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Posts Tagged ‘women and law on tv’

Today’s roundtable discussion with Dr Jennifer Schulz, “girls club? Feminism in Law School and in Legal Practice,” was well attended and proved to be quite the hot topic. Discussion and debate were lively, constructive and engaging. Dr Schulz began by speaking briefly about her research interest in how female lawyers are depicted in popular cultural, past and present. Widely known films and TV shows served as stimulating catalysts for discussion: Can Ally McBeal really be considered a feminist show? What does Legally Blonde tell us about women, femininity and the law? Dr Schulz shared some thoughts on a short lived David E. Kelly legal drama, girls club (yes, the official title is indeed uncapitalized, and also served as the inspiration for the name of the roundtable), her writings about which have been published in the book  Lawyers in Your Living Room!: Law on Television (M. Amismow, ed.).  Though girls club’s entire run consisted of only two episodes, Dr Schulz was able to identify certain prominent stereotypes of female lawyers highlighted by the show: a female lawyer may fill the role of either incompetent or bitch, with few or no viable alternatives; and that a success in the career of a female lawyer will necessarily be dispelled by some other personal shortcoming or failure.

There was a general sense throughout the group present at girls club? that we were collectively familiar with these stereotypes not only in fictional depictions of the legal world, but also in our own experiences at school and work. While it was mentioned on more than one occasion that these movie and TV depictions are not necessarily realistic in many respects, the issues identified certainly seemed to have resonance with our real world experiences. As various participants in the discussion shared personal (or near-personal) stories of encountering discrimination, one was left with the feeling that the issues are not only very much alive but also unfortunately pervasive. However,  the girls club? roundtable did not end on this frankly dismaying note; instead, at the suggestion of Dr Schulz, it came to a close with a brainstorming session about what we can do when faced with sexism, anti-feminism or any other form of discrimination in the course of our legal lives. Ideas about collective action and reliance on institutional supports were well received, and undoubtedly deserve further exploration.

* Eli Mitchell is a first year student at Robson Hall. She comes to law school via a philosophy degree at the University of Winnipeg. Her favourite 90’s pop star is Amanda Marshall.

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