Women, Marriage and Motherhood in the United States: Allocating Responsibility in a Changing World
Martha Albertson Fineman
Emory University School of Law
July 31, 2011
Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, pp. 1-17, July 2011
The lesson from the United States is that egalitarian law reform alone is inadequate to achieve gender equality, be it at home or in the workplace. Formal equality may be useful in defining some relations between adults, but family dynamics, as well as the realisation that state and market institutions must be responsive to human dependency and vulnerability, must also be factored into considerations of what is needed in the way of reforms. For example, merely encouraging egalitarian family policies has not resulted in significantly removing the obstacles to women’s equal participation in the workplace when they become mothers. The State must also respond to the situation of women (and others) who are placed in vulnerable positions in the workplace because of the care work they perform in the family. A responsive State would pay attention to the operation and functioning of the institutions, entitlements and other mechanisms that provide the resources that individuals need in order to successfully undertake responsibility for those who are dependent in society, such as infants and children, as well as some elderly, disabled, or ill adults.
It is time to expand our rhetoric of ‘personal responsibility’ to include a notion of ‘shared responsibility’, in which the state and market institutions are charged with ensuring that there is truly equality of access and opportunity. This would require the accommodation of our shared human vulnerability and dependency, as well as the undoing of institutional practices and relations that unduly privilege the circumstances of some workers while tolerating the structural disadvantages with which others grapple on a daily basis.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 28, 2011
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