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Archive for the ‘It’s hard to be a woman’ Category

One of the most common internet searches that brings people to our blog is “women who stalk” and we intermittently receive emails from men who say they have been belittled by the police for reporting a female stalker. They wonder if we can somehow help them. (No. We cannot. We typically refer them back to law enforcement in their area.)

Dangerous women are apparently intensely interesting and intensely frightening, as we’ve seen by the number of visits to our posts on women who murder or commit other violent crimes.

Female cannibals “frighten and fascinate”

We will start with the most attention-grabbing headline in our stack of recent articles all about women. Female cannibals. Can it get scarier than that? The Atlantic has an article written by a woman who has been studying female cannibals for the past five years. And yes, she knows that is an odd subject in which to immerse oneself, (i.e., not a good dinner date). The article focuses on how much female cannibals are making their way into popular culture via Netflix and popular (and current) movies. If you would like to sample this fare, you may want to read this article but if you choose to view the films or Netflix shows described therein, please do so with your doors locked and in well-lit rooms. Don’t say we did not warn you.

Babies born to “older mothers” (35-39 years of age) are doing better intellectually

This is a study comparing data from moms of babies born 40 years ago and is research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR). These turn of the century (circa 2001) newer “older mothers” are more educated, less likely to smoke, and are established in professional occupations. These tend to be women who were actively engaged in careers before motherhood, which naturally is different from women who gave birth as teenagers or young adults. The children are likely to receive more resources and attention from parents than children born to women of this age range 40 years ago. You can learn more at Science Daily.

Video games influence sexist attitudes

The debate used to be over whether video games caused violent behavior off-line but this article says that video games are encouraging adolescents to be more sexist. The researchers studied more than 13,000 adolescents (aged 11 to 19) who spent about 3 hours a day watching TV and almost 2 hours a day playing video games. (We are not told how much time they spent doing their homework.) Instead of measuring how sexist the content of the games played were, the researchers asked a simple question and asked the gamers to say how much they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:

“A woman is made mainly for making and raising children.”

Those adolescents who spent more time playing video games were more likely to agree with this statement. Before you go wrench the controller from your adolescent’s hand, we think you should also know that other video game research suggests that people remain calm as the world ends, so at least we have that.

Is this black woman the next Steve Jobs? Venture capitalists are withholding funding

This is a story worth reading. Here is a woman (who happens to be black) with credentials, accolades, and a free financial literacy product that is badly needed and yet having trouble getting funding. Why? Maybe because she is a black woman.

“Steve Jobs revolutionized the computer industry, the way we listen to music, and how we make phone calls. Angel Rich wants to revolutionize financial literacy education and level the playing field between those who have money and those who don’t. But she’s playing on an uneven field. Jobs was a white man and Rich is a black woman.”

Mindfulness meditation helps women with negative emotions more than it helps men

Usually these “hard to be a woman” posts are filled with things not so uplifting (if you are a woman) but here’s a nice finding for women (and some recommendations on how it might be made more helpful for men). If you have not heard of mindfulness meditation, you are quite unusual, but here’s a Brown University report showing that mindfulness meditation has stronger self-reported benefits for women in “reducing the intensity of negative emotions” than it does for men. A more detailed summary of the study is posted over at PSMag.

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Resting Bitch Face’ is, in case you missed it, the condition of having a neutral facial expression that people perceive as sour, unpleasant, and generally bitchy. Long before was RBF was a thing, a woman in my graduate school class told me that professors often thought she was angry because her face carried a flat expression when she was thinking. “It’s just how my face is!” she protested. Years later, allegedly not until 2013 (although it hit the Urban Dictionary in 2011), the phrase went viral.

