Conference Review: Being a Man at the Journal of Law & Gender Conference

BY LIBIN ZHANG

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Your correspondent was originally going to write another article about Professor Bruce Hay, but an attractive registration desk staff suckered him into the Journal of Law and Gender’s “Conference on Legal Education, Institutional Change, and a Decade of Gender Studies.” The conference was Friday, March 10, 2006, 12:30 – 6:30, but, unfortunately, your correspondent did not arrive in time for lunch. Nevertheless, the gender conference was very enjoyable and illuminating.

Your correspondent had actually read the Harvard survey on gender studies prior to attending law school, but was disappointed to find not as much information on the masculine gender. The institutional bias against the male sex continued as attendance at the conference was about 5% male. Your correspondent has not seen as many women since the 2004 Sex and the City Convention: “Picking the Ideal Man: Big, Shaw, Berger, or Petrovsky”. The JLG conference organizers were very grateful for the attending men who lent a sense of legitimacy to a conference that might otherwise superficially seem like feminists raging at The Man.

The scientific literature provides several reasons on why males are less likely to be seen at gender conferences:

1. There exists actual sexual discrimination against men when they try to attend gender conferences.

2. Men have less free time to devote to attending gender conferences, and cannot keep up with their women peers in terms of time pressure. Men are besieged by time demands for shopping, manicures, feeding the children, and Halo 2 Fridays.

3. The most controversial theory of all is that, possibly, women have greater standard deviation than men in the ability to attend gender conferences. Even small differences in standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool. Of course, the average abilities of men and women to attend gender conferences must be equal.

A talk with a conference organizer and Journal of Law and Gender member revealed that the journal really wants male members, but males are wary to join for fear of being assumed to be homosexual. An easy solution is to positively discriminate and place key heterosexual male members in positions of authority to act as role models for other males. Your correspondent’s offer to serve in a figurehead capacity for the purposes of male tokenism and advancing the cause of gender equality was politely declined.

The first panel, consisting of law school deans, mentioned that men are as interested as women in public service work, but people become attracted to corporate law after taking classes like tax and corporations. It is difficult to imagine why people are not attracted to a lifestyle where work and long hours is rewarded with more work and more hours. It is like a haggis-eating contest where the prize is more haggis.

The second panel, consisting of law professors, raised a combined gunner-gender issue: About 10% of the class occupies about 40% of class discussion time, and 80% of that fraction is male. As a result, women feel uncomfortable when speaking up in class. Your correspondent can relate; he felt similarly uncomfortable when he unwisely enrolled in Occidental College’s “Feminism and Philosophy: From Wollstonecraft to Woodhull” class in a misguided attempt to meet women who prefer men. It is admirable to see some professors, like Bruce Hay, proactively call mostly on women in an affirmative action program to raise female class participation.

Gender studies are important to your correspondent because of a long history as a victim of gender discrimination. Many firms address him as “Ms.” in rejection letters, and it is conceivable that the sex misconception played a role in the rejection decision. The result is analogous to the various studies finding that résumés with African-American-sounding names like Shaniqua (Shaniqwa?) and Delwayne have lower callback rates than resumés with Caucasian-American-sounding names like Chip and Dakota. Even more egregiously, your correspondent was inaccurately profiled in a class on racial profiling, where the perplexed professor said, “Is there a, uh, I’m not sure of this, a Mr. or Ms., Zhang?”

The conference concluded with a series of talks by mid-level associates from firms that sadly did not seem interested in recruiting men who attend women’s conferences.

The well-done conference would have been more pleasant if there were more men sprinkled in the women-rich audience. A critical mass of men would dispel notions that the attending men are gay and/or desperate. The time constraints have also prevented the addressing of some topics important to your correspondent, such as unrealistic body image problems from reading Cosmopolitan and Jane, and men’s ID cards strangely working in the card swipes for entering the female bathrooms in Gropius.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next week’s review of the Delta Zeta sorority at Florida State University.

Libin Zhang is a fan of Aleksandr Petrovsky on Sex and the City.

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