Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Law's Historic Unwillingness to Shield Black Girls from Acts of Sexual Violence

Mikah Thompson, Just Another Fast Girl: Exploring Slavery’s Continued Impact on the Loss of Black Girlhood,  
Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Forthcoming

A troubling legacy of American chattel slavery is the justice system’s continued failure to provide adequate protection to African-American crime victims. This piece focuses on the law’s historic unwillingness to shield Black girls from acts of sexual violence. During slavery, lawmakers refused to criminalize rape committed against Black girls and women based not only on the fact that they were considered property but also on stereotypes about their sexuality. Even though the law now criminalizes the rape of Black girls, African-American rape survivors encounter more skepticism and hostility when they come forward with their stories compared to their White counterparts. Survivors experience negative reactions not just from White society but also from their own African-American community. Stereotypes about Black girls also influence the players in the justice system, including police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and jurors. In light of the recent shift in societal attitudes ushered in by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it is important to consider whether our culture can now move away from the stereotypes that have left Black girls unprotected for centuries.

July 23, 2020 in Legal History, Race, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How Policing Became the Go-To Response for Domestic Violence

Aya Gruber, How Police Became the Go-To Response for Domestic Violence

In response to widespread demands to “defund the police,” a specific question repeatedly crops up: “What about domestic and sexual violence?” These “what about” questions imply that defunding, reducing, and reforming the aggressive street policing currently under public scrutiny will leave people without vital protection and trigger a tidal wave of crime.

 

As prominent prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba has explained, the police have never been the solution to violence against women. Few women actually report rapes to police, and when they do, officers disbelieve and mistreat them. Kaba and others point out that police officers frequently commit domestic and sexual violence themselves, often using their authority to get away with it.

 

Still, some argue that this reality calls for more policing. Laws and policies could require officers to believe women and make arrests in their cases. This may, in turn, increase reporting and victim satisfaction. Some policies like this already exist in the form of special victims units where officers are trained to be victim-centered and trauma-informed and to pursue cases to arrest. One letter to the editor responding to Kaba suggested that we could change the face of policing: “I disagree that we should abolish the police. Instead, we should simply replace male policemen with more women.”

 

It is tempting to see aggressive rape and domestic violence policing as the solution to violence against women, especially as the coronavirus lockdown is increasing such violence. But we have been down that road before, and it just led to more harm for marginalized people, including women.

 

Beginning in the late 1970s, battered women’s activists launched a remarkably successful campaign for states and police departments to adopt laws and policies that encouraged, even required, police officers to arrest in domestic violence cases. Before the policies, officers who responded to “domestic disputes” often did not arrest, instead choosing to mediate between the parties or temporarily remove the suspect from the scene. Department policies even encouraged police not to arrest.

 

In the early days of the movement, many feminists also rejected strict law enforcement. Black activists within the movement vociferously opposed increasing police presence in the lives of people of color. Social scientists warned that arrest “initiates a judicial process which, experience tells us, has little chance of a productive outcome,” as researcher Morton Bard observed.

 

Consequently, much of the early battered women’s movement was oriented not around policing but around services like helping women obtain housing, employment, and public benefits

July 14, 2020 in Race, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Virtual Conference: The 15th & 19th Amendments on the Anniversary of their Ratifications

Massachusetts Historical Society, “Shall Not Be Denied”: The 15th and 19th Amendments at the Sesquicentennial and Centennial of Their Ratifications

“Shall Not Be Denied”: The 15th and 19th Amendments at the Sesquicentennial and Centennial of their Ratifications, October 12-16, 2020

Registration opens in August!

As a result of ongoing public health concerns, the Massachusetts Historical Society has altered its original plan for an in-person conference in October 2020. Rather than meeting for two days of sessions, we will host the conference panels online between Monday, 12 October and Friday, 16 October 2020. The originally scheduled keynote panel will be postponed until it is safe to hold the event in person at the MHS.

