Thursday, May 6, 2021
Katharine Baker, Equality and Family Autonomy, Forthcoming Univ. of Pa. J of Con. Law
Contemporary family law scholarship and a growing body of doctrine often assume that a functional approach to family law – treating those who have acted like family as family – is the best way to secure equal treatment for people who live in relationships that have not been recognized legally as familial. This article argues that these functional claims, made in the name of equality, inevitably disrupt the very protection they are asking for because they undermine principles of family privacy and autonomy. In unpacking the benefits of a robust family autonomy doctrine – benefits that are crucially important to communities of color and LGBTQ communities - this article challenges not only the functional turn in family law, but feminist scholarship that has been critical of family autonomy and privacy doctrine. Building on the consistent defense of privacy that emanates from women scholars of color, this article demonstrates how functional analyses demand interference and judgement that is likely to tear at the fabric of minority communities. Functional approaches vest judges with the power to define who a family is and what it should look like. This article shows how when judges do this in the parental area, they reify dyadic, heteronormative, usually white middle class notions of parenthood. When they do it in the context of cohabitation, they reify gender roles and a morality that assumes the ubiquity of long-term conjugal relationships. Thus, the functional turn, hailed as progressive, actually re-inscribes traditional understandings of family relationships.
Monday, April 12, 2021
Between 1900 and 1956, women increased from a small proportion of public company stockholders in the U.S. to the majority. In fact, by the 1929 stock market crash, women stockholders outnumbered men at some of America’s largest and most influential public companies, including AT&T, General Electric, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. This Article makes an original contribution to corporate law, business history, women’s history, socio-economics, and the study of capitalism by synthesizing information from a range of historical sources to reveal a forgotten and overlooked narrative of history, the feminization of capital—the transformation of American public company stockholders from majority-male to majority-female in the first half of the twentieth century, before the rise of institutional investing obscured the gender politics of corporate control.
Corporate law scholarship has never before acknowledged that the early decades of the twentieth century, a transformational era in corporate law and theory, coincided with a major change in the gender of the stockholder class. Scholars have not considered the possibility that the sex of common stockholders, which was being tracked internally at companies, disclosed in annual reports, and publicly reported in the financial press, might have influenced business leaders’ views about corporate organization and governance. This Article considers the implications of this history for some of the most important ideas in corporate law theory, including the “separation of ownership and control,” shareholder “passivity,” stakeholderism, and board representation. It argues that early-twentieth-century gender politics helped shape foundational ideas of corporate governance theory, especially ideas concerning the role of shareholders. Outlining a research agenda where history intersects with corporate law’s most vital present-day problems, the Article lays out the evidence and invites the corporate law discipline to begin a conversation about gender, power, and the evolution of corporate law.
Reva Siegel, Why Restrict Abortion? Expanding the Frame on June Medical, 2020 SUP . CT. REV. (forthcoming 2021)
As the Supreme Court prepares to roll back protections for the abortion right, this Article analyzes the logic of pro-life constitutionalism in June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo.
I expand the frame on the admitting privileges law in June Medical to examine the logic of woman-protective health-justified restrictions on abortion. Do these laws protect women or the unborn—and how? By considering the history of the admitting privileges law at issue in June Medical and locating it in broader policy context, we can see how Louisiana legislators who restricted abortion to protect women’s health equated women’s health with motherhood; they supported laws that pushed women into motherhood while declining to enact laws that provided for the health of pregnant women and the children they might bear. Expanding the frame on Louisiana’s pro-woman pro-life law shows us sex-role stereotyping in action, and demonstrates the intersectional injuries it can inflict.
From this vantage point, we can see that judges who refuse to scrutinize pro-life law making—on the grounds that it would involve judges in politics—help legitimate the claims about protecting women’s health that supposedly justify the abortion restrictions, while revising the meaning of the Constitution’s liberty and equality guarantees. Reading the doctrinal debate in June Medical in this context identifies open and hidden efforts to roll back protections for the abortion right—and suggests how the Supreme Court that President Donald Trump helped fashion values women, health, life, truth, and democracy.
Ann McGinley, Masculinities Theory as Impetus for Change in Feminism and Law, THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF FEMINISM AND LAW IN THE UNITED STATES (Deborah L. Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna L. Williams, eds.).
