Friday, December 8, 2017
What is misogyny? How is it different from sexism? And why does the male-dominated status quo seem to persist?
A new book by Cornell philosophy professor Kate Manne has answers. She argues that misogyny is not about male hostility or hatred toward women — instead, it’s about controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance. Misogyny rewards women who reinforce the status quo and punishes those who don’t.
In this interview, we explore how sexism and misogyny are different, how misogyny is embedded in our customs and institutions***
One way of looking at it is we have these patriarchal social structures, bastions of male privilege where a dominant man might feel entitled to (and often receive) feminine care and attention from women.
I think of misogyny and sexism as working hand-in-hand to uphold those social relations. Sexism is an ideology that says, “These arrangements just make sense. Women are just more caring, or nurturing, or empathetic,” which is only true if you prime people by getting them to identify with their gender.
So, sexism is the ideology that supports patriarchal social relations, but misogyny enforces it when there’s a threat of that system going away.
A prior post on Prof. Manne's book, Down Girl: A Theory of Misogyny is here.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Thanks to Prof. Mary Block for this review of my book:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a woman far ahead of her time with regard to her advocacy for women’s rights within the family. Tracy A. Thomas, Professor of family law and a feminist legal historian, argues that Stanton believed a radical challenge to family law was vital to the woman’s rights agenda. Stanton asserted that four institutions: government, church, family, and industry acted symbiotically to keep women in a subordinate status. The public and private spheres were not separate, but intertwined and they operated in myriad ways to discriminate and hinder women and stifle equality. Thomas states that Stanton and many other nineteenth-century women’s rights advocates had a fluid notion of feminism, one that embraced both the sameness and differences between men and women. Women were equal not inferior to men, but women were different because they could procreate while men could not so in addition to the vote, Stanton also promoted rights that extended to women as mothers. The greatest hurdle to achieving equal rights for women was that too many people confounded differences with inferiority. The rest of the populace was apathetic. The solution to the problem of women’s inequality was complete formal legal equality. The question was how best to achieve it.
Stanton’s feminist attack on the oppressive structures of marriage was radical in that she framed women’s inequality as systemic victimization. Marriage laws sexualized women and created a sanctuary for male lust through protection of the husband’s marital right, a vestige of coverture that shielded men who raped their wives. At the Tenth Annual Convention, Stanton said marriage was legalized prostitution, a claim intended to shock her audience. Women give up everything when they wed while men gave up nothing. Marriage was analogous to slavery in many ways. Man was the master and woman had to obey him. Upon marriage woman’s identity became submerged into that of her husband and she literally no longer existed in the eyes of the law. Stanton lauded Lucy Stone who kept her maiden name after she wed Henry Blackwell. Stanton herself demanded she be called Elizabeth Cady Stanton rather than Mrs. Henry Stanton to express her independent identity. This was less radical than Stone, but still radical for her time.
By the end of Stanton’s life, family law had changed, but not as radically as Stanton had desired. It would not be until the last quarter of the twentieth century and the second women’s rights movement that nearly all of her recommendations came to fruition. She truly was a woman far ahead of her time. Tracy Thomas has thoroughly documented Stanton’s radicalism on matters of marriage and the family and has shown just how significantly one woman’s feminism affected family law for the betterment of women.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Claire L'Heureux-Dubé: A Life by Constance Backhouse
From the publisher:
Both lionized and vilified, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé has shaped the Canadian legal landscape – and in particular its highest court. The second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and the first Québécoise, she was known as “the great dissenter,” making judgments that were applauded and criticized in turn.
Who was this energetic, risk-taking woman? L’Heureux-Dubé stands out as one of the most dynamic and controversial judges on a controversial court. Did she consciously position herself for success in a discriminatory milieu, or was she oblivious to power?
L’Heureux-Dubé anchored her innovative legal approach to cases in their social, economic, and political context. Constance Backhouse employs a similar tactic. Rather than focusing exclusively on jurisprudential legacy, she explores the rich sociopolitical and cultural setting in which L’Heureux-Dubé’s career unfolded, while also considering her personal life.
This compelling biography covers aspects of legal history that have never been so fully investigated. Changing gender norms are traced through the experience of a francophone woman within the male-dominated Quebec legal profession – and within the primarily anglophone world of the Supreme Court. Claire L’Heureux-Dubé enhances our understanding of the Canadian judiciary, the creation of law, the Quebec socio-legal environment, and the nation’s top court.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
It's Halloween... which for law and gender means time to remember the Salem Witch Trials.
Most of the victims of the trials were women. And most of the accusers. Scholars have talked about the trials as misogyny and at the same time as women's assertion of agency and power. They also suggested the lax evidentiary standards allowed social judgments about women to be determinative of legal guilt.
