J.D. Candidate 2015, UCI Law; Special thanks to those who contributed quotes and articles.
Last year’s Vagina Monologues themed issue of the Voice discussed why UCI Law students need feminism. In the past year numerous laws, decisions, and events have been passed that deeply impact women’s lives. Some of those events are discussed below to illustrate the work that still needs to be done. It’s clear from these that the need for feminism has not diminished in 2015. Here are the stories:
- Misogynist extremism motivated Elliot Rodger to kill six women and injure seven others in Isla Vista.
- Gender and racial bias is present in faculty mentoring. A recent study measured the response rate of faculty to student emails with the same content. Women and minorities were less likely to receive a response and were less likely to receive a positive response. The study concludes that white men continue to receive academic privileges.
- Voter ID laws have been shown to disproportionately impact women, especially women of color.
- Gamergate: the internet culture war that devolved into a mob of online trolls who threatened women who speak out for inclusion in video gaming. The threats were specific and included enough personal information to force targeted women to go into hiding and cancel public appearances.
- Six transgender women of color have been killed since the beginning of 2015.
- In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped approximately 300 Nigerian schoolgirls. Since then, Boko Harm released 158 kidnapped women and girls. The remaining girls are still held captive and have been forced into marriage.
- The gender pay gap still Women earn 78% of men’s earnings. African American women are paid 64% of what white men are paid. Hispanic and Latina women are paid on 54% of what white men are paid.
- California is the only state to ban the use of a “trans panic” defense. The panic defense supposedly justifies injuring and killing transgender men and women because the defendant was reacting to the fear of romantic advances by a transgender person. This means that in the other 49 states an accepted legitimate defense to murder is “trans panic.”
- Young children, primarily girls, who are victims of sex trafficking are often arrested and charged with prostitution. Only twelve states have passed safe harbor laws that allow law enforcement the discretion to put the children in “child in need” proceedings rather than in juvenile delinquent proceedings.
- Over 60% of employers admitted they would discriminate against women who do not wear makeup.
- In the past year many new laws have been passed that greatly affect reproductive rights, including unconstitutional abortion bans, targeted restrictions on abortion providers, bans against nonsurgical abortions, biased abortion counseling that includes mandatory scripts that doctors cannot alter, and reducing access to preventative health care, including birth control.
- Currently at least 38 states, including California, have fetal homicide laws. The issue with such laws is that they are often applied to women’s detriment.  One woman in Indiana was convicted of feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, facing up to 70 years in prison, for suffering a miscarriage.
- Women are constantly judged on their dress, mannerisms, and speech. While men are similarly judged, many women get docked for what are considered feminine traits, including higher pitched voices.
- There are over 50 colleges currently under investigation for mishandling sexual assault and sexual harassment cases. When schools do not follow procedures for handling sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, students are less likely to report violence and often face consequences that the perpetrator avoids. For example, a Columbia student carried a mattress around campus to protest that her rapist was still attending school.
- The Eighth Circuit decided that an employer can lawfully terminate a female employee for breastfeeding without it being sex discrimination because some men can lactate. In other pregnancy related news, a Georgia judge refused to approve a lawyer’s motion for a continuance, which was filed because she was on maternity leave. Instead the judge critiqued the lawyer’s parenting skills.
If we can agree that the need for feminism persists, does that mean we can agree on what feminism means? Do we need to? We’ve asked members of the UCI Law community to submit their definitions of feminism, and no two people had the same definition. Our differences in perspective on the very meaning of feminism is important—feminism is an ideology of equality that evolves as we do. Here are some UCI Law definitions of feminism:
“Feminism is the radical notion that all human beings are equal” – Jonny and Amy Lieberman
“Feminism is intersectionality” – Kristen Burzynski
“Feminism is about freedom to be me, a woman.” – Professor Katherine Porter
“Feminism is a legal method that can be practiced by men and women who wish to attend to the gender implications of rules, consider multiple perspectives on legal problems, and collaborate to create knowledge by exploring common and different experiences of life events.” – Professor Catherine Fisk
“Feminism is fighting subordination in all of its forms and manifestations” – Professor Kaaryn Gustafson
“Feminism is consciousness” – Annie Lai
“Feminism is being called a “boss,” not “bossy.”
Feminism is not attaching the condition “for a girl” to every compliment we’re given.
Feminism is also asking men how they will juggle work and home.
Feminism is not qualifying my career as a “great woman” anything.
Feminism is sexy!”– Alison Chabot
“Feminism is a way of viewing the world that pushes me to consider and question the relevance of gender (Hey! Let’s get gender-neutral bathrooms on UCI Law’s campus” – Ginger Grimes
“Feminism is the advancement of equality between women and men, girls and boys. Feminists seek to empower women and girls in all sectors of society.” – Dean Liz Schroeder
“Feminism is fighting back” – Andrea Diaz
“Feminism is the beginning. Feminism is beautiful. But feminism must evolve. Feminism must be every woman and not just the women society favors.” – Itohan Okogbo
“Feminism is a powerful methodology and its authority and influence will draw from a willingness to continuously confront and struggle with its past. This is what I hope for feminism” – Professor Michele Goodwin
“Feminism is choice” – Professor Patricia Cyr
“Feminism is the ability to make choices whether they comport with or contradict social or cultural expectations arising from traditional delineations of masculinity and femininity and have those choices be equally respected, such that we build communities that are free from physical, emotional, psychological, economic or other violence or disparity on the basis of sex or gender.” – Namita Thakker
“Feminism is self-determination” – Sean Garcia-Leys
“Feminism is the insistence not that men and women are equally capable, but that every individual is entitled to have their capability assessed without regard to their gender.” – Dean Ann Chernicoff
“Feminism is not making assumptions about my character based on the presence of my vagina.” – Amy Lieberman
“Feminism is actively rejecting the notion that it is my wife’s responsibility to leave work in order to care for our daughter and other family needs.” – Andrew Campbell
“Feminism is the recognition and celebration of individuality. Modern society has become too progressive and too interconnected to not take full advantage of the talents and abilities of half its population. I have seen too much beauty and met too many decent people in only twenty-four years to believe that I am supposed to live in a world where a person is viewed as a sum of their physical parts rather than a physical, intellectual, and spiritual whole. It is amazing how much our female ancestors accomplished living in a proverbial box. Now that women have taken great strides outside of that box, to me, feminism requires making the statements and taking the actions necessary to preserve a woman’s right to individuality and autonomy.” – Jenaun Aboud
“Feminism is everything” – Sanjana Rishi and Jonathan Healy
Let’s not forget, “Feminism is the equal treatment of women and men …. and it’s so hot right now” – Francis Yao
 For an example of North Carolina’s law see http://www.southerncoalition.org/nc-women-voters-heavily-burdened-by-new-voting-restrictions/
 For an overview of the state laws see http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/fetal-homicide-state-laws.aspx
 For an excellent overview of fetal protection laws see Michele Goodwin, Fetal Protection Laws: Moral Panic and the New Constitutional Battlefront, 102 Cal. L. Rev. 781, August 2014.