Alumni News

January 9, 2019 at 11:51 am

WGSS Alumni Panel Discusses #MeToo, Lives of Marginalized People

Panel From left: Caroline Nagy, Anika Holland, Madison Koenig, Liz Herron

From left: Caroline Nagy, Anika Holland, Madison Koenig, Liz Herron

by Kristin Distel

The Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program welcomed back several of its alumni for the annual Reunion and Roundtables event, which featured a keynote address, several discussion panels, and a reception.

The final panel of the day, “Me Too—Moment or Movement: Women in Law Reflect,” featured four OHIO alumni: Madison Koenig, Caroline Nagy, Anika Holland, and Liz Herron.

MeToo Movement and Legal Questions

The panelists weighed in on the legal aspects and ramifications of the MeToo movement, noting in particular the long and complicated history of sexual harassment.

Nagy explained that she is interested in how MeToo has gained so much social traction, “yet law is not really part of it.” In discussing the history of workplace harassment, she noted that “the assumption was that women would be exposed to sexual harassment in male spheres but that they would be silent about it. MeToo proved that harassment is still prevalent in workplaces, but the law is not what’s driving MeToo or what creates social change; it’s women organizing, sharing stories, and creating new political theories.”

Holland’s work focuses in part on nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), especially the needs of those who break NDAs but cannot afford legal services.

“One goal of MeToo is to change the ability of perpetrators to force others to sign NDAs. Often workers sign these as a condition of employment, which indicates a power differential. The movement has been more focused on celebrities and less on low-wage workers, yet those who working for tips suffer much higher rates of sexual harassment. Integrating trauma-informed care into legal practices is where the MeToo movement needs to go,” Holland maintains.

Calling Attention to Lives of Marginalized People

Herron concurred with Holland about the need to focus on the experiences of those who aren’t in the celebrity spotlight.

“MeToo focuses on cis white women in Hollywood, and many people acting on that are also privileged—just like the women whose stories get attention,” she remarked.

Herron also emphasized the importance of drawing attention to and dismantling systems that perpetuate privilege. When discussing both government organizations and NGOs, Herron noted that there is “privilege at every single level of the equation.”

“Who brings issues like MeToo and harassment before the government? Who decides? The people who have power,” she stated.

‘Be Accountable to Your Own Values’

Koenig agreed, noting that a difficult paradox within their profession is that “the way to help economically disadvantaged people is to make rich people happy. Then you’ll have the support you need to do the work.”

She emphasized that it is possible and important to “be accountable to your own values, and to use institutions for the good they can do, but don’t count on them.” Instead, Koenig suggested, “count on fellow students and community members. There needs to be more emphasis on lawyers as advocates, not leaders.”

Both Herron and Koenig maintained that when fighting injustice, “law should be a tool in one’s toolbox, but not the main or only one.”

‘OHIO Helped Me Learn What Type of Legal Advocate I Want to Be’

Koenig (’15) graduated from OHIO’s Honors Tutorial College with a major in English, a minor in World Religions, and a certificate in WGSS. After graduating, she worked at Cabrini Immigrant Services, a New York City clinic that provides legal and social services for low-income immigrants, and served as the Development Manager for HousingPlus, a nonprofit that provides permanent housing for homeless women in Brooklyn. Koenig is currently a first-year law student at New York University. She plans to specialize in immigration and family law.

Nagy (’04) holds a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from OHIO, as well as a J.D. from NYU School of Law, which she earned in 2010. She is an advocate for financial protections, inclusive communities, and affordable housing, with a background in law, policy, and coalition building. She currently serves as the Deputy Director for Policy and Research at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.

Holland (’17) holds an A.B. in English from OHIO’s Honors Tutorial College; she also earned certificates in Law, Justice, & Culture and WGSS. She is currently a law student at the University of California, Berkeley, where she focuses on feminist jurisprudence and employment law.  “OHIO helped me learn what type of legal advocate I want to be,” Holland stated. “I want to help people create a legal narrative that will get positive results and fair judgments.”

Herron (’11) holds a B.A. in Political Science and a certificate in WGSS from OHIO’s Honors Tutorial College and a J.D. from William & Mary Law School. She currently serves as an Associate General Counsel at Akron Children’s Hospital and as a board member of the Global Ambassadors Language Academy, a language-immersion charter school in Cleveland.

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