Food for Thought: Feminist Legal Theories and the Construction of Categories

One of the threads that runs through the various schools of feminist legal theory is the idea that law and legal processes play a role in the construction of Women as a category (and as a subjectivity). For liberal feminists, this involves treating women as a group (and thereby creating ‘women’ as a generalizing legal category), rather than as individuals before the law. For radical feminists, the law – like the state – is regarded as malecentric and patriarchal, and it is implicated in the normalization of inequalities based on sexuality and gender. For postmodern feminists like Smart, law is gendered – legal discourse employs, reproduces, and constructs particular gender categories.

For this week’s food for thought question, I would like to explore some examples of the construction of gendered categories / identities / subjectivities through law.

Food for thought:

Select a particular approach to feminist legal theory. Then, write a post that:

  • Opens with a brief overview of the main features and ideas of your chosen theory;
  • Introduces a case study (a legal case, process, statute, etc.), and;
  • Explains, drawing on your chosen theory, how the case study demonstrates the role of law in the construction of a particular (gendered) understanding of women.

Further requirements:

  • You may not select R. v. Kahpeaysewat [2006] as a case study
  • You must engage with Pavlich (2011) and Comack (2006), and, where appropriate, Smart (1992)
  • You must engage with additional sources to describe your case study

Posts prepared in response to this question must be submitted before class on October 28



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