SPEAKER 1: On behalf of PCCW, I want to welcome the broader Cornell community, both in the room and those watching on Livestream, to what promises to be a riveting discussion on gender equity led by two illustrious Cornell alumnae. The format of the discussion will be an interview of Kimberle Crenshaw on my immediate right, a thought leader on civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and the interaction of race, racism, and the law by Emmy Award-winning journalist and NBC national correspondent Kate Snow.
Not only are both of our speakers Cornell alums, but we are proud to say they are both PCCW members. Kate Snow is a class of '91 graduate of CALS. As a national correspondent for NBC News, she's a regular contributor to Nightly News with Brian Williams, the Today show, and Dateline.
Over her career, during which she also worked for ABC News and CNN at various points, Snow has covered politics, four presidential elections, the White House and Congress. She continues to cover breaking news stories, from the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, to the mall attack in Kenya, and the oil spill in the gulf.
Snow has traveled extensively and told stories that created change. Her rock centerpiece on teenage foreign exchange students being abused by host parents led to new policies at the State Department. Snow's investigative reports on texting while driving and soccer concussions among young female soccer players sparked national conversations.
She was the first reporter to sit down with one of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky case and tell his story, as well as the first to speak with kidnapped victim, Hannah Anderson. Snow holds a master's degree in international affairs from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
She serves on the National Board of the charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Kimberle Crenshaw, class of '81 arts and sciences, is professor of law at UCLA and Columbia Law School. Currently, Kimberle is the faculty director of the Critical Race Studies Program at UCLA law school.
As I mentioned, she's a leading authority in the area of civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law. She's published articles in several of the country's most prestigious law journals and has won many awards and visiting teaching and research appointments in recognition of her work.
She's the founding coordinator of the Critical Race Theory Workshop and the co-editor of the volume, Critical Race Theory-- Key Documents That Shaped the Movement. A specialist on race and gender equality, she's facilitated workshops for human rights activists in Brazil, and in India, and for constitutional court judges in South Africa.
Her groundbreaking work on intersectionality has traveled globally and was influential in the drafting of the Equality Clause in the South African Constitution. Crenshaw authored the background paper on race and gender discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism and served as the rapporteur for the conference's expert group on gender and race discrimination.
She also has worked extensively on a variety of issues pertaining to gender and race in the domestic arena, including violence against women, structural racial inequality, and affirmative action. A founding member of the Women's Media Initiative, Crenshaw writes for Ms. Magazine, The Nation, and other print media and has appeared as a regular commentator on the Tavis Smiley show, NPR, and MSNBC. She earned her JD from Harvard and an LLM from the University of Wisconsin. And with that, let me--
KATE SNOW: Thank you.
SPEAKER: --let Kate and Kimberle take it away.
KATE SNOW: Thank you so much.
You've been a little busy.
Maybe I just fell like a slacker.
Wow. You are an impressive, impressive woman. Thank you--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Thank you.
KATE SNOW: --for letting me ask most of the questions. So it's funny. The other day I called Kim. We'd never met before. And I called her up and said, what are we doing? Because I really just like asking questions. I don't really want to talk. I just want to ask you and let you talk. So we'll do most of the that with me asking Kim the questions.
And then after about-- I don't know-- 40, 45 minutes, we'll open it up. We've got a couple microphones up here. And we'll let anyone who wants to ask a question of either Kim or me. But I think I'm much less interesting than Kim. So either way, you can come to the mics. They asked us to come up here and talk about gender equity.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yes.
KATE SNOW: So I say gender equity and you say--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Oxymoron.
So I have to-- I'm being a little facetious. But in reality, that really is one of the problems in how our Supreme Court has thought about gender equity. If you see gender's difference and you see equity in terms of sameness, then it's almost impossible to think about, how do you treat people who are different as though they're the same?
So that's been a real problem. And just to put a point on it, one of the most outrageous cases that the Supreme Court ever decided was to decide whether or not the failure to provide for pregnancy leave was gender discrimination. Now, many of us wouldn't think that that's even a question, right?
But the Supreme Court thought that, in fact, discrimination against pregnant women was not gender discrimination. It divided the world up with pregnant persons and non-pregnant persons. So because non-pregnant persons could include women as well as men, the fact that all pregnant persons happen to be women was not gender discrimination.
So that's why I say oxymoron. But I think more broadly when I think about gender equity, I think in terms of, what kind of policies do we need to embrace and endorse that make it so that women's difference will not make a difference in their well-being, in their career trajectories, in their income, in their Social Security? So it's about whatever kind of policies are necessary to make sure that gender isn't the marker that determines who has more and who has less.
KATE SNOW: So the biggest question I think I had when they told me they wanted us to talk about this is just the state of things, right? I mean, where are we at as we sit here in 2014? Because I know we have probably a wide variety of generations in the audience. We have alumni. We have probably students out there, I hope. Where are we at as we sit here? Is there such a thing? You just said it's an oxymoron. Is there such a thing as gender equity?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Well, I would--
KATE SNOW: In this kind of thing?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: --say that there are two moments where we have gender equity. And everything in between is pretty much a mess when we are born, when we die.
And then from get-go, we have gender inequities. I mean, that almost goes without saying. So I guess one of the questions that you asked me when we were talking that builds on this is-- so where are we relative to where we used to be?
KATE SNOW: Yeah, I guess that's what everybody wonders, right? Have we made any progress?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And the answer to that is clearly yes. I mean, we're sitting here. That's progress. This wouldn't have happened 50 years ago. And if we look across almost any industry we can think of, we went from 1 to 2% participation in everything from elected officials to being business managers, lawyers, doctors, to now being-- we're like 20% of the elected officials.