Feminist legal scholars have found much in the field of masculinities to enrich the feminist analysis of law. In drawing on and incorporating masculinities theories into legal feminism, feminist scholars have added their own insight into the meaning of “masculinities.” As Nancy Dowd, Nancy Levit, and Ann McGinley explain: “Masculinities” has multiple meanings. First, it is a structure that gives men as a group power over women as a group. Second it is a set of practices, designed to maintain group power, that are considered “masculine.” Third, it is the engagement in or “doing” of these masculine practices by men or women. Finally, the term refers to a body of theory and scholarship by gender experts in various fields of social science.
Although masculinities originated in fields outside of law, legal scholars have adopted insights raised by masculinities scholars, combined with those of feminist theory, queer theory, and critical race theory, to develop a legal theory of masculinities that proposes new legal interpretations and policies that better correspond to the lived experiences of persons of different genders, races, and classes. This chapter explores how masculinities research has influenced legal feminism in the U.S.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Kyle Velte, The Nineteenth Amendment as a Generative Tool for Defeating LGBT Religious Exemptions, Minnesota L. Rev. (forthcoming)
In the summer of 1920, women gained the right to be free from discrimination in voting when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. One hundred years later, in the summer of 2020, LGBT people gained the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”) discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII. Yet, LGBT people continue to face discrimination in many contexts, a prominent example of which is the national campaign by Christian business owners to obtain religious exemptions from state public accommodation laws. What does women’s suffrage have to do with today’s religious exemption debates? This Article contends that there is a through-line from a radical, antisubordination strand of the history of the Nineteenth Amendment to today’s fight over religious exemptions from SOGI antidiscrimination laws.
The antisubordination strand of Nineteenth Amendment history envisioned women’s suffrage as about more than just the right to cast a ballot. This capacious view of the Nineteenth Amendment—as a means of dismantling sex-based hierarchies and ensuring full citizenship rights regardless of sex—would allow women to engage in all aspects of life, both political and civic. Between the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and today’s battles over SOGI religious exemptions stands 100 years of sex discrimination law. That era saw state legislatures enact public accommodation laws prohibiting sex discrimination in the public square; these laws extended to women the right of civic engagement and thus full citizenship. This body of sex discrimination law included the Court’s 1984 decision in Roberts v. United States Jaycees, which involved a challenge to one such law. The Jaycees Court upheld a public accommodation law against a claim that enforcement of the law—which would compel the Jaycees organization to admit women as full members—would violate the Jaycees’ First Amendment free speech rights. The Court reasoned that states have a compelling interest in eradicating sex discrimination in public. Jaycees expands the reach of the equality-enhancing aspect of the suffrage movement. It embodies the antisubordination strand of the women’s suffrage movement and stiches it into the fabric of the legal doctrine governing sex discrimination.
In today’s religious exemption cases, the Christian business owners argue that although the state has a compelling interest in eradicating race discrimination in the public square, it does not have a compelling interest in eradicating SOGI discrimination. This distinction, they argue, dictates that an exemption be granted vis-à-vis SOGI discrimination, even though such an exemption would be rejected vis-à-vis race discrimination. Bostock is the contemporary bridge that connects Jaycees to the SOGI religious exemption cases. Jaycees, in turn is the bridge back to the radical strand of the Nineteenth Amendment’s history: The Nineteenth Amendment was generative not simply of the right to vote, but of a commitment to full citizenship rights regardless of sex. That equality was formalized in state public accommodation laws, which Jaycees teaches serve a compelling state interest. Bostock, when coupled with Jaycees, directs the same conclusion for public accommodation laws that prohibit SOGI discrimination, namely that such laws serve a compelling state interest that defeats claims for religious exemptions.
Friday, March 19, 2021
Lisa Levenstein, They Didn't See Us Coming: The Hidden History of Feminism in the Nineties (2020)
From the declaration of the "Year of the Woman" to the televising of Anita Hill's testimony, from Bitch magazine to SisterSong's demands for reproductive justice: the 90s saw the birth of some of the most lasting aspects of contemporary feminism. Historian Lisa Levenstein tracks this time of intense and international coalition building, one that centered on the growing influence of lesbians, women of color, and activists from the global South. Their work laid the foundation for the feminist energy seen in today's movements, including the 2017 Women's March and #MeToo campaigns.
