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Feminist Legal Theory and Understandings of Equality: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?


Reg Graycar


University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

Jenny Jane Morgan


Melbourne Law School


Thomas Jefferson Law Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2006
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/41
U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 249

Abstract:     
In this discussion we start by exploring two interrelated aspects of understandings of equality. First, we look at the persistence of the understanding in law of equality as meaning only formal equality, that is, the Aristotelian notion of treating people the same, regardless of circumstances. Secondly, we examine the extent to which we have succeeded in reconceptualising some of the harms that happen to women (and other outsiders) as gendered harms, as legal claims predicated upon a recognition of inequality. We then consider why formal equality continues to have such purchase, and discuss ways in which we may continue to engage with equality more fruitfully. We discuss examples from Australia, as well as some from other countries, specifically South Africa and Canada, to illustrate different ways of approaching equality issues. We conclude our discussion with a brief review of developments in jurisdictions that take a more substantive approach to equality issues and consider the extent to which women's social, legal, and economic status have improved in these jurisdictions.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: equality, formal equality, substantive equality, women's social, legal and economic status, gendered harms

JEL Classification: K10

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Date posted: June 20, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Graycar, Reg and Morgan, Jenny Jane, Feminist Legal Theory and Understandings of Equality: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?. Thomas Jefferson Law Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2006; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/41; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 249. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=994112

Contact Information

Reg Graycar (Contact Author)
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )
Faculty of Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia
Jenny Jane Morgan
Melbourne Law School ( email )
Victoria, 3010
Australia
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