Friday, 5 September 2014

Law, gender and eighteenth century drag

What can you do with a law degree if you don't practise law?

Well, you could ask the senior partner of Alabama 3 ('Sweet Pretty Muthaxxxxin Country Acid House Music'). I stumble across his former law tutor, Professor Chris Harding of Aberystwyth University, at a conference. Who needs a training contract?

The conference, 'Visualising Law and Gender', is at the new Centre for Law and Culture, St Mary's University, Twickenham, in the hallucinatorily gothic setting of Strawberry Hill (described as 'make-believe' by the architectural scholar Sir Nikolaus Pevsner).

Speakers include legal academics, an art historian from the University of Ghent called Stefan Huygebaert, and moi.

Ermine-enriched portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte look down impassively while doctoral theses are aired. Bullet points come up on the screen. It's the sort of conference where 'the jurisprudence of buggery' (and presumably vice versa) goes unremarked.

My own talk has been triggered by Baroness Hale's inaugural guest lecture here in June. She began by saying how much she regretted not hiring an eighteenth century woman's wig to wear on her last day on the bench at the Court of Appeal, to make a point about the dress code. (Now at the Supreme Court, she doesn't have to wear antique male garb except on ceremonial occasions - and no more wigs, ever.)

Natalia Ohana-Eavry shows women's depictions of law
So, off at a tangent I go. What, as Baroness Hale's self-appointed eighteenth century personal shopper, would I have recommended as daywear for that last day at the CA? (The French win.) And what does the history of art tell us about women in the context of justice, given the absence of  judgesses in England and Wales until 1956? If you weren't there I'll go through my PowerPoint again, just for you.  

The trip to Strawberry Hill reminds me of the awfulness of commuting. And of the sleazy pleasure of applying make-up in an empty-ish bit of the train. Those little French Bourjois pots of eye-shadow have got a mirror in the lid.

In the evening I go to a Prom conducted by a woman, Marin Alsop, who wears a mannish black suit.

More pictures if you scroll down.

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