Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"Stop Being Afraid of Saying You're a Feminist"

National Women's Law Center, My Feminism Is: Justice Everywhere.  Advice to high school seniors, and women, on embracing feminism.

Feminism isn’t always an easy road, but you are going to be so glad you pulled out of the metaphorical driveway.


To me and you, feminism is justice – people are being mistreated and oppressed and kept down, in direct and institutionalized ways. There has to be something we can do has always been our refrain. In feminism, we’ve found tools to make the world fair, and friends and colleagues to work with through it.


There is so much inside of you right now, Sam. Your strength is in correcting injustice and the determination your legacy offers....


So stop being afraid of saying you’re a feminist. You know who you are.



November 21, 2015 in Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Feminist Perspective on Children and Law

Laura Rosenbury, A Feminist Perspective on Children and Law: From Objectification to Relational Subjectivities


This chapter presents a new framework for thinking about feminism and children. The chapter begins by chronicling feminist challenges to law’s objectification of children, highlighting the many ways that children remain the objects of adult and state authority despite the demise of the patriarchal family. Children’s dependencies are thought to justify such treatment, yet feminist analysis exposes the ways in which law constructs aspects of that dependency. Law’s role in constructing children’s dependency in turn provides a basis to question law’s continued treatment of children as objects rather than subjects.

The second part of the chapter proceeds to articulate a relational approach to children’s subjectivity. Building on the work of Martha Minow, this approach highlights children’s experiences as active participants in multiple relationships directly and indirectly mediated by law. Children’s relationships are not confined to the family, nor do they solely involve hierarchal dynamics of development and control. Children instead experience a broad range of interactions as children, separate from or in addition to their interests in becoming adults, even as they remain dependent on adults for many aspects of their lives. Children’s relationships therefore blur the traditional distinction between subjects and objects, providing a foundation for law to acknowledge and foster children’s intrinsic interests as children.
Law never simply reflects reality, however, but also always has regulatory effects. The final part of the chapter analyzes the ways in which law constructs subjectivity by relying on the category of “child”. The child is the empty space against which the category of the adult subject comes into being. Attempts to recognize children’s subjectivity therefore challenge the very meaning of subjectivity in law. This constitutive relationship between children and adults may create conflicts of interest for feminists, and otherwise make change difficult, but it also highlights another way that adults and children are interdependent. Subjectivity therefore need not hinge on autonomy or a lack of dependency. Instead, law might recognize children as subjects even amidst their dependency, thereby constructing children as participants in multiple relationships and settings mediated by law.

October 20, 2015 in Family, Scholarship, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Medicalizing Gender

Kathleen Darcy (Michigan State), Medicalizing Gender: How the Legal and Medical Professions Shaped Women's Experience as Lawyers, 4 Tennessee J. Race, Gender & Social Justice 31 (2015)


Despite significant progress, women in the legal profession still have not advanced into positions of power at near the rate in which they saturate the legal market. Scholars agree that simply waiting for parity is not sufficient, and, thus, they have identified many of the barriers that contribute to women’s difficulties. To date, however, the role that scientific and medical understandings play on the evolution of law, and on women as lawyers, has not received examination until now. To this end, I posit that medicine played a significant role in shaping societal expectations and assumptions about gender, and was similarly influenced by already-existing societal assumptions about gender. This created a complex and substantial barrier that kept women from exploring options outside the “spheres” of society they traditionally occupied. This article explores how medically-supported gender theories, in practice, have actually operated to limit women’s professional progress, relegating them to traditional gender roles and halting their ascension in the ranks of the legal profession. I examine how this barrier operates in three ways: how early women lawyers adopted these medical theories into views about their own gender; how society and those around these early women lawyers adopted these views to shape expectations about women as lawyers; and how the court explicitly and implicitly relied on these assumptions about gender to keep women out of the legal profession. An examination of how these medical and scientific theories about gender have shaped the ways society views gender, and vice versa, can help illuminate the discussion on the barriers that impede modern women lawyers.

October 1, 2015 in Gender, Science, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

The vexed paradox of Fiorina's feminism

From the NYT: 

When the novelist Jennifer Weiner watched the second Republican presidential debate with her two daughters on Sept. 16, she felt a sense of pride at seeing the lone woman on stage,Carly Fiorina, hold her own against Donald J. Trump.

