"Girlfriends of the Court"

Blawg Review #320 – A Call to Arms

In Advocacy, amusement, blogs, Diversity, women on May 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The Maid of Orleans and Women In Law: An Allegory

On this day in 1429 Jeanne D’Arc pulled an arrow from her own shoulder and returned, wounded, to lead the final charge thus ending the Siege of Orléans. Who was this heroic and infamous woman, and what is she doing in BlawgReview #320?  

If ever there was a symbol of leadership and sacrifice in the name of duty, it is the story of Joan of Arc. Living in an era during which women had no place at all in public life, she led French resistance and died doing so, having been tried and convicted of ‘insubordination and heterodoxy’ on 30 May, 1431. Read on…Joan of Arc challenged the norms of women’s roles in a way that would still raise eyebrows today.  Having heard the voice of God throughout her youth, she continued to attempt to have her own voice heard by the authorities, eventually succeeding and taking charge of the French army – the youngest commander of a national force ever.

Her attire and choice of hairstyle were of particular note to those who persecuted and prosecuted her.  Indeed her adoption of male garb was an attempt not to be raped, occupying as she did an unfamiliar feminine role in a man’s world.  Yet it was her refusal to wear a dress , that resulted in her conviction for heterodoxy.  At the same time her intelligence and wit were on display during the lengthy but arguably unlawful legal proceedings that resulted in her conviction and execution.  That she was posthumously granted noble honours, transmitted (unusually) through the female line, exemplified the extent of her influence. Her 600th birthday is celebrated this week in France, with the town of Orleans holding a Festival in her honour.

Insubordinate, heterodox, incredibly brave, smart and sassy whilst pushing the boundaries of fashion, we are inspired by Joan of Arc and her story as an allegory for for women lawyers and justice for women.  Following Antonin Pribetic’s BlawgReview #319 at The Trial Warrior on the bicentennial of the statehood of Louisiana, and the anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803, we salute the Maid of Orleans’ leadership by presenting a selected round up of blogging women lawyers and their posts in the last week (plus a couple of surprises) all inspired by St Joan.  Like Jeanne herself, women legal bloggers step up to give voice to their experiences and those of other women.  Whether they talk about law, justice, women’s issues, culture or their private life, these voices resonate with conviction, courage and humour.

Joan’s Sword

Joan’s Sword

I wrote to the prelates of the place that if they please I should have the sword and they sent it to me.

First letter of Joan of Arc to the English

Some 600 years after Joan of Arc’s struggles, gender issues continue to arise in dominant legal and political culture prompting a call to arms (see the genderpocalypse readinglist).   This theme is taken up by the NWLC Blog  which looks at the so-called ‘war against women’ in the US, presenting a number of different issues – a list that is mounting in the political and legal sphere.  In doing so, this blog breaks down the strictly legal/non-legal dichotomy that ignores women’s real experiences and the potential for social and legal justice.

Justice is the theme of Australian blog Raw/Roar whose latest post sees contributor Ana Australiana dancing for equal pay. Not lawyers, but a collective of ‘left and feminist [Australian] writers’ the women in this collective – revolutionaries, community workers, intellectuals – embody what it is to be at the interface of women in the public sphere.  While not writing on the law per se, implicit in this blog is the impact of law on the lives of women as well as a model of discussion and activism around social conscience and justice.  Channelling the Maid, if ever we’ve seen it.

Revolution of course occurs in many spheres, including in relation to freedoms we in the West may take for granted.  Saudi Women Driving keeps us up to date on the struggle for such freedoms in the Middle East.

Meanwhile in the African blogosphere OSISA rallies support for a fascinating Open Forum that ranges from “Funding Africa’s Development to the Politics of Sexual Pleasure, from Exploding the Myths about China and India in Africa to a New Generation of Artists and Activists Talk Politics”.  In Patheos, Fatou BenSouda, who will soon take over as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is profiled; her religion, leadership role in Gambian law and politics, and inclusion in the Time Magazine ‘100 most influential people in the world this year’ are noted.

