SMNR: Feminist Theory & Its Legal Application

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
TUE 3:30 - 5:20 pm TNH 3.129

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


This course is organized as a demonstration of the vitality and importance of feminist work--work that is devoted to improving the welfare of girls and women through instrumental engagement with the quality and status of their lives. Most of the topics within feminism's sphere with which the course will engage are in the direct line of law, public policy, and the legal profession's practices and norms, since those are the aspects that law students train to advance. And the writings that we will read and discuss together are powerfully aimed at making transformative contributions, though it is a mark of the current state of feminism that those who are in it and of it, even when they share significant goals, often stand in fundamental disagreement with each other on how to get things done. One of the legacies of "feminism" is, therefore, feminisms. That alone will give us plenty to explore, as we set about developing generous, careful, critical and, where relevant, comparative appraisals of this compellingly interesting work. The topics we will consider are divided into three broad areas of inquiry. The first is focused on aspects of feminist method: claims about structural inequality; about constraints on personal autonomy; narrative as method; and the anti-essentialism and anti-rights/courts/justice critique. The second broad area we will take up is devoted to issues involving physical autonomy---these being a sampling that is likely to include sports and its funding; the regulation of egg donation and gestational surrogacy; campus sexual violence and rape; stalking; female genital alteration; and international sex trafficking. The third area will involve a focus on gender equality, with particular attention to problems that impede the professional advancement of women lawyers. Guests who will co-teach relevant classes will include Professor Kathryn Abrams, Berkeley Law School, and Hannah Brenner, newly-appointed Director of our own Center of Women in Law. Class members will receive invitations to attend the Center's first conference, a landmark event that will be held this Spring. This is a writing seminar. There will be a research paper requirement, with necessary topic permission, in lieu of an exam. You may use this seminar to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement. There are no prerequisites for this course.