It is a “real thing” say scientists, is seen in the famous and the not-famous, has caused some to become depressed, is mostly attributed to women but also seen in men, and some say it reflects contemptuousness. There is support for RBF from social media (sort of), it inspires creativity and career advice, and constant social directives to ‘smile’ or ‘be kind’. There have also been multiple (tenure-seeking) scientific studies on first impressions (which includes the impressions made about RBF particularly in women). RBF even resulted in a video parodying all those direct-to-consumer medical ads.

The term has many detractors who do not think it is at all funny (for the most part) and they wonder why women are expected be always smiling and inviting. They say it is a variation on the “Smile honey!catcalls from men congregated in groups as the woman walks by. As the name would suggest, it is a sexist distinction. There are slide shows designed to show multiple other meanings for expressions deemed to be RBF. Detractors also have career advice, decry the constant focus on women expending energy to appear pleasant to everyone, have created posters, have published articles on the costs of RBF at work, and made angry comments about health professionals giving advice on avoiding the RBF expression as you mature.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we actually rely on first impressions when doing pretrial research with mock jurors and have blogged about the importance of the first impression and strategies for being more likable a lot here. But the concept of RBF is not something we’ve discussed, and frankly, it is a dilemma. Gravity and age give all of us a more RBF facial expression. We need to disconnect the initial negative impression some jurors may have formed due to RBF. Some good advice comes from, of all places, the Business Insider:

“I’ve heard people with resting bitch face sometimes tell me that they’ll contextualize it verbally for other people. That they’ll say, “I’m not unhappy with you. I’m not displeased with the situation. I just look this way.” And that’s a really honest way to talk about this facial expression that they’re giving, because facial expressions are so critical to how we perceive what other people are telling us.”

This is just part of the video transcript on the website (with the author publicizing his new book) and this may be a good way to talk to witnesses, or parties, or yourself (if you have RBF). The message is so similar to what my friend in graduate school said to me as we first met, “That’s just how my face is”. Humanizing the party/witness with the RBF can help jurors (many of whom will have RBF themselves) reshape their first impressions of him or her.

What is instructive is that the speaker on the video has a constant grin on his face (perhaps Resting Happy Face) that makes his spoken message much less empowering than the written transcript provided under the video.

When you are testifying in court, interposing a laugh, or learning to ‘force’ a slight lift to the corners of your mouth can negate the ‘resting’ expression that may look a bit sour or unhappy.

Perhaps the best advice to give to someone who is concerned about being observed (and judged for having RBF) is just this:

So listen to me. You do not have Resting Bitch Face. You just have a face. There’s nothing wrong with it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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We have written a lot about how women are treated unequally (which can, sometimes, make it hard to be a woman). Initially, we illustrated these posts with various photos of Tammy Wynette but we decided to stop picking on her for one song (“Stand By Your Man”). So this post illustrates a rough truth (that still exists today) and we are illustrating it with an ironic cross-stitch project.

Researchers wondered if being agreeable (aka ‘nice’) versus being disagreeable (aka ‘nasty’) would make a difference in salary treatment for either men or women. (You know how this works out already.) We should note that the study (using 375 men and women randomly drawn from 1,390 employees) only sampled one company. So, it may not be entirely generalizable. Mmm-hmm—we’ve blogged about this issue before and that study had the same results.

For those that want to know these things, the researchers looked at both objective (e.g., tenure, education, performance reviews) and subjective (e.g., how the individual perceived the fit between their education, experience and performance with their income and professional rank). They also used several research measures for dominance and agreeableness. The researchers compared the objective and subjective data with actual income and promotion statistics within the company.

Let’s just cut to the chase (and you may hum Tammy’s musical lament as you read) and spell this out for you courtesy of a nice summary over at Science Daily.

Dominant and assertive woman (aka nasty) who clearly express their expectations and do not retreat from their demands, are compensated better than their more accommodating (aka nice) female peers.

The same goes for dominant men versus their more conciliatory male counterparts — (wait for it) but even dominant women earn far less than all of their male colleagues, dominant or otherwise.

