feminist legal theory

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A broad movement that seeks to show how conventional legal theory, far from being gender-blind, ignores the position and perspective of women. Feminist writers examine the inequalities to be found in the criminal law (especially in rape and domestic violence), family law, contract, tort, property, and other branches of the substantive law, including aspects of public law. Four principal strands of feminist thought may be identified. Liberal feminism regards persons as autonomous, rights-bearing agents and accentuates the values of equality, rationality, and autonomy. Its central claim is that since women and men are equally rational they ought to have the same opportunities to exercise rational choices. Radical feminism regards this view as misguided since, by asserting women's similarity to men, it merely assimilates women into the male domain. Because men dominate women, the issue is ultimately one of power. Reforming the law is, by itself, unlikely to satisfy the demands of women at work, in the home, or simply as human beings. Difference feminism likewise rejects an idea of formal equality which, it contends, obscures the real differences between men and women. Instead, it seeks to expose the unstated premises of the law's substance, practice, and procedure by demonstrating the various forms of discrimination implicit in the criminal law, the law of evidence, tort law, and the process of legal reasoning itself. Postmodern feminism, in rejecting the existence of any objective truths, treats such concepts as “equality”, “gender”, and even “woman” with deep scepticism (see postmodernist legal thought).

Subjects: History of Law.

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