Stacy Schiff, The Witches: Salem, 1692 (2015)
Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (1998)
Jane Moriarty, Wonders of the Invisible World: Prosecutorial Syndrome and Profile Evidence in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, 26 Vermont L. Rev. 43 (2001)
Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2003)
Peter Hoffer, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (1997)
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Kate Manne, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Oxford Press. Nov. 2017)
From the publisher:
Misogyny is a hot topic, yet it's often misunderstood. What is misogyny, exactly? Who deserves to be called a misogynist? How does misogyny contrast with sexism, and why is it prone to persist --or increase-- even when sexist gender roles are waning? This book is an exploration of misogyny in public life and politics, by the moral philosopher and writer Kate Manne. It argues that misogyny should not be understood primarily in terms of the hatred or hostility some men feel toward all or most women. Rather, it's primarily about controlling, policing, punishing, and exiling the "bad" women who challenge male dominance. And it's compatible with rewarding "the good ones," and singling out other women to serve as warnings to those who are out of order. It's also common for women to serve as scapegoats, be burned as witches, and treated as pariahs.
Manne examines recent and current events such as the Isla Vista killings by Elliot Rodger, the case of the convicted serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw, who preyed on African-American women as a police officer in Oklahoma City, Rush Limbaugh's diatribe against Sandra Fluke, and the "misogyny speech" of Julia Gillard, then Prime Minister of Australia, which went viral on YouTube. The book shows how these events, among others, set the stage for the 2016 US presidential election. Not only was the misogyny leveled against Hillary Clinton predictable in both quantity and quality, Manne argues it was predictable that many people would be prepared to forgive and forget regarding Donald Trump's history of sexual assault and harassment. For this, Manne argues, is misogyny's oft-overlooked and equally pernicious underbelly: exonerating or showing "himpathy" for the comparatively privileged men who dominate, threaten, and silence women.
Monday, October 2, 2017
This book is sitting near the top of my pile of books-to-read.
Linda Greenhouse, Who Killed the ERA?, NYT Book Review, reviewing:
Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics, by Marjorie J. Spruill
Marjorie J. Spruill’s Divided We Stand is the most recent effort to probe the feminist/antifeminist struggle of the 1970s for what it might tell us about today’s polarized America. It’s an ambitious book, built around a close study of an event that Self treats in only a few pages and Mansbridge in a single passing reference: the congressionally mandated, federally funded National Women’s Conference that took place in Houston in November 1977. The conference was organized by the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year, set up by the Ford administration in 1975 to coordinate American participation in the United Nations–sponsored Decade for Women. From May to July 1977, some 130,000 people—all but a few hundred of them women—took part in state-level meetings to select delegates and debate the conference’s agenda. The idea was to come up with a “plan of action” for the national delegates to adopt and present to the White House and Congress.
The path to this goal was intensely contested, with a number of the state conventions becoming ideological battlegrounds over issues like federally funded child care, gay rights, and abortion. Two thousand delegates and nearly 20,000 observers eventually attended the official conference in Houston, while a similar number gathered across town in a conservative counter-convention organized by Schlafly. Both sides emerged highly mobilized and ready for continued battle.
The events of 1977 are often portrayed merely as one episode in a decade of feminist conflicts, gains, and setbacks. Spruill, a historian of southern and women’s history at the University of South Carolina, makes the rather stronger claim that the competing conferences “ushered in a new era in American politics—the beginning rather than the end of a protracted struggle over women’s rights and family values.” Whereas in the early 1970s Democrats and Republicans had, in Spruill’s view, “both…supported feminist goals,” the events of 1977 created two polarized and increasingly partisan camps. The plan of action that emerged from the official convention in the end included support for the ERA, abortion rights, and gay rights. It called for equal access to credit, which banks routinely denied to married women on the premise that the husband was in control of the family finances. One plank called for reform “based on the principle that marriage is a partnership in which the contribution of each spouse is of equal importance and value.” The counter-conference was dominated by Christian and anti-abortion delegates united under a “pro-family” banner. Spruill notes that the official delegates were so “caught up in their own conference experience” that they had “little sense” of how equally empowering the Houston weekend had proved to be to the other side.
Nonetheless, Spruill’s project of historical reclamation is an important one. While the National Women’s Conference and the competing Pro-Life, Pro-Family Rally did not quite amount to “Four Days That Changed the World” (as it was described in a Ms.magazine headline the following March), they were signal events that drew thousands of women into political engagement and offered clearly defined—if opposing—arguments in which these new activists could discover sympathies. Gloria Steinem may well have been right in a recent interview to call the National Women’s Conference “the most important event nobody knows about.”
There is another book review of the book by Gillian Thomas posted here.
Friday, September 22, 2017
Recent popular and scholarly interest has highlighted the complex and brutal system of mass incarceration in the United States. Much of this interest has focused on recent developments while other scholars have revealed the connections between the development of the prison system after Reconstruction and the legacies of slavery. In her new book, No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), Sarah Haley points to an often under recognized part of this history. Haley, an associate professor of gender studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, focuses on the Southern criminal justice system’s treatment and exploitation of black women during the Jim Crow era. Though black women were caught up in the criminal justice system in smaller numbers than men were, Haley shows their treatment was very important to the development of Jim Crow modernity. The brutal and violent treatment, the ideological narratives surrounding black women, and the exploitation of their labor were all key in creating the ideologies of racial capitalism and patriarchy. Haley also discusses the ways black women resisted this treatment and contented the related ideologies.
