voices of women in law // voix des femmes en droit

Trigger Me (Because We're in Law School)


A law student’s reflection on the unspoken sexist provocations perpetuated in the law school environment

On the first day of law school, they told us that there are two sides to every story.

In my head I thought: the oppressor and the oppressed.

But that wasn’t what they were talking about. And I quickly realized that the distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed wasn’t as clear as I once thought it was.

Oppressors are dressed as nice guys in polo shirts who buy you coffee.

Oppressors use liberal human rights discourse and want to “save the world.”

Oppressors are disguised as classmates who just want to “shake things up” or play “devil’s advocate” or are “bored.”  

I tell you that our professor is sexist. I tell you that this environment, this building, fosters rape culture. And you tell me to prove it.

Because we’re in law school.

And we judge actions based on standards of reasonableness and rationality, those that most of us are unable to attain. Because some of us are inherently irrational and unreasonable and hypersensitive and crazy, right?

My experiences become anecdotes used in class, examples of a problem, or a case, we’re assigned to solve. But in order for it to be legitimate, I must provide you with evidence and facts and proof that my feelings are real, that my trauma is real, that my triggers are real. 

You push and you prod and you cross-examine me. And if I’m lucky, you tell me that you’ll finally accept my point, that you’ll allow it, that you believe me. You are the judge and I, once again, am the victim.

Because we’re in law school.

You blame it on the fact that you’ve never been exposed to this type of conversation before. But for someone who has never been exposed to this type of conversation before, you sure have a lot to say about it. You seem to have enough knowledge about this type of conversation to interrupt me, to speak over me, to summarize what I just said, as if it will only truly make sense when it comes out of your mouth, instead of mine. Because even if you don’t know what you’re talking about, you are the expert (you act like the expert).

One of our professors put a trigger warning in the syllabus. But it didn’t include a warning for these daily, cyclical conversations we have, these fact-finding expeditions. What if I’m triggered when you speak over me and summarize what I say? When you interrupt our female professor and raise your voice when she tells you that you’re wrong? When you turn my trauma into an opinion that you can disagree with? When you pretend to be an ally but you don’t believe me (us)?

I’d ask you to give me a trigger warning, but by now I’ve become immune. I disassociate, I ignore, I deal with it.

But because we’re in law school, shouldn’t you (I) hold yourself (myself) to higher standards?



Contours is made possible by funding from the McGill Law Students’ Association / L’Association des étudiant-e-s en droit de McGill. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without permission from the authors.

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