Download Conference Schedule 

The year 2020 marks the anniversaries of two critical amendments to the United States Constitution. Spaced fifty years apart, the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, ratified in 1870 and 1920, respectively, prohibited the use of race or sex to deny American citizens the franchise. However, the amendments did not prevent states from adopting other methods of discrimination. Viewed as the product of two different movements—abolitionism and the Civil War on the one hand and the Progressive campaigns and the First World War on the other—these two periods and amendments are not often considered together. This conference revisits the long journey to secure voting rights for African Americans and women in United States history. It considers the legal precedents and hurdles that each amendment faced, the meaning and uneven outcomes of each, the social context that allowed for ultimate ratification, the role of key individuals and groups in these respective contexts, and how each amendment has been remembered over time.

At a later date, a keynote panel will feature feature Profs. Alison M. Parker (University of Delaware) and Lisa Tetrault (Carnegie Mellon University) and will be moderated by Prof. Alex Keyssar (Harvard).

July 14, 2020 in Conferences, Constitutional, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 6, 2020

Grounding the Role of the Feminist Scholar-Activist in a Transnational Black Feminist Framework

Kia Hall, A Transnational Black Feminist Framework: Rooting in Feminist Scholarship, Framing Contemporary Black Activism, 15 Meridians 86 (2016) [pay wall]

What is the role of feminist scholar-activists in contemporary Black freedom movements such as Black Lives Matter? This article proposes a Transnational Black Feminist framework as a theoretical complement to grassroots activism in Black communities. The proposed framework is rooted in Black feminist and transnational feminist traditions, and has as its core the guiding principles of intersectionality, scholar-activism, solidarity building, and attention to borders and boundaries.

July 6, 2020 in Race, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Exploring the Toxic Racial Construct of the Black Welfare Queen

Catherine Powell & Camille Gear Rich, The “Welfare Queen” Goes to the Polls: Race-Based Fractures in Gender Politics and Opportunities for Intersectional Coalitions, Geo.L.J., 19th Amendment, Special Edition (forthcoming)

As Americans celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment’s ratification, our celebration would be premature if we failed to reflect on the ways that race has been used to fracture women’s efforts at coalition politics and our understanding of women’s rights. Indeed, a careful reading of U.S. history and contemporary politics shows that although similar rights claims are made across a diverse community of American women, women’s shared interests are often obscured by the divisive manipulation of race. Notably, 2020 is also the 150-year anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted the right to vote to Black men. In this Article, we use the coinciding anniversaries of the two amendments as a critical opportunity to direct feminist attention to intersectional questions—to frame this historical moment as a pivot point that explores the mutually constitutive nature of gender and racial subordination in American politics.

In service of these goals, we use this Article to explore a toxic racial construct often used to distract American women from our shared rights claims—the political trickster known as the “welfare queen.” This construct was born as a result of fiscal conservatives’ attacks on government anti-poverty subsidy programs in the 1980s. It relied on antipathy toward Black women—characterized as “welfare cheats” or frauds—and pathologized women of color to call for aggressive cuts to social-safety-net programs. This Article explores the remobilization of this construct in present-day electoral politics and the ways in which it compromises cross-racial coalitions and obscures the path to reform. We take as our object the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, for in 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and his surrogates reanimated the welfare queen construct and alleged that she was stealing American democracy through voter fraud. The visceral power of this construct allowed this group of Republicans to transform Americans’ understanding of voting rights and American democracy. In so doing, their representations simultaneously sidetracked feminist efforts to build strong cross-racial coalitions. This Article explores the various paths out of our current discourse, dispelling thedistracting haze generated by the welfare queen construction. In the process, we also hope to advance our conceptual understanding of intersectional identities and their relationship to political change.

June 10, 2020 in Family, Legal History, Poverty, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Posts on Race and Gender from the Gender and Law Prof Blog

To browse the posts on race and gender here on the Gender & Law Prof Blog, click here.  (Or go to the home blog page, categories, and select "Race")

Recent posts include research on theory like intersectionality and hood feminism; gender, race, and crime; pay gaps for black women; inequality for black women, black women lawyers, and black women academics; black women in the #MeToo and suffrage movements; and many others.