So, be a dominant and assertive female (aka ‘nasty’ among other things) and you will earn more than your less assertive female colleagues, but the most milquetoast of men will still out-earn you based on nothing but gender. The researchers said something else that was somewhat shocking:

The nice women we polled in our study even believed they were earning more than they deserved. This blew our minds. The data show that they earn the least, far less than what they deserve. And they rationalize the situation, making it less likely that they will make appropriate demands for equal pay. [In comparison, nearly everyone else—nasty women, nice men, and nasty men reported they felt dissatisfied with their compensation.]

From a law office management perspective, this research has much to say about equity, understanding gender bias and gender differences, and how to evaluate, compensate, motivate and retain attorney-associates. The researchers suggest organizational management strategies (thankfully) as follows:

Design evaluation and compensation systems so they are structured and based on objective data (and less dependent on negotiation skills). This may actually help you retain and motivate employees of both genders with varying levels of experience.

Consider being more transparent about compensation so that employees (the nice, the nasty, the male, the female) know what will need to be done to progress in status and compensation within your organization.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this article is that ‘nasty’ women who complain they are not being treated fairly may very well be accurately assessing their situation. There have been many articles on the exodus of female attorneys from law firms. The ABA Journal, Law Practice Today, law.com, the Washington Post, researchers from Stanford University, and countless blogs have written about the issues. The two recommendations from these researchers (indented above) may well help you staunch that (out)flow when it comes to your individual organization.

Biron, M., De Reuver, R., & Toker, S. (2015). All employees are equal, but some are more equal than others: dominance, agreeableness, and status inconsistency among men and women European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 25 (3), 430-446 DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2015.1111338

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timely-tidbits-logoYou are not seeing double. Over the last month we’ve kept reading and reading and reading but many of the articles we read for the blog were fun but just not substantive enough for a full blog post. So. Think of this as the director’s cut version of the blog—full of things you wish we’d blogged on but that are included here for your pleasure and edification.

Women just need to ask for a raise, right? It is 2016, after all!

It is 2016. And yet, managers treat some women differently than they treat men who ask for raises. Women do ask for raises. They just don’t get them—according to a new study summarized over at Pacific Standard Magazine and looking at Australian salaries in 2013–14. The large survey—it features responses from 4,600 workers at 840 workplaces, just over half of them female — asks specific questions about pay raises, of both the requested and granted variety.

Women are 25% less likely than men to receive the raises they request and there is no evidence women do not ask because they are afraid their relationship with their manager will be compromised. It is not that women need to be more assertive. We will leave it to you to think of what this really represents.

Keep yourself from designing in discrimination

Remember that Snapchat filter that got pulled because users said it was racist and mimicked a ‘yellowface’ caricature of an Asian face? Snapchat said it meant to evoke anime characters and removed the filter within hours of uploading it due to negative feedback. Lena Groeger (also writing at PacificStandard) says this is what happens when you don’t have a diverse team working on your products and services—it makes you blind to design decisions that are hurtful or discriminatory to your customers. This is a thought-provoking and easy-to-read article on how we make choices that bring indignity and discomfort to others.

More hairy information

We’ve written about beards, baldness, lumbersexuals, and more on hair that we’ve likely forgotten—but we cannot avoid this study (and we know you would not want us to miss pointing you toward it). Women (says a new study and since it is research it must not be wrong) prefer men with beards when they are looking for long-term relationships. The researchers showed women pictures of men who were either: clean-shaven, had light stubble, heavy stubble, or full beards. Stubble was rated most attractive overall but only for short-term relationships. Full beards were the most attractive when considering longer relationships. The researchers say this is likely because hirsuteness in the form of a full beard “is a signal of formidability among males and the potential to provide direct benefits, such as enhanced fertility and survival, to females”.

