Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century

A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X). This special issue belongs to the section "Law and Gender Issues".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2019) | Viewed by 39086

Special Issue Editor

ANU College of Law, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Interests: feminist legal theory; discrimination law; legal education; legal profession; corporatization of universities

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The aim of this Special Issue is to highlight the continuing relevance of feminist legal theory (FLT). Contributors are invited to engage with the vexed issues of the time that disproportionately impact women. These include not only the turning away from equality and social justice as a result of the neoliberal embrace, but also the roll-back of pro-feminist initiatives by right-wing governments, such as those of the Trump Administration.  Contributors are at liberty to narrow their focus to a single issue or jurisdiction, as they wish. The only caveat is that the author makes a worthy contribution to the reappraisal of the place of FLT in contemporary scholarship.

In response to the Second Wave Feminism of the late 20th century, feminist legal scholars challenged conventional ways of thinking about law. They have exposed the claims to universality, objectivity, and neutrality of legal positivism as partial and masculinist. Their scholarly endeavors have led to feminist legal theory (FLT) being included in the curricula of many law schools and receiving the endorsement of the academic gatekeepers.

Nevertheless, the honeymoon period was short-lived, because of the ascendancy of neoliberalism. This led to the commodification of higher education, ever-increasing tuition fees, and pressure on universities to produce job-ready graduates to serve the new-knowledge economy. Students then began to say that they no longer wanted FLT on their testamurs, lest it harm their chances in the job market.

The demise of FLT was accompanied by a backlash against feminism and the popular asseveration that we now inhabit a post-feminism age. However, the “post” in post-feminism is ambiguous, as it can mean either that feminism is passé or that it signals a new beginning. The point is that issues such as violence against women, femicide, and sexual harassment have never gone away. Indeed, the world-wide “#MeToo” movement is a powerful reminder of the continuing relevance of feminism.

This Special Issue is intended to show that, far from being a spent force, FLT is a vital means of making sense of the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, which includes a distinctly anti-feminist as well as a pro-feminist dimension. This gives contributors considerable scope to write on a topic and perspective of their choice. Neoliberalism itself is a fertile field in light of its marked reaction against the central feminist values of collective action, equality, and social justice, in favor of individualism and promotion of the self. The impact of the rise of right-wing movements in many parts of the world, including the United States, also has profound ramifications for feminism. To take into account global diversity, specific country perspectives on prevailing sexual politics are encouraged.

The possibilities for innovative scholarly work are endless. The conjunction of neoliberalism and moral conservatism may therefore have given FLT an adrenalin shot in the arm. I very much look forward to receiving a submission from you.

Prof. Margaret Thornton
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Laws is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • feminist legal theory
  • gender and law
  • sexual politics
  • discrimination
  • sexual harassment
  • racism
  • sexuality

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 181 KiB  
Editorial
Postscript: Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century
Laws 2020, 9(3), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws9030016 - 21 Jul 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4618
Abstract
This editorial takes the form of a short postscript to a special issue of Laws published in 2019–20. It shows how feminist legal theory (FLT), a corollary of second wave feminism, was initially embraced by law schools but soon subjected to a backlash. [...] Read more.
This editorial takes the form of a short postscript to a special issue of Laws published in 2019–20. It shows how feminist legal theory (FLT), a corollary of second wave feminism, was initially embraced by law schools but soon subjected to a backlash. FLT was nevertheless able to turn around the negative discourse of post-feminism to show that the “post” can mean not just the end but a new beginning. The Special Issue attests to the resurgence of FLT in the 21st century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

