by Diane Rufino, October 4, 2018
Last night I watched an episode of Ally McBeal that had quite an impression on me — season 5, episode 16 (“Love Is In the Air,” Part 1). In that episode, the firm assigned Nelle to a very important case involving the wrongful dismissal of a female employee. She was set to go against the notorious court femme fetale, Liza “Lolita” Bump – a bitchy, young, flirtatious, sexually inappropriate, feared, AND yes, extremely successful attorney, and the attorneys at the firm feared the worst for Nelle. And so, Nelle and Ally felt the need to seek the assistance of the best trial attorney they know, senior partner John Cage. Cage, at that time, had requested to step back from trial work (to become “of counsel”) but expressed willingness to help where absolutely necessary. Hearing that Nelle would have to go to court against the notorious Liza Bump, Cage agreed to take over the case. It was the details of the case that spoke to me; it was the attorneys’ closing arguments that left an impression.
Holly held a management position at a production company. She was fired because she refused to attend a company-sponsored seminar, titled the “Bully Broad Program,” which her boss had recommended to her. He recommended she take the seminar because he found her “too tough” and because the male employees who reported to her found her to be unlikeable and therefore they didn’t want to work with her. Holly sued, claiming discrimination (no male had ever been asked to take such a program) and improper termination.
At trial, under questioning from Liza, Holly’s boss testified: “Holly is a smart woman. But for men to refuse to work with her was a problem. Holly’s problem. I was trying to help her address it. I sent three other female executives to this seminar and they all thanked me for it.”
The rest of the testimony went like this:
Liza: “Did you ever send men to these camps?”
Boss: “No. I haven’t had complaints about the males.”
Liza: “So a man can be a tough boss, but not a woman?”
Boss: “A boss has to be able to motivate, not alienate.”
Liza: “You didn’t answer my question. Is there a double standard?”
Boss: “Perhaps. I can’t change that, but I can deal with it.”
Liza: “By dealing with it, you mean making the women become softer… helping them to be liked. They would be liked by being softer?”
Boss: “Well, yes.”
Cross-Examination by Opposing Counsel (Nelle): “Where do you draw the line between being too domineering and too feminine? When should a woman be softer? When does she need this seminar? From my perspective, if she is hated by everybody she needs the seminar.
The next day, a female employee from the company took the stand:
Female Employee: “When it was first suggested to me, I scoffed. The idea of a Bully Broad camp to soften me?”
Liza: “Did you have trouble with employees?”
Female Employee: “Yes, I thought it was discrimination. When a man is tough, he’s a leader. With a woman? A bitch.”
Liza: “Nevertheless, you did go?”
Female Employee: “I did. – And much to my shock, I loved it.”
Female Employee: “It made me realize, I was in a man’s world, trying to be like a man. Why should I be like a man? Who’s to say a woman can’t succeed being like a woman?”
Liza: “Did the program help?”
Female Employee: “Very much. I was better able to relate to my employees and productivity went up.”
Liza: “Even so, to be required to attend a seminar, didn’t you object?”
Female Employee: “Executives are sent to seminars all the time.”
Cross-Examination by Opposing Counsel (Nelle): “The seminar made you a better leader?”
Female Employee: “Correct”
Nelle: “By teaching you to be feminine?”
Female Employee: “By teaching me to use my God-given femininity. The seminar taught me to use my innate femininity.”
Nelle: “You mean being demure?
Female Employee: “Yes.”
Female Employee: “The willow tree can seem submissive, but actually it’s quite strong.”
Nelle: “Did the seminar teach you to cry sometimes?”
Female Employee: “It taught us to use emotion, not conceal it. – Rather than demand, cry. – Sometimes. Do you believe we are the weaker sex? No. We’re stronger when it comes to compassion and empathetic skills. And using those skills- By using those skills, you mean act weak, don’t you? I can see you’re getting frustrated. Let’s examine our goals and see if we can’t find a way to achieve them
The Closing Arguments to the case were excellent. John Cage went first, to defend the right of his client (Holly) to be free from gender discrimination in the workplace:
Cage: “The defendant didn’t seek to make my client friendlier or nicer. No. The goal here was to make her more feminine. Well, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a word for that. Sexism. And this was blatant sexism. He didn’t send the aggressive men off to camp. No, just the tough women. Because women shouldn’t be tough, should they? What message does this send to our daughters? That if you want something, be weak cry for it, act demure? Look at this young woman. She’s an intelligent, competitive litigator. Yet she chose to offer tears in this courtroom as her best strength. That’s what the weaker sex should do, right? Be soft so society will like you. And that is her message, ladies and gentlemen. Women can compete in a man’s world. They can be just as tough as men, and they have the right to be. If society has a problem with that, then the 12 of you need to send a message to society. But if not for society then for our daughters. You tell the young people, like Liza Bump they have the right to be strong. They don’t have to go through life weak.
