Speaking of Women's Rights: If that’s shrill, I want to be shrill.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If that’s shrill, I want to be shrill.

by guest blogger Lindsey Siegel

A friend and I joke about shrill feminist attorneys and how we aspire to be like them. The line comes from a Simpsons episode where famed feminist attorney Gloria Allred shows up at the family’s Thanksgiving. Best known for representing Amber Frey, a witness in the Scott Peterson case, Nicole Brown Simpson’s family in the OJ Simpson murder trial, and most recently Rachel Uchitel, Tiger Woods’s mistress, Gloria has been making waves in the news and advancing women’s rights for decades. In one of her most famous lines, she called the exclusion of an 11-year old girl from the boy scouts “gender apartheid.”

Gloria’s latest appearance came last week when she was interviewed for bigthink.com. In the interview, she explained her philosophy on feminism: “if you are not a feminist, then you’re a bigot.”

I was not too surprised when I started reading the comments to her interview and I saw lines such as “Women have ruined [an] entire generation of fatherless children.” I expect to hear an outcry from those men who’d prefer that women remain second-class citizens—who feel threatened by the power of shrill (read: strong) women. Without meaning to, those men illustrate precisely the point that Gloria is making.

What always gets to me, though, is how many women on these forums seem to be opposed to fighting for equality and who would rather settle for the status quo or even worse, criticize women who are fighting for our rights. My question is: what are these women afraid of? My best guess is that they don’t want to be seen by men as stepping out of line. They’d rather believe the rhetoric, disseminated by such women as Christina Hoff Sommers, that feminism is akin to male-bashing. They’d rather be on the side of those with the power than with the ones fighting for equality.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the successes of women who’ve come before me—we all owe them great homage. But, like Gloria, I’m not ready to simply accept how far we’ve come and let that be the end of the story. I’d rather keep fighting for women’s legal rights and see where we can get.

Lindsey Siegel is an intern at Legal Voice and a law student at the Washington College of Law.