Then Mrs. Fiorina denounced abortion and Planned Parenthood in a graphic monologue that thrilled many conservative Republican voters but left Ms. Weiner appalled.

September 28, 2015 in Media, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New Yorker: The GOP's Misogyny Problem

The first Republican Presidential debate offered a chance to think about the relationship between misogyny and certain types of opposition to abortion.

From the New Yorker: 

Here in America, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, sexism is very much on the wane, but misogyny is not. Sexism—the conviction that women don’t deserve equal pay, political rights, or access to education—can be combatted by argument, by anti-discrimination laws, and by giving women the opportunity to prove their ability. Misogyny is not amenable to such advances; they can in some circumstances exacerbate it, though they may drive it underground. An example of misogyny is when someone online threatens to rape and mutilate a woman whose opinions that person does not like. Another is when a Presidential candidate says of a female journalist whose questions he finds impertinent, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her—wherever.”


August 13, 2015 in Manliness, Masculinities, Media, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Chamallas on Theorizing "Damage" in Reproductive Torts

Martha Chamallas (Ohio State), Theorizing Damage Through Reproductive Torts, Jotwell.

Of the five basic elements of the negligence cause of action (duty, breach, cause-in-fact, proximate cause, damage), the concept of “damage” (sometimes referred to as “injury” or “harm”) has probably received the least attention from torts scholars and certainly commands less time in the classroom. Indeed, the comparative lack of discussion likely exacerbates the common tendency to confuse the concept of actionable damage with the related topic of recoverable damages, i.e., those specific items of loss (such as medical expenses or sums paid for pain and suffering) that are a consequence of an actionable injury. In the U.S., controversial claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress and for reproductive injuries, especially wrongful conception and wrongful birth claims, have triggered debates under the headings of duty, proximate cause, or recoverable damages. Recently, however, Gregory Keating has argued that the concept of harm “can do more work than it is presently being made to do,”  inviting more theorizing about what lies beneath the largely intuitive concept of harm or damage.


This ambitious article by British tort theorist Nicky Priaulx aims to fill the void by theorizing about the normative dimensions of the concept of damage. Although she doesn’t use the f-word (feminism) until the end of the piece when she discusses just whose injuries tend to be addressed by tort law, her approach is clearly informed by feminist scholarship, as is evident by her starting point that the concept of damage is “imbued with ideals of social justice and equality [and] directed towards treating like cases alike.” (P. 2.) But Priaulx’s legal feminism is of a newer stripe: it is as much about harm to men as it is about harm to women and is interwoven into a universal theory about how to shape tort law to fit the social experience of injury.

August 2, 2015 in Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hillary Clinton and the Gender Card

Hillary Clinton was asked during an interview to respond to Mitch McConnell's charge that she plays the "gender card."  Her response was apt, it seemed to me: 

Clinton’s response — a riposte that the gender card is being played “every time Republicans vote against giving women equal pay, deny families access to affordable child care or family leave, refuse to let women make decisions about their health or have access to free contraception” — was a forthright appeal for women’s votes — and the latest signal that, yes, Clinton’s gender will be front and center in her campaign this time around.


Eight years ago, her first presidential campaign downplayed any focus on running as a woman. But Democrats say gender is not only a plus this time, but also crucial to Clinton’s strategy for winning a general election where she will need to boost the turnout of female voters, who are more likely to vote Democratic.

The campaign followed up on on the Facebook chat Tuesday, releasing a slick video replaying McConnell’s remark and then featuring the records of some of the GOP candidates when it comes to issues that affect women: Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz voted against paid sick leave; Gov. Scott Walker repealed an equal pay law in his state; and Jeb Bush made a comment offensive to poor women back in 1994, saying, “women on welfare should get their life together and find a husband.”

“There she goes again with the women’s issues,” Clinton says in a clip featured in the video, pulled from an appearance in Iowa last week. “Well, I’m not going to stop, so get ready for a long campaign.”

July 22, 2015 in Equal Employment, Theory, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Feminism is Like Brussels Sprouts

Both are delicious. And good for you.

Slate, When Did Feminism Get So "Sneaky"?

