Flip It Forward

Way back, on April 9th 2005, I attended one of Peter Yu’s many excellent conferences: “W(h)ither the Middleman?

It was a fun event, packed with many of cyberlaw’s rockstars.

I was on the last panel of day two, looking at ‘the future of intermediaries’ along with a great line-up that included Ann Bartow, Rob Heverly, Dan Hunter and David Post.

For me, the most inspiring of the talks during the two day event was the one given by Ann. She took the question posed in the conference title seriously, choosing to remove the bracketed-h and explaining why gender equality requires us to wither the ‘man’ in the middle. The publication deriving from this talk is available here, and I highly recommend it as an important diagnostic and prescription for the way we use (and don’t use) the web.

In her talk, Ann provided some possible explanations for why there is not very much legal scholarship devoted to gender issues on the Internet and suggested that there is a powerful need for cyberprofs and activists to pay substantially more attention to the gender-based differences in communicative style and substance that have been imported from real space to cyberspace.

Ann also shared a number of examples of gender discrimination online and off, including experiences of her own upon her arrival to usc, including her first meeting with a senior male colleague who greeted her with a question: ‘why should the faculty have hired a woman instead of a man to teach ip?’

She told us that it has since gotten a bit easier, that over time she was able to ‘flip’ this guy (i.e., he came to recognize her contribution to the faculty and her field and he eased-up a little once she was able to ‘prove herself’).

During the discussion period on our panel – when asked what could be done about all this – ann replied by saying it-would-be-a-great-start if male colleagues would simply add a gender component within the fields of research that they are already conducting.

I remember Dan Hunter and others promising that they would. I made a similar promise to myself. While it has taken a lot longer than I had hoped to ramp up my research and although it is still very early in my project, I am happy to finally report to Ann and the others in attendance that I have met the challenge.

In furtherance of my own recent work on the relationship between ‘identifiers’ and ‘identity’ (part of my idtrail project), last wednesday, I gave a presentation at uOttawa’s Shirley Greenberg feminist lunch time workshop series titled “new identifiers for victims of abuse”.

Unfortunately, my talk was more of a description of the project than a finished research product.

If you are interested, the podcast is available here and the powerpoint deck is here.

This post is really just to offer my sincere thanks to ann for ‘flipping’ me, and also to challenge Dan Hunter, Greg Latowska, and other men who promised they would meet Ann’s challenge — as well as all of the other men on this list who didn’t know about Ann’s challenge — to flip-it-forward!