Bond University

Article Title

Womens' Experience in Legal Education: Silencing and Alienation


My interest in gender and legal education grew out of the experience of having numerous women students at Yale law school approach me to confide how they felt silenced by and alienated from their legal education. This was painful on two levels. First, I was hearing their profound expressions of pain, and, as a teacher, I was distressed that they were learning to dislike the law and fight the law, instead of becoming attracted to it. But it was also painful because it reminded me that I, too, had felt that my views were not always heard nor appreciated when I was a law student. I continue to feel this every day, as one of the token women on a law school faculty — and one foolish enough to identify myself publicly as a feminist, thus facing the risks of marginalization to which Catharine MacKinnon has referred. Women students tell me that their classroom comments get swallowed up by what seems to them like a “black hole”; they are completely ignored. These reactions make them feel that they must have said something very stupid — until, five minutes later, a male makes the same comment and suddenly the professor’s reaction is, “what a brilliant remark,” and the point becomes the focus of discussion for the next ten minutes. I knew exactly what they were talking about because this had happened to me as a student; it still happens to me when I try to speak at a faculty meeting or workshop.