Joan of Arc explaining her generosity to the poor and indigent.

“I have been sent for the consolation of the needy.”

Raising awareness of the experience of human trafficking likewise gives voice to women’s experience.  An issue relevant globally but impacting particularly on women and children, Human Trafficking Law by Wendi Adelson looks at legal, political and personal issues around human trafficking. Trafficking Monitor reports on Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, who has just completed a visit to the United Arab Emirates. The Special Rapporteur commended the UAE for its commitment to fighting trafficking, but noted “the most common forms of trafficking in the UAE are prevalent in sex trade and domestic work for women, and children in some cases, while for men, it is in the labour industry.” She also visited Australia late last year and her official report is expected in a few weeks.

Dr Paula Gerber at the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law blog looks at the news that Australia is to have a national children’s commissioner and observes that  the review of Australia’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN monitoring committee is scheduled to take place in just a few weeks. Over at the Human Rights Law Centre, policy and campaign director Rachel Ball asks: if the Australian government is serious about human rights and the rule of law, why does it treat the implementation of UN human rights decisions as optional?

In a post this week highlighting the intersection between freedom of speech and women’s issues, Women’s Law Project not only looks at the law involved, but explains why the attempt to vulgarise female anatomy offends standards of equality.  Apparently an issue of importance internationally, the Australian Government’s own vagina policy is probed here.

St Joan’s virginal sexuality was obviously threatening to the leaders of the day and sexuality is an intrinsic part of gender.  The Gender and Sexuality Blog looks at the intersection of these issues.  In its latest post, it informs us of the boycott of the Global LGBT Summit in Philadelphia, by a keynote speaker.  Dr Jillian T Weiss at the Bilerico Project notes the seventh year celebrations of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.

A number of blogs this week looked at employment and sexual orientation. It was this week that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that discrimination based on gender identity is workplace discrimination, noted in Think Progress. The ruling is discussed on Prawfslawblawg.  In other news, the Constitutional Law Prof Blog considers whether the South African Sexual Orientation Equality Provision is at risk.

The role of gender in employment features also in Feminist Law Professors this week in a post about gender quotas, as well as the rape shield rule’s application to social media sites. Previous posts such as the plight of the transgendered widow of a firefighter fighting for workers compensation show how the blog is more than just law, crossing into the realm of narrative around women’s lives.

This reminded us of the curious silence over Bradley Manning’s transgender status. Feministing dealt with this issue late in 2011, and this blog also provides a weekly round up of interesting issues.

Joan’s Battles

Joan’s Battles

Consider this unique and imposing distinction. Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen.

Louis Kossuth (19th Century European Freedom Fighter, Hungarian Leader)

Like St Joan, military women continue to battle for recognition.  In Australia in the last couple of weeks, the Land Army (which placed women with farms that needed workers, after men had been called into military service) has finally been recognized some 70 years after its service in World War II.  Australia’s difficulties in recognising the role of military women is exemplified by headlines such as this one on ‘lady killers‘, and the ongoing scandals over sexist treatment within the forces. A review into the treatment of women in the military is now underway.

The NWLC (also mentioned above) pays special attention to military women in the US as does the Women’s Law Project here.

Joan’s Conviction

Joan’s Conviction

There has surely been no more dramatic or horrible trial in history than hers.

WP Barrett

Joan’s trial and execution were travesties of the legal process carried out without transparency or legitimacy, even by the standards of the English in the Middle Ages (not that it was an era known for adherance to the rule of law). Miscarriages of justice are a familiar theme in blogs, this week Carole McCartney of the University of Leeds Innocence Project writes about the perils of reliance on flawed forensic evidence.

Andrea de Sa in the The Princetonian describes the difficult situation facing students who are unsure of their liability if they read the WikiLeaks cables prescribed in their studies. Another case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’? Hmmm, we think Joan knew what that feels like.