A revisionist history of the origins of contemporary feminism, They Didn't See Us Coming shows how women on the margins built a movement at the dawn of the Digital Age.
Hat tip Lisa Tetrault
Thursday, March 11, 2021
"Reverse Title IX" Procedures Favoring Mostly Male Respondents as Continued Structural Discrimination Rather than Overcorrection
Sarah Lynnda Swan, Discriminatory Dualism in Process: Title IX, Reverse Title IX, and Campus Sexual Assault, 73 Oklahoma L. Rev. (2020)
For decades, the Title IX process of adjudicating campus sexual assault has been heavily weighted against complainants (usually women). However, at some universities, this weighting has recently flipped, such that Title IX procedures at these institutions now seem weighted not against complainants, but against respondents (usually men). This “reverse Title IX” trend is typically described as an overcorrection, stemming from schools’ over-zealous attempts to comply with the Title IX requirements the Obama Administration imposed in 2011.
This Article offers a different account of Title IX’s procedural flip. It argues that Title IX’s procedural switch can be productively viewed through the lens of discriminatory dualism. Discriminatory dualism posits that structural discrimination frequently divides into two seemingly opposite—but in fact mutually supportive—strands. Applying the theory of discriminatory dualism here suggests that reverse Title IX is not a mere overcorrection. Instead, it is part of a patterned, recurring, and common way that structural discrimination upholds existing social hierarchies.
Echoing other examples of discriminatory dualism, Title IX’s twinned procedural problems work to sustain existing gendered and social hierarchies in three main ways. First, procedural unfairness to respondents functions to “confirm” the stereotype underlying the initial procedural problems with Title IX: that women are not credible witnesses and are committed, at all costs, to punishing men for perceived slights and imagined harms. Second, the emergence of the reverse Title IX strand undermines the complaints about unfairness to complainants, suggesting that they are misplaced and that the “real” problem is discrimination against men. The confusion created by these dueling complaints undermines the legitimacy of the Title IX system of adjudication as a whole, rendering all findings potentially suspect. Finally, Title IX’s discriminatory dualism creates a double bind, under which universities are portrayed as only capable of adjudicating in ways that are either unfair to complainants or unfair to respondents. These consequences all work to the detriment of
those seeking gender equality.
Erika Rackley & Rosemary Auchmuty, The Case for Feminist Legal History, 40 Oxford J. Legal Studies 878 (Dec. 2020)
It may be that we are witnessing a highpoint of interest in the lives of early women lawyers, and women’s legal history generally, both within and outside the academy, fuelled by the twin centenaries of the (partial) extension of the vote to women in 1918 and the formal admission of women to the legal profession the following year.1 Without doubt the anniversaries provide an opportunity to insert women into legal history (and history generally) and to mark the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of those involved in bringing them about. But without a strong scholarly method, politics and purpose, there is a danger that these celebrations will also encourage the proliferation of well-meaning but uncritical heroine narratives replete with myths and anecdote.
Feminist legal history provides a counter to this. Anchored in a commitment to disciplinary, social and political change, feminist legal history seeks not only to inform about women in law in the past, to uncover new histories, but also to challenge, and ultimately transform, our understandings of the past and present, and indeed the future. Its purpose is twofold: unlike its popular dopplegangers, typically focusing on women in the legal professions, feminist legal history is concerned with both ‘the production of knowledge of the past’ (an important end in itself, when so little is still known about women’s history) and, crucially, setting down ‘the substantive terms for a critical operation that uses the past to disrupt the certainties of the present’, opening up the possibility of imagining different futures.2
However, the doing of feminist legal history as an academic discipline and method remains largely undeveloped in the UK.3 This article seeks to address this absence by delineating its method, scope and purpose. We begin by exploring the exclusion of women and women’s engagement with policy and law reform more generally within traditional accounts of legal history. We go on to consider the methodological and substantive goals of feminist legal history, which relate both to the production of knowledge (by including women’s stories and establishing women as agents of change) and to feminist legal history’s disruptive purpose (by asking the ‘women’ question, challenging assumptions of progress, debunking heroine narratives and (re)locating the position and role of men). Drawing on examples of women’s experiences in and of law in the UK and Ireland, we seek to demonstrate the agency of women—both individually and in groups—in effecting legal, political and social change. We conclude with a call for scholars to take up the insights and methods of feminist legal history—to acknowledge the existence and different experiences of women in/and law, the ways they negotiated and fought to overcome the legal obstacles and opposition they faced (and still face)—before climbing onto their shoulders and continuing the fight for justice.
