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Journal Name Change

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The following is a letter from the 2004-05 Editorial Board:

Dear Berkeley Women’s Law Journal Alumni, Advisory Board, Friends, Sponsors, and Subscribers:

It is with great excitement that the membership and Editorial Board of 2004-05 writes to inform you of our recent decision to change our name to the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice. This change has been on the Journal’s agenda and subject to research and extensive discussion for the past year-and-a-half. In order to ensure continued name recognition and prestige, we will be using a compound name – Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, a continuation of Berkeley Women’s Law Journal – for the next three years on all correspondence and Journal volumes. We chose “a continuation of” in order to emphasize our continued connection with all that the Berkeley Women’s Law Journal has stood for and worked towards over the past twenty years and which we are still working towards today.

This letter details the process, research, and discussions involved in our decision to change the Journal’s name. We hope you will agree with us that the occasion of our 20th Anniversary as a cutting-edge publication presented us with a unique and critical opportunity to engage in self-assessment, self-critique, and self-reflection. Changes to both our name and our cover design, beginning with Volume 20, are a direct result of this undertaking. We have not however, altered the language or meaning of governing mandate; indeed, a critical reading of the mandate which has existed in its current form since Volume 11, encouraged us to make these changes in order to infuse more of our governing mandate into both our name and cover. This mandate states:

Our mandate is to publish research, analysis, narrative, theory, and commentary that address the lives and struggles of underrepresented women. We believe that excellence in feminist legal scholarship requires critical examination of the intersection of gender with one or more other axes of subordination including, but not limited to, race, class, sexual orientation, and disability. Therefore, discussions of ‘women’s issues’ that treat women as a monolithic group do not fall within our mandate. Because conditions of inequality are continually changing our mandate is continually evolving.

The use of “women,” “feminist,” and “gender” within the mandate are indicative of the depth, breadth, and mission which has always guided our unique Journal; and it is this nuanced multiplicity which we have decided to further emphasize through our title change. Over the years our mandate has changed several times in response to members’ desires that the Journal recognize critical evolution in the terms which govern feminist debate and are embodied in critical feminist, critical race, and queer legal scholarship and theory. So too should our name be responsive to evolutions amongst the membership and the scholarship, rather than remaining a static entity.

We hope that all of you will join us in celebrating both the changes announced today, as well as the critical constants which have guided our organization since its inception. Particularly, we hope that many of you will be able to join us for our 20th Anniversary Celebration in April when we will celebrate both the past and the present, the new and the old, the continuities and the changes as we also look forward to another twenty years of cutting-edge scholarship and activism as the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice.
Why a Change?

The following are individual statements from Journal members that best personify both our individual and collective reasons for changing our name, as well as the concerns which were raised.

“Even after two years as a member on BWLJ, and one year as a member of the editorial board, I felt unsure about submitting my piece about transgender rights for consideration by the journal. While the mandate of BWLJ specifically mentions gender intersections as the focus of the journal, the title continued to imply a more limited, and in my opinion, essentialist focus. My former partner (about whom my article was written), a female-to-male transgender person, similarly felt uncomfortable having his story of discrimination told in a “women’s journal.” I decided to submit, and accept publication with BWLJ anyway, but I have supported changing our name throughout BWLJ’s conversations. For me, the name change signals an updating of our title to reflect what the membership is already doing–publishing scholarship about what happens at the intersection of gender with another under-represented category. I was thrilled by the intellectual rigor and emotional engagement our discussions about the name change contained. Our members persevered through meeting after meeting, private conversation after conversation, about what our journal name means and what we want it to reflect. We looked inside ourselves and mustered the courage and stamina to really listen to each other and consider change. To me, the new title reflects consideration of the voices of women of color on the journal, queer women, trans women, white women and other members who came together to make the name reflect our mandate, celebrate our past, and have new potential for growth and inclusion. It was a long hard process, and I am certainly saddened in many ways to let go of the name Berkeley Women’s Law Journal, but I know the spirit of the journal remains the same.” – Abby Lloyd (3L)

“I thought the process we went through was really great. The conversations that we had demonstrated individual member’s commitment to our mandate and allowed us to more fully discuss what our mandate and the Journal mean to us as both individuals and as a group.” – Marisa Gonzalez (3L)

“I’m excited about it because it will enlarge the scope of the scholarship we are able to attract and publish that is relevant to me as a queer woman.” – Anne Tamar-Mattis (2L)

“The title change process was very organic; it grew out of and is reflective of who we are.” – Sarah Angel (1L)

“The overarching triumph of the new name is the accurate reflection of the mandate of our journal and the mission of our members. We celebrate the incorporation of the word “gender,” which has the flexible potential to include all underrepresented genders and the intentional separation of the words “law” and “justice,” illustrating that oftentimes they are not one in the same. We work with one. We work toward the other.” – Emily Schaeffer and Jill Adams (2Ls)

“A part of me is sad to let go of a name that has been an omnipresent and guiding force in my life for the past two years. However, that sadness is thoroughly overshadowed by the intellectual excitement and rigor our conversations brought to the fore of the Journal this year. It is this careful and courageous process of self-critique and assessment that we celebrate today, along with the change in our name. To me, our decision to become the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice exemplifies our membership’s dedication to the founding principles of the Journal and our continued allegiance to all the women and men of the Berkeley Women’s Law Journal who have come before and all the women and men of the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice who will follow in our footsteps.” – Stephanie Schmid (3L)

The Process

After several years of having a name change mentioned by various Journal members, this issue was placed firmly on the BWLJ agenda in the spring of 2004 after initial discussions with both the 2003-04 and 2004-05 Editorial Boards. As incoming Editor-in-Chief, Stephanie Schmid conducted research on several fronts: (1) the names of every other law journal relating to women, gender, or sexual orientation; (2) the process of changing a journal’s name – specifically by studying the procedures used by the High Technology Law Journal at Boalt which changed its name ten years after its founding to the Berkeley Technology Law Journal; (3) the history of BWLJ, with a particular emphasis on the founding and the subsequent evolution of the mandate and other governing principles.

All of this information was then presented to the Journal membership for review and discussion. Substantive conversations, guiding by updated packets of written information were held at the fall membership retreat, at least four separate general member meetings, and a number of Editorial Board meetings as well. The initial meetings focused on eliciting different views as to the positives and negatives with respect to changing the title and whether or not individual members supported a change, generally speaking. After it became clear that a majority of the membership was in favor of changing the title, we began to generate first words and then specific titles that individuals felt best represented our various reasons for changing the title. Finally, the list was narrowed down to four possible titles which were put to a ballot vote by the entire membership, including a fifth option to retain Berkeley Women’s Law Journal as our name.

The Decision

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of changing the Journal’s name (only two individuals ranked BWLJ as their preference); and within the title change options, Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice was the clear choice of a majority of our members.

We are now beginning the process of notifying alumni, friends, sponsors, subscribers, advisory board members, as well as the Boalt community of our decision. In order to emphasize the continued connection between BWLJ and BGLJ we will use a compound name for the next three years on all correspondence as well as in the Journals themselves – this will help ensure that BGLJ is clearly associated with the tradition, prestige, and name recognition which BWLJ has built over the past twenty years – traditions which we continue to carry on today. We would be happy to answer any additional questions about this process and our decision that you may have.

Sincerely,

The membership of Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, a continuation of Berkeley Women’s Law Journal