The most well known Australian miscarriage of justice trial for many readers, is that of the disappearance of baby Azaria Chamberlain, in 1980, in Central Australia, (made more famous by the movie starring Meryl Streep). Azaria’s mother, Lindy, was convicted of her death, then later exonerated. A 4th inquest was held in February this year, and the Coroner’s findings are expected soon.

Joan’s Standard

Joan’s Standard

Recovering from her wound and seeing the Army in retreat:
“Ha, my standard, my standard!

Flying the standard is a call to represent women’s experiences in the law.  Best Friends at the Bar offers advice for what women need to know about a career in the law, centered on a book of the same name, by the blog’s author. The latest post tailors advice on entering law school for women.  The blog is interspersed with thoughts for the day as well as broader issues for women in law.

For a weekly roundup of news from around the world that ‘challeng[es] the face of the legal profession’, see Ms JD.  The blog is dedicated to the success of women in law school and the profession. Their recent series on the Yale Law Study on Gender is worth following, the most recent post is on the Professors’ points of view.  For a daily roundup of legal news and more, see an inspirational voice for Australian legal bloggers, Peter Black in Freedom to Differ, (and see his BlawgReview #285) speaking ‘freely about law, politics and the internet’.

In a Guardian piece this week, Maura McGowan tells how women barristers in the UK have come a long way.  She was responding to the article by Naomi Hughes on the subtle sexism of the Bar. While workplace politics may still exist, things are nowhere as bad as they used to be.  In a blog with an executive feel The Glass Hammer this week also looks at workplace politics – something Jeanne D’Arc experienced in spades.  This blog is a forum for executive women including in the law.

Joan and Culture

Joan and Culture

“A perfect woman, nobly plann’d, to warn, to comfort, and command;

And yet a spirit still, and bright with something of an angel light.”

William Wordsworth

Jeanne D’Arc has for centuries been an inspiration for cultural expression and in the same vein, so too do women lawyers share their own views on culture.  Law.Arts.Culture blogger Kate Sutherland posted this week on Adrienne Rich (Feminist political poet).

That culture and class intersect is our premise for including ClassBias.  While not legal, and not written by a woman, what woman in law is not interested in the role of ‘acceptable forms of dress and discourse’ amongst other things, that are the subject of this inquiry.  In the latest post we found helpful anthropological notes on the world of make-believe, in what looks to be a dig at the audit culture.

Without segue, we love Danah Boyd at apophenia,who ‘makes connections where none existed’.  Existing in a place part law school, part geek and part communication, this week she shares thoughts on attention economy and the culture of fear.

Joan’s Wisdom [http://nostalgiccollage.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/atc-joan-of-arc.html]

Joan the Intellectual

Joan of Arc’s famous response to the trick question she was asked about whether she was in God’s grace:
“If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace”

The Intlawgrrls provide ‘crisp commentary, delivered at times with a pinch of pink and a dash of sass’: what a perfect fit for our post inspired by Pucelle d’Orleans.  This week’s posts include an introduction of a new and very accomplished contributor, as well as an overview of global feminism and law issues – certainly as promised, ‘fresh dialogue on the matters of the day’.

Feminist legal scholarship is profiled in the Legal History Blog which alerts us this week to the work of Katherine T Bartlett.

For a multidisciplinary approach to women in law, have a look at Skeptic Lawyer   Latest posts demonstrating the breadth of this blog include comment on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s assassination, cluelessness and in the piece de resistance, the beauty of property law.  (No apparent link to St Joan, but a particular interest of one of the authors of this post.)

In a different vein but incredibly intellectual, Brains on Purpose on neuroscience and conflict resolution offers a post on Brain Wars.  A welcome change from fighting the war against women, this post is an insight into the depth of this blog, which canvasses the role of our neurons – particularly relevant to our work, including communication, cultural awareness and dispute resolution.

