Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering, and Legal Theory

Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering, and Legal Theory

Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering, and Legal Theory

Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering, and Legal Theory


"The living experience of practice imparts a special vitality to Legal Feminism, as does the personal voice.... Offers readers a kind of you-are-there viewpoint that law students hunger for and that any legal audience appreciates." - Elizabeth Rapaport, Dickason Professor of Law, University of New Mexico

"A significant and unique contribution to the field of jurisprudence.... Links feminist jurisprudence to the central debates and approaches of the jurisprudential field in general, and shows how it can serve as a general set of jurisprudential principles that transcend what are usually thought to be its gendered boundaries. -Lucinda M. Finley, University of Buffalo Law School, State University of New York

"Ann Scales' unique vision shines through this jazzy account of feminism, legal theory and the practice of law. Legal Feminism has something for everyone--practicing lawyers, judges, activists and theorists of all stripes. Scales guides us through high theory, gender politics, and important judicial decisions with philosophical sophistication, stylish and passionate prose, and wisdom." -Martha Chamallas, Robert J. Lynn Chair, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University

"Legal Feminism challenges readers to think of feminism as a pragmatic strategy, and as a transformative approach to epistemology, politics, and ethics. Scales is audacious yet subtle, erudite but refreshingly accessible. She never fails to remind us that great questions, and no-holds-barred political struggles, are also occasions for compassion, solidarity, and humor. Legal Feminism is a bracing tonic for these times of battle fatigue and political disillusionment: it will help many of us to remember why we became feminists, and will equip all readers with a powerful array of political and analytic tools." -Kathryn Abrams, Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law, School of Law-Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley

"A wonderful book by one of the leading founders of feminist jurisprudence. Legal Feminism is an elegant weave of legal analysis, philosophical inquiry, and real political commitment. Scales' prose is personal and disarmingly candid. She will convince you with her intelligence and her insight. Reading this book is like having a great late night conversation about law and feminism." -Pierre Schlag, Byron R. White Professor of Law, University of Colorado, Boulder

"In the late 1970s, feminist scholars and activists joined together to build a movement aimed at bringing feminist theory and experiences to the practice and teaching of American law. Since then, the feminist jurisprudence movement has taken root, with courts and legislatures addressing matters of sex and gender inequality, and law schools employing feminist and post-feminist theory in the classroom. In this important book, Ann Scales, a founding contributor to the movement, reflects on the past, present, and future of feminist jurisprudence. Legal Feminism situates the feminist jurisprudence movement within the larger context of Western law and philosophy, focusing first on common problem areas of legal theory and decision-making, and then explaining how feminist jurisprudence can analyze and address these issues in new ways. Throughout, Scales draws on legal disputes to show how feminist theory works in the courtroom and in other real-life arenas. Part personal memoir, part primer, and part treatise, Legal Feminism is a de-jargonized, lively account of how feminist jurisprudence can solve traditional legal conflicts, and why it matters to anyone co


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,” and am said by some to have invented the term. 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, 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.

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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