June 4, 2020 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Practices for University Faculty on Gender Equity for People of Color

Constance Wagner, In Search of Best Practices on Gender Equity for University Faculty: An Update" 
Norman Shachoy Symposium at Villanova Law School, 2019

This article updates the author’s earlier work on the search for gender equity among women faculty in the university setting in the United States. The author reflects on the fact that some of the literature in this area does not sufficiently address the challenges facing women of color. She seeks to fill the gap in her own research by referencing best practices discussed in three recent books on the professional lives of university faculty who are women of color. She argues that future work on best practices for achieving gender equity must address issues of intersectionality of race, gender, and class in order to develop effective tools for change in the university setting. This article was prepared for the 2019 Norman Shachoy Symposium at Villanova Law School, which focused on “Gender Equity in Law Schools”.

June 4, 2020 in Education, Gender, Law schools, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

New Book: Presumed Incompetent II: Personal Narratives of Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia

Presumed Incompetent II:Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia

The courageous and inspiring personal narratives and empirical studies in Presumed Incompetent II: Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia name formidable obstacles and systemic biases that all women faculty—from diverse intersectional and transnational identities and from tenure track, terminal contract, and administrative positions—encounter in their higher education careers. They provide practical, specific, and insightful guidance to fight back, prevail, and thrive in challenging work environments. This new volume comes at a crucial historical moment as the United States grapples with a resurgence of white supremacy and misogyny at the forefront of our social and political dialogues that continue to permeate the academic world.

Contributors: Marcia Allen Owens, Sarah Amira de la Garza, Sahar Aziz, Jacquelyn Bridgeman, Jamiella Brooks, Lolita Buckner Inniss, Kim Case, Donna Castaneda, Julia Chang, Meredith Clark, Meera Deo, Penelope Espinoza, Yvette Flores, Lynn Fujiwara, Jennifer Gomez, Angela Harris, Dorothy Hines, Rachelle Joplin, Jessica Lavariega Monforti, Cynthia Lee, Yessenia Manzo, Melissa Michelson, Susie E. Nam, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Jodi O’Brien, Amelia Ortega, Laura Padilla, Grace Park, Stacey Patton, Desdamona Rios, Melissa Michal Slocum, Nellie Tran, Rachel Tudor, Pamela Tywman Hoff, Adrien Wing, Jemimah Li Young

For the first volume, see Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia

May 26, 2020 in Books, Education, Race, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

How the Gender Pay Gap Affects Black Women in Law

LaCrisha McAllister, "Quarters in the Court: How the Gender Pay Gap Affects Black Women in Law" 

Women constitute almost half of the national workforce. For half of American families, they are the sole source of income or they are a co-breadwinner. They earn more degrees than men. They work in a broad spectrum of professions and industries and they serve in a multitude of capacities, from administrators to upper management to laborers and everything between. Despite these things, women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Efforts to address this have been fodder for discussion for some time. Currently, less than 1% of elected prosecutors are Black women, less than 8% of judges are Black Women in State Trial Courts and State Appellate courts respectively, and a report from the National Association for Law Placement found that Black Women make up about 1.73% of all attorneys included in their survey. This paper seeks to address the ways that the Gender Pay Gap affects Black women in the legal field and how the legal profession can place equity in pay at the base of its mission.

May 26, 2020 in Equal Employment, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Injustice of Formal Gender Equality in Criminal Sentencing

Emma Decourcy, The Injustice of Formal Gender Equality in Sentencing, 47 Fordham Urb. L.J. 395 (2020)  

Over the past 40 years, the entire United States penal population has grown at an unprecedented rate, and the rate of female incarceration is growing at twice the rate of men. Given that there does not appear to be an increase in female criminality that corresponds with the increase in female incarceration, it may be inferred that the rising rate of female imprisonment is the result of changes in criminal justice law and policy that prescribe simplistic, punitive enforcement responses to complex social problems.