Historian TJ Boisseau and I similarly have argued for a feminist legal history in our book, aptly titled, Feminist Legal History (NYU Press 2011). See also Tracy A. Thomas & Tracey Jean Boisseau, Law, History & Feminism, introduction to Feminist Legal History.
h/t Kimberly Hamlin
Friday, March 5, 2021
Cornell Law School & London South Bank University are hosting an exciting global online conference on Friday, March 26, 2021, entitled "Beyond Western Hegemonies of International Law and Feminist Theory." The central theme of this conference will focus on the legacies and repercussions of the hegemony of Western thought within both feminist research and practice in the sphere of international law and attempts and proposals for overcoming these. Professor Chandra Mohanty, a pioneer and expert in women's and gender studies will be delivering the keynote entitled “Transnational Feminism as Insurgent Praxis.”
The full conference schedule and registration details are available here: https://support.law.cornell.edu/conferences/TLF/
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
This article asks the question: Can sex discrimination law do positive work for the project of dismantling anti-Black racism and white supremacy? This article’s answer is “yes.”
White supremacy and anti-Black racism continue their pervasive and destructive paths in contemporary American society. From the murder of George Floyd to the daily exclusions of Black bodies from white spaces, the nation’s failure to right the wrongs of chattel slavery and racism continues to be highlighted in stark relief. This article centers the racism made manifest through #LivingWhileBlack aggressions—the phenomenon of white people calling 911 to report Black people engaging in lawful, routine, everyday activities—and examines it through the lens of two sex discrimination law doctrines: sex stereotyping and protections against sex discrimination in public accommodation laws. It contends that analyzing #LivingWhileBlack aggressions through the lens of sex discrimination law may yield two positive results: First, looking at the problem with a new perspective may lead to different, additional, or more comprehensive strategies for disrupting and dismantling white supremacy. Second, utilizing a sex discrimination frame to consider #LivingWhileBlack aggressions holds the potential to make legible to white women the connection between their own oppression and the oppression of Black people, thus create the opportunity for coalition building.
The article proposes what it calls a “touchstone theory” of inquiry for understanding #LivingWhileBlack aggressions. This theory envisions multiple “touchstones”—legal, political, and cultural, to name a few—that may inform our analysis of white supremacy. It asserts that lessons from sex discrimination law are one such analytical touchstone, while recognizing that a number of touchstones are necessary to fully unpack and address #LivingWhileBlack aggressions. In providing another touchstone for thinking about and resolving the #LivingWhileBlack problem, the article contributes to the scholarly dialogue addressing this pervasive and harmful phenomenon.
The article first explores the sex stereotyping theory established in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins and uses it to develop a derivative theory of racial stereotyping, which it describes as a White Privilege Stereotype. Framing #LivingWhileBlack aggressions as white people retaliating against Black people for claiming white privilege parallels Price Waterhouse’s framing of the rejection of Ann Hopkins as a partner in an accounting firm as punishing a woman for claiming male privilege. The article then engages with the history of the campaign for inclusion of “sex” in public accommodations laws. The article describes how the lessons learned from the history of prohibiting discrimination against sex in public spaces can help us to understand #LivingWhileBlack aggressions—punishing Black people attempting to live their “race in public.”
In proposing a sex discrimination touchstone as one among many salient touchstones for analyzing #LWB aggressions, the article builds on the idea of a symbiotic dynamic through which multiple systems of subordination work together. As applied to the sex discrimination touchtone theory, this dynamic means that white (straight) women who are exercising white privilege in #LivingWhileBlack aggressions are doing so at the expense of reinforcing male privilege (to their own detriment). Exposing this dynamic through a sex discrimination touchstone inquiry of #LivingWhileBlack aggressions may encourage white women to work in coalition with Black individuals and organizations to engage in anti-racist work.
