Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hair Flip and a Giggle

It was not until I saw About Last Night (it happens about a minute into the preview of the movie)  that I realized the hair flip was an official female move. Thinking about that and the recent events at my school concerning possible sexism (see below)  made me recall when I first started law teaching over 35 years ago. I was on a large faculty that was nearly all men. Some of the women  relied on what I then called "Perky" to get along with the men. Part of perky was animation, hair flipping, bobbing around, and laughing at anything a man said that was within ten miles of funny. The hair flip queen of those days is now a VIP.

 I both disliked the perkers and felt sorry for them.  I disliked them because it was hard to be perky as a man.  Men who did not go to elite schools who were just as discounted as women had no similar tools. Somehow bobbing around and giggling led to being an outcast. No amount of hair flipping could overcome second rate treatment.  I felt sorry for them because increasing I realized the men on the faculty were eating it up and this was -- whether consciously or not -- a way to be noticed, to be invited to a conference (as a junior attendee, of course) or get one's name on an article or case book, (as a  junior author.)

Thanks goodness that the hair flippers and gigglers are now almost extinct and, as best I can tell, women in legal education, if no where else, get a fair shake. Of course, I cannot know if it is equal treatment yet but all indications are that it is heading that way with the exception of one possible worry I will address below. Even better is that the number of men susceptible to the hair flip has greatly declined. In fact, a colleague the other day expressed anger at a hair flip move by a female colleague. "Who does she think I am that that would work with me," he said.

While I happy to see the suppliers and demanders of the hair flip decrease it is not completely gone. Plus I have another worry that may or may not be justified and it may be that the events at my school are indicative of reason to worry. Recently blogs tend to announce with some fanfare when a woman has been appointed dean. It occurred to me that the case may not be that women have risen through the ranks to become deans but that the position itself has been demoted in the eyes of some men and women making it OK to "elevate" women to a thankless position. The outcome is that when the women try to assert the authority that men holding the job in the past did or just expect equal respect they are viewed as out of line, easier to criticize, and quick to be judged. Whether it is because they are women or because the job itself has been demoted, I do not know.

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