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What Ticked Off (and Tickled) My Readers in 2022

Dec. 28, 2022, 11:45 AM

I’d like to think I can take it as well as I dish it out. And this year, I got plenty of people riled up with my columns—particularly those that dealt with race, abortion, and masculinity.

I wrote about plenty of other topics—like the folly of eliminating LSATs, lessons learned (or not) from the demise of Dewey LeBoeuf, the anticlimax of law schools dropping out of the rankings game, and more.

But the columns that generated the most heat spotlighted the first Black female justice of the US Supreme Court, the Dobbs decision, and American manhood. Yes, “Unfiltered” readers are as polarized as the nation.

I also saw a big gender divide in readers’ reactions. With few exceptions, almost all the hostile messages I received appeared to be from men. In contrast, female readers seemed to cheer me on—often exhorting me to continue to stick it to the patriarchy.

Here are samples of readers’ gripes from this past year:

Woe to me for picking on White Southern womanhood. Was it Ketanji Brown Jackson or my defense of her that brought out the knives?

Despite her stellar resume and poise, I thought Jackson was bullied, disrespected, and interrupted by certain GOP senators during her confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.

Among others, I cited Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who asked Jackson to define “woman,” then badgered her for serving on the board of a school that the senator said teaches kindergartners “about so-called white privilege.”

Funny, I wrote, that a White Southern woman was lecturing a Black woman on womanhood, race, and White privilege.

The upshot: I was accused of racism. “This is the most racist article,” one reader wrote. “You refer to a southern white woman and white men with such hate for them and their rights to speak!”

Another reader wrote on Twitter: “You seem to miss that the newest SCOTUS member can’t define a woman because she’s not a biologist. And yet these are the people we should trust to make sound legal decisions on this matter.”

Josh Hawley’s masculinity is not to be disparaged. Of course, I had fun with the video of the Republican senator from Missouri sprinting out of the Capitol during the Jan. 6 uprising after he had pumped his fist in solidarity with the rioters earlier in the day.

For a guy who’s made machismo his brand—he’s now peddling his book “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs—I opined that Hawley was failing Masculinity 101 miserably.

“I have noticed that you have a problem with White men,” a reader quipped. “What is your problem?” Another reader wrote, “I almost want to share this article because it is so horrible. You should be fired.”

But apparently female readers were giggling. One typical response: “Your article about Hawley was terrific. I detest that little weasel & all he stands for.”

Outrage over my lack of outrage that the Dobbs decision was leaked. I thought the outrage over the leaked opinion was a sideshow, considering how Dobbs is depriving women of their autonomy over their bodies. Some readers—men in particular, it seems—differed with my view and gave me a tongue lashing.

One wrote: “Sorry you misunderstood the point and the threat to our democracy. Thirty-three years into my legal career I am still shocked when I read articles that are so far off the mark and threaten our democracy in this manner.”

“Your column on the SCOTUS draft opinion reversing Roe v Wade is nothing but liberal drivel,” was one typical hostile response I received.

A number of readers suggested that I was unworthy of my job: “With work like this i think you belown [sic] at the national enquirer...not bloomberg. pathetic rant … not helpful and extremely unbecoming.”

Another reader emailed me a photo of a fetus, along with this comment: “Your article is so silly … you can’t even call an abortionist an abortionist … you really have no credibility and normal people regardless of party are troubled by the leak. also what is a ‘safe’abortion? have you considered whether it is safe for the baby?”

But female readers seem to be largely on my side. “They leaked info about the Affordable Care Act opinion too, and nobody got their panties in a twist then,” one wrote.

Stop picking on Jones Day and Steve Brogan, you ignornamus! Granted, I did ask whether Jones Day is the most evil law firm on the planet. But contrary to rumors, I have no personal beef with Jones Day or its dear leader.

Yet some folks take my critique of the firm quite personally. “The notion that you have any clue about Brogan’s decision making process is real chutzpah,” one former Jones Day partner wrote about the anointment of Greg Shumaker—whom I called a Mini-Me of Brogan—as the next leader.

“But someone is apparently willing to pay you for this stuff ... To assume that because the guy is not black or female the decision must have been based on something other than the merits is, to be polite, not rational.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so blunt about my sisters? My column on how Asian American female lawyers are the last to benefit from diversity initiatives in business development hit home for many in that group.

But a few took issue with the headline “Asian American Women are the Losers in Big Law,” which some feared stigmatizes Asian American female lawyers as failures.

From an Asian American law student: “I too feel like others are deciding whether I am ‘sweet and docile’ or simply a ‘Dragon Lady.’ Why can’t I be a sweet Dragon Lady? It’s not that oxymoronic.”

Maybe readers like their buttons pushed. I often get lengthy comments about how I’m wrong, offensive, stupid—the works. But just when I think I’ve lost a reader, I get a nice surprise.

One person who vehemently disagreed with my opinion that Justice Samuel Alito was egregiously partisan in Dobbs ended his email, “I enjoy reading your columns. Keep up the good work.” Go figure.

Keep those unfiltered comments flowing in the new year. They make my day. Really.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivia Chen in New York at vchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alison Lake at alake@bloombergindustry.com