We're about 30 to 40% of corporate managers. We do fairly well in medicine and in the legal profession. But note, we're still not at parity in any profession. And the further up you go, the fewer of us you see. So in the top 100, top 1000, Fortune 500, the number of CEOs is less than 5%.
So we kind of know that. The other piece, though, that I think we don't know is even as you grow up, it's not as though you're escaping gender inequity. So we might not have quite the glass ceilings everywhere that we used to. But even corporate executives at the very top of their profession make less than their male counterparts. So you've got gender inequity even as we have women moving up into ranges where they haven't been before.
KATE SNOW: Right. So the CEO that makes $48 million as a man only makes $40 million.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yeah. Yeah, something like that.
KATE SNOW: I mean, I don't mean to laugh, but that's what you're saying.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: It's real money. And it's an important part of being able to think about gender and equity playing out, despite class differences. So there's gender inequity at every class level.
KATE SNOW: That's interesting. Because you talk a lot about the intersection, right? Am I saying it correctly?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yes.
KATE SNOW: Your term is the intersection of vulnerability.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yes.
KATE SNOW: So it's not just that you're a female. There's all kinds of other layers that you need to be looking at.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Absolutely. So one of the first things that I started writing about when I became a law professor was really interested in how the law dealt with questions of compound discrimination, multiple discrimination. Some part of it came from being a student here, and being a student at Harvard, and just seeing that questions about race were talked about in one register, and questions about gender were talked about somewhere else.
And no one really talked about what happened at the intersection of the two. So I stumbled across a case that I talk about-- DeGraffenreid versus General Motors. And the basic way that the workplace used to be organized and still is in some places, is that there were jobs that were appropriate for men and not women and jobs that were appropriate for people of color and not white people.
And so in this particular case, a group of black women wanted to sue, because they were excluded from the jobs that were appropriate for African Americans. Because those were male jobs. And they were excluded from the jobs that were appropriate for women, because they were white jobs, namely secretaries, the front office kind of work.
And the courts couldn't figure out what to do with these kind of cases. Because in their view, if an employer is engaging in race discrimination, they exclude everybody. While they're engaging in gender discrimination, they exclude all the women. This was a case where General Motors did hire some African Americans, although they were men. And they did hire some women, although they were white. And so from the--
KATE SNOW: What year was this?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: This was like in the '70s. This was in the '70s. And there are some places where we could talk about that where there's still sort of this stratification. But the important thing was that the court didn't think that this group of women could actually make a case of gender and race discrimination without them putting the two causes of action together.
And that, they thought, was preferential treatment. So because they were the only group that needed to put two causes of action together in order to be able to say, look, we're discriminated against as black women, the court ended up saying that you can't get what you need, because you're the only group that needs it.
KATE SNOW: So in the end, they didn't get a hearing?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: So in the end, their case was dismissed. And they were basically told to go back and refile. So what happens many times is subgroups have to refile and say that the way we're discriminated against is just like the way that the men in our group are discriminated against or the way that more privileged women are. But that's not really true to what happens. There are a lot of kinds of circumstances that represent the combination of race, and gender, and class. And our law has really been slow to catch up with it as well as frankly some of our movements.
KATE SNOW: We talked about this on the phone. Is it the law that's behind? Or is it that we have all these great laws? I mean, let's talk about Lilly Ledbetter, the equal pay act that President Obama signed into law in his first term. That was supposed to make everything all better. So we have these great laws on the books. Is it just that we women aren't using the laws, or the laws aren't good enough, or what?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Well, I think one of the things that we've learned after the great expansion of law was first of all that the law can't really dictate all the terms and experiences that we encounter when we go into a workforce. The general rules of what ought to happen-- it really can't dictate what will happen.
What laws sometimes give us is the ability to negotiate, demand, threaten, coerce in other ways, force companies into doing the right thing. But as with everything, they're always measuring the costs and benefits. So what's the likelihood that we're eventually going to be sued for these practices?
What's the likelihood that we will have to pay any kind of damages for our discrimination? And as our current Supreme Court withdraws or interprets the law narrowly, they're opening up more space for companies to basically decide at the end of the day.
It may not be worth it to us to try to avoid liability, because it's not clear we're going to be liable anyway. I mean, that's somewhat what happened behind the Lilly Ledbetter situation, which was one in which the Supreme Court simply narrowly interpreted what the statute of limitations was on being able to bring a wage discrimination suit. It forced Congress to come back and clarify that each time--
KATE SNOW: The time was running out on people, right?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yes. Right.
KATE SNOW: That's what was happening is that women saw discrimination, but didn't talk about it right away.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: They didn't know.
KATE SNOW: Just passed or didn't know.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Might not have known. So in any of these cases, one can interpret the law in a number of ways. So these were closed cases. Half the court said it has to be a very narrow time frame. The other half was saying, why would we interpret anti-discrimination law? So now, we should interpret it broadly, so it has maximum effect.
These kind of battles going on at the court level continuously caused the law to shift. Sometimes Congress can catch up, and correct, and make for better law. But even that correction was only a correction on how long you have to actually bring a case. It didn't really change the rules of persuasion-- who has to come forward. So there are all kinds of ways in which the law on the books look a lot better than what you're actually able to use.
KATE SNOW: You also made a point to me that was so obvious when you said it, but I hadn't ever thought of this, was just access. I mean, just the ability to-- you were saying just to get a lawyer. Think about what it takes for a woman--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: To get one.
KATE SNOW: --to call, to have the resources to get to the office.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And you have to realize-- I mean, taking it from the lawyer's perspective, it's an expensive enterprise to actually bring a suit, particularly if you're suing a large business or Walmart, for example. It takes a lot of money. And they're doing a cost-benefit analysis as well.
They're trying to figure out, is the case strong enough, so that the possible win will cover our costs and frankly, help us make a profit? Well, as the law shifts and as the court pushes back on whether you can bring a class action against a company as big as Walmart, there are fewer and fewer attorneys that have the wherewithal to take those kind of cases.