In this episode of New Books in History, Haley discusses No Mercy Here and this history of gender, criminal justice, and race.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
I have just published the edited collection, Women and the Law (Thomson Reuters 2017 ed.). This annual reference book collects the leading scholarship in the field of women and law from the prior year -- kind of a "greatest hits" of law review scholarship on litigated topics in this field.
This year's articles:
A. Violence Against Women: The Campus Sexual Assault Debate
Corey Rayburn Yung, Is Relying on Title IX a Mistake?, 64 Kan. L. Rev. 891 (2016)
Jacob Gersen & Jeannie Suk, The Sex Bureucracy, 104 Cal. Law Rev. 881 (2016)
Deborah L. Brake, The Trouble with "Bureaucracy", 7 Cal. L. Rev. Online 66 (2016)
Suzanne B. Goldberg, Is There Really a Sex Bureaucracy?, 7 Cal. L. Rev. Online 107 (2016)
Nancy Chi Cantalupo, For the Title IX Civil Rights Movement: Congratulations and Cautions, 125 Yale L.J. Forum 281 (2016)
Katharine K. Baker, Campus Sexual Misconduct as Sexual Harassment: A Defense of the DOE, 64 Kan. L. Rev. 861 (2016)
Sarah L. Swan, Between Title IX and the Criminal Law: Bringing Tort Law to the Campus Sexual Assault Debate, 64 Kan. L. Rev. 963 (2016)
Aya Gruber, Consent Confusion, 38 Cardozo L. Rev. 415 (2016)
Eric R. Carpenter, Patriarchy, not Hierarchy: Rethinking the Effect of Cultural Attitudes in Acquaintance Rape Cases, 68 Hastings L.J. 225 (2017)
B. Gendered Immigration
Joanna J. Kallinosis, Refugee Roulette: A Comparative analysis of Gender-Related Persecution in Asylum Law, 6 DePaul J. Women, Gender & L. 55 (2017)
Blaine Bookey, Gender-Based Asylum Post-Matter of ARCG: Evolving Standards and Fair Application of the Law, 22 Southwestern J. Int'l Law 1 (2016)
C. Reproductive Rights
Linda Greenhouse & Reva Siegel, The Difference a Whole Woman Makes: Protection for the Abortion Right After Whole Woman's Health, 126 Yale L.J. Forum 149 (2016)
Saru M. Matambanadzo, Reconstructing Pregnancy, 69 SMU L. Rev. 187 (2016)
D. Women in the Workplace
Joanna L. Grossman, Moving Forward, Looking Back: A Retrospective on Sexual Harassment Law, 95 B.U. L. Rev. 1029 (2015)
Deborah Brake, The Shifting Sands of Employment Discrimination: From Unjustified Impact to Disparate Treatment in Pregnancy and Pay, 105 Georgetown L.J. 559 (2017)
Jennifer Bennett Shinall, The Substantially Impaired Sex: Uncovering the Gendered Nature of Disability Discrimination, 101 Minnesota L. Rev. 1099 (2017)
E. Feminist Legal Theory
Tracy A. Thomas, Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harvard J. Law & Gender Online (Nov. 2016)
Stephanie Bornstein, Unifying the Antidiscrimination Law Through Stereotype Theory, 20 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 919 (2016)
Jamie R. Abrams, Debunking the Myth of Universal Male Privilege, 49 U. Mich. J. L. Reform 303 (2016)
Deborah Tuerkheimer, Underenforcement as Unequal Protection, 57 Boston College L. Rev. 1287 (2016)
For the list of articles from the 2016 editions of Women and the Law, see here.:
Friday, September 8, 2017
Sandara Sperino & Suja Thomas, Unequal: How America's Courts Undermine Discrimination Law (Oxford Press)
It is no secret that since the 1980s, American workers have lost power vis-à-vis employers through the well-chronicled steep decline in private sector unionization. American workers have also lost power in other ways. Those alleging employment discrimination have fared increasingly poorly in the courts. In recent years, judges have dismissed scores of cases in which workers presented evidence that supervisors referred to them using racial or gender slurs. In one federal district court, judges dismissed more than 80 percent of the race discrimination cases filed over a year. And when juries return verdicts in favor of employees, judges often second guess those verdicts, finding ways to nullify the jury's verdict and rule in favor of the employer.