But the moment I recognized the excellence of Brussels Sprouts represented a twofold cause for celebration. Not only was I set up for a lifetime of consuming a nutritious vegetable, but I suddenly had the discernment to enjoy said vegetable. . . . Just so with feminism. Mainstream culture has finally figured out that feminism is delicious, and we should rejoice rather than squint doubtfully into the glorious, gender-equal sunrise.

July 21, 2015 in Media, Pop Culture, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Title IX for Women Candidates?

From the Nation:  

Nearly a century after gaining national suffrage rights, American women represent a majority of voters, yet women represent less than a quarter of state legislators, a fifth of members of Congress, and an eighth of governors.

A careful examination of the trends at the local and state level reveals that unequal representation is even worse than it looks. My group Representation 2020 seeks parity for women in elected office—meaning that at any given moment a woman would be just as likely as a man to hold elected office—in our lifetimes. Yet, as to be reported in our State of Women’s Representation 2015-2016 report, women in fact are not on the road to achieving that goal.


report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggested achieving parity would take several generations. But it’s too simplistic to map out trends from the past 20 years in anticipation of steady growth to parity. In the real world, representation of women typically stalls or regresses once it surpasses about a third of seats in a state. Unless both major parties show equal readiness to move to parity—and at this point, the Republican Party shows no such trend—the bottom line is stark: Absent new intervention by our political parties and our lawmakers, we simply won’t achieve gender parity nationally nor in most states. Not in our lifetime. Not in our children’s lifetime. Not ever.

June 19, 2015 in Theory, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bad Feminist

The Feminist Legal Theory CRN group at the upcoming Law & Society is reading Roxane Gay's, Bad Feminist (

I just finished reading the book myself. I had read excerpts and reviews, but not the book until now. Really great. She's a professor, a writer, and a "bad" feminist - defined as a real, human, imperfect person who nevertheless believes in core principles of gender equality and the identification of such as "feminist." Refreshing, irreverent.  Just keeping it real.

May 16, 2015 in Books, Conferences, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

"A Professor Finds Gender Bias on Wall Street"

From the WSJ: 

Men and women have different experiences when it comes to Wall Street careers. And those differences fascinate Lily Fang.

Dr. Fang, an associate professor of finance on the Singapore campus of the business school Insead, has spent the past five years or so delving into how gender affects the career-development paths of stock-research analysts on Wall Street. What she and co-author Sterling Huang of Singapore Management University found was that the networking and personal connections that male analysts rely on so heavily to get ahead are much less useful for women in similar jobs.

May 4, 2015 in Business, Theory, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

New Book Asserts "Women are superior in most ways that matter now"

Melvin Konner, The End of Male Supremacy, Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Provocative thesis:

Women are not equal to men; they are superior in many ways, and in most ways that will count in the future. It is not just a matter of culture or upbringing. It is a matter of chromosomes, genes, hormones, and nerve circuits. It is not mainly because of how experience shapes women, but because of intrinsic differences in the body and the brain.


Do these differences account for all the ways women and men differ? No. Are all men one way and all women another? Also no. But none of those considerations seriously impede my argument or deflect its key conclusion: Women are superior in most ways that matter now.


And no, I do not mean what was meant by patronizing men who said this in the past — that women are lofty, tender, spiritual creatures. I mean something like the opposite of that. I mean that women are fundamentally pragmatic as well as caring, cooperative as well as competitive, skilled in getting their own egos out of the way, deft in managing people without putting them on the defensive, builders not destroyers. Above all, I mean that women can carry on the business of a complex world in ways that are more focused, efficient, deliberate, and constructive than men’s because women are not frequently distracted by impulses and moods that, sometimes indirectly, lead to sex and violence. Women are more reluctant participants in both. And if they are drawn into wars, these will be wars of necessity, not of choice, founded on rational considerations, not on a clash of egos escalating out of control.


Interesting use of Elizabeth Cady Stanton here too.  

This is not a new idea. Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave an address to the National Woman Suffrage Convention in Washington, D.C., on January 19, 1869. She said, "The same arguments made in this country for extending suffrage … to white men, native born citizens, without property and education, and to foreigners … and the same used by the great Republican party to enfranchise a million black men in the South, all these arguments we have to-day to offer for woman, and one, in addition, stronger than all besides, the difference in man and woman. Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman’s thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government."


