06 February 2013

Fertility and Gender

'Sex and Statutory Uniformity: Harmonizing the Legal Treatment of Semen' by Myrisha Lewis (2012) 7 Charleston Law Review 235 identifies inconsistencies in US law governing child support, assisted reproductive technology, sexually transmitted disease, sexual reproduction, and sexual assault.

Lewis comments that
For example, the law compensates victims of the negligent transmission of a sexually transmitted disease, but not male victims of contraceptive fraud, sexual assault, or statutory rape, even though all of these persons were negatively impacted by actions that involved a common inaction. These inconsistent legal treatments are notable because family law makes distinctions between these various contexts on the basis of outdated stereotypes and differing technologies. 
In order to identify and further analyze these inconsistencies, this article is based on a model which succinctly identifies every possible consequence of sex or assisted reproductive technology. The article follows the layout of the model and systematically identifies and compares the legal contexts which should not, but do indeed, receive inconsistent treatment. Second, after identifying these areas of inconsistent treatment, the article presents several model statutes that will harmonize the legal treatment of semen in situations such as embryo disposition, involuntary reproduction, and childbirth as a result of artificial insemination. As an initial matter, these statutes are based on the concepts of fairness and equal treatment of a biological product no matter the context. Additionally, the article acknowledges that uniformity is a concept that is often regarded as an important goal of federal and state law. After this recognition, the article’s model statutes build upon this concept of uniformity to mandate uniformity within family law.
'“Free as in sexist?” Free culture and the gender gap' by Joseph Reagle in (2013) 18(1) First Monday comments that
Despite the values of freedom and openness, the free culture movement’s gender balance is as skewed (or more so) as that of the computing culture from which it arose. Based on the collection and analysis of discourse on gender and sexism within this movement over a six–year period. I suggest three possible causes: (a) some geek identities can be narrow and unappealing; (b) open communities are especially susceptible to difficult people; and, (c) the ideas of freedom and openness can be used to dismiss concerns and rationalize the gender gap as a matter of preference and choice.
He concludes
While I’ve noted issues at Wikipedia and Ubuntu — two communities I follow most closely — these communities are cognizant of the need to be welcoming and supportive. Within the free culture movement each is relatively progressive: Wikipedia has numerous good–faith norms and Ubuntu has a code of conduct; both communities have fora and activities for discussing concerns and furthering diverse participation. Yet some argue that to focus on gender is beside the point. Kat Walsh, longtime Wikipedian and Wikimedia Foundation board member, wrote that we should be careful of generalizations and instead focus on behavior and culture:
I think the disproportionate lack of women in the community isn’t about gender so much as it is about a culture that rewards certain traits and discourages others. And we’re not getting people who don’t have those other traits, male or female; more of the people who do fit the current culture are male. But the focus should be on becoming more open and diverse in general — becoming more inclusive to everyone, which will naturally bring in more women (Walsh, 2011).
However, while Walsh’s goal is laudable, the language of being “more open and diverse in general” is problematic. Seemingly, there is no “in general” yet when it comes to notions such as “geekiness”, “openness” and “freedom”. These are notions with historical associations and structural dynamics that informally but significantly alienate some participants, especially women. The geek identity, as traditionally constructed, and discursive style can be unappealing, open communities are especially susceptible to difficult people (which can be especially alienating to women), and the ideas of freedom and openness can be used to dismiss concerns and rationalize the gender gap as a matter of preference and choice. Hence, I believe gender needs to be an explicit part of any intervention. The notion of what it means to be a geek should continue to be challenged and experimented with and the community must be cognizant of the challenges of openness and not permit “freedom” to be used as a means to excuse problematic behavior. While the present work is limited in its reliance upon public discourse to identify these informal problems, further research on the experiences, failures, and successes of related interventions is merited.