Law School hosts symposium on feminism

A panel presented TED-talk style speeches on of free speech in the media followed by a discussion. FILE PHOTO / THE FLAT HAT

This past Friday, the Law School’s 20 Years of Feminism Symposium featured three speakers who discussed a wide and surprising range of topics, from abortion-related Supreme Court cases to mail-order brides.

The staff of the William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, one of the journals published at the Law School, hosted the event. The Journal publishes one issue per semester and hosts a symposium with the publication of each issue.

“Our end of the year symposium is where we invite speakers who we published to come back and speak,” Georgia Maclean, a 2L law student and staff member of the Journal, said.

This year’s symposium marked the 20-year anniversary of the Journal.

Originally, four speakers were scheduled for the event, Maclean said, but one speaker had to fly out of Virginia early due to Thursday and Friday’s inclement weather.

The first speaker, litigator Linda Jackson J.D. ’94, wrote the introduction for this year’s edition of the Journal. Jackson was one of the founding members of the Journal. Her speech focused on the discrimination the Journal first faced; many of the staff members were called “feminazis,” Jackson said.

Despite the criticism, Jackson and the other founders continued the Journal.

“It’s easy to make those kind of statements,” Jackson said. “It’s less easy to come up with an educated, organized journal piece.”

Jackson compared the criticism the Journal originally received with the backlash celebrities have received over feminist statements, such as Emma Watson’s speech in front of the UN and Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech on wage inequality.

The next speaker, Marcia Zug, was an author and law professor at the University of South Carolina. She also mentioned Arquette’s speech to introduce her unique stance on the issue of mail-order brides.

“A lot of it had to do not with disagreement for [Arquette’s] idea,” Zug said about the backlash. “But that there was a feeling that her feminism was not everyone else’s feminism…For the future, the definition of feminism has to be more expansive.”

Zug then went into a discussion of the subject of the book she is currently writing, Buying a Bride: From Mail Order Brides to Cyber-matches. Mail-order brides, according to Zug, could actually be beneficial to the feminist movement.

The practice of mail-ordering brides can allow women to improve their station in life .

“This allows them to actually sell their marriageability, rather than their bodies,” Zug said. 

After Zug’s speech, the staff members of the Journal were allowed fifteen minutes to ask questions and debate their stances.

Jessica Arons, the president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, also spoke at the symposium. Arons attended the William and Mary Law School and has since worked as an activist.

Arons’ speech covered the major Supreme Court cases regarding abortion, starting with Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Arons encouraged the law students to get more involved with activism.

After the three speakers gave their presentations, they joined a discussion panel. Law students and other guests wrote and submitted questions, and once those were answered, the panel answered any remaining questions from the crowd.

A main issue that the panel addressed was how to remain involved with feminism while still in school. Zug said students often do not realize the inequalities of the working world.

“When you’re still in school or maybe law school…it might not be ‘til later in life when you realize not everything is the way it should be,” Zug said.

Shana Oppenheim, a 2L law student and next year’s editor-in-chief of the Journal, agreed.

“It’s important for women and men in undergrad to get involved with women’s issues when they can,” Oppenheim said.

Oppenheim said she also encourages students to attend more events and talks at the law school to learn about activism.


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