After conquering foreign lands (a la St Joan?), the Thesis Whisperer will return this week to inspire the intellectual in all of us with her topical coverage of things-PhD and her expansive understanding of higher education and research.  Look at it.

Joan’s Armour

Joan’s Armour

When Joan wore her armour the effect was probably dazzling giving her an almost ethereal glow that further strengthened her reputation as a saint sent by God to lead the army.

Maid Of Heaven 

Joan’s phenomenal military skills not only routed the English, but defied the expectations of the French leadership, which tried in vain to prevent her undertaking military actions despite her continued successful strategies and manoeuvres.  No doubt the French leadership felt confused and diminished by this young woman’s continued demonstrations of her intellectual and tactical prowess. Ultimately, as mentioned earlier, it was her adoption of male attire, armour, and her cropped hairstyle that were of particular note to those in power. In France the ever-popular bob is said to be the coupe à la Jeanne d’Arc.

The ongoing debate [including on this blog] about the whether women in the law should conform to the dominant male legal culture often plays out as a question of what is the correct attire, in court, in the office and with clients.

In Australia, out of the courts but in the public sphere, this has led to an unhealthy obsession with our Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s attire, and ‘femininity’, characterized by outright hostility and calls to violence against her. Whether you agree with Gillard’s politics or not, this level of abuse is beyond the usual robust critique exchanged in Australian political discourse, crossing the line into sexism or worse.  While we’re unsure whether Joan sported hairy underarms or not, we do believe she was probably an expert at spotting misogyny.  For helpful tips on this skill in today’s world, see Clementine Ford’s five clues here.

Now Jeanne D’Arc and the Australian Prime Minister are not alone in their experience of attracting negative comment about their attire, Caveat Calcei reflects on our earlier post on whether clothes make the (wo)man.  She notes her “fatigued surprise to read that the silent dress code police are alive and well and picking on women in the legal profession”.

So clothes can cause you to be burnt at the stake, but can they be fun?  In terms of shoes, Soshoemi’s ‘musings of a lawyer with a thing for shoes’ takes a forensic eye to shoe fetishes.

If you need advice on selecting bag and shoes, Corporette is oft referred to as the leading light in legal ‘lifestyle’ blogs. This week the question of how ‘network with your professors’ to find a job in law is considered, and with nearly 100 comments, they have clearly hit a nerve. .

Previous Blawg Reviewer SouixieLaw (#310) has posted regularly of the problems of the nonconforming goth lawyer in the big city, her latest considers how wearing black keeps you cooler in the summer. We think she is referring to the temperature.

Who are you callin’ a Putain?

Joan of Arc looking up into the Tourelles and calling out to the English commander:
“Glasdale, Glasdale, surrender to the King of Heaven! You called me putain (whore), but I have great pity for your soul, and for your followers.”

St Joan obviously endured a struggle to be taken seriously. This is the underlying message in a recent post on Australian Family Law Blog which provides helpful hints on what to wear to court.  The list of no-nos for court attire includes’ wearing anything obscene’ and ‘dressing like a prostitute’. Some interesting instructions; Jeanne would have sympathised.

Joan’s body

Response after Joan was told she was kept chained because she had tried to escape:
“It is true that I wished and still wish to escape, as is lawful for any captive or prisoner”

Since when did the law control our bodies? Oh. Since forever.  Anyway, taking on the system like a girl-warrior from the 15th century, Sarah Cohen looks at fertility law. (We pause, and consider the reality that there is a law of fertility.)  She challenges the legality of importation of human eggs from the US to Canada and explains why it matters.  With women’s bodies firmly implanted in the legal landscape internationally, this blog matters to all of us.

And on the related theme, the ACLU blog asks ‘Hello Alabama, Can You Hear Us Now?’,  and invites readers to join the “Hundreds of women and men in Alabama [who] are telling the extremists at the capitol to stop playing politics with women’s health”.  Marshall Chambers looked recently at the (Australian) Court’s authority to prevent a woman from terminating her pregnancy upon application by the father of the unborn child.

