LEXIS(R)-NEXIS(R)
[Main Menu] [Help] [Sources]

[Results List] [Return to Search][Previous Document][Next Document][Full View][Kwic View]

Document 1 of 2.


Copyright (c) 1997 President and Fellows of Harvard Colleges
Harvard Women's Law Journal

Spring, 1997

20 Harv. Women's L.J. 1

LENGTH: 1435 words

ESSAY: PERSPECTIVES ON OUR PROGRESS: TWENTY YEARS OF FEMINIST THOUGHT: THE YOUNG ADULTHOOD OF A WOMEN'S LAW JOURNAL

MARTHA MINOW *


 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* Professor, Harvard Law School; J.D., Yale Law School, 1979; Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1976; A.B., University of Michigan, 1975.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

SUMMARY:
  ... Twenty years after its founding, WLJ has more than a dozen sister journals at other law schools, as well as its own track record of substantial and important contributions to legal scholarship and debate. The four essays gathered here wonderfully illuminate the range of topics and methods showcased by WLJ: historical accounts of struggles for women's rights and advancement in law; narrative and analytic accounts of systemic gender bias; subtle inquiries into the specificity of gender in a world that is marked not only by differences of sex, but also ethnicity, race, and class; and theoretical explorations of the reach of feminist theories into law, contemporary culture, and enduring mythologies. ... But a celebration of the maturation of WLJ would not be complete without rigorous argument and challenging critique. ... 1) To Sheila Kuehl: If law and law reform activities are at best partial responses to poverty, family violence, and war crimes, what partnerships with other initiatives should law students and lawyers be forging -- and when are legal initiatives counterproductive? ... By asking questions about what to do next, after of course recognizing these dilemmas, I am asking for more debate, more engagement, more pages of the WLJ. 


 
When will it no longer be necessary to attach special weight to the word "woman" and raise it specially?
-- Ding Ling n1
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

n1 Ding Ling, Thoughts on March 8, in I MYSELF AM A WOMAN: SELECTED WRITING OF DING LING 316, 317 (Tani E. Barlow ed., 1989).
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
It's not that the world would have been better if women had run it, but that the world will be better when we as women, who bring our own perspective, share in running it.
-- Betty Bumpers n2
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

n2 Betty Bumpers, Conference Speech, 1985, quoted in THE BEACON BOOK OF QUOTATIONS BY WOMEN 348 (Rosalie Maggio ed., 1992).
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

TEXT:
     [*1]  As the Harvard Women's Law Journal (WLJ) hits the buoyant age of twenty, it seems hard to believe that its first issue met with taunts and disbelief. n3 Yet it is equally hard to believe, or even to want to imagine, that such a journal would not be needed and wanted for many years to come. Twenty years after its founding, WLJ has more than a dozen sister journals at other law schools, n4 as well as its own track record of substantial  [*2]  and important contributions to legal scholarship and debate. The four essays gathered here wonderfully illuminate the range of topics and methods showcased by WLJ: historical accounts of struggles for women's rights and advancement in law; n5 narrative and analytic accounts of systemic gender bias; n6 subtle inquiries into the specificity of gender in a world that is marked not only by differences of sex, but also ethnicity, race, and class; n7 and theoretical explorations of the reach of feminist theories into law, contemporary culture, and enduring mythologies. n8
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

n3 See Kuehl, p. 5.

n4 E.g., American University Journal of Gender and the Law; Australian Feminist Law Journal; Berkeley Women's Law Journal; Canadian Journal of Women and the Law; Cardozo Women's Law Journal; Circles: the Buffalo Women's Journal of Law and Social Policy; Columbia Journal of Gender and Law; Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy; Feminist Issues; Hastings Women's Law Journal; Law and Inequality; Law and Sexuality; Michigan Journal of Gender and Law; Southern California Review of Law and Women's Studies; Texas Journal of Women and the Law; UCLA Women's Law Journal; William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law; Wisconsin Women's Law Journal; Women and Law; Women Lawyers Journal; Women in Legal Education Newsletter; Women's Law Journal; Women's Law Reporter; Women's Rights Law Reporter; and Yale Journal of Law and Feminism.

n5 See Kuehl.

n6 See Murphy.

n7 See Chin-Brandt.