While criminological research has paid increased attention to women and girls over the past decade, there is still much work left to be done. This Note aims to address a perceived gap in existing scholarship on female incarceration — existing research and proposed solutions have tended to focus on prison conditions and post-incarceration re-entry. While such work is imperative, an examination of the female pathways to incarceration is equally important. This Note argues reforms that target the front end of the incarceration process, namely sentencing, should be employed to address the rapidly rising rate of female incarceration.

Part I of this Note first provides a brief overview of the mass incarceration crisis in America and the changes in criminal justice policy, namely sentencing policy, to which it is attributed. Part I then discusses the impact of changes in sentencing policy on female sentencing outcomes. Part II proposes a framework of inquiry to be used by policymakers engaged in the creation of gender-responsive sentencing policies. This framework includes an analysis of the scope and nature of female incarceration, the correlates of female criminality, and the impact of existing gender-neutral policies on women involved in the criminal justice system. Finally, Part III discusses the efficacy of gender-neutral sentencing policies in action and identifies two policies that exemplify proper application of the framework presented in Part II.

May 5, 2020 in Courts, Poverty, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Barriers to Reproduction and Family that Deny the Dignity of Black and Disabled Women

Mary Crossley, Reproducing Dignity: Race, Disability, and Reproductive Controls, UC Davis L. Rev. (forthcoming)  

Human rights treaties and American constitutional law recognize decisions about reproduction as central to human dignity. Historically and today, Black women and women with disabilities have endured numerous impairments of their freedom to form and maintain families. Other scholars have examined these barriers to motherhood. Unexplored, however, are parallels among the experiences of women in these two groups or the women for whom Blackness and disability are overlapping identities. This Article fills that void. The disturbing legacy of the Eugenics movement is manifest in many settings. Black and disabled women undergo sterilizations at disproportionately high rates. Public benefit programs discourage their childbearing. Their ability to pursue motherhood is diminished by disproportionately high rates of institutionalization (either treatment-related or carceral) and low rates of access to assisted reproduction. Becoming pregnant is riskier, with risks flowing from medical ignorance regarding maternity care (for disabled women) or high rates of maternal mortality and criminal prosecutions (for Black women). Finally, if they become mothers, Black and disabled women are more likely to lose custody of their children to the state.

This Article argues that barriers to bearing children and forming families debase the dignity of Black and disabled women in meaningfully similar ways. In so doing, it points to an opportunity. Recognizing similarities (while appreciating differences) may equip participants in social movements – whether racial justice advocates, disability justice proponents, or reproductive justice activists – to build stronger coalitions to advance the dignity of reproductive choices for all women.

April 30, 2020 in Family, Pregnancy, Race, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Institutional Perpetuation of Systemic Gender and Racial Discrimination by the Continued Use of Student Evaluations Despite Research Consensus on their Bias

Debra Austin, Leadership Lapse: Laundering Systemic Bias through Student Evaluations, Villanova L. Rev. (forthcoming)   

The use of the student evaluation of teaching (SET) for high stakes faculty employment decisions amounts to a lapse in leadership. A scholarly consensus has emerged that using SETs as the primary measure of teaching effectiveness in faculty review processes can systematically disadvantage faculty from marginalized groups. The growing body of evidence shows that women and minorities get lower ratings of their teaching than white men. Using biased evaluations allows colleges and universities to discriminate against faculty whose identities deviate from white male heteronormativity.

Despite the knowledge that empirical research demonstrates these instruments are biased, the academy has accepted them as credible. Bias in student evaluations can lead an institution to determine that a faculty member who differs from the straight white male stereotype is an inadequate teacher. Faculty with lower student ratings are penalized in the hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion processes.