So basically what happens is as the law retracts, so does access to the justice system. So there are many, many things that happened that probably are illegal. But your ability to prove it really depends on whether you can get a lawyer who actually will take the case.
KATE SNOW: You mentioned Walmart in passing. And people that aren't familiar-- flush that out a little bit. That was a very real case.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: It was a very real case. So one of the things that makes class actions or used to make class actions effective is that statistics can be aggregated to tell a certain story. So the story that these plaintiffs wanted to tell was that at every level in Walmart there were gender disparities at the cashier level, at the part-time level, at the promotion level, at the highest level of management.
In order to do that, the plaintiffs aggregated information from different regions along the line of different jobs in order to say, look, everywhere you look, you see a gender disparity. And the question was, did the law allow them to aggregate all of those statistics in order to tell one really ugly story?
And the answer to that question was no, that you can't really say that the same thing in Georgia is happening in New York and is happening in California. There might be any number of different reasons why these disparities look the way they do. There's not enough evidence that the women are experiencing a common kind of injury.
And that, frankly, is a problem. One of the things that made the women's movement so effective when it was powerful was that it was about aggregating a lot of different experiences and turning it into this is what women experience. Domestic violence, for example, used to be just family pathology. And then it became something that happens to women as women.
KATE SNOW: When, then, there's a movement.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And then there's a movement making it something that's recognized as a condition of women, even though there are differences between them. So the way a poor woman is situated in response to a domestic violence episode is obviously going to be different from the way a woman who has means will deal with it.
But the idea was that there is enough in common across women that we can talk about this as a woman's problem. Now, there's more and more push-back at the legal level around whether there is a commonality. And frankly, there's a push-back at the political level as well.
KATE SNOW: Whether there's a class?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Whether there is enough commonality. It's like is the War on Women-- is that really a thing or not?
KATE SNOW: Are we going to go there? Are we going to go to the War on Women?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: It's up to you to say that.
KATE SNOW: Well, that's become sort of a political--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Hot potato.
KATE SNOW: --point. Hot potato. Is it going to be-- I mean, I am fully neutral here, folks. OK? I ask questions about Republicans and about Democrats. But I'm curious whether you think as a strategy if the Democrats sort of use this War on Women strategy? Is that going to work?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: So I think it's complicated.
I think one of the challenges is, how will the Democrats be able to acknowledge that there are differences among women that make some more vulnerable than others? And these very differences that make some women more vulnerable than others can be used by those who say there is not a War on Women to say, look, women are not really doing that badly as long as they play by the rules.
So take President Obama's State of the Union address when he first said there's a wage gap. And the wage gap is significant-- $0.77 on the dollar. What he failed to say is that it's not a wage gap that is equally experienced across the board. So there are a lot of race differences, like African-American women.
Their wage gap is like $0.64 on the dollar. Latinas is $0.55. I mean, they make up about half of what white men make. So they're not really being specific about where those gaps are the most profound. And there also-- there's a whole other conversation about how men and boys of color are experiencing problems.
And there's no space where they're talking about where women of color are actually located. So that's a problem they have on their side. But if you look at how Representative Rodgers responded, I think this is where the problem is. She talked about the traditional American dream.
She talked about playing by the rules, growing up in a family that worked hard, getting married, having kids, becoming an elected official. So she told a story of if you play by the rules, if you play by the book, you're not one of those women who is going to need abortion.
You're not one of those women who's going to need public assistance. You're not one of those women who's going to run into trouble because you're a single-headed household. So this War on Women is complicated, because the women that are most affected are women who can be read as non-normative. And once that argument gets going, I think what we might be seeing is separation between that block of women that both the parties are competing over. And no one really knows yet how to talk about those differences in a real productive way.
KATE SNOW: It is tough stuff to talk about. I mean, I get nervous talking about it up here at all, because it's so fraught-- I mean, the choices that women make, the decisions that women make. I want to-- I desperately want to ask you about Lean In and Sheryl Sanberg, right?
Are you with me? Can I ask about that? Because that's the thing in my life that I sort of-- has really resonated with me. It's what all my friends are talking about is, was that book right? Do we all need to lean in? Should we-- I don't know. What did you make of that?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: So any book that acknowledges that there is still work to be done to achieve gender equity-- I think we have to at least acknowledge that it's continuing the conversation and that's important. But there has long been a significant debate about what counts as gender equity.
What are the ways that institutions should address questions of women's difference? And when I read the book, it reminded me a little bit about one of the most controversial cases that we ever had. So I'm talking about the VMI case. So the Virginia Military Institute is one of the most-- one of the wealthiest, oldest, most prestigious higher education institutions for men in Virginia.
And its claim to fame is that it makes citizens soldiers through the adversative method, which is basically a lot of hazing, a lot of get up in the morning and you as a soldier. And like life-- it's boot camp. And it was exclusive made for men. So some women wanted access to that.
And they wanted that thing, that adversative method, like, I want to be a citizen soldier. And so they demanded that VMI change its policy to let women lean in, right? So do your best. Go with it. Go for it like the guys do. The first response that the lower court mandated was, we're not going to let the women in, but we are going to require that Virginia create a new institute. You might call it VMI Pink. So it was the Virginia Institute for Women's Leadership. And so it was the idea of creating the female citizen soldier.
KATE SNOW: The female version.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: The female version. And it was all based on cooperation, and teamwork, and learning to be a leader together. And the idea was that this is gender equity. So the Supreme Court blew it out of the water. Justice Ginsburg said that this is just separate but equal for women. We're not going to tolerate this.
As long as there are some women who can compete in this unchanged male environment, gender equity tells us they need to get a shot at it. So VMI is now open to women as well as men. The lingering problem-- and this kind of goes a little bit to the lean in issue is, but what about the majority of women who really didn't want to become citizen soldiers by being hazed?
