To the Lawyer Who Called Me a ‘Good Girl’

Editors note: you may have noticed that this piece disappeared for a period of time. This is because the anonymity of the piece was breached, such that the author experienced professional (and personal) push back.

After some time and further consideration, it is the authors view that the only way forward is to continue to confront these issues head on. The point of the piece is not to single out a particular person but to demonstrate the barriers young women (continue) to face in the profession. The decision to take the blog down and re-post it has not been easy. The author fears however that if she waits for a time when her career path is more permanent, her law school debt is paid off (#lol) and she has a network of people who know and understand that she values integrity and strives to act ethically  – the time will have passed.

The  thing is, there is never a ‘safe time’ to challenge the status quo. Permanence, stability and security are fictions if they come at the cost of sacrificing what she believes is the ‘right thing’ for a future that requires tacit acceptance of conduct that makes people feel inferior, and un-safe.

I think we are all under this illusion that things will get easier but do they? The author understand that for some women silence is a survival too and she is not critical of this or  the women who came before her. The author is  not critical of women or men who think this is an in appropriate venue to express this type of   opinion. She is not even critical of people who advised her  to take the blog down. They had her  professional interest at heart. We don’t  however, have to agree.

What   the author cannot accept is that women, to be effective lawyers must be above this type of conduct. What she cannot accept is that strong ethics, integrity and good judgment are in-congruent with the views expressed in this blog. Perhaps you know who she is reader but make no mistake she could be any aspiring lawyer in any city, in an jurisdiction in any province in this country – and that’s the point.

In solidarity and support of the F word in certain situations like the one described in this blog. Dear sir,

You might remember me; I was sitting in Court-white dress, blue blazer, black heels (I know right? I thought I left the nude pair in my office –hopefully you didn’t notice my fashion faux pas –God knows I want you take me seriously). I looked young.  I mean, I was the only person under 30 in the courtroom.  I happen to be the only person under thirty working in this particular jurisdiction. I inherited a baby face and I bear a striking resemblance to Shirley Temple\ Honey Boo Boo. #ThanksGenes

It was probably odd for you, I’m sure. You’ve been a member of the bar for many years, and in that time you’ve seen more and more women join the ranks but still, we both know who rules the roost right? Perhaps my age, my young appearance, and I`m not going to make assumptions here sir, but my gender- surprised you.  We had a brief discussion and I said I would see what I could do to deal with your matter in the next half an hour. That’s when you did it; you reached your hand across the table in the courtroom where I was working, tapped my knee and told me I was a “good girl.” Here’s the thing sir. Fuck you.

Maybe you thought you were being cute, or nice,  or maybe you really thought I was a good girl, but I was in a courtroom, working, working with you actually and let me just say I’m pretty tired of this.

I’m pretty tired of being told that I need to wear more serious skirts to be taken seriously by the guys. I’m pretty tired of people commenting on how young I am.  I’m pretty tired of making a point about how we treat sexual assault  in the legal system and being told that I am a ‘cute little feminist.” I’m pretty tired of being talked over when I’m speaking. I’m pretty tired of standing up and making a point and having a lawyer put on the record that I’m an energetic baby.  I’m pretty tired of trying on a million different outfits in the morning because I’ve become so insecure about how I look. I’m really over going into my mother’s closets on visits home to pull some dresses for the week. You are wearing me down, sir. Men and women like you are exhausting me.

I came into the business passionate about victims of crime, fascinated by the nuances of the law and in the mornings when it’s just me and songza and the cases- in those couple of hours before everybody streams into the office, I love my job. Here’s the other thing sir: I know that with the right mentorship, continued hard work, guided by fairness and communication I will be good at this job. But you’re killing me. I

f you`re reading this and you think, “Ya know.  This isn`t really courteous of you. You need to be more civil.”   Women have endured much worse as they rose through the ranks, it`s just all part of the game.  Well, I`m tapping out. I`mdropping the mic. I don’t want to play. This game is unnecessary. There is absolutely zero reason why women should have to endure this kind of treatment in their workplace. I mean have a little fun right? I can assure you sir, I’m relatively funny. I’ll make you laugh but it won’t be at the expense of my dignity.

It’s weird – Joe Groia gets disciplined by the law society for his ‘lobster trap’ comments but this kind of never-ending, condescending treatment of female colleagues – par for the course. I know my female counter-parts endure this behaviour without complaint. Well, as they say in my generation #ICantEven. I’m not giving up. I’m too stubborn for that. Men and women like you are not going to dictate the rest of my career. I wouldn’t mind sending you the bill for the counselling I’m going to need, the yoga classes I cry through because I really can’t take the stress for much longer or the nights I’ve stayed in rather than going out because I have zero energy left. But sir, I’m not a good girl. I’m a woman, a colleague and sir; I’m going to win this war.

Exhausted but not defeated,

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3 thoughts on “To the Lawyer Who Called Me a ‘Good Girl’

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for sharing, B.

  2. Don Johnston says:

    I got really angry when I read this. So disrespectful. The writer did a great and level-headed job of explaining how it feels to be demeaned and not taken seriously. Lawyers are lawyers, of whatever sex, sexual preference, colour – you name it. The only distinction between them should be about excellence of service, integrity and professionalism. The male lawyer who patted the author’s knee should be suspended from practice for a few weeks. It would give him an opportunity to re-think what happened and avoid it in future.

    B, please hang in there. Don’t give up. You sound like you’ve got what it takes to do the profession proud. We will all be regarded wholeheartedly as equals within your lifetime. (By the way, I’m a lawyer too, male, mid-sixties, embarrassed that men are still trying to pull this crap.)

  3. […] To the lawyer who called me a “good little girl” (Pantyhose and the Penal Code) […]

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