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‘It won’t be long until you’re a kept woman’: Soon-to-be-married barrister goes public with male opponent’s sexist remark

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Prompting legal Twitterati to share their sexism stories

Amy Rollings

A soon-to-be-married barrister who hit out at a male opponent after he said it wouldn’t be long until she became a “kept woman” has prompted other female lawyers to share similar experiences of work-related sexism on social media.

Taking to Twitter, Amy Rollings, an employment and personal injury barrister at Nine St John Street Chambers in Manchester, recalls being shocked at a sexist remark made by her male rival during a county court case. After hearing that Rollings is soon-to-be-married, the male barrister is said to have responded: “Well it won’t be long until you are a kept woman and you won’t need to do this.”

Rollings, who went onto win the case, gave this reserved response:

Left baffled by the barrister’s comments, she tweeted in frustration: “It’s so annoying that when this stuff happens to me (not the first time), I am so taken aback, I just respond with politeness rather than anything brilliantly witty.”

Rollings, 31, jokingly continued in her tweets: “I’ve just been killing time all these years until I found a husband!”

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Rollings’ tweet prompted a number of lawyers to share similar encounters of sexism.

Criminal barrister Eleanor Mawrey, of London’s 9 Gough Square, was once told that some female lawyers simply practise law as a “hobby” — taking away cases from their full-time male peers.

According to CrimeGirl, an anonymous barrister, her commitment to her career was called into question while pregnant.

Amy Beddis, a family law barrister at 3 Paper Buildings, recalled a sexist comment she received upon returning from maternity leave.

Rachel Chan, a Kent-based family barrister at 42 Bedford Row, also revealed sexist comments directed towards her stay-at-home husband.

Earlier this year, criminal barrister Joanna Hardy advised her male colleagues not to “act like you’re on a stag-do” or “make repetitive jokes about breasts or skirts” as part of a nine-point action plan to improving the working lives of female barristers.

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33 Comments

Anonymous

While these may be true, unless they name these men it won’t alter their behaviour.

(77)(20)

Sad

It’s not just that. We can all sit around and complain about a time someone said something to us that wasn’t nice, or that we didn’t like. One of the comments up there is literally a lady complaining because someone asked if her husband was a good house husband. I mean is this really the level we are at for people to cry sexism.

(67)(28)

Anonymous

Go Charlotte Proudman. See what good it did her.

(9)(7)

BAP

Return of spirit of the Bronze Age!

Revolt of vitalism!

Destruction of the cities in fire!

(3)(2)

feasel

Was highly qualified barrister Ms Rollings really “Left baffled by the barristers comments”, LegalCheek? Or are you patronising her in the article about her being patronised?

(5)(1)

Anon

Waaah waaah – the headline story is simply a bloke faced with a small talk situation who has awkwardly attempted to make a joke/ accidentally said something that a sensitive person can derive some offence from.

This does not sum up his attitude – stop taking every little thing (including yourself) so seriously. If that is his attitude, the simple solution is ignore it and carry on being a barrister.

Both the tweet and the article are unnecessary. However, in the current climate they are a safe bet for both authors to post as they will undoubtedly only receive praise or sympathy for fear of causing further offence…

(80)(79)

Anon

No. It’s sexist. The male barrister in the original tweet went back to the 50s when it was seen that women were there to serve their husbands and it was seen as unacceptable for them to work.

And if we allow this sexist ‘small-talk’ as you call it, where do we draw the line?

(43)(50)

Anonymous

Though for many female barristers that is what does happen. Especially those that marry high earning men.

(49)(10)

Anonymous

‘Tis all very well banging on about “retention” at the Bar. You’re not going to retain women who don’t want to be retained. You see it time and again. Successful women doing well-paid civil work — especially those with barrister partners in similar lines of practice — pack it in once they have children. It isn’t because they are driven out (and it isn’t everybody, either). But it is choice-driven, not the Bar’s problem.

And anyway, do you want to be self-employed, or not? No-one talks about the problems of retaining women running greengrocers, or small dry-cleaning businesses. Neither are such women subsidised by the similar shop up the road.

