Thursday, April 24, 2008
Bridget Crawford on Motherhood and Third-Wave Feminism
Bridget Crawford (Pace Law School) has posted Third-Wave Feminism, Motherhood and the Future of Legal Theory on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This paper theorizes the noticeable absence of law from discussions of motherhood by feminists who came to political consciousness in and after the 1990's. Young women loudly proclaim their difference from feminists who have come before, but in doing so, they over-emphasize and even elevate women's reproductive achievements over others. First-person narratives like Rebecca Walker's Baby Love, Evelyn McDonnell's Mama Rama, and Peggy Orenstein's Waiting for Daisy reify motherhood into a sought-after and revered state. These authors, perhaps unwittingly, contribute to the very mythology of motherhood that prior feminists sought to vanquish. They seemingly reject the feminist adage that the personal is political. For Walker, McDonnell, Orenstein and others, the political is personal all over again.
By offering a critique from squarely within the generation of women who have proclaimed a third-wave of feminism, this article speaks directly to my peer group of legal scholars. I am a third-wave feminist by strict demographic definition, but not by preference, politics or proclivity. Women like me (and our allies) who grew up and first studied law in a post-ERA, post-Title IX and post-coeducation era need to develop our own account of the law's limitations and potential. This account should be informed by our own experiences but also needs to understand preceding feminist concerns and methodologies. Writings of young feminists, when read in the context of the work of Martha Fineman, Robin West and Adrienne Rich, among others, can articulate a feminist theory of motherhood. In fusing contemporary third-wave feminist writing with extant feminist legal scholarship, one can discern the beginnings of a potentially rich third-wave feminist legal theory with its sights on pragmatic gender justice.