Most Americans assume that that an employee alleging workplace discrimination faces the same legal system as other litigants. After all, we do not usually think that legal rules vary depending upon the type of claim brought. The employment law scholars Sandra A. Sperino and Suja A. Thomas show in Unequal that our assumptions are wrong. Over the course of the last half century, employment discrimination claims have come to operate in a fundamentally different legal system than other claims. It is in many respects a parallel universe, one in which the legal system systematically favors employers over employees. A host of procedural, evidentiary, and substantive mechanisms serve as barriers for employees, making it extremely difficult for them to access the courts. Moreover, these mechanisms make it fairly easy for judges to dismiss a case prior to trial. Americans are unaware of how the system operates partly because they think that race and gender discrimination are in the process of fading away. But such discrimination still happens in the workplace, and workers now have little recourse to fight it legally. By tracing the modern history of employment discrimination, Sperino and Thomas provide an authoritative account of how our legal system evolved into an institution that is inherently biased against workers making rights claims.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
My book podcast for the New Books Network is now live. Check it out here at Thomas on Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law
For past blogging about the book, chapter by chapter, see:
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
New Books Network, Rosalind Rosenberg, Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Oxford 2017)
Rosalind Rosenberg‘s book Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Oxford University Press, 2017) is a multi-layered and rich biography of Pauli Murray, an activist, lawyer and Episcopal priest whose life intersected with the most significant civil and human rights issues of the twentieth century. As a mixed raced woman who felt that her identity was at odds with her body before transsexual had become part of the popular consciousness, Murray’s life provides insight into a lived intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Beginning with her southern upbringing, we follow Murray through multiple educational, vocational and identity challenges she suffered. In a journey through a dislocated life, she contributed to multiple movements and institutions working with many key social leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Friedan. Appearing as a one-person social movement with a deep religious faith she pursued justice not only for herself but also for others. Rosenberg has provided sympathetic insight into the personal cost that Murray incurred on the road to a more equitable society. Rosalind Rosenberg is Professor of History Emerita at Barnard College.
Friday, August 25, 2017
New Book Podcast, Liana Christin Landivar, Mothers at Work: Who Opts Out?
A big question in Sociology regarding work and gender is: which mothers opt out of the labor force to take care of children? Popularly known as “opting out,” this trend is often seen as a mother’s personal choice rather than a decision made within a set of cultural and structural constraints in women’s everyday lives. Building upon previous work, Liana Christin Landivar‘s new book Mothers at Work: Who Opts Out? (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2017) uses nationally representative data to inquire into who exactly is opting out and who is staying in the labor force. Most media coverage on the topic focuses on women who work in management or other professional level occupations, but Landivar’s book looks at a wide spectrum of occupations and finds that the question of who opts out is much more nuanced. She finds that investigating occupation is key for answering who is opting out. She also delves into the categorizations of work hours, giving consideration not only to part-time work and how that varies by occupation, but also women who scale back, or reduce work hours but not to part-time levels. Additionally, age of the mother, as well as the child, alongside race and educational attainment all help to better understand which mothers are opting out. Landivar gives careful consideration to the structural factors across and between occupations and how they may influence mothers opting out. Finally, this book provides some important methodological insights for the reader, including emphasizing the variations within work hours and the key importance of reference groups used to answer research questions.
This book will be enjoyed by Sociologists broadly, but is key reading for work/family and gender scholars. Folks in gender studies as well as business leaders might enjoy this book and find important insights into which mothers opt out of the labor force. This book would be useful in a gender/work/family class as well as a graduate level methods course, with its careful explanation of modeling and fantastic graphics.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Paula Monopoli’s point in her recent review of my book Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law, is well taken. She notes that “[t]he only arguable weakness in this book is that after the trenchant introduction, Thomas does not do much to connect back to the different strands of feminist theory per se.”
This actually was one of the earliest ideas I had for the book, and one that interested the editor the most in the original proposal. But in looking back at it now, it seems that this part of the manuscript ended up on the cutting room floor. (Along with a background discussion of Protestant ideas of no-fault divorce which I still miss as it placed Stanton’s idea in greater historical and religious context).
The generality of the point of multiple feminisms survived in the book, challenging the characterization of Stanton as a simplistic thinker, a mere “first generation” advocate seeking to treat women the same as men. (And Sue Davis makes a similar point in her book The Political Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton about the multiple feminisms seen in Stanton’s political theory).
However, the specifics of contexts illustrating each type of feminism must be pieced together by the reader herself through the book. So let me try and explain better here.
Liberal feminism. This is the most known about Stanton, that she support a formal equality approach to treating women the same as men. This meant reversing laws of coverture which denied women equal rights to property, inheritance, and child custody. It meant giving women the same right to vote, hold public office, and enter the professions by college and work. Women should be lawyers, reverends, and medical doctors. Women should be able to own their own bank accounts. She would have eliminated all instances where law created a separate rule based on gender, much like Ruth Bader Ginsburg advocated during her years of women’s rights work with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
Difference feminism. However, Stanton did not only advocated formal equality between genders. She also advocated specific legal and social rules for women only, for situations where women were differently situated. Stanton advocated a maternal custody rule, giving child custody to women only. She supported a widow’s exception for dower, tax and bankruptcy due to women’s different need. And she advocated a women-only right to control sexual relations and procreation through abstinence, challenging the existing standard of male sexual prerogative.