n8 See Scales.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I do not think it is accidental that each of these anniversary essays includes personal narratives. A slogan of the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s, "The personal is political," has also spurred recognition of the converse truth: the political is personal. Inquiries into the structure of politics and power, and the impact of that structure for real people, animate not only feminist scholarship, but also a variety of contemporary cultural and critical studies. Marya Mannes once said, "Women are repeatedly accused of taking things personally. I cannot see any other honest way of taking them." n9 In addition, personal narratives are harvested from the contemporary flourishing of legal storytelling and studies of law and literature -- often by and about women, and often not.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

n9 Marya Mannes, in A WOMAN'S NOTEBOOK 508 (Amy Shapiro ed., 1980), quoted in THE BEACON BOOK OF QUOTATIONS BY WOMEN, supra note 2, at 349.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Personal narratives can prompt self-revelation for authors and readers, while affording glimpses into alternative perspectives. Glimpses of the remarkable women who are the authors of this Volume's essays can themselves provide evidence of the progress and struggles of women in law. Personal narratives can bring richer complexity into the often linear and abstract world of scholarship, and thereby also reconnect scholarship to the legal profession's necessary preoccupation with persuasive arts and obligation, ultimately, to serve actual human beings.

But a celebration of the maturation of WLJ would not be complete without rigorous argument and challenging critique. The spirit of contest and debate so crucial to its founding is also vital to its future promise. In that spirit, I will raise a few questions about this Symposium and its essays:
 
1) To Sheila Kuehl: If law and law reform activities are at best partial responses to poverty, family violence, and war crimes, n10 what partnerships  [*3]  with other initiatives should law students and lawyers be forging -- and when are legal initiatives counterproductive?
 
2) To Wendy Murphy: What exact rule on confidentiality would work, with existing judges, to protect the counseling records of rape victims? How will a "special" rule avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes?
 
3) To Dorothy Chin-Brandt: When and why do you decide to "block out" the fact of an individual litigant's identity, and when to be sensitive to it? n11
 
4) To Ann Scales: What kinds of scholarship and discourse could actually involve feminists of different visions in constructive rather than competitive conversations -- and should this effort involve nonacademics who so often find academic feminism abstruse?
 
5) To you all: How can you engage readers who are impatient with or dismissive of personal narratives?
 
Put more generally, I am asking both what kinds of humility and collaborations should be cultivated in the work of lawyers and legal scholars who seek to advance the interests of all women, and what practical and general insights can be articulated about ways to maneuver through the inevitable double-binds involved in responding to patterns of difference and discrimination.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

n10 Kuehl, pp. 12-13.

n11 See pp. 30-31, describing one circumstance for each approach.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What do I mean by double-binds? n12 Bringing to the role of the judge the experiences and insights of an Asian-American woman can bring a community closer to a vision of justice for all, yet acknowledging and acting on those distinctive experiences and insights risks charges of subjectivity or partiality at odds with the ideal (though never real) of objective, detached judging. Seeking avenues for women's participation in the legal profession exposes women to burdens of a profession designed to be practiced by men; seeking accommodation, for example, for a litigator who is also a nursing mother, risks reinforcing stereotypes of  [*4]  women's dependency and limitations that so often stand in the way of women's inclusion. Entering the struggles for social justice through the avenues of litigation and legislation can afford women a new sense of power, yet those very avenues depend upon and reinforce structures of expertise and exclusion that are part of the obstacles to an inclusive, democratic society. Feminist legal theory can become more mainstream by taming and watering down its challenge and insights, or it can push for more radical critiques and visions while evoking a greater sense of fear, resistance, or retaliation by readers.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

n12 For extended discussions of this notion in the context of struggles for women's equality, see MARTHA MINOW, NOT ONLY FOR MYSELF: IDENTITY, POLITICS, AND LAW (1997); MARTHA MINOW, MAKING ALL THE DIFFERENCE: INCLUSION, EXCLUSION, AND AMERICAN LAW (1990); Katharine T. Bartlett, Feminist Legal Methods, 103 HARV. L. REV. 829 (1990); Angela P. Harris, Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory, 42 STAN. L. REV. 581 (1990); Christine A. Littleton, Reconstructing Sexual Equality, 75 CALIF. L. REV. 1279 (1987); Margaret Jane Radin, The Pragmatist and the Feminist, 63 S. CAL. L. REV. 1877 (1990); Judy Scales-Trent, Black Women and the Constitution: Finding Our Place; Asserting Our Rights, 24 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 9 (1989); Lucie E. White, Subordination, Rhetorical Survival Skills, and Sunday Shoes: Notes on the Hearing of Mrs. G., 38 BUFFALO L. REV. 1 (1990); Joan C. Williams, Deconstructing Gender, 87 MICH. L. REV. 797 (1989).
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

By asking questions about what to do next, after of course recognizing these dilemmas, I am asking for more debate, more engagement, more pages of the WLJ.



[Results List][Return to Search][Previous Document][Next Document][Full View][Kwic View]
[Main Menu] [Help] [Sources]
About LEXIS(R)-NEXIS(R) Terms and Conditions

© 1999, LEXIS®-NEXIS®, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.