16 pages, 305 KiB  
Article
Subject (in) Trouble: Humans, Robots, and Legal Imagination
Laws 2020, 9(2), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws9020010 - 31 Mar 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 4594
Abstract
The legal conception and interpretation of the subject of law have long been challenged by different theoretical backgrounds: from the feminist critiques of the patriarchal nature of law and its subjects to the Marxist critiques of its capitalist ideological nature and the anti-racist [...] Read more.
The legal conception and interpretation of the subject of law have long been challenged by different theoretical backgrounds: from the feminist critiques of the patriarchal nature of law and its subjects to the Marxist critiques of its capitalist ideological nature and the anti-racist critiques of its colonial nature. These perspectives are, in turn, challenged by anarchist, queer, and crip conceptions that, while compelling a critical return to the subject, the structure and the law also serve as an inspiration for arguments that deplete the structures and render them hostages of the sovereignty of the subject’ self-fiction. Identity Wars (a possible epithet for this political and epistemological battle to establish meaning through which power is exercised) have, for their part, been challenged by a renewed axiological consensus, here introduced by posthuman critical theory: species hierarchy and anthropocentric exceptionalism. As concepts and matter, questioning human exceptionalism has created new legal issues: from ecosexual weddings with the sea, the sun, or a horse; to human rights of animals; to granting legal personhood to nature; to human rights of machines, inter alia the right to (or not to) consent. Part of a wider movement on legal theory, which extends the notion of legal subjectivity to non-human agents, the subject is increasingly in trouble. From Science Fiction to hyperrealist materialism, this paper intends to signal some of the normative problems introduced, firstly, by the sovereignty of the subject’s self-fiction; and, secondly, by the anthropomorphization of high-tech robotics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century)
14 pages, 290 KiB  
Article
Backlash or Widening the Gap?: Women’s Reproductive Rights in the Twenty-First Century
Laws 2020, 9(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws9010008 - 20 Feb 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 9523
Abstract
This article examines legal challenges to women’s reproductive rights in Ireland and the United States, arguing that backlash against reproductive rights is a consequence of the long unsettled position of women’s reproductive freedom in liberal democracies and the catalogue of rights. It examines [...] Read more.
This article examines legal challenges to women’s reproductive rights in Ireland and the United States, arguing that backlash against reproductive rights is a consequence of the long unsettled position of women’s reproductive freedom in liberal democracies and the catalogue of rights. It examines the legal foundations of reproductive rights and their perceived conflicts with other values, such as religion, and focuses on the current legal challenges to women’s bodily autonomy regarding choice and motherhood. It demonstrates the many contexts in which women have not acquired full reproductive freedom, and explores the nature of the current backlash. It argues that the nature of the backlash is not simply a reclamation of what has been legally guaranteed, but instead a deepening of the preexisting divides within reproductive justice globally. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century)
18 pages, 255 KiB  
Article
Feminist Interventions in Law Reform: Criminalising Image-Based Sexual Abuse in New South Wales
Laws 2019, 8(4), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws8040035 - 09 Dec 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 5940
Abstract
Feminist legal theorists have had something of an uneasy relationship with law reform. Although feminist academics and lawyers have contributed much to law reform efforts that have sought to improve women’s lives, feminists have nonetheless taken divergent positions regarding the extent to which [...] Read more.
Feminist legal theorists have had something of an uneasy relationship with law reform. Although feminist academics and lawyers have contributed much to law reform efforts that have sought to improve women’s lives, feminists have nonetheless taken divergent positions regarding the extent to which these efforts can truly dismantle the masculinist character of law through law reform projects. This article revisits these tensions and, in so doing, seeks to better understand the extent to which feminists can meaningfully contribute to law reform projects. The criminalisation of image-based sexual abuse in New South Wales (Australia) serves as a case study to examine and re-examine these tensions. In September 2016, the New South Wales government announced that it was proposing to criminalise the distribution of certain images without consent. Following a public consultation process, the government legislated for a new offense directed at the distribution of these images. Although there is certainly not one all-encompassing feminist understanding of image-based sexual abuse, the importance of understanding this practice as abuse and as existing within a culture that normalises and sustains nonconsensual activity nonetheless has been a key feminist concern in agitating for law reform in this area. This article examines the extent to which the legislative response took seriously the harms engendered by image-based sexual abuse. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century)
