And, she's "easy on the eyes"...

The blog post that helped to push this blog in its new direction is this one--specifically the subsequent comments. (Thanks to Feminist Law Professors for the tip).

In it, the PrawfsBlawg welcomes the addition of a female law professor as a permanent blogger and the third comment (from someone purporting to be male) regarding that post is: "New permaprof is easy on the eyes as well."

To which Professor Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Professors replied: "I was going to wish you good luck even before reading that bit of assholishness. Now I wish you good luck more emphatically still."

At that point, the proverbial shit hit the fan. Some, all of whom were men, aside from a lone female who seemed to take the opportunity to solicit comments regarding her own appearance (and many men quite happily jumped at the opportunity), alleged that Ann Bartow was a "zero tolerance" feminist and that she overreacted. Others supported her comment and its basic premise--that the initial comment was uncalled for and unnecessary--and sexist.

And, someone else suggested that if you post a picture online, then comments on your looks are fair game.

The obvious questions that came to mind as I read the post and its comments:
  1. Was the initial comment improper, and if so, why? Was it harmless? Was it sexist?
  2. Was Ann Bartow's response over the top?
  3. Does a professor who posts his/her photograph online as part of one's online profile (as seems to be the custom for most professors) invite comments regarding his/her looks, no matter what the context?
As for the first question, I thought that the initial comment was totally improper, uncalled for, and irrelevant. It was inherently sexist and served to highlight one fact and one fact only--that Professor Orly Lobel, accomplishments and credentials aside,had a vagina, and that he, the male commenter, could conceivably (and apparently quite willingly) have sex with her. He may have just as well said "Who cares about her mind? It's her reproductive organs I'm interested in." And, no, it was not harmless. It demeaned and denigrated her. And, yeah--I think it was sexist.

As for the second inquiry, I think that Ann Bartow's reply was perhaps a bit harsh, but appropriate. Could she have been more judicious? Maybe. Should she have been? That's debatable.

As for the third question, I don't think that comments upon one's looks are "invited"by posting a picture of oneself--especially not when it's posted in a professional context. Belle Lettre has an interesting take on this issue, which was posted both at her own blog, Law and Letters, and at the Feminist Law Professors blog.

Of course, my take on this is not the end all and be all. What do you think?


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