Research

Feminine Wiles in the Courtroom



This week, we learned about sexism in the courtroom, and how women are often accused of using their “feminine wiles” to win cases (see The Atlantic article) . Elizabeth Faiella, a court lawyer in Florida, stated that “at least 90 percent of her courtroom opponents are male, and that they file a “no-crying motion” as a matter of course. Judges always deny them, but the damage is done: The idea that she will unfairly deploy her feminine wiles to get what she wants has already been planted in the judge’s mind.” Worse still, “research has demonstrated that when female attorneys show emotions like indignation, impatience, or anger, jurors may see them as shrill, irrational, and unpleasant. The same emotions, when expressed by men, are interpreted as appropriate to the circumstances of a case.”

As Lara Bazelon, the article’s author, points out, what’s at stake is not just female lawyers’ career advancement and earning potential. Indeed, “[t]he interests—and, in the criminal context, the liberty—of [the lawyer’s] client are also on the line.”