What about the women who want to be leaders, but that model is way too male for them, way too aggressive for them? They want something different. But the problem is that we don't have a way to say, well, this is the way that an institution should be transformed, so it's welcoming to women when they are in fact different from men.
So the problem with the lean-ins is often they spend more time thinking and talking about how women need to reshape themselves to fit into mind changed institutions, rather than the way that the institutions need to change to accommodate the fact that women are coming in them, and that those institutions need to change to reflect the fact that now the worker is not presumably a male, or the soldier is not presumptively a male, or the lawyer, or the CEO, but is a female. So it's really a question of, how do we think about equity and change?
KATE SNOW: So Interesting. I think that's actually why I had sort of a visceral reaction to that book. When I read Lean In, I felt like geez, now, I get-- now, I have to-- it's like it's on me. And I'm not complaining. I have a great life. I have a great job, and I've done pretty well. And I have leaned in a lot. But I felt this-- for those of you out there that are in your 20s, I sort of felt like, well, what are we telling young women? We're telling them they have to-- it's all up to you. And it's your own fault if you don't lean in.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yeah. Well-- and I think this is consistent with what's happening across the board with a lot of what went before. So I'm often surprised in some of my classes with some of my students who will basically adopt certain values and expectations that came out of the feminist movement and that came out of the anti-racist movement.
Just as a way of life, of course we should have equal access. Of course I shouldn't have to sacrifice being a woman or a person of color and success. Of course, these things should come together. But many times they don't recognize that this has been made possible by these movements in the past. So they'll say I'm not a feminist, but--
KATE SNOW: Like it's a dirty word.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Like it's a dirty word. Or I'm not one of the radicals, but-- and so some part of the problem is I think that in this moment of history, so much of the everyday rhetoric has assumed that the change came about naturally, that a lot of change happened.
And they really don't need to talk about it as much as many people think. And in fact, I think what's happened is there's some change that has come about, but as I indicated, we're not nearly close to equity. And now that we're inside these institutions, we're seeing the ways that they have traditionally functioned hasn't really changed that much. So we're in second and third-generation kind of advocacy about how to make these spaces more welcoming to people who are not initially thought to have a place or a role in them.
KATE SNOW: I'm going to go to my fun question that I told you I might throw at you-- movies. Favorite film, the deal that has a message for us about gender equity.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: So I confess that I watch a lot of TV and film as popular culture "research."
KATE SNOW: That's good.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And my love-hate relationship right now is with Scandal. That's a whole other conversation. But I must say that the films that affect me the most are that I think are illustrative of some of these issues-- there are two. One is called A Jury of Her Peers. And it's a very old film.
And it's basically about women's knowledge, and women's lives, and how women are able to sort out crises that happen in women's lives in ways that men don't. So the basic story is that a man has been mysteriously killed. And the sheriff has come to a home to try to sort out what happened.
And some women in the town come to collect up some of the clothing for the wife of the house. And while they're doing that, they sort out among themselves that this has been a violent household, that this woman has lived a horrendous and lonely life, and that she potentially did this deed.
KATE SNOW: May have killed him.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And they decided themselves between them that they were not going to reveal this information. So this is really a story about how justice is often gendered, how while the men are stomping around trying to figure stuff out, they're missing the entire interior dimension of this woman's life. So it's really, really good. And the second film is one that's out right now-- it's called 20 Feet from Stardom. It's a documentary.
KATE SNOW: Haven't seen it.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And it's about-- it's wonderful. It's about how some of the main acts from the '70s--
KATE SNOW: Oh, I know this. Yes. It just dawned on me.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Isn't that great?
KATE SNOW: I haven't seen it, but--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Go see it.
KATE SNOW: --it's the backup singers, right?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: They are the backup singers, right? They are the ones that gave Mick Jagger, and The Boss, and David Bowie, and Phil Spector his sound-- their sound, yet their voices are literally disembodied. In some of the albums, their name isn't even on it, right?
They're hearing their music. And they're not able to benefit from the fact that they have produced this value, right? So I love it because first of all, it's about gender. It's about the idea that a lot of women's work goes uncompensated, right? So if we see the absence of women in different institutions, it's definitely not because they haven't leaned in.
It's not because they're not producing value. It's because there are structures there already that mean other people are in a better position to benefit from the unique talents that they have. So it's about that. And then there's a racial dimension to it as well.
These are many times black women's voices. So people want the voice, but not the body as much. So I love it. I love it. I'm still hoping that it wins tomorrow.
KATE SNOW: Oh, that's right. It's tomorrow.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yes.
KATE SNOW: Well, thank you. You gave us a couple to-- we can at least get on Netflix, right?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: To cheer for. Yeah.
KATE SNOW: All right, I'm almost to the-- I think almost to the point where we'll start taking questions, because I'm sure people have questions. I would like to just ask you, because you've been working a lot on gender violence. And Valentine's Day-- I want to get it right. It was the-- tell me about--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: One Billion Rising for Justice.
KATE SNOW: Exactly. V-Day.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: V-Day.
KATE SNOW: One Billion Rising for Justice. And that was about getting a billion women and girls out on the street dancing.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And those who love them. And so V-Day, as you know, is a global movement to end violence against women and girls. It is largely the brainchild of Eve Ensler and the Vagina Monologues, which for many, many years has been performed all around the world on Valentine's Day to raise money for organizations that fight against violence against women and girls.
Year before last, many of the coordinators got together and acknowledged the fact that one in three women over the course of their lifetimes will be the victims of gender violence.
KATE SNOW: One in--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: One in three. So we're talking hundreds of millions of women, a billion women.
