On the first day of Pride Month this year, the White House issued a proclamation on LGBTQ Pride Month while the governor of Florida signed a bill preventing some women from participating in women’s sports. The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” bans women and girls whose assigned sex does not match their gender identity from participating in women’s sports sponsored by public middle schools, high schools, and publicly funded colleges and universities. This year has already broken the record for state anti-transgender initiatives and lawmakers in Florida, Maine, Wisconsin, and South Carolina have pushed anti-transgender legislation all month long.
Policing the bodies of people of color, women, and minorities is nothing new to American policy. School and workplace dress codes, body shaming, hiring discrimination, and racism thinly veiled as “professionalism” permeate American culture. There is always some level of institutionalized repression when it comes to self-expression in formal social settings. Anti-transgender laws, however, do more than restrict self-expression. They exclude and alienate an entire identity and ultimately aim to criminalize the existence of an already marginalized group of people.
ONE OF MY CHIEF AIMS IS TO DEVELOP CRITICAL THINKING IN MY STUDENTS. How many times have how many aspiring faculty written this about their teaching philosophy? But what do they mean? I often sense that this statement is a kind of hand wave in the direction of reading and thinking carefully.
So what does critical thinking mean, and how can professors help develop that in their students when the course is supposedly aimed at some subject other than how to think critically?
In February 2020, Professor Martha A. Fineman visited my class (a seminar on archival research) and answered questions about her career and work. In discussing the latter, Professor Fineman introduced the class to vulnerability theory. The elegance in centering everything’s vulnerability interested me to learn more, so I enrolled in the Law & Vulnerability seminar for the 2021 spring semester. In this short piece, I detail my experience in the course and its impact on me—both were fantastic. First, I describe how the class discussion kept me engaged in my last semester of Zoom law school. Second, I explain why taking the course was one of my best law school decisions.
II. THE SAFETY NET TERM IS A RORSCHACH TEST IN CONTEMPORARY SCHOLARSHIP
What do you think of when you hear or read the term “social safety net”? Which specific programs are included? Which are excluded? Are student loans part of the safety net? Life insurance? Is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission part of the safety net? Mandatory vaccination? Are needle exchange programs?
Odds are, a writer’s or reader’s understanding of the term matches one of five very different senses in which the term is used in contemporary health and welfare law and policy scholarship. The safety net is thus a Rorschach test for health and welfare law and policy: what it means shifts, narrows, or expands depending on the writer’s or reader’s underlying vision of the problems that health and welfare policy seek to solve and the role of law in that effort.