I’m writing from LSAT land, where I’ve been cooped up for the past 7 weeks preparing for my test on September 27th. Apart from getting used to my new schedule (not sleeping or doing anything fun), I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to use my law degree in the future. This thought process seems to be a natural trajectory for prospective law students like myself but given my extracurricular feminist and reproductive justice activities, I’ve mainly been thinking about how I’m going to use my degree to eradicate discrimination against non-white capitalistic heteronormative populations and ensure that the law does what it’s supposed to do: protect the rights of everyone from abuses of power.
I’ve been thinking about this constantly for the past year or so, and my sense of urgency has been exacerbated by just having finished Malcolm X’s autobiography and a succession of events that have raised our collective societal consciousness about the racial terrain in America in 2013/2014, respectively: the murders of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Michael Brown and the societal and media response to those events.
Some other things have happened that have also made me rather anxious to begin law school, specifically, the Supreme Court rulings on McCullen v. Coakley and Hobby Lobby. I was on vacation with my parents the Monday that the Hobby Lobby decision was announced. That evening, my dad and I drove to one of the busier parts of the beach town we were staying in and I went to my favorite bead shop. I bought some cool rainbow beads and some letter beads and some string, and on the car ride home, I made a bracelet that said “Roe Sound,” surrounded by pink beads and red beads and colors that made me happy, just as that phrase does. “Roe Sound” are the two words that Justice Harry Blackmun wrote on a pink memo note on his desk in 1992 when trying to preserve the 1973 ruling that extended the right to privacy to the right to an abortion, a law that was being threatened by oral arguments (and some Justices who were waiting for an opportunity to invalidate and overturn Roe) in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. History almost turned out very differently, which is what brings me to my current mindset. If we are to change the course of history, what time is there to waste in standing for and defending our constitutional rights?
The main reason I’m writing this is because last night on my way home from LSAT class, I was feeling rather despondent about the state of everything. I had also spent the past two days thinking about what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her TED talk: “We say to girls, ‘you can have ambition, but not too much.'” Since I haven’t had the time to formally publish anything over the past few months, on this blog or otherwise, I’ve taken to writing notes and memos on my phone when I think of something. I’ve had a hard time trying to describe sexist or racist or -ist phenomena lately- things that I just can’t put my finger on. Then last night, the lightbulb went off, and I wrote the following:
Women are only allowed to be ambitious within the framework that men create that satisfies and abates their patriarchal guilt but they won’t give us so much that it compromises their position to maintain power. Men primarily concerned with maintaining their power- if they can help it, they won’t readily give it up to a woman by giving credit where credit is due. They give us enough so they can point to those women on top and say that the tokenized visibility of women in power is evident of change, of equality. But it is smoke and mirrors- it is their permissible allowance for entry, their temporary unlocking of the gate that many women still stand behind. It is not so much a glass ceiling that must still be shattered for in many respects, it has been shattered and many women stand with the shards at their feet, looking up at those who escaped persecution, knowing that one voluntarily step forward will immobilize and injure and inhibit because justice is so sweet insomuch as society dictates it based on our skin and orientation and genetic predispositions and sexuality and identity and religion. The glass shards of the ceiling’s rupture lay at the feet of the marginalized. It is not so much a glass ceiling that must be broken but a gate that must be unlocked. We can reach our hands through the bars- we can touch our captors, we exchange the same air and they are all so very close. Only until the patriarchal establishment fully realizes the extent of harm of their injustice and the benefit to society that would come with eradicating it, will women and marginalized populations truly be free.
In sum, the tokenized visibility of women who have made it to the top is a hindrance to women and populations whose identities are not yet digestible to the racist, sexist, white capitalistic status quo. This is not to say that women on top have not worked hard to get there. But their status is being used by the patriarchy as evidence that there is equality, but this is just untrue. You can be visible without being equal. This establishment needs to want to change their attitudes and reframe their thinking because you can’t force someone to accept justice- they must truly believe that is it sound. In enforcing the law, we must also work to change minds and promote acceptance.