Friday, March 28, 2014

judge critiques female lawyers' attire

In a world I find compelling, a judge has set off a firestorm of criticism by suggesting that women lawyers tone down their desire to dress in a come-hither fashion.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf advised female lawyers on his blog Tuesday:
1. You can't win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it.
2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury.
3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.
What I find compelling about this third-rail narrative goes beyond the courtroom. What is important in the courtroom is the case -- the issue at hand. And so it is in other circumstances as well -- some things are serious enough to warrant an undiverted focus.

Dress, whether male or female, has the capacity to divert the attention ... an attention that might better be directed at the issue. The issue is not, as the judge pointed out, "about you," and to the extent that it is, it suggests that the issue at hand is either not well researched or not worthy of complete attention. If I were being defended in court, I would far rather have the jury listening to a well-researched and thoughtful argument than be distracted by cleavage or male bling.

Women, of course, have taken loud and acidic exception to the judge's observations. They should be able to dress in any way they like and not be dictated to by some fuddy-duddy judge. It's outrageous in this day and age! You don't like tits and thighs? Well close your damned eyes!

Strangely, their counterpoint helps to underscore what the judge actually wrote: "it is not about you" ... and the critics are willing to stand their ground: It is about me. Left out of their counterarguments is what their assertions imply for the issues (individuals) under examination... and possibly destined for punishment. People are human and sexy stuff is nifty stuff ... but if sex appeal detracts from the issues at hand, can such sex appeal be called "professional?"

In the movie "American Gangster," drug lord  Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), counsels one of his fellow drug dealers about how to dress. Be inconspicuous, he says. Don't wear flashy clothes -- flashy clothes come with a great big name tag that says, "arrest me." Lucas was not criticizing pretty or sexy ... he was criticizing stupidity relative to the business or issue at hand ... getting rich by selling illicit drugs and the downside potential of getting arrested.

Likewise, perhaps, in Zen Buddhism, those practicing zazen, or seated meditation are encouraged to wear muted clothing. The robes are brown or black or grey. The setting is spare. Perfume, male or female, is discouraged. Jewelry should be left at the door. Idle chatter is off the agenda. All this and more ... and what is the point? The point, in part, is to focus the mind on the issue at hand -- let's call it "enlightenment" as a shorthand term. Sure, "I gotta be me," but many Zen Buddhists have found that A. being "me" doesn't provide a peaceful life and B. who, precisely, this "me" is is an open and sometimes confusing issue.

It is nice to have some venue in this life where issues take precedence over bosoms and bling. This is not to say that bosoms and bling aren't possible or delightful. It is to say that flash and glitz and "me" don't always reach or solve or being peace to the scene.

Imagine being Kim Kardashian -- beautiful, sexy, always putting yourself into the spotlight, scrambling, scratching, clawing for the next bit of publicity or attention. It may be a lot of fun, but, to paraphrase Sarah Palin, "how's that fun thingie workin' for you?"

For how long, precisely, can conspicuousness prove the underlying, issue-based truth? How long before that conspicuousness detracts from that desired truth?

No comments:

Post a Comment