Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pink Alienation

I didn't know if I would be brave enough to blog this part of alienation as a law student, lawyer and even law librarian in a law school environment. I wussed out below, but here it is.

During the professor's colloquium presentation that began this whole series of entries, she spoke about her students coming to her. They spoke of issues that essentially turned around alienation from a heavily male, patriarchal system, law, in a heavily male, patriarchal system, law school. She noted that the systems had changed very little over her 30 years teaching, despite the dramatic changes in proportions of female students in law school. Women are very aware, especially early in their careers and as students, of how terribly vulnerable they are in such a system. They become alienated, and tend to deal with that in two ways. One group denies their feminity, and become one with the masculine majority. That seems safer because then, they are not the hysterical females in studies, they are not the females in cases who lose over and over in the Women and the Law class. Others seek for a sub rosa support group.

Everything she said woke in me an answering voice. All the time I was in law school, and working as a lawyer, and even in my early career as a law librarian, I dealt with my discomfort with the system by denying my femininity. I was one of the guys. Even when I was pregnant (which was really wierd.) Talk about being alienated! I was alienated from my very self; and this is why rediscovering a comfort level with pink and femininity is so important to me now.

I am sure that female law students are not the only ones so deeply alienated by the system that is in place. Gay law students, sensitive guys, any square peg trying to squeeze into LAW's relentlessly round hole probably feel the same sense of alienation. As law librarians, this is one special service we can offer. It was certainly one thing I found and valued in the law library at University of Kentucky: a place of refuge, a sense of solace. The librarians are not sitting in judgement, are not giving out grades (usually) or socratic questions (usually). Most librarians are welcoming and kindly folks, and come like balm to wounded souls.

We can more consciously make our libraries into refuges for the square pegs of our law schools. We can offer a place for people who do not fit, to be more themselves. It will not work for everybody, but it will help a few folks as they pass through. And maybe, after, 20 years or so, they will shed the shell they built, and be reborn!

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