Friday, September 28, 2018

It Feels Extra Bad Being a Woman Lawyer This Week

I love being a lawyer, which isn't something you hear lawyers say very often.

I’ve been a lawyer for a long time. Long enough to be confident but not too confident. Long enough to mentor many newer lawyers and law students. Long enough to have made my share of mistakes and had some 
sweet victories, too.

I love to problem-solve within the framework of statutes, regulations, and the constitution. I love helping my clients and I love doing pro bono work for causes I care about in my free time. I love how the law provides a rational model for problem-solving, and the way it teaches you to think. I love working with my brilliant colleagues (many of them women) and also many kind and wonderful men.

But there’s no doubt that practicing law is still very much a man’s game, if not overtly then certainly implicitly. I can cite a million examples of how this manifests itself, but I don’t have the energy to catalogue or describe them all. And honestly, I’m too afraid to anyway.

Which I think is why the Kavanaugh debacle feels extra depressing and raw. 

His juvenile, entitled wailing temper tantrum tore the mask off an institution we are trained from the first day of law school to respect and revere. Watching a female prosecutor be deputized as a mercenary instrument of male cowardice in order to install Brett Kavanaugh there over credible allegations of sexual assault was chilling. I will never forget what that looked like, the internalized misogyny of voluntarily agreeing to use your law degree and expertise for that. 

For that.

Arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court is a career milestone most of us never have the privilege to achieve. It is the court of last resort for our most treasured civil rights. Because it has the ultimate power to interpret the federal constitution, it is quite literally the guardian of our democracy.

And what we saw this week shows us more clearly than ever that our democracy is not safe for anyone but rich, entitled men who went to Yale or Harvard. Of course this has always been true; nothing about Brett Kavanaugh's strident blubbering changed the country overnight.

But something inside of me died this week, professionally speaking. I guess you could call it the last vestige of faith that our third branch of government will be a reliable shelter from the abusive relationship women are now in with our government. 

Your institutions will not save you. That's what they say about a democracy in peril. We saw that axiom actualizing in real time.

What am I supposed to tell my summer interns? The young female lawyers I've mentored? I don't have any words for them; for what this completely non-judicious stage five nuclear meltdown means for the future of a court they are supposed to venerate. Whose precedent we rely on to advise our clients and make decisions every day. Whose words we parse and study and apply with rigor.

How many times can I call my Senator, a woman and a lawyer herself? She can’t (or won’t) save us, either, I don’t think.

Practicing law while female has always been an uphill battle. That battle just took on a new and brutal dimension. God only knows what happens next.

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