For women lawyers contemplating their own fertility this week, Maeda Riaz offers some tips.

Joan the woman

Joan the Woman

Joan’s response when asked if she wanted a dress:
“Give me one. I will take it and go: otherwise I will not have it, and am content with this, since it pleases God that I wear it”

In her latest post, a calligraphic saying ‘happy teachers will change the world’, Loi Laing encapsulates her holistic approach to law, legal education and life in general.  An earlier post on the impact of Paolo Freire’s writing on her practice reflects Joan of Arc’s own mission to stand up for the oppressed.

Another woman reflecting that same mission is Marianne Elliot, the ‘Zen Peacekeeper’ and former lawyer who is profiled on Thrillable Hours.  For a discussion of how lawyers learn their professional ethical identity, see Pleagle Trainer’s recent post here.

Where family law meets family life is a theme running through two on our list; Marilyn Stowe in the UK, and in Australia, Alphabet Rainbows.  Marilyn Stowe posted this week on a special event in her life while Kathryn Hodges at Alphabet Rainbows offers a thoughtful piece on the meaning of lawyering and authenticity. While both blogs have a different mix of woman lawyer and private life, each of them represents women’s stories, giving voice to our experiences and the instability of the public/private divide.  Feminism writ large.  As for St Joan?  It took a long time for her voice to be listened to. Ignore women’s voices at your peril.

There are women blogging from within law firms and universities around the world who’ve escaped our notice or the scope of this review.  Of course there have been some notable Blawg Reviews by bloggers such as Dr. Jillian T. Weiss #135,  Stephanie West-Allen with Julie Fleming-Brown #114, Mirriam Seddiq #301, Lucy Reed #290, and SiouxsieLaw’s inspirational carnival of goth for #310.

What we did notice is that it is hard to find alternative voices in the blogosphere, using related search terms law-women-feminist-blogger (etc).  This is reflected in the two tremendous Blawg Reviews #318 and #319 (and see the Trial Warrior’s latest post on Charter rights here), which whilst presenting a terrific array of voices on the law, left open for us the opportunity to investigate blawgs in a different voice.

In pondering why there was such a predominance of male bloggers in the previous two blawg reviews, we wondered whether legal blogging could be gendered.  Is there a gender agenda?  This study asserts that women are significantly more likely to engage with social media than men.  Is it that women lawyers and legal educators are not presenting their voices on blog platforms?  How do we find all those who are?  We don’t have any answers, but would love your thoughts on this.

We very much enjoyed the opportunity to investigate the relationship between women and the world of law blogs, and thank the eponymous Ed at Blawg Review for support and encouragement, as well as some great links. We in turn encourage you to follow the Blawg Review and join the carnival.

It took over 500 years for Jeanne D’Arc to be sainted.  Fortunately you do not have to wait that long for the next lot of blawg reviews.  For details about next week’s host, see Blawg Review and instructions on how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

Melissa Castan lectures in law at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and maintains Amicae Curiae. Her most recent post is a list of Australian law blogsFollow her @MsCastan on Twitter.

Kate Galloway lectures in law at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia and blogs at Curl. Her most recent post is on the ‘truth’ about marriage. Follow her @KatGallow on Twitter.

  1. Nice, very nice! Bravo. And thanks so much for the mentions of both my BR and of my blog. It’s an honor to be included in such a fine edition of Blawg Review.

  2. […] Galloway (James Cook University in Cairns). Joan of Arc Day! #BlawgReview #320: A Call To Arms! https://amicaecuriae.com/2012/05/07/blawg-review-320-a-call-to-arms/ […]

  3. […] in honor of the 600th anniversary of Joan of Arc’s birth, the Amicae Curiae themed their Blawg Review, a weekly carnival of law blogging, around the Maid of Orleans. It opens with a synopsis of […]

  4. […] Blawg Review 320: A call to Arms […]

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