Liza Bump followed, arguing why women should even have to conform to “a man’s world”:
Liza: “This isn’t about getting women to perform in a man’s world. This is about teaching women that it doesn’t have to be a man’s world. So many women today are aggressive, belligerent, ruthless because our culture values these masculine traits as leadership. Why can’t female traits, such as emotion, empathy, connectedness Why can’t these things be signs of good leadership? As long as we continue to attach such value to dominance and aggression we’re gonna end up with a man’s world, and that is sexist. Let’s place a premium on emotional intelligence on the ability to mediate instead of fight. To feel as well as think. We might not only have a woman’s world we might turn out better companies. That’s what was proposed to the plaintiff, but she didn’t try. She just dropped her gloves, sued and said, ‘Let’s have a fight.’ How manly.”
No doubt, Holly was wronged. She was treated unfairly; she was treated differently than a man would have been treated in the same situation and under the same circumstances. She could see what her boss wanted from his female employees – to conform to a stereotypic version of a woman while being able to use and exploit the nuances of such a stereotyped woman. She knew it and wouldn’t put up with it. She wasn’t going to play the “weak female” card; she was going to compete on equal terms with her male counterparts. And so she sued. She stood up for herself because she knows that our legal system is blind and fair. Lady Justice wears a blindfold for that very reason. Our legal system is blind to race, gender, religion, age, ability, and social status. It doesn’t require less evidence because a woman brings suit; it doesn’t expect less credibility on the witness stand because a woman is testifying; and it doesn’t weigh the merits of a case more lightly just because a woman happens to file it. Holly brought suit not because she was weak but because she believes in equality and believes in fundamental fairness. Equality and fairness are the hallmarks of our Rule of Law.
The Bully Broad Seminar taught women employees to be “feminine”… to be the weaker sex that they were created and intended to be. Men respond better to women when they “act the part.” In dealing with men, women can accomplish as the weaker sex what they can’t accomplish when they try to be tough like a man. Why? Because men respond to women when they act in the traditional stereotypic manner; they are put off when women try to act like men.
This conflict of human nature (How should a woman act? Should she act like a 50s woman or a contemporary woman?) has reared its ugly head in the horrible accusations levied against Judge Kavanaugh. How best will others respond to women, and especially when it involves accusations of sexual misconduct? When she acts like a demur, unsophisticated woman or when she acts like a contemporary strong woman? And that’s exactly what we saw at the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings with Prof. Christine Blasey Ford. She acted like a “traditional” woman (weak, soft, demur, submissive, ditzy, confused, easily exhausted, quickly overwhelmed, unable to answer tough questions, apologetic) and was treated as the weaker sex by those who questioned her. It is easy to see her as a victim when she comes across as weak and vulnerable. It’s easy to believe she could be taken advantage of, right?
Imagine if Brett Kavanaugh defended himself in the same manner Ford pursued her accusations….
But wait, men aren’t supposed to be weak or demur or soft or easily overwhelmed. They are supposed to be the tougher sex, the ones who stand up for their women, their children, their jobs, their good name. We expect them to be forceful.
The reality is, and we saw it on full display with the accusations made by Prof. Ford and her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, is that women need to play whatever role best advances a particular cause. We thought the notion that women are necessarily the “weaker, softer” sex is a thing of the past; that women have been liberated from that stereotype. It’s the age of equality. But it’s not true. Sometimes, women need to be “soft and weak” in order to be effective. It of course depends on what she needs to be effective at.
Being a boss is not a situation that calls for a woman to be weak. Being a lawyer is not a situation that calls for a woman to be weak. Being an activist for social justice and abortion rights is not a situation that calls for a woman to be weak. But alleging victimhood at the hand of a man is absolutely such a situation. Almost instantly, she must be believed. “Believe Women!” is the new protest theme of the left. What that protest theme means is that if a woman merely alleges that she has been abused, she must immediately and without question be believed. How dare anyone challenge or doubt her. How dare anyone try to pressure her for details.
As we also witnessed with the Kavanaugh hearings, and particularly with the allegations made by Prof. Christine Ford, woman are subject to a lower standard of expectation and proof. They would certainly never make up an allegation of sexual misconduct, right? They would certainly never make up an allegation of mistreatment or rape, right?
Because women are weak, they can be expected to be taken advantage of at every possible opportunity, right? Men can’t be trusted to be around them – they look at them inappropriately, they say inappropriate things (or if they don’t say anything inappropriate, it can be assumed they meant something inappropriate), they touch them inappropriately, under the guise of being complimentary, they (of course) are really sexually harassing them with their kind words, if they are nicer to another woman, then they (of course) are being discriminatory and creating a hostile working environment, if they give a woman a drink, they expect sex, if they dance too close to a woman, they are hitting on her, if they happen to speak to a woman while under the influence of alcohol, they have rape on their minds……… this list goes on and on. Men just can never be disinterested around a woman, right?
