Friday, February 29, 2008

Of belts and suspenders

I am happy to announce that we have mail already:

Dear Department of Incidental and Consequential Information:

I am a teacher at a perfectly respectable law school in the New York City Area. In teaching Commercial Law subjects -- and in particular in Secured Transactions -- I always introduce my students to the concept of the "belt and suspenders" approach when practicing in the Commercial Law area. While my female students do not seem to have any difficultly picking up on the concept once explained, I have not been able to come up with a gender-neutral phrase that conveys the same idea. In this era when more than half of all law students are women, shouldn't we be able to come up with a phrase that has the same connotation but which isn't reflective of the time, not so long ago, when being a lawyer was only a man's job?

Politically Correct in Manhattan

Dear Politically Correct in Manhattan:

I have to admit that being female, I, too, had to pause and think this one through. Must be the never having been faced with the decision of the belts and suspenders. I typically wear neither. But upon reflection, I laughed to myself and thought "girdle and pantyhose." That would likely not resonate with most of your male audience as it also fails in gender neutrality. I also came up with "seat belt and airbag," but that may fail in its lack to amuse in the way that belt and suspenders does. Perhaps the blog readership will have some suggestions on this one?

Of course, the other lurking open question is why anyone in their right mind would choose to wear both? Is a belt and suspenders approach to commercial law the best regulatory choice? I might suggest that preservation of party autonomy and having a identifiable set of default rules is a compelling justification. After all, wouldn't it be tragic if one wore neither the belt nor the suspenders? Parties who fail to plan are at least forced into a default system when they forget to wear their belt. But then again, perhaps this is just a trust issue. Neither the belt nor the suspenders are trusted to do their job properly, so one wears them both.




Anonymous said...

could be pills and condoms :)

Kindari O'Connor said...

I have heard Belt and Braces. Would that be more gender neutral?