Although feminists have historically engaged the law for political purposes, this article traces critiques of such engagements from early feminist legal theory to poststructuralist feminist thought. While early feminist legal theorists understood the law as patriarchal and oppressive, poststructuralists suggest that the law is productive. This theory of law would seem to necessitate reimagining how feminists might engage law. However, poststructuralist feminist thinkers argue that activists should eschew legal tactics in favor of political practices of resignification, collectivity, and agonistic democracy. Thus, these thinkers construct an opposition between law and politics that fundamentally contradicts their understanding of law as productive. Through an examination of this contradiction, the article shows that these thinkers implicitly share a conception of law as oppressive with early feminist legal theorists. Therefore, the poststructuralists fail to fully develop the insights of their own theory. Through a case study of the unionization of San Francisco’s Lusty Lady strip club in 1996, the article demonstrates how law is both productive and not inherently opposed to politics; it not only shows how law and politics are dynamically connected, but also how law can, at times, bolster politics. Thus, the article rethinks the place of law in feminist politics.


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pp. 27-48
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