She also said, "When the highest offices in the gift of the people are bought and sold in Wall Street, it is a mere chance who will be our rulers. Whither is a nation tending when brains count for less than bullion, and clowns make laws for queens?" Almost 150 years later, the highest offices are still bought and sold on Wall Street, and clowns make laws for queens. But the latter, at least, is coming to an end.


Yet notice: What additional argument for women’s equality is "stronger than all besides"? "The difference in man and woman." Men and women complement each other. After a century and a half of research, Stanton’s argument from difference is stronger than ever, grounded in evolution, brain science, child psychology, and anthropology. And we can take it a step further

I discuss Stanton's feminist theory of difference in the context of parenting and property rights in my forthcoming book. But her feminism was more complex than this one speech suggests.  She believed in equality, difference, as well as radical feminism, as all were part of the web of women's oppression.

April 2, 2015 in Books, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

“You hold women in contempt”: Frat culture isn’t an aberration, it’s everything men learn about being a “real man”

...thus reads the headline from Salon

There are a lot of stories out there right now about frat culture, which is maybe why I find myself circling back to bigger questions about masculinity. Or at least the version of masculinity on display in some of these fraternities.

 What does it say about men and their relationships with other men that sexual aggression is often seen as a way to bond? What does it say about men’s desire to belong that so many guys don’t intervene even if they feel like what’s going on around them is totally wrong? Is the routine sexism we see coming out of many fraternities right now an aberration, or is it just a particularly grotesque expression of how men are taught to feel about and treat women? And if that’s the case, what are we supposed to do about it?
I reached out to Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stonybrook University and one of the nation’s most influential researchers on men and masculinities, to get his perspective on fraternities, male friendship, cultural messaging about “real” men and what it might mean to remake masculinity into something healthier for men and women. Our conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Read the rest here

March 30, 2015 in Education, Manliness, Masculinities, Theory, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Guide to Feminist Pedagogy

Vanderbilt, A Guide to Feminist Pedagogy

Feminist pedagogy is not a toolbox, a collection of strategies, a list of practices, or a specific classroom arrangement.  It is an overarching philosophy—a theory of teaching and learning that integrates feminist values with related theories and research on teaching and learning.

It begins with our beliefs and motivations:  why do we teach? why do students learn? what are the goals of learning? We know that the consequences of our motives for teaching and learning are significant: Keith Trigwell and Mike Prosser have shown that the instructor’s intentions in teaching (“why the person adopts a particular strategy”) have a greater impact on student learning than the instructor’s actual strategies for teaching (“what the person does”) (78). Their research has shown that approaches to teaching that are purposefully focused on the students and aimed at changing conceptual frameworks lead to deeper learning practices than teacher-centered, information-driven approaches (Trigwell 98). The implications are that the instructor’s fundamental beliefs and values about teaching, learning, and knowledge-making matter.

In this guide, we explain some of the fundamental beliefs, values, and intentions behind feminist pedagogy to inform a deliberate application in specific classrooms–any and all classrooms, as feminist pedagogy can inform any disciplinary context. (For a more focused exploration of feminist pedagogy specifically within the women’s studies classroom, see Holly Hassel and Nerissa Nelson’s “A Signature Feminist Pedagogy: Connection and Transformation in Women’s Studies.”)

[H/t Kathy Feltey]

March 28, 2015 in Education, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sweden Introduces Gender-Neutral Pronoun

From the Guardian UK: 

The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced.

“Hen” will be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s SAOL.

The pronoun is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender – either because it is unknown, because the person is transgender, or the speaker or writer deems the gender to be superfluous information.

“For those who use the pronoun, it’s obviously a strength that it is now in the dictionary,” one of the editors, Sture Berg, told AFP on Tuesday.

March 25, 2015 in International, LGBT, Manliness, Masculinities, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Gender Neutral Shoes

NiK Kacy, luxury footwear designed to fit all genders.'s video poster


From HuffPost

As mainstream understandings of bodies and identity evolve and change, it's only fitting that industries, such as fashion, evolve too.

That's the case with NiK Kacy, one of the first luxury footwear brands to describe their product as gender-neutral. At HuffPost Gay Voices we've been documenting the shifting nature of queerness within the fashion world through our series"FABRICATIONS: Emerging Queer Faces of Fashion Design." The NiK Kacy brand is certainly emblematic of this shift and an exciting prospect for bodies existing outside of binary understandings of gender.

