By Patrick Tandy
In recent years, the #MeToo movement has given voice to millions of women worldwide by raising awareness of matters involving sexual harassment and assault. The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Center on Applied Feminism sought to further that discussion by filtering it through a legal prism with its 11th Feminist Legal Theory Conference, held April 11-12, 2019, at the John and Frances Angelos Law Center in Baltimore.
“Across America, the #MeToo movement has spurred women to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment, run for public office, advocate for change, litigate abuses, and build coalitions,” said Margaret Johnson, who with fellow UB Law Professor Michele Gilman co-directs the Center on Applied Feminism. “As a result of this social movement, there are emerging proposals to change the law, workplaces, schools, and family dynamics to decry sexual harassment and assault, and ensure better responses to harassments and complaints.”
In his welcoming remarks, UB Law Dean Ronald Weich noted that the forum, which included such thought-provoking panel discussions as “Exploring Comparative Perspectives on #MeToo”, “Interrogating Intersectional Identities of #MeToo”, “Tackling #MeToo Inside and Outside the Courtroom”, and “Exploring #MeToo Relational Dynamics in the Workplace and Beyond”, was uniquely suited for discussing #MeToo.
“The reckoning is occurring every day, in different sectors of the American economy and different industries and governments around the world,” he said. “There are profound questions about the legal implications, the ramifications, the standards that should be applied.”
The Conference kicked off late Thursday afternoon with an informal storytelling session in which attendees took turns sharing their own firsthand experiences, both personal and professional, with sexual harassment and assault, including representatives of Unite Here, a non-profit union that represents hotel and restaurant workers, who were on hand seeking the Center’s support in the union’s campaign against harassment and assault in the hospitality industry.
In her lunchtime keynote address, renowned DC employment law and civil rights attorney Debra Katz, who represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during the Senate confirmation hearing for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, called hope “the real power” of the intersectional movement.
“The fact that so many women have connection and support and power in sharing their stories and their pain gives me hope that we are capable of doing great things moving forward,” said Katz. “We can make each other stronger. We can make each other braver. We can motivate each other to speak out. We can have each others’ backs. We can be witness to each others’ courage.”
Select content from the 11th Feminist Legal Theory Conference will appear in the a future edition of The University of Baltimore Law Review, which partnered with the Center in presenting the conference.
Read more on the #MeToo movement in the Winter 2019 edition of the Maryland Bar Journal.