BY JENNIFER CARTER
THE “STUDY ON Women’s Experiences at Harvard Law School” is out, and the verdicts are already coming in. Professor Elizabeth Warren said the study was a “slam dunk,” and Professor Heather Gerken called it an “indictment” of the law school and expressed her hope that concerned students would “raise a ruckus.” Well, here goes.
It’s outrageous that these gross disparities have gone undocumented for so long. Consider the following study findings:
Class Participation: Although men and women get called on in class about equally, where the Socratic method ends, it is women who have taken advantage of law school’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to silently hone their FreeCell skills. The injustice runs deeper, though: Men are 144 percent more likely than women to be gunners and to feel the scourge of their classmates’ ridicule. Being a gunner has also been linked to other fates, such as arm fatigue, dry mouth, and Saturday night loneliness. Further investigation is needed to uncover the systemic causes of Gunner Syndrome and why it disproportionately stigmatizes and demeans Harvard’s men.
Time Management: Women participate in significantly more extracurricular activities despite spending the same amount of time preparing for class as men do. This calls for collective action: Men must be liberated from the oppressive grip of the PlayStation and freed from the sexist X-Box culture that robs their time and energy.
Leadership: In addition to being overrepresented on the mastheads and executive boards of Harvard’s legal journals, women dominate the Legal Aid Bureau and the Board of Student Advisors and have for years. Since BSA instructors interact with the campus community far more than do Law Review editors, it is high time that we confront this problem head-on, perhaps with a series of front-page Record stories on the persistent gender gap at BSA.
Quality of Life: Men are more likely than women to say they wouldn’t attend law school at all if they had to do it over again. Strangely enough, they’re also more likely to see themselves billing 2700 hours at a firm ten years from now. Women, on the other hand, experience fewer regrets and have the good sense to expect to leave the firm well before then. Men are trapped in a system that is a poor fit for them, and we must question that system.
Self-esteem: Not surprisingly, far more than 20 percent of men rated themselves in the top 20 percent of their classmates in categories including legal analysis, quantitative reasoning, and oral argument. Sadly, there’s nothing less attractive than the overblown machismo of a Harvard Law student. (No wonder women aren’t flocking here.) As a law school, we need to reflect on and reconsider which personality traits we value, and to create a community in which both the cocky and the shy are treasured and cultivated equally.
Until this seminal study, far too little attention had been paid to the plight of men at Harvard Law School. The students behind the study are to be commended for their courage in doing what HLS would not do: cast doubt and shame upon the school’s “old boys’ club” reputation. For too long women have come to Harvard and been told that they should feel oppressed, victimized. Now they’ll know better.
Although alternative perspectives on the study have been expressed in the pages of this newspaper, although no one quite agrees where these problems are located, and although we’re even less sure what solutions might be best, the call to action is clear. We need more change. We must act. Now.
So let’s talk about it some more.
Jennifer Carter is an HLS 1L.