Her justification for these was an understanding that it was women who biologically bore children, and socially raised them. She considered women’s role in raising children to be a powerful one. Indeed, she argued that women should use this power to raise the next generation of children up with equal virtues and coeducation, so that women could transform society by their feminist parenting.
While society used the maternal role to “protect” and restrict women’s rights, Stanton used maternity as a basis for power and a justification for right. It’s not that men could not share in parenting, which she also advocated, but that they simply did not. As such, women were differently situated and needed rights that corresponded to that reality.
Radical feminism. Stanton also appreciated that the structures of law, society, and the family themselves were barriers to women’s full autonomy. Like modern legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon, she attacked the sexualization of women -- in romantic Victorian notions and revealing décolletages -- and advocated dress reform and coeducation. Stanton endorsed an equal moral sexual standard, that idea of men as needing to indulge their sexual passions by affairs, adultery, and command of marital relations was wrong, and that men should be restrained and liable for consequences, and that women also entitled to sexual express and sexual control. And she would also restructure marriage from hierarchy to joint partnership. Not just that women would retain their own separate property earned or inherited, but that marriage would have joint property belonging to both partners regardless of where obtained.
Finally, Stanton quite radically took on the structure of the church. After fifty years of work for women’s rights, Stanton learned that the foundational sticking point was that the basis of social and legal gender norms of women’s subordination were based in religious teachings. She took on the Christian church’s doctrines and teachings, reinterpreting biblical passages and deconstructing the male bias in those rules.
Overall, Stanton’s use of feminist methodology of deconstruction, critical suspicion of seemingly objective rules, and understanding of male privilege allowed her to approach legal and social critique with an all-encompassing feminist theory that shows her to be an advance and radical legal thinker.
Monopoli concludes in her review, that “the main strength of the book lies in Thomas as legal historian pulling together the arguments out of Stanton’s own writings, making them available to us and linking them to Stanton’s surprisingly modern legal theories. This book should be included on reading lists for upper-level seminars in jurisprudence, family law, and legal history, in addition to gender and the law. Reading it will introduce students to a significant legal mind, albeit an informally trained one, not traditionally included in the canon of prominent American legal thinkers.”
Thanks to Paula Monopoli for her great (and thorough) review of my book Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law in the Journal of Legal Education.
Mother. Author. Orator. Woman Suffrage Leader: The Feminist Legacy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Tracy Thomas’s new book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law, provides extensive support for the claim that Stanton was “the intellectual giant of the [women’s rights] movement.” In this eminently readable yet deeply substantive work, Professor Thomas argues that Stanton was a foundational theorist for modern feminism. Until recently, Stanton’s intellectual contributions have not been widely explored, and Thomas aims to rectify that oversight. She situates Stanton in her rightful place by focusing on Stanton’s writings and advocacy in the area of family law. Thomas does a persuasive job, using Stanton’s views on marital property law, divorce, voluntary and involuntary maternity, and the custody of children as a lens through which to examine broader themes about women’s status as equal citizens in our republic. She also documents Stanton’s intellectual contributions in a way that informs current debates about gender equality.
While Stanton’s writings ranged broadly on the subordination and emancipation of women, Thomas narrows in on Stanton’s views on the subjugation of women within marriage. She also reveals Stanton’s extensive, if de facto, training in law through her father’s practice, law library and clerks. “As a young woman, Stanton had read widely in her father’s law library and discussed cases with him . . . . [H]er legal training allowed Stanton to bring to the early women’s rights movement a keen sense of the role of law in creating inequality between the sexes.” Thomas argues that this understanding of the common law itself and her understanding of how to construct legal arguments were central to Stanton’s efficacy as a theorist and an advocate.
Thomas begins by examining Stanton’s personal story. Stanton was a harried mother of three children under the age of ten when she convened the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848. In the decade that followed, she went on to have four more children and to advocate tirelessly for women’s equality. Thomas points out how much the adage “the personal is the political” applied to Stanton, as she wrote to her partner in advocacy, Susan B. Anthony, for help:
Can you get any acute lawyer . . . sufficiently interested in our movement
to look up just eight laws concerning us—the very worst in all the code? I
can generalize and philosophize easily enough myself; but the details of the
particular law I need, I have not time to look up. You see, while I am about
the house, surrounded by my children, washing dishes, baking, sewing, etc.,
I can think up many points, but I cannot search books, for my hands as well
as my brains would be necessary for that work . . . . Men who can, when they
wish to write a document, shut themselves up for days with their thoughts
and their books, know little of what difficulties a woman must surmount.
