Feminism is not just about ‘Leaning In’ and becoming rich and powerful, but also about the women we bring up with us.
So my amazing Feminist Legal Theory professor once said this to a classroom full of soon-to-be female lawyers, and it has stuck with me ever since.
I often wonder how feminism and the law intersect and can coexist peacefully. Not just from a justice standpoint but from a professional one as well. How do we remove the barriers that make access to our profession inequitable?
Our firm's hiring panel is small; I am one of three lawyers that sit on it. The other two lawyers hired me, many years ago, and I am the only female. I often feel like it's my role to advocate for the candidates who do not "fit" the model of what my white-male colleagues imagine a lawyer to be. But does this make me a bad lawyer? A bad model of society, because I am picking someone, who I truly believe has great potential, who *I* think needs me in their corner? Am I falling victim to white-lady-savior complex in my pursuit of equality?
Being a feminist doesn't mean my work stops when the firm hires it's one articling student per year. I don't get to smack my hands together and congratulate myself for "advocacy well done" and phone it in for the rest of the year.
My office - my corner of the world - is emotion friendly. Too often we expect lawyers to be stoic; to carry the burden of other's experiences and stress without consequence. It's bullshit. And I tell every person who comes through my firm "This is a safe place to not be okay. To cry, to rage, to allow yourself to express the emotions so they can be processed and pass through you."
I encourage staff to take mental health days. To learn that the to-do list is never done and that going home when your brain can't brain anymore is more important that trying to trudge through and taking an hour to do a 20 minute task.
And I'm buying tampons and pads this week to stock the firm bathroom, because I believe sanitary products should be available in public restrooms. If this is the only bathroom in the world I can make that difference in I am going to do so.
We think about feminism and the law sometimes as only looking at the criminal justice system. But what we forget is that change of our system starts with changing the people who run it. And if we don't teach them - if we focus too much of our activism externally - we end up raging against a machine that we inadvertently perpetuate.
Feminism is not about the changes that benefit us personally. It is about making the world better for each woman who comes with and after us.