Friday, April 04, 2014

Feminism in a Man's World

I get emails regularly from the incendiary folks at Move On, loaded with them ole fightin' words. I am in awe of the indignation they can summon. Sometimes, it's justified. Others, well, I know there are two sides to every story, and they aren't giving the other folks a chance to get a word in edgewise. That's okay, it's their email.

However, one crossed my path this week that got me thinking. Since I've been down for the count all week with several types of unpleasantness that a lady never mentions in public (the flu, omg, kill me now!), I've been thinking when I wasn't sleeping or otherwise engaged. This email from Move On involved a federal judge in Nebraska, I believe, named Kopf, who wrote a pretty stupid blog about women lawyers and women in general in male professions. I mean, you can be a nitwit, but keep it to yourself.

However, he made one point that had my husband and me disagreeing. His diatribe included an example of a young, attractive female lawyer with "brilliant" attached to her name, who showed up in court regularly wearing short skirts up to "there," and emphasis on her ample bust in her upper body clothing. In other words, she got everyone's attention, but maybe not for the right reasons. What a shame to be thought brilliant as a lawyer, then reduced to a sex object because of one's dress.

My husband thought the judge was beyond sexist. I'm sure he is. But so are about 90% of the male lawyers I know. That's just the way it was.  To establish my bona fides on this topic, let me take you back to the dark ages when I started law school, equipped with the knowledge that my newly minted diploma from a women's college where women ran the show would serve me well. I expected to see women flooding the halls of my newest school. This was the start of something good happening for women in professions formerly restricted to men. (I couldn't attend the University of Virginia in my day, because women weren't allowed to even apply.) I'd been recruited by another prestigious law school for their first class to admit women, but I turned them down to go to my chosen university because I knew they'd started turning out women lawyers in the roaring Twenties.

Imagine my horror when I found out there'd been exactly one to two women in the classes preceding mine. And out of the 100 admitted in my first year, exactly ten were women. All top of their undergrad class. The men included lots of Vietnam air force pilot types who'd been riffed from the service as the war wound down. Imagine my lack of surprise when I took my seat in my first class that lovely fall day, and the man who sat next to me stated loudly "You know, you're taking a spot where a man should be." Only he wasn't that nice about it.

I come from a long line of strong women. Believe me, it was going to take more than that to scare me. However, by the end of the first week, five women were gone. Let's skip forward three years, I've passed the bar I took before I'd graduated, and I'm going to court with my first criminal client. I wanted trial experience, and firms back then didn't let newbies in the courtroom for years and years. A friend and I figured we were more competent than most, we could handle it. We hung out a shingle.

The judge glanced down at me, dressed in my conservative dark suit, Aigner pumps with matching briefcase my parents gave me for graduation, and announced in an off-handed manner, "Young lady, that's where the lawyer sits. Secretaries sit in the back behind the bar."

I politely told him I was the lawyer for the defendant, and he couldn't have been nicer to me from that moment on. I didn't make a big deal about it, because he had never seen me before in his courtroom, and he was invariably polite and helpful to me from that day forward. Judge Tucker was a true gentleman, albeit an old-fashioned one. I had grandfathers like him, I knew the type and knew he wasn't being mean when he told me I couldn't sit at counsel's table.

But you know what? I never dressed to emphasize my "assets," such as they were. Being tall helped when standing in side counsel in front of the judge's high bench, but that was my only physical plus in the courtroom. Never in a million years would I have worn a short skirt or a low-cut blouse to court. Kill me now at the very idea.

If you want to be seen as a professional, dress professionally. Being Southern, I was raised to know that you bought a good suit, a silk blouse, real leather accessories, and only gold or silver jewelry, all discreet and tasteful. Pearls if felt you needed their courage that day in court.  I never had a problem with being seen as anything other than a lawyer, one who wore heels and lipstick, but a lawyer first and a woman second.

So when young women now wear tight, sexy clothes to argue a case before a jury or a judge, I'm not taking their side when they get slammed as sex objects. Sorry. I worked too hard to pave the way for them, and the law is still a landmine of old world thinking in many ways.

I think my disagreement on the topic surprised my husband ( who is a staunch defender of women, being the father of two girls), but he sees my point. I'm just not going to take up cudgels for women with poor taste in clothes and the stupidity to fail to recognize they're not in the courtroom to flirt or make men drool.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Avoiding doing taxes. . .

It's amazing what-all I can find to divert my energy from pulling together our taxes. Well, maybe not amazing, just very telling.