These words would resonate with many female scholars today. After this first letter, Stanton again wrote to Anthony to tell her that the legislative testimony she was trying to finish was not nearly done and that her deadline was rapidly approaching. Anthony responded by coming to babysit while Stanton finished the address. Having a public voice requires time and energy. But bearing a disproportionate share of family caregiving makes such public participation difficult and remains a structural barrier to gender equality today.
Thomas integrates these and similar examples of the connection between the nineteenth-century Stanton and modern-day feminists. She begins her book with an introduction that gives the reader a thumbnail sketch of modern feminist theory. Thomas outlines the distinctions among liberal feminism, with its focus on formal equality; difference feminism, with its focus on resolving subordination by recognizing women’s biological, relational, and cultural differences; and radical or dominance feminism, which situates subordination in the victimization of women as sexual objects and emphasizes the need for structural reforms. Thomas argues that Stanton’s views on family law reform informed modern feminist theory.
As Thomas notes, many of the reforms that Stanton wrote about and advocated for in terms of property, marriage, divorce, and custody have become the legal status quo. But in these turbulent times, Thomas’s book reminds us how fragile those gains are and how radical they still seem to many in our society. As Stanton lamented, after “years of untiring effort” to obtain guarantees of property and custody, those statutes were “repealed in States where we supposed all was safe.”Her cautionary note to be vigilant rings as loudly in 2017 as it did in 1876, and we would do well to heed it. Professor Thomas’s excellent new book has given us additional intellectual tools to do just that.
Monday, July 31, 2017
In this special summer episode, we take a step back from reviewing to introduce listeners to H-Law's new legal history podcast. Robert interviews H-Law's podcast producer and host Siobhan Barco and we run in full her first episode, an interview with legal scholar Mary Ziegler, author of After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (Harvard University Press, 2015). From Siobhan's description of the episode:
Ziegler’s work uses the landmark American abortion rights case, Roe vs. Wade to explore litigation as a vessel for social change and the role the court plays in democracy. In addition to traditional archival research, Ziegler recorded over one hundred oral histories of people in the pro-life and pro-choice camps, allowing her to move beyond caricatures and delve more precisely into the catalysts for these individual’s points of view.
Topics we discuss include:
(1)Whether Roe is overstated as a cautionary tale for judicial intervention
(2)How the bright line divide between the pro-life and pro-choice movements had not yet coalesced in the 1970s.
(3)Roe as a canvas onto which activists could project different strategic aims
Janet Halley, Book Review: Richard Chused & Wendy Williams, Gendered Law in American History (2016), JOTWELL
Every major dimension of contemporary American family law underwent transformation in the 19th Century. Indeed, I have argued at considerable length that American family law was invented in the 19th Century. Many of the most difficult and intractable legal issues in the field carry 19th Century legal rules, doctrines, ideologies, debates, and practices forward to the present. Some of these vestigial aspects of 19th Century family law emerge in a slurry of semi-congealed elements that took shape then and have stayed in play despite major transformations in the field since; others persist in their 19th Century form, albeit with more contemporary contents. It’s impossible to work in contemporary American family law without asking oneself, again and again, what didhappen with this issue or that in the transformative-yet-reactionary 19th Century?
But for those of us who are not legal historians, answering that question is very hard work. There are plenty of classics to turn to, from Michael Grossberg’s Governing the Hearth to Hendrik Hartog’s Some Day All This Will Be Yours. But a new resource offers a comprehensive, elegantly curated collection of primary documents that shed light on a range of the most important themes: Gendered Law in American History by Richard Chused and Wendy Williams. This rich resource—more than 1200 pages—is ideal summer reading for family law enthusiasts!
The book has the look and the price of a casebook, but in lieu of “cases and materials” it presents primary documents in chronological sequence and in ample excerpts. The topics are all chosen and framed with care. We find a review of women’s frustrated claims to full citizenship and suffrage in the Revolutionary period and early Republic, followed by successive major efforts of organized feminists to engage public debate and demand suffrage. The tumultuous conflicts over feminist demands for female suffrage and their relationship to emancipation of enslaved blacks after the Civil War unfold in painful detail. Indeed, the authors’ carefull attention to the connections that may be drawn between seemingly disparate events is one of the volume’s core strengths.
One of the achievements of this monumental book is its constant probing of the relationship between the private law and the public law dimensions of gender rules and debates in 19th Century America. Sometimes these links seem pretty attenuated, but they are always worth asking about, in part because the law school curriculum divides the public law and private law dimensions of the family into separate topics, courses, and bodies of law. The unique collaboration of Chused and Williams, over twenty years of teaching a seminar on Gender and American Legal History at Georgetown together, doubtless made this inquiry possible. We are all the richer for the massive labor they and their students have put into this highly valuable contribution.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
David Pozen, The Abortion Closet
An enormous amount of information and insight is packed into Carol Sanger’s About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First Century America. The book is anchored in post-1973 American case law. Yet it repeatedly incorporates examples and ideas from popular culture, prior historical periods, moral philosophy, feminist theory, medicine, literature and the visual arts, and more.
