Vol 12, Issue 11
During the mid-semester break I was approached by a friend from De Minimis to write something for last week’s Women's Edition. I declined this invitation citing my belief that I did not think a special edition was needed just for women, or if there was to be a women's issue I would hope we would have a corresponding men's issue.
I am proud that female students are in the majority at MLS and during my time here have been well represented on student bodies such as the LSS. However, what we need to realise is representation does not equal recognition or equality, something that has really hit home to me recently. With that in mind I think it is profoundly important that De Minimis sets aside editions for males, females, people of colour etc. so that a body of work can be presented to the student body at a single time that says these issues are important and deserve our unreserved attention.
As an ambitious female I have rarely until recently felt inadequate purely for being a female, this is despite being in many male dominated environments throughout high school, undergraduate study and the workplace. However, most recently I have witnessed, and been a subject to, a culture perpetuated by some male students at this law school who I can only assume are intimidated and scared by the intelligence of their female counterparts.
During this semester many students have been busily applying for Clerkships and Internships. This is a stressful time where students are busily refreshing their emails, preparing for interviews and checking that Whirlpool Forum. Trolls on a forum was one thing I expected, however witnessing students belittle and play one another off against each other is something despicable and ought to be frowned upon. Unfortunately, this behaviour has taken place right here in MLS.
Whilst the perpetrators could be either male or female and the victim either male or female, I have specifically witnessed male students making female students feel unnecessarily anxious, uncomfortable and left questioning their self-worth throughout this process.
I have witnessed male students make demeaning comments about what female students wear to networking events, disparaging women in the course and demeaning them as lesser. Speaking with friends, I’ve come to realise that many of us have experienced male peers in the cohort specifically commenting on the performance and behaviour of female students in a way that they would not other men, with many of the comments turning out to be inaccurate and seemingly made to make those female students feel inadequate and unsuccessful. That is, instead of accepting their own shortcomings, these students sought to sabotage the hopes of others, particularly of female students. I do not purport to claim this behaviour is explicitly targeted by males at females, however the instances I have been privy to unfortunately share this feature.
At the same time, I have found great support amongst male friends who have stood up to those who have behaved unacceptably and have supported and encouraged myself and others to call out these people.
Whilst the scenarios I describe above are limited, law school is tough, and we don’t need people going out of their way to make life more difficult for others. I want to take this opportunity to remind us all that we have a collective duty to do our best to stand up to comments and behaviours designed to make others feel inferior. Whether it be a group assignment, an LSS Competition, sports team, club or society, all comments that are misogynistic, homophobic or otherwise designed to hurt, should not be tolerated. We have a collective duty to ensure people at this law school feel safe and comfortable, as no amount of safe spaces or student welfare services will help if we are too afraid to confront the issue head on and call these people out.
This is the work of a JD student
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