- Gender, Sexualities and Law
In their introduction, editors Jackie Jones, Anna Grear, Rachel Anne Fenton, and Kim Stevenson lament the passing of feminism as they know it among their students.1 Most notably, they decry the lack of any political understanding of the issues that most women face: for example, the fact that overly sexualized, objectified bodies of women are directly connected to an increase in predatory, sexual violence. Or if political awareness does exist among today's students, it is more likely to be based on individual rights rather than on a collective gendered social equality. This is especially true for those who study law.
As many of us can attest, the sense that feminism is a political movement, with hard won, tenuous victories, is largely absent in today's students. As the editors indicate, it is as if "equality has been achieved," something we hear from undergraduates and graduates alike. "The personal is political" is seen as tired and old, a relic from the heady days of their professors' political imaginations. The editors point to the fact that such viewpoints are not the fault of the students as "[t]hey are the products of a generation whose political sensibilities are shaped by market and consumer dominance" with little incentive, for example, to focus on issues such as "the increasing poverty experienced by many in the developing world."2
This book attempts to redress this absence, largely by focusing on five themes: theory, representations of law, violence (and international violence), reproduction, and relationships. The book has some twenty-seven contributors and includes some high profile names in the field, including Martha A. Fineman, Ngaire Naffine, Judith Rowbotham, Susan B. Boyd, Rosemary Hunter, and Jeffrey Weeks. The authors span at least four continents—the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, and (South) Africa—although the majority of the writers are working within the United Kingdom. The book is accessibly written, with some chapters necessarily more abstract than others but, overall, despite the [End Page 489] myriad voices, holding true to their thrust in highlighting the main arguments of gender, sexuality, and law.
Part I: Theory, Law and Sex begins with a highly readable chapter entitled "Women and the Cast of Legal Persons" by Ngaire Naffine from Adelaide, Australia (readers might remember her rather fine, early work entitled Law and the Sexes: Explorations in Feminist Jurisprudence).3 In this chapter, Naffine reviews the complexities of legal personhood for women as women. She approaches the question from four perspectives, namely rational, religious, naturalist, and legalist and argues how each would deal with the absence of the experiential nature of womanhood in law. The usual argument here is the pregnant woman: is she a rational subject? I would have expected the excellent work of Margrit Shildrik on the legal confusion of the pregnant body/woman in theory and in the social world to be cited. The next chapter in Part I, by Rosemary Hunter, "(De-)Sexing the Woman Lawyer" argues that women have to have disciplined "practices of the self" (as in Foucault's understanding) to fit the male role model established in legal settings.4 Hunter offers an illustrative sample from The Times blog, BabyBarista, which depicts the life of a barrister in characters such as OldSmoothie and TheCreep, characters that all of us at a certain vintage could easily name.5 It is a refreshing take on the very old, and increasingly tiresome, problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, including some horrifying examples of women lawyers asked to have abortions to further their careers. Anna Grear's " 'Sexing the Matrix': Embodiment, Disembodiment and the Law—Towards the Re-Gendering of Legal Rationality" uses the logos of rationality to analyze what she terms the quasi- (dis)embodiment of the woman as legal subject and addresses the gendered, yet not quite bodied, liberal discourse of Western rationality.6 The possibility of "the extension of legal subjectivity to embrace new entities" harkens, in this reader's mind, to the cyborg of Donna Haroway's musings.7 Her...