This article summarizes empirical research demonstrating that student evaluations are biased against female faculty and faculty of color; describes the impact on student learning; details the influence on institutional culture of using student evaluations for assessing teaching quality for performance evaluations, compensation, promotion, and retention; and suggests recommendations for evaluating teaching effectiveness in fair and responsible ways. Law schools should lead the change in this discriminatory higher education practice because they are institutions dedicated to social justice and to training leaders who will drive social change in the legal system, government, business, media, and philanthropy.

April 17, 2020 in Education, Gender, Manliness, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 9, 2020

New Book: The Feminist War on Crime

Aya Gruber, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration 

Many feminists grapple with the problem of hyper-incarceration in the United States, and yet commentators on gender crime continue to assert that criminal law is not tough enough. This punitive impulse, prominent legal scholar Aya Gruber argues, is dangerous and counterproductive. In their quest to secure women’s protection from domestic violence and rape, American feminists have become soldiers in the war on crime by emphasizing white female victimhood, expanding the power of police and prosecutors, touting the problem-solving power of incarceration, and diverting resources toward law enforcement and away from marginalized communities.

 

Deploying vivid cases and unflinching analysis, The Feminist War on Crime documents the failure of the state to combat sexual and domestic violence through law and punishment. Zero-tolerance anti-violence law and policy tend to make women less safe and more fragile. Mandatory arrests, no-drop prosecutions, forced separation, and incarceration embroil poor women of color in a criminal justice system that is historically hostile to them. This carceral approach exacerbates social inequalities by diverting more power and resources toward a fundamentally flawed criminal justice system, further harming victims, perpetrators, and communities alike.

 

In order to reverse this troubling course, Gruber contends that we must abandon the conventional feminist wisdom, fight violence against women without reinforcing the American prison state, and use criminalization as a technique of last—not first—resort. 

The Feminist War on Crime by Aya Gruber

March 9, 2020 in Books, Race, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 28, 2020

Book Review: Hood Feminism and Seeking Intersectionality in the Women's Movement

Hood Feminism

NPR, "Hood Feminism" is a Call for Solidarity in a Less-Than-Inclusive Movement

If you're someone who claims the mantel of feminism, who believes in the innate equality of all genders, who thinks that solidarity among communities of women is a core component of the world you want to live in, I strongly encourage you to read Mikki Kendall's debut essay collection, Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot. (Also, if you're not one of those someones, I really think you should read Hood Feminism.)

 

As the subtitle makes clear, Kendall's central thesis is that mainstream feminism in the United States has been anything but inclusive, despite being "a movement that draws much of its strength from the claim that it represents over half of the world's population." In prose that is clean, crisp, and cutting, Kendall reveals how feminism has both failed to take into account populations too often excluded from the banner of feminism and failed to consider the breadth of issues affecting the daily lives of millions of women.

 

Many of the book's essays focus on these overlooked issues, with chapters examining how gun violence, hunger, poverty, education, housing, reproductive justice, and more are all feminist issues.***

 

Securing that equality, Kendall argues, requires that women accept some inconvenient truths, specifically "the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others.... [W]hite women can oppress women of color, straight women can oppress lesbian women, cis women can oppress trans women, and so on." If feminism is to truly represent all women, it must resist the "tendency to assume that all women are experiencing the same struggles [which] has led us to a place where reproductive health imagery centers on cisgender able-bodied women to the exclusion of those who are trans, intersex, or otherwise inhabiting bodies that don't fit the narrow idea that genitalia dictates gender."

 

Those already familiar with Kendall as a leader in Black feminist thought won't be surprised that Hood Feminism is grounded in intersectionality, a term coined by Prof. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to reflect how race and gender combine to impact Black women in the criminal justice system. 