So the idea was, what if on one day all of the women in the world and those who love them go to the places where they do not feel safe and have the right to, and dance there, perform there, demand there? What if that were to happen? What if it was clear that this isn't just a problem in the Congo, and not just a preoccupation of Western feminism, and not just an issue of middle-class feminists? But in fact, all over the world, women and those who love them have an interest in elevating this issue and demanding accountability. So 200 countries all over the world had some kind of demonstration.
KATE SNOW: If there are people who want to start heading to the mics, they're up now. There's one there at-- each of the aisles has a microphone. I just want to follow up, though. I'm sorry. I'm a reporter. I can't help myself. How do you take it from an amazing show of force, and mobilization, and dancing in the streets to something more than that? I mean, how do you make sure it's not just a flash in the pan one day?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yes, right. And so what's exciting about this is that in many of these countries and cities that the day is simply a day where many of the activities that have been going on over the course of the year come to the public's attention. In some countries, there's legislation that was passed sometimes to create opportunities for women and girls to find shelter, sometimes to lift the age at which women are seen as "consenting" to violence and other places to address some of the issues that correspond with violence.
So this year the idea about violence went beyond traditional kind of gender violence to economic violence, to some of the consequences that happen to women who are immigrant workers, to situations in some of the African reserves, for example, where women have been killed, because they've been mistaken as poachers when they're going in to collect firewood for their families.
So it broadened the spectrum of what counts as violence against women. We've had a series of State of Female Justice panels, where we bring people from all the movements together, so they can talk about, how does the Bus Riders Union intersect with women's safety? How are the advocacy issues--
KATE SNOW: And then trying to--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: --and then to one and the same--
KATE SNOW: --find ways to move forward.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: --to move together effectively without separating the movements into warring factions.
KATE SNOW: All right. I'm going to let somebody else talk now. I'll start on this side. That's Aliece, right?
AUDIENCE: Yes, hi. This on? Hi, Aliece Rosenberg.
KATE SNOW: I don't know if that's on. Can you turn on the mic in the front here, guys?
SPEAKER 2: I think this one is good.
AUDIENCE: Now it is. Hi. Is that better?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yes.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Aliece Rosenberg, CAL of '93. It's interesting. I read Lean In. And there are certain things that I know there's a divergence of opinion where obviously, self-selected Cornellians who are generally high achievers and aspirational throughout their education and throughout their careers, whatever they choose to be.
But I actually saw that there were a lot of points in the book that resonated with me, that when I was a college student or a junior member of my organizations in the beginnings of my career, I didn't choose to raise my hand to go to Europe, because I wanted to live in New York when I got married and have kids. I am still single.
And if anyone knows someone who's great, let me know. But the thing is that sometimes I do see a lot of young women, even grown women who do not sit at the table, and do not ask the questions, and sort of apologize when they ask questions. So there were certain messages that I think both men and women could read through in that book and not just women to read the book, that we can take umbrage to, but also take a lot of advice and also help mentor.
So I was wondering about that other side of that, if there were certain points of that book that resonated with you or with people that you've mentored over the years and how we can sort of address not stepping out too soon, which I think was the other message in her book.
KATE SNOW: I actually-- I really agree with what you just said. That resonated with me. I can remember. I'll share one little quick story. I can remember-- and my husband is here, so I got to be careful.
Remember when I went to go cover Kosovo? So it was 1999 in the spring. And we were getting married in September, and I was sent to Kosovo. And it was when Clinton was president. And we were bombing and NATO air strikes. And there were refugees pouring in over the border into Albania and Macedonia.
Anyway, it was a mess. And I really wanted to stay and do that and keep covering the conflict, but I was worried about getting home. And I sort of started thinking way ahead like, well, my marriage is coming, or my wedding is coming. And I need to plan the wedding.
I mean, all these sort of thoughts that you have where you're-- I could have probably stayed longer there. And it might have changed the whole trajectory of my career quite honestly if I'd become-- I might have become sort of foreign correspondent if I had made that choice at that point in time, but I didn't. I rushed home to be back with him and hang out. And everything's worked out fine. But it's just-- it's worked out great. Great. Great. Now, I'm fine. Great.
But that's one of those points that resonated with me. And I was thinking way too far ahead. I was thinking about the life that I was going to have with the kids and the picket fence, and I wasn't even there yet.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yeah. Well, I think the thing to avoid is either/or kind of frameworks that put women in the position of exerting agency across their life cycle. And so each moment where they're making a choice to do A rather than B, their opting out, rather than making choices within a sociocultural structure that we've been born into and socialized by.
So yes, it does make sense to raise our awareness beyond where it may now be to the fact that we are making choices. What I worry about is that it makes sometimes people talk about that as though that's all it is. And that there's nothing to be done about shifting some of the institutional expectations. So those choices aren't always-- go the traditional woman's route and lose out on being whatever or being whatever and lose out on some of the things that as women we're socialized to expect.
I think one of the places that we've perhaps left behind-- there used to be a group of feminists who talked a lot about the idea that it's not just women's roles in biographies that need to be shifted, but men's as well. So if the idea is constantly-- we have to choose in ways that allow us to replicate the way men do it, then they're never going to change either.
And the kinds of men that are making the decisions are themselves going to choose the men who are just like them. So the idea might be that both you and the guy who was in Kosovo should have been thinking down the road and perhaps that the trajectory outwards will be both more equitable and more family oriented for everybody. So I think it's basically a question of, what are the parameters in which the choices are made? And are we able to interrogate and push against those parameters more consistently, rather than just make it a question about women's choice?
AUDIENCE: As someone who was at Cornell in the early '60s at the birth of the women's liberation movement and did become a foreign correspondent at a war college--
KATE SNOW: Oh, yeah. War college issues.
AUDIENCE: --I'm fascinated by the fact that the young generation of women today think that the word feminism is a dirty word. It's not something they want to be associated with, at least a lot of them. And I wonder if you could address that.
