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The fifty foot high woman : women in the legal profession discovering self or discovering their place
conference contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by G Neal
Women have always struggled with paradoxical labels (and treatment) - be it the ‘contradictory aspects’ of the giantess in Scandinavian mythology (Larrington, 2002, 154), the Hollywood seductress or madonna (Haskell, 1976), or Australia’s ‘damned whores and God’s police’ (Summers, 1976, 11). In a traditional and patriarchal environment, that struggle is epitomised in women’s search for professional identity, respect and recognition as lawyers (Naffine, 1990; Thornton, 1996). As women lawyers seek to discover and establish places within their chosen profession, some are thrust back into a place where tradition dictates they belong. Powerful women - such as Queensland’s former Chief Stipendiary Magistrate Diane Fingleton - still ‘provoke anxieties and ambivalence’ (Wajcman, 1999, 165). Like many women at the highest professional levels, Ms Fingleton became a target of intense media curiosity and scrutiny (Rayner, 2003, 137). This article looks at the public recounting of her trials, both personal and judicial, through the lens of contemporaneous media stories and Court reports. As the workplace difficulties compounded, she was depicted in terms reminiscent of the 50-foot high woman (of Hollywood B grade cult movie fame) who burst through the ceiling to tower over her surroundings. Ms Fingleton was brought crashing to earth - the towering woman who had to be cut down to size - put back in her place.