Multicultural Feminism: Assessing Systemic Fault in a Provocative Context

Camille Nelson

Suffolk University Law School


University of Florida Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 17, p. 263, 2006

This article engages in the debate between feminists and multiculturalists in regards to the cultural defense. This article explores the tension between these two schools of thought in allowing for courts to consider cultural issues, particularly in cases involving the misogynistic treatment of women.

The article uses Jian Wan Chen, among others, as a case study. Jian Wan Chen was murdered by her husband Dong Lu Chen several weeks after he discovered she was unfaithful to him. An expert witness testified on his behalf and stated that in Chinese culture a wife’s infidelity is deeply dishonorable to the husband. The court accepted the testimony and sentenced Dong Lu Chen to five years probation. The article argues this outcome represents a misappropriation of the cultural defense. In this case, the court adopts the perspective that in Chinese culture it is acceptable for a husband to respond with fatal violence to his wife’s infidelity. This outcome attributes an “otherness” to Chinese culture beyond or own cultural comprehension and appropriates a cultural dysfunction to Chinese culture without further examination. Such a perspective is a disservice to the female victims who may have reasonably expected to have traded their cultural confines for the protections of American law.

This article also draws attention to the role of race, class, culture, and gender as intersecting variables that may mitigate sentencing. This article argues that it is possible for courts to define the cultural defense in such a way that culture is considered, but the woman’s interests in life and liberty are protected. This article argues it is possible to view the cultural defense as both feminist and multiculturalist, but care must be taken to balance the views in order to obtain the fullest justice.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 20

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Date posted: February 20, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Camille, Multicultural Feminism: Assessing Systemic Fault in a Provocative Context (2006). University of Florida Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 17, p. 263, 2006. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1763372

Contact Information

Camille Nelson (Contact Author)
Suffolk University Law School ( email )
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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