And listening to the response to your last question, isn't what we should really be fighting for-- rather than looking at the gender differences, just be fighting for equality of opportunity, and equal pay, and a chance to really crack that glass ceiling, which is still so strong?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: So I don't want to be misinterpreted, just say that no young women identify with feminists. There is a vibrant-- especially online community of third-wave feminism who are doing great work. So I think that there is a generational difference about what feminism actually means among a broader group of young women.
And I think it just reflects the fact that we've not really won the discursive war in the media. We've not gotten away from the idea that the feminists were anti-family, man haters, bra burners, all that kind of stuff. And many times I think it's because people who are trying to advance agenda equity agenda have felt the need to say, well, not that I'm a feminist or not that I'm one of those people, but-- and every time that move is made and then someone articulates something that is in fact a feminist perspective, it reinforces the idea that, well, there must be some group over there that's saying something absolutely crazy.
And we don't want to be them. So I think we should think sometimes about the language that we actually use when we're trying to be persuasive. In terms of, should we just focus on equality of opportunity? I guess I have to say that I never quite know what it is that people are distinguishing when they say there's equal opportunity and gender equity.
I think that we know that we have gender equity when, in fact, we've equalized opportunity structures. And we're so far away from that, that I can't even wrap my head around the idea that we can pursue one and not the other. We've been talking for the most part about, obviously, professional women.
And I have talked about the fact that there are still huge income gaps. They get bigger across the lifespan. Female physicians over the course of their lives make like $350,000 less than men. That's still a lot of money that's differential, right? So what are we saying the problem is? That they don't have equality of opportunity?
Or there's something institutional and structural that's going on that even people who are equally positioned in the workforce don't really gain the same kind of benefits. But I don't want to forget what's happening at the bottom. So one in three women are struggling in this country.
2/3 of the people of the employees who make minimum wage are women. The median net wealth for African-American women is $100. The median net wealth is $100. And for Latinas, it's $120. For white women, it's like $41,000, and for white men it's 48.
So there's still-- there's a gender gap in wealth. And wealth actually is more important than income. Wealth determines where you live. Do you have access to healthy food? Do you have access to recreation? Are you subject to environmental problems, social problems?
Will you be poor in old age or not? Wealth is really where it's all at. And we still have huge differences that are both race and gender. So when I think about equity, I think about equalizing not just how many physicians we graduate, how many lawyers we graduate.
I think about making sure that gender doesn't make a difference between who's poor and who's not in old age. I'm thinking about gender shouldn't make a difference between whether if you're a single parent, you're living paycheck to paycheck. But a male counterpart who's a single parent is not living paycheck to paycheck. So it's across the social sphere that I think you need to attend to equitable outcomes across gender as well as race.
KATE SNOW: Let's go to Julie over here.
AUDIENCE: You've touched on this a little bit. But I think one of the big issues-- as you're saying, for someone acknowledge-- that for a lot of women of lesser means, we know that the vast majority of them have been working, whether they're married or not, all along and often three jobs.
But it seems like a lot of what the feminist movement did for those women in the middle and upper class was get us into the workplace in the same model that men had in the workplace, when they traditionally had a wife at home to take care of the household.
So that left us with no one at home to take care of the household. There's not as many families that I know where there's a stay-at-home mom. Literally can't afford it. My mom was a stay-at-home mom for a while. We had five kids in the family. And eventually, she had to go into the workforce just for us to function.
So my question is, it seems like we need a really big structural change. And I have lived in other countries where they're a little-- a lot more user friendly for families and a lot more value placed on families, and quality time, and balance in life. We have a bit of a workaholic culture. So do you have any thoughts on how to start addressing that bigger structural thing, which would benefit men and women? I don't think it's just women's responsibility to figure that out.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yeah. So I want to sign on to everything you said and with just a couple of caveats. I think that we would do the feminist movement a disservice if we didn't acknowledge that there were many feminists who were arguing for a fundamental restructuring of the relationship between work and family.
Many times you demand things, and you get far less than what your demands are. And so we should recognize that some of those limitations were limitations that were imported based on some of the ideas I was talking about earlier which is, what is gender equity?
Well, if you can fold your life into the same life as a male worker, then it's all good. But if you cannot fold your life into the presumptive worker as being a male, then we won't get the same kind of outcomes. And we see this across the plane like Social Security.
Women will make 70% of what men make through Social Security benefits, because they don't have the same work histories, largely because, socially, they take off time from work. They start later because they're building families. So there were always people who were saying this limited idea of gender equity being if you treat me just like a man is not going to work for the vast majority of women.
They always were saying that it's just quirks. And I think the broader society didn't really see equity as requiring deeper structural kind of changes. And you're quite right. We are somewhat alone in the world in figuring that out. So if you look at many other countries, we're one of maybe five countries that don't provide paid family leave.
We're one of few. So all of our other counterparts actually have figured out that it makes sense to actually help families get paid family leave. And it also has been shown to have some beneficial effect on workforce participation and productivity.
If it's going to actually turn about, turn around, I think it's going to come from the recognition that we need to have a different set of workforce policies in order to be more competitive in the global arena. And I think we've seen it in some of the tech industry and some of the places where they figured out-- we're losing a lot of talent by not moving into the 21st century in a big way. And so that pressure-- I think it's going to be a market pressure. Inside, I think we just need to have broader ideas of what counts as gender equity.
KATE SNOW: OK, go on. We got a line.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. This has been fascinating. Thank you. Martha Aschwin Roberts in Human Ecology, '75. I have too many questions. I'm going to try to pick.
KATE SNOW: Pick one.
AUDIENCE: The connection with pay equity-- as long as a family, say, a husband and a wife or two partners, whatever, are trying to have an economic life for their families, as long as women are paid less, the economic choice is always going to be to further the man's career.