The panoramic ambition of the book, and its correspondingly multi-disciplinary method, are established in the first chapter, in a section titled “What Abortion Is About.” By the end of this section, the reader has learned something about: Roe v. Wade; various international treaties on the rights of women; abortion training protocols in medical schools; the neurological development of a fetus; the 2004 and 2012 presidential primaries; a 1995 papal encyclical; a 1984 lecture by the New York Governor; a 2001 concurrence by a Mississippi Supreme Court Justice; the 2003 recommendation by a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee to approve the “morning-after-pill” for over-the-counter sale; the anti-abortion turn within certain Protestant denominations in the 1970s and 80s; sociological research on pro-life activists and their views on sex; anthropological research on pregnancy termination decisions following a diagnosis of fetal disability; prostitution laws in New York; abstinence-only programs in Texas; President George W. Bush’s Culture of Life; the rise and rise of parental involvement statutes and personhood amendments; the rise and fall of federal support for family planning organizations and abortion services to pregnant soldiers; the intensifying politics of abortion in state judicial elections; the recent Hobby Lobby litigation over the Affordable Care Act; and the Supreme Court’s decision last Term in Whole Woman’s Health.
This section lasts fourteen pages. It is a testament to Sanger’s skill as a writer and to
her synthetic capacities as a thinker that one comes away from this whirlwind tour feeling not vertigo, but rather an enhanced sense of clarity about the arc of abortion regulation. While the pace soon slows down, the rest of the book maintains a relentless inquisitiveness, ever collecting and connecting data points to help guide the reader through complex socio-legal terrain.
An earlier blog post about Sanger's book is here..
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Karen Patricia Heath, New Directions in the History of Conservative Women
Kirsten Marie Delegard. Battling Miss Bolsheviki: The Origins of Female Conservatism in the United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. 313 pp.; ill. ISBN 978-0-8122-4366-6 (cl).Erica J. Ryan. Red War on the Family: Sex, Gender, and Americanism in the First Red Scare. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015. xii + 220 pp. ISBN 978-1-4399-0884-6 (cl); 978-1-4399-0885-3 (pb).Michelle M. Nickerson. Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012. xxvi + 231 pp.; ill., maps. ISBN 978-0-6911-2184-0 (cl); 978-0-6911-6391-8 (pb).Leslie Dorrough Smith. Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. x + 241 pp. ISBN 978-0-1993-3750-7 (cl).
As these four monographs ably demonstrate, scholars in the field of US women's history are now accustomed to taking conservative activists and their ideas and organizations seriously. All of the authors treat their historical actors with dignity, meaning that as a group, these works serve to normalize conservative female activism within an academic environment that, in the past, neglected such women and their politics. And yet, certain problems of definition, analysis, and methodology remain: How permeable are the borders between progressivism and conservatism, and between moderation and extremism? And how do these relationships change over time? How should scholars who self-identify as feminists and progressives situate themselves vis-à-vis the conservative women they study? And where should scholars direct their attention in the immediate future, in order to further develop this vital subfield on the history of conservative women?
Here is my current stack of background reading on judicial biographies and autobiographies. I am beginning a new research project on Florence Allen. Judge Allen was the first woman appointed to a federal appellate court (the Sixth Circuit in 1934) and the first woman elected to a state supreme court (Ohio in 1922). So she is often dubbed "the first woman judge," though there were other women magistrates, trial judges, and special court judges who came before her. Allen may also be one of the first gay judges, though the historical record is murky on this historically censored point.
As I begin digging into the archives, my parallel task is to read, and in many cases re-read, the biographies of judges, particularly women judges. I have some of my own favorites -- with Linda Greenhouse's Becoming Justice Blackmun leading the pack -- but am now focused on structure, tone, and content -- what works, what adds insight, and what as the reader I am able to take away. My thought is that the Allen book project will be more intellectual history than pure biography, although the interesting personal juxtapositions of this woman's life (e.g. pro-death penalty/anti-war), inform her judicial role.
Friday, June 2, 2017
From Chapter 6, "Our Girls," in Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYU Press 2016)
Toward the end of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's long career advancing women's rights and legal reform, she renewed her efforts to deconstruct the foundations of women's continued subordination. Why did many women themselves not endorse reform and equality? Why did so many women say "I have all the rights I want." Stanton located the source of social subordination in the teachings of the church, which women heard every week from the pulpit and every day in the papers. She dedicated her last decade of life to challenging the gendered interpretations of the Bible and offering alternative feminist understandings of religious doctrine.
As part of that, Stanton drew on new emerging ideas of anthropology of matriarchal societies which she used to show that female power and women-ruled societies were viable alternative ways to structure power. Almost a century later, at the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston, Gloria Steinem embraced Stanton’s theory of the matriarchate, using it similarly to emphasize the viability of an alternative system of female power.
