Whatever happened to legal feminism? Has it done any good? What is it or was it? It is still around? Does it have a future? Per- haps these questions could be answered in a linear way, but I am better equipped to address them inside out, from the point of view of a found- ing mother, so to speak.
I started my career as a feminist lawyer in 1978, was a ground-floor participant in what came to be known as “feminist jurisprudence,”1 and am said by some to have invented the term.2 I taught law from 1980 until 1998, during which time feminist legal theory took off. It was never a monolithic movement, but it was possible in those early years—more or less—to chart the competing versions of legal feminism, and even possi- ble—more or less—to place specific authors and activists on that chart. Professor Martha Chamallas has provided a reliable history of that time,3 showing how the liberal feminism of the 1970s was joined in the 1980s by cultural feminism and radical feminism, sometimes called “dominance feminism,” a dramatic turn that is indelibly associated with the work of Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon. The 1990s saw the emergence of more versions of feminism and what Professor Chamallas calls “allied intellectual movements,” notably Critical Race Theory and queer theory.4
As more voices joined the debate, it got pretty raucous. Even though there were sharp disagreements and discomforts, those were heady days. Most of the feminist jurisprudes knew one another, talked with one another, and kept track of one anothers’ work. Some of us had been associated with Critical Legal Studies, the most innovative jurispruden- tial movement of the 1970s, and some of us became prominent Critical Race Theorists. In the 1980s and for part of the 1990s, the Crits, the Fem-Crits, the Race-Crits and the emerging Queer-Crits were almost familial in both our affections and our disputes.
Now, it is not as if we are a broken family. Rather, time has moved on, divisions and disputes have proliferated, and it is just not possible to
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Publication information: Book title: Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering, and Legal Theory. Contributors: Ann Scales - Author. Publisher: New York University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2006. Page number: 1.
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