouses to share the household work. She’s arguing that for many women, that often turns out to be harder to accomplish than you might think, despite 40 years of feminist effort. And as virtually ever woman knows, it’s not so easy for women to just say no to family responsibilities. Easy for a man to propose it: he’ll never experience the particular social pressures Brooks is discussing.

    In the end, Mr Armstrong’s comments nicely support most of Brooks’ points: he proves that sexist stereotypes still live and thrive (his assumption that women law professors won’t have kids or marry is lovely) and he very definitely proves her point that the legal blogisphere is not a “safe space” for women. A woman writes about barriers to women in legal academia and the blogisphere—another woman posts on the issue with concern—and all he can do is sneer and hurl baseless insults? Thanks for helping to create a hostile environment, Mr. Armstrong!

  12. Just a Manly Manly Maaaan! says:

    Brooks cites data from a study of economists — are legal academics likely to be so different?

    I have no idea. But, I suspect, you have no idea, either. This is just question-begging. I was recently given a link to a study of male economists that showed they were less likely to flush the toilet than other people, because they had no incentive to. (Apparently, male economists do not have noses.) I recollect from one of my law and economics courses that behavioral economics studies showed that in many situations, it is only economists — or those trained in economics — who take the rational path, while others operate on a intuitive sense of fairness. So while it might be true that if female economists won’t ask their husbands to help out with housework, any other woman is less likely to — it isn’t at all a good argument that female economists are going to be just like female legal academics without training in economics.

    And I don’t think I like your suggestion that we are unlikely to “bear children at all.”

    I think John Armstrong is correct that women in law school are less likely to bear children than women in the general population, simply because of the correlation between advanced education and childbearing. I don’t mean to be snide, at all, but unless you are claiming that women with law degrees do not count as highly educated, I don’t understand your argument.

    John Armstrong: On the other hand, maybe the Pocket Part illustrates the point that internet-published articles are not held to academic standards and so women end up wasting their time on them rather than properly researched and reasoned articles in print journals. This article being a case in point.

    Ann Bartow: If you want to take issue with particular assertions Brooks has made, that’s one thing, but this sort of glib, nasty insult is unfair and inappropriate.

    I suspect John Armstrong was neither misogynistic nor rude. He was offering a witty counterpoint to Prof. Godsil’s sly use of herself as an example. Prof. Godsil suggested that it is hard for female legal academics, even with egalitarian spouses, to raise children; after all, she is one who would know. John’s point was that a conclusion opposite to one Prof. Godsil’s had drawn was possibly true, and, after all, she is one who would know. If you don’t want to be attacked as a counter-example, don’t vouch for your own arguments! (And, I would know, because I was taught that in law school by a wonderful female professor!)

  13. Should Have Used Preview says:

    Hmm, I should have written “inverse” correlation. Oh well.

  14. Shazia says:

    This Female Legal Academics Blog is very useful.

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