CBC op-ed: I Spent Hundreds of Hours Preparing For Moot Court. When I Got There, I Was Told to Smile More, by Amanda Byrd:
For the last eight months, I've been a member of a mooting team based at Osgoode Hall Law School that travelled the US and UK to participate in an international competition. For those of you who don't know (which is very likely everyone who is not a lawyer or law student), a moot is a mock court where law students argue simulated cases. They're designed to develop what we call "oral advocacy skills" (meaning; better arguing).
I put in hundreds of hours preparing for the competition. ... I argued the first round of the competition in the UK with my male partner. Given the seriousness of the case, it should go without saying that both my partner and I treated the material with what we perceived to be appropriate gravitas. ...
My mooting partner and I finished our arguments, and after a short break, eagerly returned to the room to receive feedback from our judges, two of whom were male. After praising my partner, who had legitimately done an incredible job, the first of these two judges informed me that "a smile would be nice" and told me I "looked bored". The second agreed, even going so far as to state that it was a shame I didn't smile more, because it was clear that I was knowledgeable and competent in my legal arguments. No one mentioned what my partner did with his face. He was only showered with praise.
I was stunned. I felt helpless and hopeless. And angry.
I had traveled over 5,000 kilometres to one of the world's most prestigious universities only to be critiqued on my appearance and lack of perceived "enthusiasm". But I knew the problem went far beyond the moot court competition. I had heard these statements before. In fact, I heard them more than once from male practice judges when I was preparing for this competition. The tenacity of my legal arguments, the sheer amount of research and thought and preparation, seemed inconsequential. I just really needed to smile more.
Is this the future of the legal profession? Courtrooms full of grinning female lawyers in high heels deferring to the expectations of our male counterparts? Smiling our way through murder trials and inquests?