February 28, 2020 in Books, Pop Culture, Race, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 3, 2020

Payday Lending Regulations and the Disproportionate Impact on Women of Color

Lara Sofia Romero, Rafael Romero, & Sim Jonathan Covington, Payday Lending Regulations and the Impact on Women of Color, Accounting & Taxation, v. 11 (1) p. 83-92

Payday loans, or small short-term loans that carry high fees, may provide a much-needed safety net for some consumers in need of quick cash for emergencies. However, data suggest that most payday loan borrowers become repeat users caught in a cycle of high-cost debt. Furthermore, empirical evidence suggests consistent overrepresentation of women of color, including many single mothers, among payday loan borrowers. Based on international human rights law, the U.S. has an obligation to remedy predatory economic practices such as a payday lending that have a disproportionately negative economic effect on women of color. Posing the issue of payday lending as a human rights issue can make an important contribution to public action on how to address the aftermath of the financial crisis and its impact on women of color.

February 3, 2020 in Business, Poverty, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Proposing an Intersectional Equality Amendment

Catharine MacKinnon & Kimberle Crenshaw, Reconstituting the Future: An Equality Amendment , Yale Law Forum (Dec. 26, 2019)

A new constitutional amendment embodying a substantive intersectional equality analysis aims to rectify the founding U.S. treatment of race and sex and additional hierarchical social inequalities. Historical and doctrinal context and critique show why this step is urgently needed. A draft of the amendment is offered.

 

A new constitutional amendment offers a new beginning. The equality paradigm proposed here recognizes the failures of what is, turns away from language and interpretive canons rooted in an unjust past, and imagines a fully functioning democracy as the inheritance of future generations. This proposal reenvisions constitutional equality from the ground up: it centers on rectifying the founding acts and omissions of race and sex, separately and together, and incorporates similar but distinct inequalities.2 It is informed by prior efforts to integrate equality into the constitutional landscape that have been decimated by political reversals and doctrinal backlash. It aggregates the insights, aspirations, and critiques of many thinkers and actors who have seized this moment to breathe new life into the nation’s reckoning with inequality. It neither looks back to celebrate amendments whose transformative possibilities have been defeated nor participates in contemporary hand-wringing over equality’s jurisprudential limitations. It seeks to make equality real and to matter now. We argue that a new equality paradigm is necessary and present one form it could take.

January 14, 2020 in Constitutional, Legislation, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Gender and Racial Bias in the US Tax Laws

Ariel Jurow Kleiman, Amy Matsui & Estelle Mitchell, The Faulty Foundations of the Tax Code: Gender and Racial Bias in Our Tax Laws,  San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 19-423

This report examines the outdated assumptions and gender and racial biases embedded in the U.S. tax code. It highlights tax code provisions that reflect and exacerbate gender disparities, with particular attention to those that disadvantage low-income women, women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

January 13, 2020 in Gender, Legislation, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Racialized and Sexually Exploitive US Citizenship Transmission Laws

Blanche Cook, Johnny Appleseed: Citizenship Transmission Laws and a White Heteropatriarchal Property Right in Philandering, Sexual Exploitation, and Rape (the 'WHP') or Johnny and the WHP, 31 Yale J. Law & Feminism (2019) 

Title 8, United States Code, Section 1409—one of this country’s citizenship transmission laws—creates a white hetero-patriarchal property right in philandering, sexual exploitation, and rape (the “WHP”). Section 1409 governs the transmission of citizenship from United States citizens to their children, where the child is born abroad, outside of marriage, and one parent is a citizen and the other is not. Section 1409, however, draws a distinct gender distinction between women and men: An unwed female American citizen who births a child outside the United States, fathered by a foreign man, automatically transmits citizenship to her child. An unwed male American citizen, by contrast, who fathers a child abroad with a foreign woman has the distinctly male prerogative to either grant or deny citizenship to his foreign-born non-marital child at his leisure.

On the surface, it might appear that § 1409 treats men and women differently because it is easy to determine a child’s mother, as opposed to a child’s father, at birth. In fact, a majority of the Supreme Court has deployed these “natural” differences between men and women to shield § 1409 from three separate gender-based equal protection challenges. Justice Ginsburg, however, has keenly observed, “History reveals what lurks behind § 1409.” What lurks behind § 1409 is a long legacy of white hetero-patriarchy deploying the legal category of citizenship to perfect sovereignty in itself and vulnerability in “foreign” women for the very purpose of sexual domination.