Monday, February 22, 2021
Caroline Henckels, Ronli Sifris & Tania Penovic, Dignity as a Constitutional Value: Abortion, Political Communication and Proportionality, Federal Law Review (2021)
This article examines the High Court of Australia’s treatment of the concept of dignity as both a value animating the implied freedom of political communication and as a legitimate reason to limit the exercise of that freedom. It does so through the lens of Clubb v Edwards, Preston v Avery, the where the Court found that laws establishing safe access zones around abortion clinics were compatible with the implied freedom. The use of dignity as a prism through which to view the interests at stake in both abortion and speech cases is a familiar feature of developments abroad, and the Court has laid the foundations for recognition of dignity as one of the axiological bases of the implied freedom in a manner that generally emphasises individual autonomy over other conceptions of dignity that might be described as operating as a constraint on behaviour to protect other interests. Yet while the Court has used dignity as the common measure with which to commensurate competing claims, it has yet to convincingly address concerns regarding incommensurability that attend the balancing stage of proportionality review, not to mention the potential objection that its reliance on dignity is not properly grounded in the text and structure of the Constitution. In light of these issues, the role of dignity ought to be tethered to its central role in facilitating political participation so as to more clearly link the concept to the text and structure of the Constitution, and to identify what is at stake when women’s ability to access reproductive health care is impaired or denied.
Friday, February 19, 2021
We hope you will join the Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law for this exciting conference on April 22-23, 2021. The theme is Applied Feminism and Privacy. As always, the conference focuses on the intersection of gender and race, class, gender identity, ability, and other personal identities. We are excited that Fatima Goss Graves , president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, has agreed to serve as our keynote speaker.
We are at a critical time for a broad range of privacy issues. State-level abortion bans have put a spotlight on the importance of decisional privacy to women’s equality. Across America, advocates are fighting for reproductive justice and strategizing to preserve long-settled rights.
At the same time, our informational privacy is increasingly precarious. Data brokers, app designers, and social media platforms are gathering and selling personal data in highly gendered ways. As a result, women have been targeted with predatory marketing, intentionally excluded from job opportunities, and subject to menstrual tracking by marketers and employers. In online spaces, women have been objectified, cyber-stalked, and subject to revenge porn.
With regard to physical privacy, the structural intersectionality of over-policing and mass incarceration impacts women of color and other women. And while a man’s home may be his castle, low-income women are expected to allow government agents into their homes – and to turn over reams of other personal information -- as a condition of receiving state support. In addition, families of all forms are navigating the space of constitutionally protected family privacy in relation to legal parentage, marriage and cohabitation, and child welfare systems.
In this conference, we will explore such questions as: Is privacy dead, as often claimed? If so, what does this mean for women? How can privacy reinforce or challenge existing inequalities? How has feminist legal theory wrestled with privacy and what lessons can we draw from past debates? What advocacy will best advance privacy protections that benefit women? How do emerging forms of surveillance impact women? Can intersectional perspectives on privacy lead to greater justice? Who defines the “right to privacy,” and what do those understandings mean for women? How is privacy related to other values, such as autonomy, anti-subordination, vulnerability, justice and equality?
12th Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference
Thursday, April 22, 2021
|4:00-6:30||Achieving Menstrual Justice: Law and Activism|
Panel One: Menstrual Justice and Activism Across Employment, Homelessness, Education, and Data Privacy
Panel Two: Focus on Menstrual Justice in Schools
|Friday, April 23, 2021|
|9:00-9:15||Welcome and Opening Remarks|
|9:15-10:15||Panel One: Controlling Personal Data in The Digital Age|
|10:15-10:45||Break Rooms Open for Coffee and Discussion|
|10:45-12:00||Panel Two: Resisting Intrusions into Physical Privacy|
|12:00-12:30||Break Rooms Open for Lunch and Discussion|
|Fatima Goss Graves, CEO and President, National Women’s Law Center|
|1:45-3:00||Panel Three: Protecting Decisional Autonomy To Shape Identity And Families|
Michele Gilman, Feminism, Privacy and Law in Cyberspace, Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the U.S. (2021 Forthcoming) (Martha Chamallas, Deborah Brake & Verna Williams, eds.)