NiK Kacy is currently engaged in a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund the brand's first line. The Huffington Post chatted with Kacy this week about their vision for this footwear line, as well as its cultural significance.


March 4, 2015 in LGBT, Manliness, Masculinities, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 2, 2015


Wesleyan University has created a special dorm that is meant to house the LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM crowd. From the school website:

     Photo of Open House

Open House is a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities. The goals of Open House include generating interest in a celebration of queer life from the social to the political to the academic. Open House works to create a Wesleyan community that appreciates the variety and vivacity of gender, sex and sexuality.

 I must say that I am ambivalent about this.  Is this a good thing for the students in the dorm?  To segregate themselves so completely like this from the rest of the school?  So too I find disturbing the notion that all these quite different groups would naturally share a desire to live together, simply because they are sexually marginalized in society.....

March 2, 2015 in Education, LGBT, Manliness, Masculinities, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Different Hillary Clinton This Time

As she prepares for her presidential bid, Hillary Clinton intends to serve up a different campaign message than last time:

But rather than the assertive feminism associated with her years as first lady, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign message will be subtler. It will involve frequent references to being a mother and grandmother and to how her family has inspired her to embrace policies that she believes would help middle-class families.

As one Democrat close to her put it, voters have learned that she is tough; now she can also present herself as a sensitive candidate capable of nurturing the nation at a difficult time.



February 25, 2015 in Masculinities, Theory, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

"Girl, 11, demands DC Comics to feature more female superheroes – so they draw her as one"

Cute story from the Independent UK:

View image on Twitter


“Please do something about this, girls read comics too and they care,” the 11-year-old from Champaign, Illinois, added according to NBC’s Today show.

A DC Comics artist drew Rowan as a superhero complete with her blonde bob hairstyle and spectacles with a burgundy and yellow outfit to help her fly over a dandelion field.

Previously, they sent out tweets saying that they’re “working hard to create more superhero fun for girls” but she had said that, even though she appreciated the responses, her quest to see more girl characters was not over.

“It was really, really cool, because they’re so big and important people,” she said of the tweets.

“But I thought ‘I don’t want people to think, “Oh, yeah, OK, they responded to her. Now it’s over.” I want people to keep trying to make this happen, because it’s really important to me.”

Her parents Jim Hansen and Renee Trilling said that Rowan has been aware of gender inequality for years.

View image on Twitter

February 23, 2015 in Manliness, Masculinities, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The US Feminist Judgments Project

The US Feminist Judgments Projects Website

What would United States Supreme Court opinions look like–and what would their influence be–if key decisions on gender issues were written with a feminist perspective? The US Feminist Judgments Project seeks to answer these questions by pulling together a group of leading feminist legal scholars in the United States to rewrite, using feminist reasoning, the most significant Supreme Court cases on gender from the 1800s all the way to the present day.


Editors Linda Berger (UNLV), Bridget Crawford (Pace) and Kathy Stanchi (Temple), along with an Advisory Panel of diverse and distinguished scholars, targeted 24 influential Supreme Court cases related to gender for feminist revision. Those 24 rewritten opinions, along with introductory commentary explaining the issues and context of the decision, will be published by Cambridge University Press in a volume entitled Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States Supreme Court. You can see the final list of cases, as well as the authors of the rewritten opinions and commentaries, here.


The US Feminist Judgments Project was inspired by the successful collection and publication in Britain of Feminist Judgments: From Theory to Practice, by Rosemary Hunter, Clare McGlynn, and Erika Rackley. This volume, which included feminist versions of twenty-three key British decisions from the Court of Appeal and House of Lords, was published in 2010 to wide acclaim.


Like its British counterpart, the US Feminist Judgments Project seeks to illustrate how decision-makers with feminist viewpoints could have arrived at different decisions using different reasoning in critical Supreme Court cases despite the restrictions of stare decisis. The rewritten decisions are framed within the same precedent that bound the Supreme Court at the time of the opinion, but bring to the decision making and the opinion writing a feminist perspective on the facts and the law. The rewritten decisions show not only how feminist theory can apply to real-world judgments, but also the ways that stare decisions can mask the law’s masculine perspective and bias. In this way, the volume will help uncover the manner in which hidden and often-unrecognized gender bias drives the results and the reasoning in much of our jurisprudence.

February 14, 2015 in Scholarship, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)