Women hate to be accused of anything less than being honest. Yet we know that all too often they are dishonest. They are ruthless. They are disingenuous. They are cunning and conniving. Hillary Clinton is one such woman. And they are willing to play the “sex” card. Yet they don’t think men should be given the benefit of the doubt as well, to assume they are honest. Because they have a penis, they are automatically dishonest and unable to control themselves. Never mind that women intentionally put themselves out there as a sexual object; they emphasize their curves, show too much skin, show too much cleavage, wear tight clothing, wear flimsy underwear so that it looks like they aren’t even wearing any at all, make sexual inuendo, flirt, act loose when they drink, purposely try to get a man worked up by the stuff they talk about, post inappropriate pictures on their social media, and the list goes on. One can hardly walk through a mall and not see women’s clothing stores that don’t advertise by displaying sexy dresses and shirts. Some dresses are so tight and so short as to leave nothing to a man’s imagination. And yet, men are supposed to ignore the “window dressing” and treat her like a sophisticated, intelligent woman who is interested in conversation? Some dresses must be worn without underwear. I suppose when a woman wears one such dress, she expects a man, including one who has had a drink or two, to look only at her eyes. Victoria Secret advertises sexy lingerie, bombshell bras (making even a woman as flat-chested as Calista Flockheart appear to be a bodacious double D), and string thongs. Is a man to honestly think that women aren’t interested in putting themselves out there more sexually than need be?
Woman can’t – and shouldn’t – have it both ways. The truth of the matter is that perhaps it is men who are the weaker sex. They have sexual urges far more frequently and intense than women; they have testosterone and a penis, and most importantly, they have an obligation imposed by nature itself, wired into their genetics and biology, to spread their seed and procreate the species. They may be stronger physically, but hormonally, they can be, and probably are, the weaker sex.
The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings should disturb every one of us.
I’m disturbed, first of all, because Prof. Ford made serious and horrible allegations against a man six times investigated and cleared by the FBI without providing any details, without providing any evidence, and without providing any means to corroborate her story. In fact, the persons she listed as able to corroborate her story emphatically denied it ever took place – under penalty of perjury. There is no stronger denial than one accompanied by a legal agreement to serious consequences. (“If you find I am lying, you can punish me for a crime.”). I’m disturbed that charges were levied that are absolutely unverifiable. And I’m disturbed that such unverifiable allegations have tarnished the name and reputation of a man who worked his whole life to build an exemplary ones.
I’m disturbed that Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee continued to hold her as more credible than Judge Kavanaugh even after he produced absolute and undeniable proof of an alibi for the incident alleged. It was Kavanaugh who presented evidence and who presented proof. When a crime or a serious allegation is made, it is PROOF that matters… not facial expressions, not demeanor, not gender, not softness
I’m disturbed that Democrats (and Ford herself) played the “woman as a natural victim” card. It was offensive and reprehensible. How does a party that stands for Women’s Rights and Equality betray both so callously?
I’m disturbed at how viciously, how ambitiously, and how unscrupulously Democrats conducted themselves all for the purpose of advancing Party interests. I’m disturbed at how uncivilly and disrespectfully they treated the process and the hearings, as well as their solemn duty as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (to give advice and consent), for the purpose of advancing their Party interests. They turned the hearings into a damn circus. They protesters they colluded with to disrupt the hearings acted like a bunch of untrained monkeys. Judge Kavanaugh was absolutely correct when he said that Democratic members of the Committee replaced “advice and consent” with “search and destroy” and he was right to accuse them of turning the hearings into a circus. A man who, above all else, displaced the highest respect for law, the Rule of Law, for the Constitution, for government, and for the bench watched those who took an oath to the Constitution make a mockery of all of it. He deserved so much better.
Professor Ford may have had something happen to her at a party back when she was 15 years old (back when she looked like she was 15, braces and all), but making those unverified allegations against a SCOTUS nominee 36 years later, at the 11th hour, under the circumstances that she did and using the persons she used as vehicles for her allegations, and selling herself (a professor, mind you) as a weak, demur, soft, fairly helpless woman was disgraceful.
It’s not a “man’s world” or a “woman’s world”; it’s a world where everyone is treated equally.
Ally McBeal, Season 5, Episode 16 Script – https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=ally-mcbeal&episode=s05e16
Great article, the whole Kavanaugh confirmation has been a morality play. I think Ford’s real trauma happened a few years later, around 1986-1988.