… no woman is really an insider

“… no woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness.” Adrienne Rich


This post is actually a comment I made regarding Pierre de Vos’  post on Constitutionally Speaking which you can read here. These are some extracts:

Currently, only two of the eleven judges on the Constitutional Court are women. For a while there were three women on the Court, but in our patriarchal society it is no surprise that this state of affairs did not last.

For the latest appointment the JSC shortlisted five candidates for interviews – all five of them male.

Judges Selby Baqwa; Lebotsang Bosielo; and Brian Spilg are all competent lawyers, but none of these judges have (as far as I can tell) demonstrated any progressive streak or deep insight into the ways in which our legal culture could and should be transformed. Advocates Jeremy Gauntlett and Mbuyiseli Madlanga are both good advocates, but I suspect they suffer from the same deficit than the nominated judges: a lack of legal imagination and daring and a lack of enthusiasm for the transformation of the legal system.

how many of the shortlisted candidates have a deep commitment to feminism and insight into the manner in which seemingly neutral legal rules often promote the interests of men (and male domination) in our society?

I have been fascinated by the studies from Harvard and other well-recognised journals and publications that show conclusively that companies with equal numbers of women on the board, perform better. It’s not that women are better than men – simply that by having balanced boards the company is able to harness different ways of thinking about the world; different approaches to problem solving – it’s like doubling your ability to see the issues at hand. The same arguments should be made for the bench of the Constitutional Court and all courts.

However, in the legal profession, new research is providing evidence that women lawyers are forced early on to abandon their female way of viewing the world and the feminine approaches to problem solving. How? Because the law school curriculum and law firms themselves and the Bar are so deeply mired in a patriarchal mindset that the only way women succeed and climb the ranks in these places is to show that they can adopt a male mindset. This is highly detrimental to the profession because to put it bluntly it means there is no harnessing of this “other” perspective if all the women who make it are thinking and behaving exactly like men.

This is not to say that we don’t need women on the bench! But I think it’s important to add to the debate around how many women are on the bench this issue:   our failure to allow women lawyers to bring their fullest contribution to the profession. The way we educate lawyers actively discourages emotions. As mentioned above, there is now research that shows that these areas of the lawyers’ brain are undeveloped as a result! In other words – there is physical evidence which gives deeper understanding as to why lawyers are referred to as “sharks”.

The CIL is bringing an expert in neuro-literacy for lawyers (accredited by the American Bar Association) to SA in April.  Her name is Pauline Tesler, she’s the founder of the Integrative Law Institute in San Francisco and I’ve written about her here.

I would love to set up a platform for a panel discussion around gender and law while Pauline is in South Africa in April 2013. … I’ll send that out into the Universe and see what comes back.   In this realm I am also working with an Executive Coach specialising in Gender issues, on a programme for law firms, particularly around assisting women lawyers to focus on retaining their ability to think like women but express themselves in ways that men can understand. This is critical for them to succeed in male dominated work places.

Watch this space! Mail me using the contact tab on this blog if this interests you and you’d like to know more.


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