Feminism has long centered on breaking down the public and private divide that traditionally organized social relations and subordinated women. Privacy is lauded for giving women space for self-determination, but also criticized for creating spaces where patriarchy and misogyny can flourish unchecked. Cyberspace heightens the stakes of this tension because it creates almost limitless access to people’s personal data. We live in a datafied society powered by digital profiling, automated decision-making, and surveillance systems in which we no longer control our personal data; rather, it is used to control us. Women face multiple, gendered harms in cyberspace, including online harassment, digital discrimination, and sexual surveillance by the “femtech” industry. Yet the United States lacks comprehensive privacy laws, and its analog-era anti-discrimination statutes are no match for the digital world. American privacy protections hinge upon a notice and consent regime that puts the onus on users to protect their privacy, rather than the entities that benefit from gathering individual’s personal data. This chapter presents an overview of the oppression women and other marginalized people suffer through a loss of privacy in the digital age and the efforts that activists have taken to ameliorate the harms of cyberspace and to shape privacy norms in a feminist and inclusive manner. It describes the meaning of privacy through four waves of feminist theorizing and activism, analyzes how American privacy law responds to major gender equity challenges in cyberspace, and highlights current feminist theories and models of resistance.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
Julia Ann Simon-Kerr, Relevance Through a Feminist Lens, Philosophical Foundations of Evidence Law, Oxford University Press: Christian Dahlman, Alex Stein & Giovanni Tuzet, eds (Forthcoming 2021)
Evidence theorists have long recognized that relevance is contingent upon generalizing from social understandings or experience. Because knowledge and experience shape our understanding of relevance, assessing relevance naturally raises fundamental questions that are at the heart of feminist inquiry: Whose knowledge, and whose experience? The answers to these questions drive relevance determinations in ways that have been subject to feminist critique. At the same time, relevance’s social contingency holds the potential to validate alternative ways of knowing and to expand the process of arriving at truth. This chapter begins by exploring the contingent nature of the relevance inquiry from a feminist perspective. It then considers the practical importance of relevance in incorporating new baseline positions into legal judgment as a result of legal or non-legal change.
Monday, November 30, 2020
I've just posted a new book chapter, The Long History of Feminist Legal Theory, forthcoming in in The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States (Deborah L. Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna L. Williams eds. Oxford Univ. Press).
This chapter challenges the conventional idea that feminist legal theory began in the 1970s. The advent of legal feminism is usually placed in the second wave feminist movement, birthed by the political activism of the women’s liberation movement and nurtured by the intellectual leadership of women scholars newly entering legal academia. However, legal feminism has a much longer history, going back more than a century earlier. While the term “feminist” was not used in the United States until the 1910s, the foundations of feminist legal theory were first conceptualized as early as 1848 and developed over the next one hundred and fifty years. This chapter traces that development. It begins with the establishment of the core theoretical precepts of gender and equality grounded in the surprisingly comprehensive philosophy of the nineteenth-century’s first women’s rights movement ignited at Seneca Falls. It then shows how feminist legal theory was popularized and advanced by the political activism of the women’s suffrage movement, even as suffragists limited the feminist consensus to one based on women’s maternalism. Progressive feminism then expanded the theoretical framework of feminist theory in the early twentieth century, encapsulating ideas of global peace, market work, and sex rights of birth control. In the modern era, legal feminists gravitated back to pragmatic and concrete ideas of formal equality, and the associated legalisms of equal rights and equal protection. Yet through each of these periods, the two common imperatives were to place women at the center of analysis and to recognize law as a fundamental agent of change.