So it seems pay equity is a structural barrier to women getting ahead. It's not just a-- it doesn't just cause women to be poor. It causes women, as I said, to be the second choice career in the family. I'm curious how you see women entering the workforce.
We never wanted to be like men. I think that the early feminist movement probably wasn't trumpeted that way. I think the power, the real power of it is that women demanded all the choices. We didn't want to just choose this traditional role or that traditional role.
We wanted the opportunity to make our own ways. And I think what we're starting to see is now more women get into institutions. We're transforming them. Women in the Senate are the ones who created the bipartisan compromise that managed to get the men out of the government shutdown in October. So if you could talk about how women can pick and choose among the roles, among the opportunities that they have and take agency and affect change by changing the institutions around us.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: And take more questions and put them altogether, maybe.
KATE SNOW: Yeah, maybe we should. I'm just-- in the interest of time, I don't know if we're-- somebody signal me. Are we tight yet? We have two minutes. OK, so here's what we'll do. Thank you so much. Let's get a few thoughts. And then it's like, does anybody have a similar question or in the same vein?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yeah, let's hear all them, and then we can--
KATE SNOW: OK, come on up.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: --wrap them up.
AUDIENCE: Hi, good afternoon, Professor Crenshaw. Thank you very much. I think my question does go to sort of institutional transformation. I was really struck when you described your reaction to the book, Lean In. And it made me think about-- yet that is the key. But every single time there is a singular sort of major national event, it seems to change the discourse.
For example, when Barack Obama was elected president, everyone-- the question was asked. Oh, so is racism eviscerated in our country now?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Right.
AUDIENCE: We have a black president. And now with Hillary, the burgeoning candidate-- and as a woman, I couldn't be more elated. But it makes me then think, OK, here we go again. Should Hillary be elected or just by virtue of her being a candidate? Oh, how does that-- what are your thoughts on how that will shape the discourse with respect to women, people of color? And does it retard what people really need to focus on in making these societal and structural changes within institutions?
KATE SNOW: Do you want to tackle just a couple and then we'll see how much more time we have? And we just-- we may not have time for everybody.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: OK, so I'll try to be quick. Totally agree with the fact that every major sort of glass ceiling shattering moment creates this moment where we say, so is it all over? And there was a lot of that "it's all over" around race after Barack Obama got elected.
And now, I think people have got sobered up a little bit and recognized that there have always been moments where ceilings have been shattered. But for most people who are not at that ceiling rubble, their life goes on the same. I mean, if we look at the Senate, what happened?
The Senate actually became less diverse after Barack Obama was elected. And the same is likely to be the case with respect to women. I would say that it is important for us in this conversation not to assume that all women have the same agency around making some choices in their lives, even when we focus on the fact that two-wage earner families are still likely to be more than not one where men make more than women.
A good third of the families, if not more, are not dual income wage earner families anymore. And as much as we might want to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, it's just not going to happen. So many of the policies, particularly the anti-poverty policies that have been introduced.
Even the day before yesterday, President Obama announced My Brother's Keeper and framed it as a set of policies that are much needed to lift up African-American and Latino men, create more workforce participation, reduce some of the consequences of being socially marginal in the workforce.
All of this is really important stuff. But in reality, if you really want to address what's happening to single head of household families, you can't have a trickle down social policy that assumes we do workforce training for the men, and somehow that will make its way over to where the women are.
That's just not an acceptable way of really trying to deal with women who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic strata who need as much support in terms of job preparation, workforce support, and other kind of wealth-enhancing frames. And in fact, if you look anywhere else in the world, it's recognized that the way to advance communities is to resource the women in the communities.
This is one of the only places in the world where we don't see it that way. And so it's really important that as we talk about women and workforce participation, we're not just talking about the upper echelon. We're talking about women across the board. Hope I did that quickly enough so a few others--
KATE SNOW: That was admirable. OK, so we'll do--
AUDIENCE: I got here before she did.
KATE SNOW: You did? Go ahead.
I know. I didn't know.
AUDIENCE: This is Cornell. You guys will get all this.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: That is right.
AUDIENCE: My question is directed to Miss Kate Snow. Yeah. But professor, please feel free to comment on. So when I look at the whole realm of journalism, there has been some groundbreaking moments as far as gender equality goes, whether it be Diane Sawyer hosting the ABC World News or Katie Couric from the CBS News.
But when I look at the core of it and look at the equality, I feel like there has been a great decline not just within the whole industry, but especially for female journalists. Because when I look at someone like NBC Today show's Savannah Guthrie. I remember her doing an interview to First Lady Barack-- not Barack, but Michelle Obama, asking, OK, so you have a Harvard law degree. How do you restrain yourself from expressing your voice into your husband's politics?
And I was wondering. Savannah, you were like the top of your Georgetown law class. And what you do in the morning is you wear this fabulous red dress and talk about your fashion and celebrities. So the question is, how do you distinguish yourself--
KATE SNOW: In a red dress.
AUDIENCE: --as just another pretty blonde journalist? How do you express yourself? I went to Cornell. I'm smart. I'm a woman of my own color.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: So should we take the other two questions?
AUDIENCE: I'll just as quick as possible. So I'm from India. And my mom is a grassroots development worker there. She first told me about your work. This is very exciting for me. My question is with Eve Ensler-- V. Monologues, or One Billion Rising, or Take Back the Night, which is also something that is taking off in India. I have this concern that the Indian feminist movement is-- the language of discourse is predominantly English.
And there's also a lot of very important online activity. But I'm just afraid that the more technocratic-- and in English, we become-- we might be very exclusive. Because there were women from rural areas-- have to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to take a bus to their workplace.