(20)(16)

Anonymous

Are any of these allegations substantiated? How come the targets are all male?

(19)(19)

Anonymous

I feel like we are missing part of the story. Does the offending barrister know Ms Rollings’ partner? While I do not doubt that she took offence to something that was said, it just feels to me that we are missing (a large) part of the story.

(18)(12)

Anonymous

Echochambertastic.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Hardy was severely criticised fir her remarks, which many felt were sexist.

(7)(3)

Anonymous

…and LC are deleting comments again!

(12)(2)

Anonymous

Even comments just mentioning “echo chamber” are being taken down, even though that is a suitable commentary on this sort of social media nonsense.

(17)(2)

Anonymous

There is a distinction between ignorance and sexism.

Is her husband-to-be particularly well known or a high-earner?

As a male, if I were soon-to-be married and a reference was made to me being a kept man, I certainly wouldn’t treat it as a sexist comment.

(26)(24)

Anon

You don’t treat it as sexist because you aren’t faced with sexism on a daily basis. Yes this is one awkward joke/comment, but it becomes tiresome and extremely undermining and condescending when you hear such things said multiple times a day just because you’re female.

(35)(35)

Anonymous

Absolutely correct! I am impacted by idiots on a daily basis, and it is becoming deeply irritating to continue living like this. Your feelings are equally shared and I agree that this must stop.

Let us be in arms, comrade. Some of those idiots also happen to be women, but we can look past that point I am sure.

(9)(20)

Anonymous

But is was not “mulitple times a day”. It was clearly a single remark and one that was considered so unusual by the poster as to merit a “tweet” about it. Less a festering swamp of sexism and more a single joke that was a bit off colour.

(19)(12)

Anon

You are missing my point, it was one comment from this man but she has likely facing multiple comments like this from other men. I can assure you that you would not appreciate it being insinuated that you’re not a hard worker, serious about your job, or as competent as your peers just because of your gender. This isn’t 1940, women don’t work until they find a husband, they work to build a career. Respect that.

(24)(19)

Anonymous

Just because the poster considered it unusual from a peer (i.e. a fellow barrister), it doesn’t mean she doesn’t face comments from men generally.

(11)(13)

Anonymous

So? This is a story about so-called sexism at the Bar not in society generally.

Its gone too far

I get the whole gender pay issue, and any ‘minority’ or set of people not being able to progress in line with their work ethic and skill set due to biases or prejudice.

What I dislike is this culture of people blowing up about what someone said to them once, it’s just a movement getting out of hand in my opinion.

(30)(13)

Anonymous

Archaic attitudes at the Bar of all places? Shock horror!

(9)(9)

Anonymous

Riddle me this – should you have to be having a child to go on maternity leave?

(7)(10)

Anonymous

What nonsense is this?? Yes, you should have a child to go on maternity leave. You also have to have a child to go on paternity leave.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

Why? It seems unfair that one lifestyle choice should allow you time off work and another shouldn’t. If I want to travel for 9 months, volunteer at the local urban farm, or spend more time with my grandmother instead of having a child, then why should I not be treated the same?

(16)(13)

Anon

100% agree. I’ve tried explaining this on here too but the posters clearly have no life experience and can’t see from both sides (ergo, they’ll make terrible lawyers).

(3)(0)

Anon

Your advice to “Get some perspective and focus on the big picture” is entirely correct, though for exactly the opposite reason that you intended..

(0)(1)

Anon

Well I obviously disagree. Also, if you’re not going to give evidence for your statement then don’t bother commenting at all. That’s like a basic for any counter argument.

(2)(0)

Anon

Yes! I’ve seen people say there’s a distinction between ignorance and sexism, which is actually very ignorant of sexism itself.

A quote from A Christmas Carol and the Ghost of Christmas Present comes to mind

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I hope people know that the nasty male lawyers are the minority, most male lawyers are nice and decent people (shout out to JDP)

(3)(3)

Anonymous

Aren’t there a few more important things going on?

(10)(7)

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