Lesley Wexler, #MeToo and Law Talk, 29 Univ. Chicago Legal F (2019)
How Americans talk when they talk about #MeToo is often deeply rooted in the law—even in non-legal settings, participants in the #Me-Too conversation often deploy legal definitions of victims and perpetrators, reference legal standards of proof and the role of legal forums, draw explicit or implicit comparisons to legal punishments, and derive meaning from legal metaphors and legal myths. In this essay, I identify and assess the deployment of such law talk to help understand both how legal rhetoric may facilitate the national #MeToo conversation and related legal reforms, but may also simultaneously limit and obscure some of the #MeToo’s more transformative possibilities. Such critical engagement seeks to open space for selective pushback, including initial thoughts on the possibilities of reclaiming colloquial law talk to better match the interests at stake in non-legal settings as well as bringing to the forefront the therapeutic, informative, and structural issues law talk might crowd out.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Sally Roesch Wagner, How Native American Women Inspired the Women's Rights, Suffrage Movement
“Never was justice more perfect; never was civilization higher,” suffrage leader Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote about the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, whose territory extended throughout New York State.
Matilda Joslyn Gage led the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the three women trading executive positions over the 20 years of the organization’s existence.
According to Gloria Steinem, Gage was “the woman who was ahead of the women who were ahead of their time.” When the women’s suffrage leadership grew conservative, Gage dropped out of the movement. Suffragists stopped remembering her progressive contributions, like her 1893 revelation of the sex trafficking of women and girls in the United States.
Gage, and to a lesser extent Stanton, were largely dropped from the history. With their exclusion, we also lost this story of how they saw women’s rights in action in the native culture of the Haudenosaunee, and realized they could create the conditions for it in their own society.
Having worked for women’s rights for forty years, Gage and Stanton became increasingly frustrated with their inability to make major gains in their social, economic or political positions as women by the 1880’s.
In their disappointment, they looked beyond the Euro-American culture that was already known intimately to them and gained a vision of a world of equality from their nearby neighbors. Stanton and Gage grew up in the land of the Haudenosaunee, the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: the Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and Tuscarora who had social, religious, economic and political positions far superior to their own, they wrote.
The Six Nation Haudenosaunee Confederacy had, and still have today, a family/governmental structure based on female authority. Haudenosaunee women controlled the economy in their nations through their responsibilities for growing and distributing the food. They had the final authority over land transfers and decisions about engaging in war.
Children came through the mother’s line, not the father’s, and if the parents separated, the children stayed with their mother, and if she died, with her clan family. Women controlled their own property and belongings, as did the children. Political power was shared equally among everyone in the Nation, with decisions made by consensus in this pure democracy, the oldest continuing one in the world.
Friday, October 23, 2020
In Injustice and the Reproduction of History: Structural Inequalities, Gender and Redress, Alasia Nuti explores the relationship between history and the provision of justice by focusing on women as a historical-structural group subject to historical injustices that continue to impact the present. This is a very welcome contribution to the literature, writes Ebru Demir, providing both deep and rigorous analyses of its case studies and proposing thought-provoking new terminology.
Injustice and the Reproduction of History: Structural Inequalities, Gender and Redress. Alasia Nuti. Cambridge University Press. 2019.
Why should an unjust history matter for egalitarians seeking justice in the present? How and why does history relate to the provision of justice both theoretically and practically? Alasia Nuti’s Injustice and the Reproduction of History: Structural Inequalities, Gender and Redress not only engages with such longstanding questions but also makes an important contribution to the existing literature as it centres on the argument that women as a historical-structural group (HSG) are the subjects of historical injustices.
One of the main arguments of the book is that ‘unjust history that should normatively matter in justice-based considerations is present because it has been reproduced over time through different means’ (4). In the first half of the book, Nuti builds this argument on very solid ground by engaging with the relevant literature and by providing examples to validate this very point. ‘De-temporalising injustice’, borrowed from Reinhart Koselleck’s terminology, is significant and necessary in order to capture the relation between past and present injustices (13). The book contributes to the de-temporalising of injustice by suggesting that past and present injustices have possible connections and all backward-looking approaches to injustice consider only past injustices as significant enough to address (15). According to Nuti, past and present cannot be separated if one seeks to provide justice for historical-structural injustices (HSIs) that have been committed. For this very reason, the division between past and present becomes deceptive. The present reproduces the unjust past ‘over time and through changes’ (8). Thus, change also becomes a suspect in perpetuating unjust history.