I have carefully read a New York magazine article about a NY cop who joined S&M (and worse, much much worse) chatrooms, where he met men of similar tastes with whom he emailed detailed descriptions about killing and torturing certain women, including his wife. His wife found the emails, promptly loaded herself and her baby on a plane for her parents' home in Colorado, and called the police. The legal issue is: can a person be criminally charged and convicted for thinking and discussing repellent, illegal activity on which no action is ever taken? Accessory before the fact comes to mind as the pertinent legal charge, but if there's no "fact" to follow the "before" part, have the thought-control police acted prematurely? I'm all for setting the scene and arresting the parties as they begin their illegal behavior (sting operations are common, after all), but what if no action has ever been taken and no set date has arisen for the fulfillment of the pre-planning? What if it's all wishful thinking?

Oh Lordy, I'm sounding like a lawyer. But it's a dilemma for our society - can and should we be convicted for our evil thoughts? I tend to the side that God knows what's in your heart, and She'll handle it at the appropriate time. On the other hand (again, my lawyerly side showing its two-sides-to-every issue training), shouldn't the sickos be put out of action well before they can act? Reminds me of the Philip Dick story (and movie starring Tom Cruise) where you could be convicted before you committed any crime that the computer said you might, sometime in the amorphous future.

Catherine Deneuve was featured in another article, photographed in her 70 year-old glory, wearing a black lace teddy, black stockings, and shock of all shocks, a large tattoo in the middle of her back, between her shoulder blades. Catherine Deneuve with a tat? OMGOMGOMG. I feel as if I've missed the cool-older (ahem, cough) lady memo.

Now I really must do something about the taxes. Huge sigh. Maybe after I bake some chocolate chip cookies. . . .

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Whole lotta Love...

I trekked to RIR (Richmond International Raceway) to buy tix for the April race, and look what I found. A very cool LOVE made of tires, helmets, and old fenders from wrecked cars. Had to park and hop out for a picture.

However, I was five minutes late - who closes down a box office at 5 p.m.?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

New bookshelves

I have every Georgette Heyer I could get my hands on! And now, I have them ALL in one place. Oh, happy days...

December 1, 1945

In all the office renovations, I found a pile of old pictures I've never seen before. Thankfully, whoever took this picture labeled it and gave a date - December 1, 1941, at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. The man in the darker uniform is my father, and the woman to his right  is one of his lifelong friends, Betty White, while the next woman to his right is Annette Davis, another lifelong friend. They all grew up together in the army, dated, married other people, but through the years stayed in touch. The man to my dad's left, who didn't make it into the picture, is Jack Featherstone, another boyhood buddy, who was killed in WW II in Europe. My dad served in the Philippines, where he was born.  His VPI roommate was killed on the beaches of Normany. What's amazing about this picture is that all these young cadets, West Pointers and VPI, would enlist in the military right after Pearl Harbor, which was just days away, and they don't know what's coming.

Do any of us? 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More about the shelves. . .

They cover most of the wall space ( three doors and two windows notwithstanding), and all I can say is, FINALLY! After years of storing books in shelved closets (what was I thinking, that books are sugly wetsisters to be hidden?), all my old friends are now easily at hand. I want to start rereading them immediately. This is the upside to an office renovation. The downside is the unceasing weeding through files and files and boxes and boxes of . . .stuff. Why did I think I needed twenty highlighters? And a gross of post-its? If I survive the cleanup, I'm going to lock the door and camp out in here. I love, no, adore, the feeling of being swathed in WORDS. Can't wait to get back to work.

The bedroom closets are going to have to wait.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Movie Trivia and not so trivial

Has anyone seen "Winter's Tale?" Looking for a bit of a romantic flick, my Beloved and I bundled up and trekked through the icy temperatures to see it. I wish I could say I loved it. It's visually beautiful, Lady Sybil from Downtown Abbey (Jessica Findlay Brown) was stunning, and the premise, that there's a miracle for everyone if you can find it, is charming. Will Smith as Lucifer ("Lou" to his top henchman, Russell Crowe) steals the movie.

But my stars - who decided to cut Colin Farrell's hair in such an odd manner? It doesn't seem "period" nor is it attractive. Just odd. Distractingly odd. It was all I could see, and since he's in every scene, I wanted to grab a pair of shears and fix the floppy bangs. Rats. I really wanted to love this movie, and I feel trivial and petty complaining about something so minor, but cinema IS a visual medium.

On another note, Richard LeParmentia passed away at the age of 66, far too young. He was the Empire officer in the 1977 "Star Wars" film who mocked Lord Vader for  his "sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion." He got an almost-strangling as payment for his lippiness, as Vader rumbles that he finds his "lack of faith . . . disturbing."  One of those seminal movie moments.  So sorry to hear about his passing.

We're heading to Roanoke for a play penned by another Hollins MFA candidate in play writing. BEN AND RITA will be performed at the Mill Mountain Theater. If it's half as good as Decision Height, we're in for a wonderful night of original theater.