The Women’s Bar Association of Maryland writes to express its views regarding the July 17 posting by The Daily Record titled “Girl power on the bench” and The Daily Record’s response to date. Like many others who have written, including the National Association of Women Judges, we were dismayed that The Daily Record would introduce an article regarding women achieving positions in judiciary with reference to “girls” and a photograph of the Spice Girls. You have received many letters detailing the manner in which the article was offensive and insensitive, and we will not repeat those points, although we do agree with them.
The WBA was heartened, however, by The Daily Record’s prompt, appropriate response. By removing the posting and publishing an apology acknowledging its demeaning nature, The Daily Record took an important step toward rectifying its error and demonstrating that, no matter how well intentioned, certain types of characterizations are simply unacceptable.
We understand that you are considering a joint workshop or program with the National Association of Women Judges to address some of the generational differences that may have led to this unfortunate lapse. The WBA is very supportive of this proposal and would welcome the opportunity to participate.
Women’s Bar Association of Maryland
The Women’s Law Center joins the chorus of articulate and passionate voices that have already written to express disappointment, coupled with a good bit of dismay, at The Daily Record’s demeaning and disrespectful use of references to the Spice Girls in its recent blog post about women judges. While the post rightly recognized Maryland’s success in appointing women to all levels of the judiciary, it did so in a deeply problematic and offensive manner.
Women judges in Maryland are intelligent, professional and capable. Like all judges, they earned their judicial positions based on their sterling educational credentials, their successful tenure as lawyers and their commitment to the fair administration of justice free of bias. Unfortunately, these women have had to overcome the gender bias that historically pervaded the legal profession. The Women’s Law Center is very proud to count many of these impressive judges among our founders and supporters. To equate these powerful, accomplished women to pop culture icons is inane and exceptionally ill-advised at best. At worst, the blog reflects the marginalization and trivializing of women’s accomplishments that is the unfortunate byproduct of a still sexist society.
We recognize that online content, such as The Daily Record’s blog, often features a lighter tone. However, The Daily Record has an obligation to exercise diligent editorial oversight to ensure that its content does not cross the line from frivolous to offensive. Bloggers must be held to journalistic standards, particularly when the blog is written by a staff member of a reputable, professional news source such as The Daily Record. Surely it was predictable that the article would generate the well-deserved firestorm it has.
The Women’s Law Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. While we have made much progress in asserting women’s rights and celebrating women’s accomplishments over the past 40 years, blog posts like this one make it clear that we still have work to do.
L. Tracy Brown
The Women’s Law Center of Maryland