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The Unbelievable Sexism Prosecutor Marcia Clark Faced During The OJ Simpson Trial
She was called hysterical and criticized for her looks during the case.
Marcia Clark was inspired to become a prosecutor so that she could help victims of crimes. She is best known for being the lead prosecutor, and the only female lawyer, in the 1995 O. J. Simpson murder case. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which aired in 2016 took a sympathetic stance on the prosecutor and for good reason. She endured an unbelievable amount of sexism and unwarranted scrutiny during the most sensationalized trial of the century. Oxygen’s Mysteries & Scandals will delve into more details about the case when it premieres on January 5.
Before the O.J. Simpson trial, Clark said that the sexism she dealt with in the courthouse was relatively tolerable. She told Vogue that she endured a “fair degree of sexism” but that her talent usually guided her through. But, once she became famous for being a prosecutor in one of America’s most contentious trials, that all changed.
Here are some of the sexist situations that Clark had to cope with while trying to prosecute the then-defendant Simpson.
The media focused on her looks
Tabloids, comedians and relatively reputable publications alike were obsessed with Clark’s hair. Before the trial began, she got a new, practical haircut.
“It was wash-and-wear hair!” Clark explained to New York Magazine in 2016. “It was easy. I had two boys in diapers, and I didn’t want to be bothered. That’s why I had the perm...I did the hair because I had no choice. I mean, my perm grew out. That’s why I cut the hair. I didn’t have time to get it permed again.”
That short, curly do and her clothing was often the butt of late-night jokes. Her hair was, for some bizarre reason, a huge deal at the time. While the media called the all-male defense team the “Dream Team,” Clark was torn apart for her style. Even her boss asked her if she wanted a consultant to improve her appearance so that the media would lay off, according to Us Weekly. A jury consultant told Clark that she should talk and dress softer, and to consider buying a pastel wardrobe.
“It is the dirty little secret of the workplace that how a woman looks matters,” Susan Reimer wrote in The Baltimore Sun in 1995 in reference to Clark.
She was targeted for being a single mother
Clark’s parenting skills were often scrutinized in the media. A March 2, 1995 article in the Los Angeles Times was titled, “Marcia Clark's Husband Cites Trial in Custody Fight: Family: He asks to be named primary parent, saying she hardly sees sons. Case shows problems of working mothers.”
The article begins with the sentence, “Her prosecution of O.J. Simpson has made her one of the best-known working mothers in America, and now it has landed Marcia Clark in a bitter custody battle with her estranged husband, who contends that her grueling workload is harming their two young sons.” That story detailed court paperwork filed by her ex-husband Gordon Clark.
Because her parenting skills were trusted into the spotlight, Clark, then 41, felt compelled to defend herself, releasing a statement which read: “I am devoted to my two children, who are far and away more important to me than anything. I feel it is inappropriate of me to discuss details of my marital dissolution case or child custody issues in the media.”
Her child custody issues weren’t just rampant in the media. They also made their way into the courtroom. At one point, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran made a comment about her “childcare crisis.” Clark called him out, calling his comment, “totally out of line.” The fact she stood up for herself, only prompted more assaults from some media outlets, who called her “shrill.”
A nude photo of her was leaked to the press
A topless photograph of Clark sunbathing on a French beach with her ex husband in 1979 was published in the “National Enquirer” in February 1995, during the trial. Clark’s ex-mother-in-law, Clara Horowitz, sold the photo according to the Associated Press. Steve Coz, the tabloid’s celebrity news editor told the Associated Press at the time that the image revealed Marcia’s``fun-loving, wild side.''
Clark blamed Simpson’s defense team in part for the photo in her 1997 memoir Without A Doubt: “I later learned that a private eye, hoping to curry favor with the Dream Team, had tracked her [Clara Horowitz] down in Israel and put her in touch with the Enquirer.”
Media: “so sexy”
A 1995 Washington Post op-ed began with the line,“Everyone is watching the lawyer with the large dark eyes, drawn by her black skirt, which is pleated and swings, a strange thing in a courtroom of papers and suits.”
That article appeared to grapple with the fact that Clark was a human being. It acted like she was a marvel and someone who would be immortalized like Marilyn Monroe if Andy Warhol were still alive.
“...men call her a hopeless flirt, a screeching wife, a bad mom, a shrill litigator. But she eludes them all, vividly contradictory -- so sexy, so uptight, so serene, so snappish, so tired, so busy.”
Reminder: this is a lawyer they are writing about.
The story went on to detail Clark’s dating history, marriages and her decision to have children “later in life.”
She was disrespected by Ito and Simpson’s defense attorneys
“Obviously I was aware that the media was giving me a bad time about my appearance,” Clark told Vulture.“They slammed my hair, my makeup, and I didn’t care. Because what I cared about was that jury. And so what was hugely upsetting to me was the sexist treatment I got from the judge.”
She claimed that Ito treated her like a “second-class citizen.” It made her worry about how she looked to the jurors. She wanted them to take her, and the points she was making in the murder case, seriously.
Judge Ito’s treatment of Clark caught the attention of the National Organization for Women, according to New York Magazine. The president of the organization’s Los Angeles chapter even wrote up a number of complaints about how Ito treated Clark. Amongst those complaints: Ito making a comment about the length of Clark’s skirt and how he remained complicit when the defense attorneys called Clark “overly emotional.”
At one point, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran called Clark “hysterical,” prompting Clark to condemn that depiction of her. She called it a sexist remark, all while O. J. Simpson, the man on trial for murder, reportedly laughed.
[Photo: Getty Images, YouTube]