The #MeToo movement has highlighted the problem of men wielding their workplace power to sexually harass women, but the issue of gender-based harassment and discrimination is much broader and pervasive than the current media narrative allows.
That’s the takeaway from a new #MeToo Symposium—a collection of 12 essays from leading employment discrimination law experts—published Monday in a collaboration between the Yale Law Journal and the Stanford Law Review.
In what’s believed to be the first partnership between the journals at the nation’s top two ranked law schools, the collection aims to provide lawyers, lawmakers, activists and scholars with a comprehensive analysis of the #MeToo movement’s legal aspects and to expand the conversation about what constitutes sex-based workplace harassment and discrimination.
“This symposium focuses not only on sexualized advances and assaults but also on the many other, even more common ways that harassment upholds workplace sexism, polices gender roles, and limits opportunities at work and elsewhere,” said Yale law professor Vicki Schultz, who authored two of the symposium’s essays.
Excluding women from key meetings; sex segregation and inequality within certain professions like hotel maids; and the harassment of men who don’t live up to code of masculinity are all examples of sex-based harassment that don’t fit into the prevailing narrative that it is fueled by sexual desire, according the contributing authors.
The #MeToo symposium project is also unusual within the realm of legal scholarship because it came together relatively quickly, in response to a rapidly evolving movement. The typical law review takes months—if not years—to get published.
➤➤ Want more reporting on trends in legal education? Sign up here for Ahead of the Curve by Karen Sloan, a new email briefing from Law.com. Each week, Karen examines the transformation of legal education, spotlights innovative programs and breaks down the latest law school news.
By contrast, the idea for the symposium grew out of a talk on sexual harassment Schultz delivered in January at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, three months after The New York Time’s investigation of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment put a spotlight on sexual harassment.
By mid-February, the flagship journals at Yale and Stanford agreed to publish the joint symposium in a special, online project. Scholars who had been contemplating issues surrounding sexual harassment for years felt it was important to move quickly given the issue’s newfound prominence, said Brian Soucek, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, who helped organize the symposium with Schultz. The authors put aside other planned writing projects to meet the tight deadline. The journal’s law student editors also worked hard to get the project out.
“It’s a real credit to the student at Yale and Stanford,” Soucek said. “They’re the ones who pushed up their editing process and were able to complete their exhaustive editing process in a quick amount of time, at a time when they were in finals.”
Six of the essays appear in the Yale Law Journal, with the other six in the Stanford Law Journal. Among them:
- Schultz offers an opening statement on sexual harassment signed by 10 experts in the area that lays out 10 “principles for addressing sexual harassment” and more than 60 proposed legal reforms.
- Harvard Law professor Nancy Gertner writes about sexual harassment in the judiciary and critiques the Judiciary Conduct Working Group’s proposals as “curiously passive.”
- Yale Law professor Ian Ayres discusses several ways to improve the use of nondisclosure agreements to better protect in the interests of harassment victims.
- Incoming Boston University School of Law Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig writes about the overlooked role that minority women played in establishing the #MeToo movement a decade earlier and their heightened vulnerability to sexual harassment.
“We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to affect public policy at this critical juncture,” Schultz said. “The law has gotten some things right, but has failed miserably in other respects. The symposium speaks to both issues.”