Update on the “Buxom Woman” Dispute

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An AP article yesterday shed more light on the motion to preclude a woman the AP described as "buxom" from sitting at counsel table during trial. (I was a little more direct the other day – has the word "breast" become inappropriate?)

This report quotes the attorney who filed the motion, who says he doesn't believe the woman is a qualified paralegal and that she should have to sit in the gallery. This apparently stems in part from an arbitration he had with the same plaintiff's lawyer, in which he said he objected to the same woman for the same reason(s) and the arbitrators asked her to leave. Unlike the prior news item, this one quotes him as saying that the problem is not just her buxomness physical form but also the way she is dressed.

Already perceived as remarkably sexist by some, the attorney probably did not help his cause with this new quote, in which he insists that it was not just about the boobs buxomness body.

"Personally, I like large breasts," he said (that's the unhelpful part). "However, I object to somebody I don't think is a qualified paralegal sitting at the counsel table – when there's already two lawyers there – dressed in such a fashion as to call attention to herself." He did not explain further as to the fashion choices he was concerned about.

For his part, the plaintiff's attorney and alleged-buxom-woman-bringer is quoted as saying that he doesn't think it is "professional to try a case in the press," although he then proceeded to talk about the case to the press, having previously sent the press all the relevant documents.

This report doesn't mention any result of the motion, so maybe it has not yet been denied as I speculated the other day. The online docket also has not been updated. We shall see.

To get back to "buxom" — I was surprised to learn that, according to the OED, this word originally had nothing specifically to do with women. It meant something like "obedient," "pliant," or "submissive," but in reference to God, the Pope, or legal authority – e.g.c.1175 "Beo buhsome toward gode"; c.1523 "I shall be buxome and obeydient to iustice"; c. 1581 "The Consuls should sweare faythfully to become … buxome to the Pope." (That last one especially I think is good evidence that the word didn't mean what it means now.) The word also had the sense of "gracious," "courteous," or "kindly," again without regard to gender.

By the 16th century, though, it was evolving into something like "lively" or "full of health," still not exclusively as to women, but by the 19th century it looks like the dominant meaning had become "plump and comely … chiefly [to describe] women." Given the word's history of meaning "submissive" or "compliant," though, this transition seems to make the word a lot more creepy and sexist than I had thought. I sweare faythfully not to use it anymore.