The second half of the book forms a study of women as a group and as the subjects of The second half of the book forms a study of women as a group and as the subjects of historical injustices. Although previously Catherine Lu has argued that women are a group suffering from enduring injustice, by carrying this argument one step further, this book provides a thorough analysis of how such a group is defined. Nuti, being aware of intersectional identities and differences, argues that to be categorised as a woman, one is not obliged to have been through systematic oppression: it is sufficient for one to be more likely to be exposed to unjust constraints and abuses (90). Therefore, possibility and potentiality become the requirements for being categorised as a group undergoing historical injustices.
L. Camille Hebert, How Sexual Harassment Law Failed its Feminist Roots, 22 Georgetown J. Gender Law (forthcoming)
The dawn of sexual harassment law showed so much promise. But in spite of the hopefulness with which the legal recognition of sexual harassment was greeted, the intervening years have shown that the law of sexual harassment has not lived up to its potential. Rather than creating a cause of action empowering women to challenge employment practices that have subjected them to degrading treatment while limiting their workplace opportunities, courts have instead recognized a number of elements of a cognizable claim of sexual harassment that have effectively sanctioned the continuance of the conduct, while effectively blaming women for its occurrence. The judicial imposition of the elements of a claim for sexual harassment and the judicial gloss placed on those elements has turned the cause of action for sexual harassment into something far different than the feminists who worked for recognition of the cause of action envisioned. The courts have turned that promise into a cause of action that seeks to protect the workplace from women who would make claims of sexual harassment, rather than a cause of action that seeks to protect women from discriminatory workplaces. This article explores how some of that lost promise might be recaptured, first through a reshaping of the law by the courts and legislatures within the frame of the existing structure of the cause of action, explaining how the courts could apply the existing elements of the cause of action in a way more consistent with the purpose of Title VII to assure women of the right to workplace equality. The article then imagines a more fundamental reshaping of the law of sexual harassment, exploring what the law of sexual harassment might look like if it were designed by feminists, forged by an overriding concern about ensuring women’s workplace equality rather than protecting existing workplace norms.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Sarah Deer, (En)Gendering Indian Law: Indigenous Feminist Legal Theory in the United States, 31 Yale J. Law & Feminism 1 (2019)
In this Article, I argue that attorneys and legal scholars should intentionally think about gender in the context of Federal Indian law and tribal law to assess whether there are areas for closer consideration and attention. I am primarily interested in whether we can better address gender inequities in the lives of Native women, including gendered violence. As part of this analysis, I explore how attorneys and legal scholars can—and do—support the interests of Native women in their work.
As a self-identified Native feminist who is also an attorney, I am interested in asking hard questions about the shortcoming of the Indian Bar to adequately address the needs of Native women and Two-Spirit people. How do feminism and Indian law “meet”? What are the cross-sections of efforts to promote gender equity and the continued resilient existence of tribal nations? In order to answer these questions, I begin by defining the word “feminism” itself. There are multiple strands of schools of feminist thought—some entirely inconsistent with one another. Therefore, more scholars are now speaking of plural feminisms rather than a monolithic feminism. For the purposes of this Article, I consider feminisms to be legal and social responses to entrenched patriarchy. This simplified definition is, on the one hand, reductive, but on the other, a useful framework because it is broad enough to encompass different types and styles of patriarchy, along with different types and styles of responses. Patriarchy comes in different forms and can be modified to include terms like “hetero-patriarchy” and “settler colonial patriarchy,” which are both relevant for Native women. The thrust of most feminist movements is to
overturn sexist and misogynist laws and practices through legal and social action, which, again, can take many forms.
More specifically, in this Article, I approach Indian law using the lens of indigenous feminisms. I intentionally choose to use the fraught “f” word in this analysis, even though mainstream feminist movements and Native women have not always had an easy relationship. Indeed, mainstream feminism has historically failed Native women by ignoring or marginalizing issues like sovereignty and self-determination. Moreover, despite the fact that many early white American feminists were influenced by Native women, early American feminists were sometimes the instigators and supporters of horrific Federal Indian law policies, including the boarding school era and child removal. Thus, it makes sense that many indigenous women categorically reject the label of “feminist” because of its Western, colonial connotations, even while supporting Native women’s rights. Some Native women who reject the term “feminism” point out that patriarchy is a foreign concept to traditional tribal cultures. If feminism is a response to patriarchy, Native women have perhaps not needed it.