The need for an online forum giving voice to women who work in international law and policy began to take shape 10 years ago this autumn.
An issue of the day was Guantánamo; specifically, what was the United States to do now that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a June 2006 decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, had ruled President George W. Bush’s military commissions unconstitutional?
Many women had worked, spoken, or written on GTMO – not only in law review articles, but also in court pleadings. I was one of them, having published “Guantánamo” in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law in 2004 and served in 2006 as principal author of the amicus brief in Hamdan filed jointly by the National Institute of Military Justice and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
And yet, when Congress convened post-Hamdan hearings, witness after witness was exclusively male. Worse still, the perspectives these men advanced by no means covered the spectrum – no surprise given that all of them had served in the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, and only one staked any claim to expertise in human rights law. Nothing approximating either a nongovernmental or feminist perspective surfaced in those sessions on Capitol Hill.
News accounts of such manels got me thinking about launching a blog.
Opinio Juris, founded in November 2004, had revealed an international law community rife with readers and contributors. But posts by women were few, as was then and remains today the case on digital platforms. I imagined that a blog open only to women might attract women – that women would see it as both an invitation and an obligation to contribute. Going pink would set a strong contrast with OJ‘s baby-blue image.
The name? “IntLaw” was easy, and for obvious reasons.
“Grrls” was obvious too. The spelling’s angry “grr” owes much to the circa-1990s Riot Grrrls; the concept, to the Guerrilla Girls, a group that since 1985 has been wreaking feminist havoc in the male-dominated art world. (Years later, we would recognize Pussy Riot, a band-turned-movement that, like Guerrilla Girls, remains active.)
As the Guerrilla Girls’ website recalls:
“They assumed the names of dead women artists and wore gorilla masks in public, concealing their identities and focusing on the issues rather than their personalities.”
And so did IntLawGrrls. Well, not the gorilla masks (at least not in public). But in the infant months after our birth-day on March 3, 2007, each of us assumed the name of a foremother as our pseudonym, and posted in her honor. I was Gráinne Ni Mháille, or Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate who also would be embraced by contributors Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Gráinne de Búrca. A charter contributor, Beth Van Schaack, took the name of her distant relative, Eleanor Roosevelt. It will come as little surprise to learn that others followed suit in honoring ER, who remains our blog’s proto-foremother. Another early contributor, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, posted in the name of the 19th Century Indian queen Lakshmi Bai.
A half-dozen months and scores of contributors later, we ‘Grrls began posting in our own names, though we continued to name foremothers both in introductory posts and in an honor roll posted online. Kathleen A. “Kate” Doty, for example, thus paid homage to Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of Hawai‘i.
Over time, Beth, Jaya, Kate, and I evolved into the editors of IntLawGrrls. Our collaboration included hosting a conference at Tillar House, the American Society of International Law headquarters, and publishing a special issue of the International Criminal Law Review, dedicated to Judge Patricia M. Wald, on “Women and International Criminal Law.” We worked together through December 2012, when the blog took a couple-months’ hiatus and then revived. It’s been wonderful to watch the replenishment of energy and contributors at this new URL, thanks to Cecilia Marcela Bailliet and many others.
Then as now – nearly 10 years, hundreds of contributors, and thousands of posts later – IntLawGrrls mentors new voices and fosters community among contributors at all stages of their careers. Our periodic group photos are evidence of that. (At top is our photo from last spring’s ASIL annual meeting, when IntLawGrrl Betsy Andersen, 2d from right in top row, earned the Prominent Woman in International Law Award.)
To celebrate our utterly unexpected achievement, we’re throwing a party.
Beth, Jaya, Kate, and I have reunited to organize IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference. We welcome all of our vast IntLawGrrls community to join us on Friday, March 3, 2017 – on the precise date of our 10th birthday – at my home institution, the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law, Athens, Georgia USA, which is hosting as part of our Georgia WILL initiative.
Details and our call for papers are available at our conference website and in the item Jaya posted last week. Suffice it to say that we welcome proposals, in English, French, or Spanish, from all in our community. Topics may include any issue of international, comparative, foreign, or transnational law or policy. We especially welcome contributions from subfields traditionally dominated by men. Academics and practitioners, students and professors, advocates and policymakers alike are most welcome to submit.
We’re planning a plenary aimed at getting us through the next several years – title is “strategies to promote women’s participation in shaping international law and policy amid the global emergence of antiglobalism” – and we hope to organize a few more according to participants’ interests. We look forward to an opportunity to network, to meet old friends and make new ones, to celebrate our accomplishments and lay plans for greater achievements in the coming decade.
I thank all of you for your support of our efforts this last decade, and look forward to seeing many of you here in March.
(Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls blog)