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Making Up is Hard to Do: Race/Gender/Sexual Orientation in the Law School Classroom

59 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2009 Last revised: 12 Dec 2012

Robert S. Chang

Seattle University School of Law

Adrienne D. Davis

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law


This exchange of letters picks up where Professors Adrienne Davis and Robert Chang left off in an earlier exchange that examined who speaks, who is allowed to speak, and what is remembered. Here, Professors Davis and Chang explore the dynamics of race, gender, and sexual orientation in the law school classroom. They compare the experiences of African American women and Asian American men in trying to perform as law professors, considering how makeup and other gender tools simultaneously assist and hinder such performances. Their exchange examines the possibility of bias that complicates the use of student evaluations in assessing teaching effectiveness. It hypothesizes that the mechanism by which this bias manifests itself is a variant of stereotype threat, one that they call projected stereotype threat, where stereotypes of incompetence or accent are projected onto the bodies of teachers marked by difference. They examine how institutions respond or, as is more typically the case, fail to respond to these problems. They conclude with some suggestions for change, asserting that if institutions want to pay more than lip service to the goal of diversity, the success and employment conditions of women and minorities will improve only through the hiring of more women and minorities and by addressing directly the issue of bias to educate students about bias and its discriminatory effects on instructors whose bodies are marked by perceived differences and how such bias interferes with their learning.

Keywords: critical race theory, civil rights, legal education, sexuality and the law, women

Suggested Citation

Chang, Robert S. and Davis, Adrienne D., Making Up is Hard to Do: Race/Gender/Sexual Orientation in the Law School Classroom. Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2010; Washington U. School of Law Working Paper No. 09-05-04; Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 10-10. Available at SSRN:

Robert Chang

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

Adrienne Davis (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-935-8583 (Phone)

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