Oh man. They were doing so well. Then they gave themselves away as evolutionary psychologists. Admittedly, this blog has a long-standing tradition of poking those psychologists. Sometimes they hit on stereotypes we all apply (like in the “wide-faced men are thugs” research on how we stereotype by appearance) but more often they do ridiculous things like saying men are attracted to women shaped like Barbie dolls and other things our readers just know are totally untrue. For a rundown of the posts we’ve done on the work of evolutionary psychologists see this—and don’t count on the accuracy of women choosing bearded men for their virility and survival skills.

Helpfulness is just exhausting

We’re here to tell you. Being helpful to others is just very tiring. But don’t take our word for it—new research agrees. People who are helpful (on a daily basis) in the workplace are less productive and get burned out. The authors (one of whom summarized their work at Harvard Business Review) offer take-aways for both helpers and help-seekers. We think their recommendations are also useful for managers and human resource personnel as they are concrete, practical, and easy to implement.

Lanaj K, Johnson RE, & Wang M (2016). When lending a hand depletes the will: The daily costs and benefits of helping. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 101 (8), 1097-110 PMID: 27149605

Dixson BJ, Sulikowski D, Gouda-Vossos A, Rantala MJ, & Brooks RC (2016). The masculinity paradox: facial masculinity and beardedness interact to determine women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 29 (11), 2311-2320 PMID: 27488414

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murder-method-by-genderWhile it may be 2016, there are still some judges who view women and men differently even when they commit the same offense. When it comes to killing your spouse—apparently, the difference lies in the gender of the defendant.

Australian researchers looked at the sentencing remarks from nine different judges from trials involving men killing their spouses, and they looked at five trials with women killing their spouses. Sentencing remarks are those statements made by the judge to explain sentences assigned to the defendants who had been convicted of murdering their spouse. The researchers do not identify the gender of the judges but as our fellow bloggers over at BPS Research Digest comment—“the accounts include plenty of references to “His Honor” but none to “Her Honor”.

Ultimately, with male defendants, judges often talked about the man’s character and testimony from employers or community members. They emphasized the man’s suffering and emotional state, and referred to (in those cases where relevant) the anguish, distress, and depression the man suffered when his spouse left him. In one case, the judge blamed the spouse-victim for the conflict (as in, “she started it”)—while the male defendant ended the conflict permanently and violently.

Conversely, with female defendants, judges focused on negative references to the woman’s character (such as being indebted and unable to meet expenses, or being uncaring as to the effect of her actions on her children). Such character concerns were not raised when the defendant was male. Further, some judges described the victim-husband as being a “good provider” or being “honest and hard-working”. In 3 of the 5 cases with a female defendant, the sentencing judge used the word “wickedness” (e.g., “your wickedness knew no bounds”; it is hard to think of a more callous, heartless, wicked person”; “you chose a horrendous method indeed to carry out this wicked crime”).

The researchers comment that these judges see “good men” who kill because of their (now dead) spouses being conflict-initiators (provocateurs) while women who kill their spouses are “wickedly calculating” and sentencing should send a message to prevent other women from getting the same idea. In other words, these things happen when it comes to good men murdering their difficult wives (who likely brought their demise upon themselves). However, when the defendant is female, it is unthinkably wicked, and the sentencing must be harsh to keep other women from getting the same idea.

The authors conclude with this comment, “Females received substantially longer sentences in these cases than their male counterparts. This study also demonstrated that judges expressed more exculpatory remarks for the male offenders while making damning, indeed vilifying statements about the female offenders.”

Obviously, this is an anecdotal study with a small sample size, and no statistical conclusions can be drawn from it. With that said, from a litigation advocacy perspective, it is clear (especially if you are in Australia) that we need continued focus on gender issues in sentencing and on how bias (whether we are attorney, party, defendant, juror or judge) creeps into our thoughts about the crime committed and the gender of the defendant.

Hall, G., Whittle, M., & Field, C. (2015). Themes in Judges’ Sentencing Remarks for Male and Female Domestic Murderers. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 23 (3), 395-412 DOI: 10.1080/13218719.2015.1080142

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