Law is one of the most conservative professions in the world, and in general, it is not a kind place for women. Every single thing women in the legal profession do is scrutinized, from the way they dress, to how they speak, and even the length of their hair. They say that women who are lawyers can have it all, but when we live in a world where we’re put up against such odds, it seems like an improbable, if not impossible, feat.
That’s why attorneys across the country are talking about a recent law school graduate who is trying to make her name in the legal community. This woman has a foot in two worlds — she’s a lawyer, but she’s also a bikini model, and she’s very upset that people may not take her seriously because of all of the skin she shows online.
Some are calling her an “HR nightmare,” but others are praising her for daring to dream. Who is she, and why should you care about her?
Meet Cathy McCarthy. She’s a 2013 graduate of Loyola Law School – Los Angeles, the same school that sent out a student memo to warn them about inappropriate cleavage and the height of their heels. Back in June, McCarthy took a break from posting her bikini bod on her Instagram account to tell a tale about the dangers of lawyering while hot over at Thought Catalog. It’s been making the rounds online ever since.
I graduated law school a year ago after receiving an academic scholarship and passed the California Bar last November on my first try.
I am also a model and have had moderate success, building fan base of over 26,000 people where I do mostly bikini promotions.
Does this make me better or worse at my job? According to some people, it makes me unable to be taken “seriously” in the business community.
In fact, two weeks ago, I was reprimanded by a coworker for my online presence and was told to “handle the situation.”
I fought back and was ultimately let off the hook, but this is not the first time that I have faced backlash from colleagues who think that a lawyer should not also get the privilege of “looking hot in a bikini.”
“Why should I be punished for being good at two different careers?” she wonders. With all due respect to McCarthy’s mission to be taken seriously as an attorney who’s also a model with a very visible online presence, women in the legal profession are still fighting to be taken seriously because they’re women.
There are other wars to be won before anyone will give credence to McCarthy’s fight to attain respect for her choice to have a dual career as an attorney/model. As McCarthy notes in her Thought Catalog essay, “I do not think that there is anything wrong with a young and attractive girl pursuing a professional career as both an attorney and as a model.” We don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, either. We do, however, think that there is something wrong with having the false belief that McCarthy’s “problem” deserves deference over the legitimate problems women in the legal community face on a daily basis.
While Cathy McCarthy expects the people of the internet to wring their hands over her inability to be seen as a professional, we’d rather that they be appalled by the fact that women make up only 17 percent of equity partnerships across large law firms. While Cathy McCarthy attempts to rally the troops to cry sexism because she’s expected to “conform to some else’s idea of what a woman professional should or should not be,” we’d rather that battle cry be attached to something more useful, like denouncing the fact that women make up 64 percent of the law firm staff attorney positions they’ve been relegated to over the years.
Yes, you can be a lawyer and a bikini model at the same time, but please don’t expect your colleagues to pay reverence to your choice. There are far, far too many worthier causes for women in the law to support.
(If you’re interested, you can flip to the next page to see a picture of Cathy McCarthy in what we imagine must be her litigation bikini, plus assorted links where you can check out the rest of her work.)