Academic journal article Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

Not Whistlin' Dixie: Now, More Than Ever, We Need Feminist Law Journals

Academic journal article Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

Not Whistlin' Dixie: Now, More Than Ever, We Need Feminist Law Journals

Article excerpt

Feminist and women's law journals have done terribly important work. They (1) have published articles that would not otherwise have been read, covered issues largely untouched by more traditional reviews, and reviewed books that might otherwise have gone unreviewed. They have provided for feminist dialogues--for women and feminist men to debate and discuss with one another--not only through publication but through the process of creating and running journals, holding symposia, and producing a publication. They have helped women seeking tenure on faculties throughout the country (although they have also sometimes caused problems for them), helped students learn to write better while enabling them to augment their resumes, and enhanced the prestige of legal institutions. They have not only helped put feminist and women's issues on the mainstream map, but also helped put women in a position to teach and practice from feminist perspectives.

But has their success become their failure? Now that feminist work is also published in mainstream and topical law reviews, most law schools have offerings in feminist theory, and several textbooks are available in the field (although none have yet had the distinction of generating a Nutshell), have gender journals rendered themselves obsolete? Or, have external conditions--from the emergence of e-publications and the Social Science Research Network, (2) to the proliferation of journals and law reviews (in 1995 there were, by one count, upwards of 380 in the United States alone (3))--made them superfluous? (4)

I do not think so. Feminist perspectives on law are by no means adequately represented in law school teaching, nor in mainstream publications, whether "e-" or not, nor in law school curricula, textbooks, and classroom content. As long as they are not, gender journals can still play an important role. Indeed, one of the most important roles feminist journals can play is to take on the legal academy. The only way to ensure that ongoing institutional change reflects feminist understandings, to the extent that these can be generalized, is to confront them head-on by publishing symposia that question the tenure system, the current curriculum, and the methods of delivering legal education, including law school testing methods, the bar exam, (5) and other ineffective entry barriers, and perhaps even question the monopolization by lawyers of the right to offer legal problem-solving services in the first place.

Moreover, with the proliferation of information resources, especially but not only on the Internet, feminist journals which take seriously their responsibility to screen, edit, and check the bona tides and accuracy of that which they publish are increasingly valuable. We need to preserve sources where feminists can go for ready and reliable perspectives and information.

I was originally going to continue by discussing the changes in style, form, content, and organization feminist journals need to make to continue to be relevant to twenty-first-century feminism, law, and legal education. My ideas include creating a national or even international consortium of feminist journals to enrich discussion and reduce subject matter duplication, (6) including more judges, practitioners, and scholars from other disciplines on advisory boards to enhance relevance and breadth, publishing no-footnote "think piece" volumes and other innovative formats, and publishing volumes quickly enough to be relevant to current debates.

But, under last spring's daily barrage of televised shock and awe, in which massive destruction and death were treated like a fireworks display, warrior masculinity was glorified, and the rescue of one female American soldier was deployed to relegate the "accidental" slaughter of nine Iraqi women and children to yesterday's news, I felt compelled to situate our journalistic work in a larger context.

What particularly set me off was a brief column in the New York Times about the small, vociferous, pro-war rallies taking place throughout the country in answer to the massive anti-war rallies occurring throughout the world. …

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