When I was in fifth grade, my teacher had a policy that girls were not allowed to play in the football games at recess. I derailed class one day to argue that her policy was unfair. I don’t remember what happened. I didn’t want to play football. I still don’t know how to play football, and I don’t care. But I was beyond outraged that a teacher made a blanket rule that girls couldn’t handle playing football and needed to be blocked from participating, apparently for their own safety.
The idea that women are a special class of human that need protecting is embedded in our culture, and as Emily Bazelon explores in New York Times Magazine, the gains that women have made in our society have not wiped out this concept from our laws. She outlines what Justice William Brennan called “‘romantic paternalism’ which, in practical effect, put women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.” There used to be laws restricting women’s work hours that didn’t restrict men’s, or keeping them from jobs like bartending or working at night. Unsurprisingly, this condescension manifests today in restrictions on abortion rights: Continue reading “Thanks but no thanks: women don’t need your “protection””
This week, Kalief Browder’s all too brief life came to an end when he committed suicide. If I had greater faith in this country’s position as a moral bastion, I wouldn’t be able to believe his tragic story. Kalief, just 22 when he died, was held in jail for three years without trial starting at the age of 16 for stealing a backpack, a charge he vigorously denied. He suffered in jail all that time partly because his family could not afford bail, and after all that his case was dismissed. He spent about two of those years in solitary confinement, a practice that most reasonable people recognize as torture. The conditions he faced were reprehensible: Continue reading “Kalief Browder, Timothy Tyrone Foster and the failures of the criminal justice system”