Saturday, March 17, 2012


Women, when working in fields related to law, are forced to hide their femininity. In order to be treated like 'one of the guys', women have to demonstrate they're tough enough to handle demanding positions (and not influenced by pms'ing), such as being a prosecutor, military officer, paralegal, etc. There is no room for softness. At least, that’s how the social media portrays women within the legal world. 

In order to be a part of the legal structure, one must be aggressive, opinionated, and have little to no emotion when in the working environment. Why? Well, it's quite simple: to assimilate to their surroundings (which are male-dominated fields) and in an effort to be seen as equals. Clearly, women have to put more of an effort into simply being considered as “one of the guys”.

Something so simple as clothing, for instance! Men merely have to wear a suit, tie, and nice shoes. Women have the option of wearing skirts or nice slacks, heels or flats. Seems like there really is no problem here, right? They’re just articles of clothing, they really don’t change the way people interact with one another. Unfortunately, they do. Underneath the superficiality of the situation lies the influence that an appearance can have in the work place. Women already are at a disadvantage because of their gender. The preexisting notions that are associated with women such as “fragile, dependent, or emotional,” bring men to automatically categorize women as beneath them. So, an obstacle is already in the way long before women even set foot into the office or field. If the woman wears a skirt, she exerts too much femininity. She may or may not be taken seriously and some women have even acknowledged that they have felt like “eye candy” while working alongside their male coworkers. Still, if she arrives at work wearing a suit, she’s accused of trying too hard.  She’s not taken seriously, this time because she’s not demonstrating any femininity and the men see that as abnormal. Sounds frustrating, doesn’t it?

 Once they have been hired, they have to fight for a status: a well-respected status and that is not always so easy to do. Women at one point in their careers experience sexual harassment, intimidation, and/or discrimination. Because of the gender inequality within law enforcement, women usually do not inform their superiors about these incidents, fearing that they will either be laughed at or ignored. Some just don’t want to portray themselves as the victims of anything (fearing they’ll be viewed as weak) and so they keep quiet.

What’s interesting is that the very reason why men don’t easily accept women into the legal world is the one reason that is becoming popularized in business tactics, military operations, and law enforcement philosophies. Officers/generals/investors have recognized the importance of exemplary communication skills and problem-solving skills. Slowly, they have started to steer clear from the violent/scaring tactics due to the high number of corruption reports and unnecessary force that has been reported in recent years. Companies and states do not like to be liable for the mishandling that occurs at the local level, so what better way to avoid those pesky situations than to have women be the facilitators?

It’s a constant battle to be seen as an equal, and though currently women are still being paid less than men, still experience gender inequality, the fact that women are still fighting in every way they can offers hope for the our future.

The Woman Behind the Legal World Section:
 Christina Ontiveros is an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. She is double majoring in Legal Studies and Anthropology, and is an excellent and dedicated student. She is passionate and loyal; we can all count ourselves lucky that one day she might just be our lawyer! 

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