The historical model for this racialized regime of sexual domination is the classic case of Dred Scott, where the denial of citizenship to anyone of African descent further facilitated a white hetero-patriarchal property right in philandering, sexual exploitation, and rape. In Dred Scott, the exclusion of anyone of African descent from person-hood, through the legal mechanism of citizenship, perfected power in white men and vulnerability in racialized others. By excluding anyone of African descent from citizenship, enslaved owners continued to enjoy an unbridled property right in the use and enjoyment of the enslaved. The denial of citizenship to the enslaved facilitated their use as property. Following suit, § 1409 makes citizenship the property of men, through which they can exclude their non-marital foreign-born children from membership in the American polity. Section 1409 vests in these fathers not just a right to exclude their children, but to discard them, leaving them profoundly vulnerable to the sting of “illegitimacy,” ethnic and racial animus, and financial precarity — a form of destruction, while simultaneously empowering these fathers to sexually possess, control, use, and enjoy foreign women. Section 1409 understands all too well: in order to sexually exploit the mother, one must control the status of the child.

December 4, 2019 in Gender, International, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rethinking the Supreme Court's Decision in Muller v. Oregon through an Intersectional Lens

Emily Prifogle, Law & Laundry: White Laundresses, Chinese Laundrymen, and the Origins of Muller v. Oregon  
Forthcoming, Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

This article uses the historian’s method of micro-history to rethink the significance of the Supreme Court decision Muller v. Oregon (1908). Typically considered a labor law decision permitting the regulation of women’s work hours, the article argues that through particular attention to the specific context in which the labor dispute took place — the laundry industry in Portland, Oregon — the Muller decision and underlying conflict should be understood as not only about sex-based labor rights but also about how the labor of laundry specifically involved race-based discrimination. The article investigates the most important conflicts behind the Muller decision, namely the entangled histories of white laundresses’ labor and labor activism in Portland, as well as the labor of their competitors — Chinese laundrymen. In so doing, the article offers an intersectional reading of Muller that incorporates regulations on Chinese laundries and places the decision in conversation with a long line of anti-Chinese laundry legislation on the West Coast, including that at issue in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).

September 18, 2019 in Constitutional, Gender, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Anna Julia Cooper, Activist for Black Women's Suffrage and Social Service

The Atlantic, How Black Suffragettes Subverted the Domestic Sphere

A few decades after her graduation from Oberlin College, the scholar and educator Anna Julia Cooper wrote a stern missive in the Ohio university’s alumni journal. Having relocated to Washington, D.C., where she worked in the district’s first Colored Settlement House, Cooper wrote in the early 1900s with clarity and conviction about the importance of social service. She exalted the domestic sphere as a cornerstone of broader community support—and, in doing so, also illustrated just how unevenly groups like white religious entities metered their care. Her letter, published amid the struggle against gendered discrimination at the ballot box, revealed rifts in which groups of Americans most readily earned others’ sympathy and respect. One hundred years after the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteed white women the right to vote, Cooper’s work still offers an instructive lens through which to consider social movements and interpersonal dynamics alike.

Like those made by other black suffragettes, the statement, titled “The Social Settlement: What It Is and What It Does,” was an often pithy indictment of the sociopolitical landscape—and, implicitly, a blueprint for what might be improved. ***

 

Sometimes referred to as the mother of black feminism, Cooper was born into slavery around 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina. She would go on to spend most of her long academic and community–oriented career living in Washington, D.C., where she helped establish the Colored Women’s League (which later became part of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, led by the likes of Mary Church Terrell, the organization’s first president). As white women across America endeavored to secure voting rights for themselves—and made calculated choices to exclude black people from those efforts—Cooper produced some of the most foundational analysis of injustice in the United States, most notably the overlaps of racism and sexism.

September 10, 2019 in Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)