And they can't do Take Back the Night. They can't do One Billion Rising. Valentine's Day has never meant anything to them. So do you think the solution-- like what do you feel about how culturally or class wise, appropriately, this might end up being when these things go to the Third World? And what are the alternate answers? Or how can it be more inclusive? Because I don't see it being very inclusive currently and definitely certainly have. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I wanted to ask a question about something that's currently going on Cornell's campus. Sorry. Last semester I was abroad in Spain, but I still kept up with that Cornell Daily Sun. And I came across a really interesting article in the opinion section where a male student claimed that in order to stop sexual assaults on-- I'm assuming Cornell's campus, but in other colleges and universities, that women need to stop having sex with men and stop giving them what they want. And I kind of thought of this as very similar to the Lean In concept you're talking about, where it's kind of shifted to women for the responsibility for affecting change, so I just wanted to know your reaction.
KATE SNOW: Oh, man.
We have some really great, deep questions.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: I'll go first.
KATE SNOW: I'll go first. I don't know where to start. Savannah is amazing. I just first of all have to say that. She's a friend of mine. And I think she is one of the smartest people on television. And I don't know how much you get a chance to watch the Today show, but I would commend you to watch all of it, not just the 8:30 half hour.
Because in the first hour of the Today show, she is doing very hard-hitting journalism every single day. And so is Matt Lauer. He doesn't wear the dress. But they actually are very-- of all the fields-- and I think my field is actually one that is a little more equitable than some.
Because we actually are very conscious of equal time. They each get the same amount of segments. They each get the same amount of news-maker interviews and questioning. I mean, is there a double standard that I have to wear high heels, and a dress, and nylons, and the men don't? Of course. And does it suck? Yes. And do I wish that I didn't have to wear tons of makeup and get my hair done for an hour before I go on TV, when Harry Smith who sits across the hall from me can just evolve? He just walks onto the set.
But that's not the case. But we're not quite-- we're not there yet. But does that mean I can't do great journalism? No. And I don't know where the guy went. Maybe he left. I don't know how much you get to watch NBC News, but I do a lot of very-- I'm actually pretty well-known in my field for being aggressive, and hard hitting, and doing very serious topics and much more than I do.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Just why I was nervous with this.
This is fun.
KATE SNOW: I mean, I think-- but no, no. So you're raising a really interesting-- you raise a good question about my industry. Diane Sawyer, and Barbara Walters, and all of those folks. Joan Lunden. I mean, all of the women a couple generations before me. I would say Barbara's generation more than Diane's.
Diane is not that far ahead of me. They really did a huge service to the women my age. And if you look on the air now, I mean, not only are there a lot of women on TV as journalists, but we all help each other now. And it's become a rising tide lifts all boats, kind of.
I don't mean to paint a picture like it's all perfect. But it's really not-- my generation-- we don't stab each other in the back. We help each other, because we know that that's what we have to do to all be better. So I actually think-- certainly, I was talking to my husband this afternoon about-- it was like remind me of the worst-- the times I've come home and said the worst things about gender, having somebody say something sexist to me and there's several.
But I'll just share one. There was-- and we got to go. But there was an anchor who I will not name who told me that I should-- early in my career that I should never wear skirts, that I should wear pants. Because my legs were-- it was better for me to wear pants in front of a whole room of people--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Wow.
KATE SNOW: --at a rehearsal. So there was all kinds of people. And he's on like--
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Wow.
KATE SNOW: So there's that kind of stuff that happens.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: We had one of our State of Female Justice events at UCLA. And there was an actor there who told a very similar story about being cast in a role after another woman was released from a role, because she wasn't-- I can't use the word, but let's say worthy of sexual encounters on the part of the producers.
And she was saying this is really like a common thing. Do they have a quotient? I can't say the words, but you guys should know what I mean. The one thing that I'll say about that the V-Day issue-- I think what's beautiful about V-Day is that these kinds of activities are ground up.
They reflect what the activists in the different cities want to do. And to the extent that the choices that some of those activists make reflect internal hierarchies there, then that actually is very much a local problem and one in which people are encouraged to bring in women who are not the typical activists, who aren't the ones who have all the resources to make those movements far more representative across the board.
But it is decentralized. And the decentralization, I think, has opened up spaces that we really haven't seen before.
KATE SNOW: What was the other? Wait. We're missing one.
AUDIENCE: About Cornell [INAUDIBLE].
KATE SNOW: Cornell.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Oh, yes. So women will do better in protecting themselves against rape if they have less sex with men?
KATE SNOW: I think that was generally what she said. Where are you? OK, so wait. This was in an article? Or remind me. Sorry.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. This was in the [INAUDIBLE] question.
KATE SNOW: Oh, so it was an opinion, an editorial?
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: Yeah. OK, so what do you do with terminal silliness? I mean, I guess that's just really to remove the question. I think it is the case that nowadays we have to address Moore's stupidity than ever before, like you don't get pregnant from a rape, because-- I mean, that is so-- it's just gotten really deep.
I think the question is, A, who's in the position to make those kind of decisions to put silly things like that? But also, do we have a rapid response team? Are women organized on campus to be able to-- right into these moments and to just point out that essentially this is the same argument against rape that people used to say in the 18th century. Men can't control themselves. We're the ones that control whether sex happens or not. And that those are old ideas that I think we put to bed before, but each generation has to do it over and over again. Yeah.
KATE SNOW: Thank you so much.
Thank you all. Thank you for staying a little bit longer. I think we got to let you go, do your next thing.
SPEAKER 1: Thank you so much. This has been just a wonderful thought provoking session. And we can't thank you enough.
KATE SNOW: Thank you.
SPEAKER 1: Thanks again.
KIMBERLE CRENSHAW: That was great. [INAUDIBLE]
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NBC News correspondent Kate Snow '91 interviews Kimberlé Crenshaw '81, professor of law at UCLA and Columbia, March 1, 2014 as part of the annual meeting of the President's Council of Cornell Women.