In the early 1890s, Elizabeth Cady Stanton added to her historical argument of the perversions of the church, by offering an alternative to this ordained gender structure of “the matriarchate.” She incorporated this theory of maternal power into addresses to national conventions, writings on Wyoming’s new grant of women’s suffrage, and in other essays on women’s rights.[i] Stanton drew on emerging anthropological theories of matriarchal societies, prehistoric cultures like the Amazons, Iroquois, and others in which women ruled as the creative force wielding power and peaceful governance. The theory of matriarchy was a popular idea that emerged in the late nineteenth century, originating with Swiss lawyer and jurist Johann Jakob Bachofen and advanced by Marxist thinker Friedrich Engels and others.[ii] The theory of a matriarchal prehistory held that earlier societies existed in which women controlled government and property, created the first families, developed agriculture, and were worshipped as goddesses because of their reproductive and caregiving abilities. A “patriarchy cataclysm” disrupted the peace, harmony, and ecological balance of these matriarchal systems with intervening wars and weapon development, after which patriarchy evolved as the superior social structure and provided survival and advancement.[iii]
Stanton wrote from England in 1890 that she had “been reading the whole year to glean these facts” about the matriarchate by studying British scholars.[iv] She was likely also influenced by her colleague, Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was developing similar theories about religion on matriarchy later published in her magnum opus, Woman, Church, and State.[v] Stanton, like Gage, appropriated the anthropological matriarchal theories of the nineteenth century for her own feminist purposes. For these theories had been developed to justify the converse, the superiority of patriarchy. They held that society had evolved from the unsophisticated, chaotic matriarchal systems into ordered and aggressive systems grounded in patriarchy. Stanton, interpreting the theory through her feminist lens, concluded that the matriarchate provided historical evidence of women’s ability and superior powers and the negative influence of the destructive forces of male aggression and patriarchy. “Thus, instead of being a ‘disability,’ as unthinking writers are please to call it, maternity has been the all-inspiring motive or force that impelled the first steps” toward “the birth of civilization.” Matriarchal theory was attractive because it freed women’s rights advocates from the “charge of their critics that male dominance was biological and eternal, and therefore inevitable and unchangeable.” Stanton used this evidence not to advocate a return to female supremacy, but rather as evidence of women’s capabilities sufficient to support an “Amphiarchate,” a shared power between women and men in the “as yet untried experiment of complete equality.[vi] Second-wave feminists of the late twentieth century resurrected these ideas of the matriarchate bolstered by archeological finds of prehistoric fertility goddesses and a strong current of feminism seeking support for alternative gender structures of power.[vii]
[i] “Matriarchate,” 227; “Her Political Status,” Evening Star, Feb. 25, 1891; “The Matriarchate Mother-Age,” Woman’s Tribune, Feb. 28, 1891; “The Matriarchate or Mother-Age,” National Bulletin, Feb. 1892; ECS, “Wyoming,” Woman’s Tribune, July 5, 1890; ECS, “Wyoming Admitted as a State into Union,” 134 Westminster Review 280 (Sept. 1890); “Antagonism”; Mrs. Stanton on Our Foremothers, Woman’s Journal, Dec. 29, 1894; ECS and SBA, “Women’s Rights,” in Johnson’s Universal Cyclopedia v. VIII (Charles Kendall Adams, ed. 1895).
[ii] Bachofen, Mother Right: A Study of the Religious and Juridical Nature of Gynecocracy in the Ancient World (1861); Friedrich Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884).
[iii] ECS, “Karl Pearson on the Matriarchate,” Women’s Penny Paper, Nov. 8, 1890; ECS, “The Matriarchate, or Mother-Age,” National Council of Women, Feb. 22-25, 1891; ECS, “The Antagonism of Sex,” National Bulletin, June 1893; ECS, “Then Woman Said: ‘I Will,’” Dec. 23, 1894; ECS, “Moral Power, or Brute Force?” Boston Investigator, Feb. 25, 1899; ECS, “The Antagonism of Sex,” Boston Investigator, Mar. 16, 1901; Woman’s Bible, 25; Cynthia Eller, Gentlemen and Amazons: The Myth of Prehistory, 1861-1900 6-7 (2011); Cynthia Eller, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory 3-15 (2000).
[iv] ECS to Clara Colby, Feb. 21, 1891; ECS, “Reminiscences,” Woman’s Tribune, Mar. 19, 1892.
[v] Fitzgerald, xxi; Kern, 67; HWS, v.I, 753; Matilda Joslyn Gage, “The Matriarchate,” 2 The Open Court 1480-81, Jan. 5, 1889. Gage’s son-in-law, Frank Baum, actualized Gage’s theory of matriarchal power in his “The Wizard of Oz” book series.
[vi] “Matriarchate,” 227; “Antagonism”; Woman’s Bible, 25; Eller, Amazons, 123, 130-32.
[vii] Gloria Steinem, Wonder Woman, in Eller, Myth, 1-2; Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman (1976); Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (1987).