14 pages, 234 KiB  
Article
Can Law Address Intersectional Sexual Harassment? The Case of Claimants with Personality Disorders
Laws 2019, 8(4), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws8040034 - 05 Dec 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 5254
Abstract
Sexual harassment across multiple grounds, including race, disability, sexuality and age, remains an entrenched problem that is poorly dealt with in law. Prevalence rates for intersectional sexual harassment are higher for certain groups, while legal redress is low. This paper examines case law [...] Read more.
Sexual harassment across multiple grounds, including race, disability, sexuality and age, remains an entrenched problem that is poorly dealt with in law. Prevalence rates for intersectional sexual harassment are higher for certain groups, while legal redress is low. This paper examines case law on sexual harassment in Australia where there are intersectional factors and asks whether the “intersectionality” section inserted into the federal Sex Discrimination Act in 2011 has impacted legal practice and decision-making. In particular, it considers the situation of sexual harassment claimants with behavioural and personality traits that are considered “disordered” and the specifically gendered disability stereotypes that shape their treatment in law. Recent cases in Australia dealing with the sexual harassment of people with personality disorders show that intersectionality provisions of sexual harassment laws may in fact be used to undermine a legal claim by a person with disability rather than strengthen it. This article argues that an intersectional legal feminist perspective on harassment is needed for the law to work. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century)
16 pages, 276 KiB  
Article
‘Endlessly Valuable’ Discursive Work—Intimate Partner Femicide, an English Case Study
Laws 2019, 8(4), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws8040033 - 28 Nov 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3365
Abstract
Against the trend of roll-backs of pro-feminist initiatives by right-wing governments, feminist-led reforms to the law of murder deserve accolades as hard-fought feminist victories. For three decades, feminist analysts have critiqued the operation of provocation defences in intimate partner femicide cases. Their work [...] Read more.
Against the trend of roll-backs of pro-feminist initiatives by right-wing governments, feminist-led reforms to the law of murder deserve accolades as hard-fought feminist victories. For three decades, feminist analysts have critiqued the operation of provocation defences in intimate partner femicide cases. Their work has been rewarded with the implementation of reforms in several anglophone jurisdictions that have abolished or curtailed that defence. This article focuses on the revolutionary impact of the reform implemented in England and Wales. It argues for the continuing purchase for feminist legal scholars of a methodology championed by Carol Smart in her seminal 1989 text, Feminism and the Power of Law. She counselled feminist law scholars to read law as a site for contesting law’s truth about gendered relationships. This methodology has not only been critical in exposing the misogyny and injustice embedded in traditional provocation by infidelity defences; it also enables researchers to chart shifts in law’s discursive constitution of truth in the post-reform era. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century)
10 pages, 250 KiB  
Article
Ronald Reagan, the Modern Right, and…the Rise of the Fem-Crits
Laws 2019, 8(4), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws8040026 - 26 Oct 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4171
Abstract
Activists and academics are returning to the 1980s for clues and context concerning the modern Right in the United States, oftentimes with the hope of deriving insights that can be wielded against the legal agenda of the Trump administration. This is a worthwhile [...] Read more.
Activists and academics are returning to the 1980s for clues and context concerning the modern Right in the United States, oftentimes with the hope of deriving insights that can be wielded against the legal agenda of the Trump administration. This is a worthwhile historical endeavor, which must not ignore the essential position of feminist legal theorists. This article reveals the foundational role of feminist critical legal scholars, or “Fem-Crits”, to the progressive resistance against conservative legal thought during the 1980s. By highlighting the work of Fem-Crits in the academy and within the critical legal studies movement, this article identifies the Fem-Crits as a valuable source of movement inspiration and theoretical influence for leftist law professors, lawyers, and activists in the twenty-first century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Legal Theory in the 21st Century)
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