Women Working. Abuse vs. Discrimination: Illustration & Analysis


In my last post, I described what it was like being a young female practicing law where my clients often assumed that I was either a paralegal, secretary or something very much less than a credentialed licensed attorney.  The facts and evidence that I was an attorney did not matter: I was wearing a suit, explaining complicated and/or technical legal concepts to my clients, and vigorously advocating for them in court, and still many of them at some point in our interaction would ask “So when is my lawyer getting here?”

I wrote about this experience in the context of my own work history as an unskilled worker where I was often verbally and even physically abused or neglected, including being subjected to sexualized harassment, overwork and dangerous working conditions; condescended and talked-down to; and generally dismissed and degraded for being a young female as well as a “worker” and unskilled worker under capitalism and patriarchy.  My objection to this treatment was not based in “worth” or status-seeking, rather, I found this obvious abuse so troubling and so damaging that it negatively impacted my ability and willingness to work at all and therefore seriously undermined my ability to support myself and therefore to survive.  Because I was young, inexperienced, uneducated (and not yet a radical feminist) I had assumed that I was being treated poorly at work because I was young, inexperienced and uneducated and I concluded therefore that getting educated, gaining experience and aging would be the solution to the problems that I had identified and that I could transform (improve) my experience as a worker by transforming (improving) myself the best I could.

In the end, I found working as an attorney to be a humiliating and unsatisfying ordeal that did not solve the problems I had identified with being a working female.  But why?  I was no longer literally sweeping up after men, I wasn’t being aggressively treated like shit like I had been before.  As an attorney, I never had a client or some middle-aged greaseball (or 19 year old punkass) supervisor who smelled like dirty underwear simulate cunnilingus in my presence or spit “My way or the highway” in my face for the slightest perceived transgression, where under capitalism and patriarchy both actions function as rape- and death-threats.  So I had that going for me.

So what exactly was I expecting by becoming a lawyer?  To be treated like a queen?

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