If the Suit Doesn’t Fit: Marcia Clark and the O. J. Simpson Trial


  • Hadley Sayers


The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson is widely recognized as the ‘Trial of the Century’ due to the heavy publicity and public interest it generated. Each of the trial’s prominent courtroom actors would face constant media attention throughout the trial. But the scrutiny was different for Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor and sole female trying the case. Both inside and outside of the courtroom, Clark’s appearance would receive uniquely extensive attention, occasionally being admired, although more frequently it was criticized. After the trial Clark laughed off the notion that she tried to play along—changing her appearance to appease her critics. Yet any individual observing the trial can see that her appearance, and demeanor, did change. Additionally, Clark admits she made certain changes to her appearance. Clark’s inconsistent appearance evidences an internal dilemma she experienced during the trial: whether to respond to the attention her appearance was garnering by changing herself to appease her critics, or to ignore it, remaining unchanged. Clark was put in the double-bind that has hindered many women lawyers and professionals. Striking the perfect balance between personal identity and traditional standards of professionalism in a field still dominated by men remains a challenging task without a clear solution. As women continue to enter professional fields such as the legal profession in increasing numbers, we must stop asking them to choose between who they are as people and who they want to be as professionals.


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