Let me be the first to welcome you to this blog spot – a place where myself and my colleagues will discuss issues that impact women in the legal profession. I know we don’t know each other well, but may I be so brave as to ask you a question? Do you have a love/hate relationship with the name of our blog? If you do, you’re in good company. Pantyhose (which were obviously invented by men) are the bane of my existence. They also, unfortunately, have had an immense impact on my perception of myself in the legal profession. In my first year I had the privilege of attending a number of seminars on women and the law. For some reason, which I still cannot explain the conversations would often include a discussion on the ethic of pantyhose and not in a collective rant about how much they suck but in a ‘you should wear them because we notice if you don’t’ kind of way.
At first I thought the universe was playing a cruel joke on me. Knowing my inability to hang-on to a single pair of pantyhose for more than one wear, I was being prepared to budget the enormous cost of buying this death trap every two days. No, I thought, the universe had other things to worry about besides my affliction by hosiery. After much thought, I came to the conclusion that I was in the twilight zone. It had to have been a joke. I walked away from first year thinking, this was an isolated incident. I crossed my fingers, hoping that the rest of my academic career would be without incident, and that my clothing choices wouldn’t be policed by other women, but the saga unfortunately continues. I find myself constantly confronted with advice from career services and professionals on what to wear, how to sound, how to wear my hair, what makeup is allowed and what is prohibited. There is of course a balance, interview advice is great – but this obsession with the female body and the endless advice tells me one thing about women in the profession: we have yet to arrive.
We are still not equal, and worse yet, the stereotypes about women as lawyers, as survivors of crime, as professionals, persist. The impetus behind this blog is not pantyhose; the idea was formed from a much darker place, namely mine (and my colleagues’) experiences inside and outside the courtroom with physical, emotional and sexual violence. It was inspired the day a sexual assault complainant told me the only thing worse than being assaulted was the court system; it is the fear I have watched my friends endure in bringing sexual harassment complaints forward; it is the agony of wanting to name, blame and shame male predators while fearing that it might not be worth it in the end. What brings me to this blog is the hope that one day a culture of fear and oppression can be replaced by one of courage and equality.
This blog aims to confront these issues, substantively and with humor. As proud students at the University of Windsor Faculty of Law, where access to justice is our mandate, we hope to start a conversation with you, the reader, about women, over the direction of the legal profession, the culture of the law school, and the wider justice system – and what we can do to make it better, together.
I think it’s also important for you to know that I stopped wearing pantyhose on my second day of work, but don’t tell my employer, just in case… I don’t want to get fired.