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The Gender Line

Men, Women, and the Law

Nancy Levit

Publication Year: 1998

Despite tremendous advances in civil rights, we live in a world where the sexes remain sharply segregated from birth to death: in names, clothing, social groupings, and possessions; in occupations, civic association, and domestic roles. Gender separatism, so pervasive as to be almost invisible, permeates the fabric of our daily social routines. Preferring a notion of gender that is fluid and contextual, and denying that separatism is inevitable, Nancy Levit dismantles the myths of gender essentialism Drawing on a wealth of interdisciplinary data regarding the biological and cultural origins of sex differences, Levit provides a fresh perspective on gendered behaviors and argues the need for careful cultivation of new relations between the sexes.

With its focus particularly on men, The Gender Line offers an insightful overview of the construction of gender and the damaging effects of its stereotypes. Levit analyzes the ways in which law legitimizes the social segregation of the sexes through legal decisions regarding custody, employment, education, sexual harassment, and criminal law. In so doing, she illustrates the ways in which men's and women's oppressions are intertwined and how law molds the very definition of masculinity.

Applying feminist methodology to the doctrine of feminism itself, Levit artfully demonstrates that gender separatism infects even our contemporary views of feminism. Levit asks questions that have been too long been unspoken--those that lie at the core of the feminist project, yet threaten its very foundations. Revealing masculinity as both a privileged and a victimized condition, she calls for a step forward, past the bounds of contemporary feminism and its conflicts, toward a more egalitarian and inclusive feminism. This brand of feminism would reshape traditional masculinity, invite men into feminist dialogue, and claim men as political allies.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. vii

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p. ix

My colleagues and friends David Achtenberg, Bob Chang, Julie Cheslik, Bob Downs, Barbara Glesner-Fines, Kris Kobach, Doug Linder, Joan Mahoney, Sam Marcosson, Michael Mello, Doris Mendel, Ed Richards, Ellen Suni, and Ray Warner were extraordinarily generous with their time, advice, and comments about various ideas in the book. ...

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-14

We still live in a world in which the sexes are sharply segregated: early in life, in names, clothing, and possessions; later, in occupations, civic associations, social groupings, and domestic roles. This gender separation is so pervasive it is almost invisible. Gender is constructed in everyday social routines. ...

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2 Gender Separatism

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pp. 15-63

In this chapter we will look at the institutions that construct gender. Some are sharply gender divisive; others are more or less harmful to both men and women. Society constructs two separate gender cultures, and the beliefs, social practices, and institutions that separate the sexes disadvantage both females and males. ...

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3 How Courts Enforce Gender Separatism

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pp. 64-104

Increasingly, courts are being called on to determine what physical and social differences between the sexes matter legally. Laws and legal decisions send symbolic messages about what it means to be male and female, and those messages play a central part in shaping gender. In many individual cases, judicial constructions of sex facilitate gender separation. ...

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4 Making Men: The Socio-Legal Construct of Masculinity

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pp. 105-122

The purpose of examining the various ways legal doctrines and the legal system disadvantage men is not to thrust men into victimhood. Victimhood presents a dilemma. On the one hand, failure to acknowledge victimization can allow forms of oppression to go unchecked. On the other hand, speaking in terms of victimization ...

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5 The “F”Word: Feminism and Its Detractors

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pp. 123-167

Why are people, women and men, so scared of the label “feminism”? Why is feminism so aggressively and gleefully demonized? A strong majority of people in this country embrace fundamental concepts of women’s rights.Yet a roughly equal percentage of people decline to describe themselves as feminists. ...

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6 Feminist Legal Theory and the Treatment of Men

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pp. 168-198

Feminist legal theory has not concerned itself much with the sympathetic construction of white maleness. Jurisprudential scholars have focused on the masculinity of nonmajority males. In the past decade, critical race scholars have centered attention on the differential treatment of black, Asian, and Latino males, ...

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7 Reconstructing Images of Gender in Theory

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pp. 199-215

This chapter revisits the reluctance of some feminist scholars to include men as subjects of analysis and political allies. Some of feminism’s inattention to men is understandable, some has been retributive, and some has been the result of resource allocation: equality issues for women needed more immediate attention. ...

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8 Remaking Gender in Practice: Looking Forward

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pp. 216-248

Is feminism worth salvaging? Why try to resurrect a term and a movement that are to some ambiguous, irritating, offensive, and perhaps unnecessary? Feminism possesses a unique heritage: on the theoretical level, it has created increasingly refined methodologies (from consciousness-raising to questioning hierarchies and exclusion); ...


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pp. 249-294


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pp. 295-300

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About the Author

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p. 301

Nancy Levit is a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law where she has taught Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Gender and Justice, Jurisprudence, and Torts. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814752715
E-ISBN-10: 0814752713
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814751213
Print-ISBN-10: 0814751210

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 42854202
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Gender Line

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Subject Headings

  • Sex discrimination in justice administration -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Sex and law -- United States.
  • Sex role -- United States.
  • Women -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States.
  • Men -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States.
  • Feminist jurisprudence -- United States.
  • Feminist theory -- United States.
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