February 16, 2009

Call For Papers


CRN No. 9 (Gender and Legal Education)


May 28-31, 2009

Denver, CO


Roundtable: Teaching Gender Inequality in Law Schools

Conversations about gender and sexuality in core law school courses are often focused on equality—constitutional doctrines of formal equality meted out by high courts – rather than underlying causes, effects and forms of inequality. Law students are rarely asked to consider if inequality itself is undesirable, and whether law has a role in perpetuating, creating, resisting or eliminating it. While these concepts are foundational in most sociology or anthropology programs, they are not central to the law school curriculum, especially in the first year.

While there is no doubt that court cases eliminating legal barriers to gender and sexual equality are important for all law students to learn, the conversation is impoverished if they are the only vehicle used to examine gender, sexuality and other intersecting forms of inequality in a typical course of law school study. Teachers of today’s generation of students also must grapple with the fact that gender inequality looks different to students than it did even fifteen years ago. The generation of women entering law school—the beneficiaries of equal opportunity to education under Title IX and employment under Title VII – are members of a community in which young women have excelled. Many of them do not perceive gendered inequality operating in their lives. This creates a displacement where students who are interested in women’s rights are more comfortable examining the inequality of women in exotic foreign locales (such as inequalities suffered by Muslim women, victims of sex trafficking or of mass sexual violence). At the same time, however, they are slow to recognize the structural nature of gendered inequalities that persist closer to home. They may be quick to dismiss their own anxieties as problems that can be overcome by making perfect individual choices. Students interested in eliminating the inequality of the LGBTQ community might perceive that inequality more starkly, but still often lack the vocabulary to discuss questions of law, power and sexuality outside of the bounds of formal equality.

In the climate of change created by recent critiques of legal education, roundtable participants will take up the question of how social scientists and law teachers can become allies in the creation of materials, techniques and strategies to teach law students about the gender, sexual, and intersectional inequalities in the U.S. legal system and culture. Possible topics might include: innovations in legal pedagogy; strategies for exploring gender and sexual inequality in core law school courses (e.g., contracts, torts, criminal law); whether the training of lawyers should include an apprenticeship of identity and purpose that has at its core a commitment to reducing inequality; teaching techniques for reinvigorating courses on discrimination with more nuanced and sophisticated understandings of how structural inequalities play out in the lives of lawyers and their clients; exploring the role of experiential and clinical education in both fighting inequality and teaching students about its nature; incorporating questions of how law enables corporations and consumer culture to create and perpetuate gender inequality into law school teaching; and addressing inequality created or sustained by culture and religion in U.S. domestic as well as international settings.

If you would like to join the roundtable, please email Daniela Kraiem, CRN No. 9 Organizer and Associate Director, Women and the Law Program, American University Washington College of Law at kraiem@wcl.american.edu with a brief paragraph describing your interest in participating in the roundtable by February 25, 2009.

LSA roundtables are generally informal discussions, guided by the questions and themes raised by the panelists. Panelists should be prepared to offer 7-10 minutes of remarks, followed by discussion of roundtable themes. If you are already on two panels at the LSA, I can’t add you as a formal participant, but would love to have you join us as an active member of the roundtable.

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