Is Privacy a Woman?

30 Pages Posted: 23 May 2008 Last revised: 6 Feb 2009

Date Written: January 1, 2009


This essay is about the representation of privacy. Focusing on several of the Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment cases regarding the police and the home, I explore judicial articulations of the meaning of private space. Several striking figures of women appear in the Justices' opinions in Kyllo v. United States, and Georgia v. Randolph, for example, and represent different conceptions of privacy that are in dialogue and conflict. To theorize privacy in the home is to imagine a woman, and the way she is imagined is bound up with the idea of the home and stakes of privacy articulated. From the lady of the house in the bath, to the lady at home receiving callers, to the battered woman, distinctive figures of women reveal peculiar fault lines in the modern meaning of privacy in an era of judicial commitment to gender equality. Even long after the gradual demise of the particular marital privacy associated with the common law of coverture, the idea of protecting women from men remains central and appears today in new and different guises that evince both change and continuity in the legal meaning of the home.

Keywords: criminal procedure, privacy, home, police, Fourth Amendment, due process, women, gender, marriage, sex, domestic violence, coverture, Kyllo v. United States, Georgia v. Randolph, Lawrence, Casey, representation, culture

Suggested Citation

Gersen, Jeannie Suk, Is Privacy a Woman? (January 1, 2009). Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 97, p. 485, 2009, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 09-09, Available at SSRN:

Jeannie Suk Gersen (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


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