I feel like I have to start over again. In Simone DeBeauvoir’s “The Second Sex” she writes that “[a] man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male. But if I wish to define myself, I must first of all say, ”I am a woman”; on this truth must be based all further discussion.”
Let’s begin with this as well. I am a woman who was born in Kandahar, Afghanistan and emigrated to this country when I was 18 months old. Our intention was always to return. But, as you can tell, that didn’t happen. If you forget these salient points while reading this blog, my tweets, facebook, instagram, whatever – then that’s your fault not mine. I am letting you know that my ideas, thoughts, opinions are all colored by this. I am a brown woman raised by a devout Muslim woman and a surgeon father. I’ve moved over a dozen times. I am a criminal defense lawyer in private practice. I have twin boys via IVF. This should give you more information than you need in order to discern where I’m coming from.
When I started this blog 14 years ago (maybe it’s actually been longer, I don’t recall right now) I had four readers. I was anonymous, or so I thought. When I go back and read those old posts it is clear to me that I gave everything away. I talked about the courthouse where I worked in detail, the cafeteria, the judges and the lawyers. There was nothing really anonymous at all except I didn’t use my name. At some point, when I realized that everyone knew who I was anyway, I started using my real name. And really, what did it matter? Almost no one read the blog, there was a small group of young lawyers talking about t.v. shows and clothes and the latest antics of those around them. It was a good way to blow off steam. After all, we were lawyers, we were criminal defense lawyers. No one really cared about what we had to say about anything.
No one listened anyway.
At some point more people started reading and I got caught up in a wave we fondly called ‘the blawgosphere.’ That’s dead and I am glad. It was a misogynistic place, but one where I wanted to belong. Because as a brown woman it meant that I was ‘someone.’ I mean, I was a criminal defense lawyer and a damned good one. I knew as much, if not more, than all the dudes who were blathering on in these blawgs. So I wrote about the law, I wrote about injustice and at some point I got a ticket to join the club.
It was just like any other club. You are all excited about going, you get dressed up, you have all the attendant nerves and anxiety “Will they like me? Will I fit in? What if I’m trying too hard?” And then you show up and it sucks. The people suck. The atmosphere sucks. The drinks are watery and back then you could still smoke in certain areas of clubs so – it smelled bad too. I would get messages from the in-crowd of the blawgosphere telling me what to write, why my writing was wrong, why I was wrong. Or, the most mature of all “I wrote about that first.”
Ah, good times. No, not really.
I have always had words in me. And the words I had usually revolved around pretty complex issues that don’t lend themselves to short, neat blog posts. Things like justice and inequality are not meant for 800 words. My fierce opposition to the death penalty (after being proponent for quite some time) cannot be summed up in one article (maybe two.) My feelings about race and class in our justice system would take weeks and weeks. And addressing the misogyny and sexism in our profession would need a whole chapter. The #metoo movement has lead me to reexamine everything I ever thought about myself as a woman in a field dominated by men; the paths I took to get to the point I’m at now and what I could have done differently to protect my sisters at law.
There were confrontations with those who lead the blawgs, some public – but with others just a silent withdrawing of affection and respect. I had to realize that criminal defense lawyers don’t always believe in justice or equality. We don’t all disavow the death penalty or mass incarceration. We don’t all believe that women should be heard.
If you go through my old blog posts you will see a sort of fuzzy thinking. I’ve always been the touchy feely sort. I’m not a lawsplainer all that often and prefer to focus on the aspects of law that touch on us as human beings. I want you to know that this shit is real. It happens to real people and it is hard and it hurts and it changes people. I want you to know that all of us are born and then made and that each of us has a thing inside of us that makes us who we are – that none of us is the sum of our worst days and that there is almost always a part of each person that is good. I want you to know that this could happen to you. The cops could show up at your door. It could be you next, or your brother or your daughter. I want to make it real for you. Maybe because I am a mom, maybe because I am a woman. Maybe because of everything I am and because I think it matters because if you understand it, if you feel it viscerally inside of you, maybe you will help us change it.
Then people will listen to us.
Thank you, for this, the blog and your work. Have you thought about writing a memoir, if only for your kids?
“I am human, so are these people.” Convincing “regular” folks of that is the hardest, and likely most important, step in changing this mad system.