The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Rebecca Bromwich

After Hillary’s defeat: Still stronger together

November 21 2016 21 November 2016

As a mother, and a law teacher of both undergrads and law students, I wondered what I should say the day after the U.S. Presidential election to my children, male and female, and to my students, particularly my female students, who I am trying to help instill with hope while sustaining my own.

On reflection, in the wake of the Trump victory, I am dismayed but also grateful, not just to woman leaders like Secretary Clinton, but also for the collegiality, over the years, of CBA members. It is in no small part through my involvement with the CBA that I have learned, as a woman and a lawyer, I face challenges that are shared by others, and, that in facing an uncertain future I am not alone.

Hillary Clinton is, of course, a Democrat, and an American, and a former first lady, all particular dimensions of her social location that we, as Canadian lawyers, do not share.  But there is an important way in which she is very much like us: She is a woman lawyer.  And that means the ways in which she was reviled, ridiculed, and ultimately defeated, are relevant to and hurtful for us.

To a large extent American electoral politics is not our struggle, we are after all a whole other country.  On another level, as a woman professional and mother of daughters, the suffragettes’ ongoing struggle for women’s equality is also mine, as it is no doubt yours. Clinton and all woman lawyers are implicated in that low level of support amongst women (white women specifically) for her in the election and the viscerally negative response to her being a member of the “liberal elite” by virtue of her professional career and legal education.

In a much discussed op-ed in the Globe and Mail Toronto lawyer Marie Heinen described how Clinton’s struggles are also our own.  When women step into fields traditionally dominated by men, we are up against systemic and implicit bias.  The lesson Heinen offers is this:

This is what I would like you to tell your daughters today: engagement on every front is the only answer. It means that young women must participate. I do not care where. I do not care what view you take. I do not care what your political stripes are. I do not care whether I agree with you or not. What I care about is that you are seen. In every boardroom. In every school. In every C-suite. In every political party. Engineer. Artist. Judge. Politician. Doctor. Until you cannot be overlooked. Until seeing you in the highest office anywhere is as normal as breathing.

I love what Heinen said, but I would like to add one crucial further point.  We must also look out for each other.  As women, as lawyers, as people who believe in the rule of law, and equality, and justice, we can participate, but we need to have each other’s backs if we are going to be seen to be getting it done.   So, I’m glad to be a CBA member in the wake of this U.S. election result, and in the context of an uncertain future, because, as the mission statement goes, association provides us a space to be each other’s “essential allies”: CBA colleagues, woman lawyers, we are still stronger together.

Rebecca Bromwich is the author of  Looking for Ashley: Re-Reading What the Smith Case Reveals about the Governance of Girls, Mothers and Families in Canada. The author's views are her own.

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