On Postmodernist Feminist Legal Theory
77 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2012 Last revised: 25 Sep 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2001
This Article seeks to chart and evaluate postmodern interventions in feminist legal theory and to suggest ways that postmodern insights could more effectively further feminist legal theory's normative commitment to end sexual oppression. In Part I, I discuss feminist legal scholars' appropriation of postmodern conceptions of power as discourse, and how these scholars have related these conceptions to gender hierarchy. In Part II, I consider the trend in feminist legal theory against generalizations based on gender, and the related drive toward a politics of diversity and multiplicity that has been spurred by postmodern insights. In Part III, I discuss the ways in which feminist legal theorists have sought to convert postmodern insights into positive feminist legal projects. In each of these three areas, I argue that although postmodernism offers valuable insights, its application to date demonstrates corresponding weaknesses that undermine the goals of feminist legal theory. Specifically, postmodernist legal scholars have repeatedly failed to treat postmodern strivings for heterogeneity, multiplicity, and difference as ends that must be achieved through ongoing political and legal struggle. Instead, they have generally treated these goals as if they were either already achieved or, alternatively, as if they could be accomplished through theoretical fiat. As a result, postmodern feminist legal theory has failed to develop a rigorous analysis of what kind of legal systems and legal measures will best foster the reinterpretation of dominant discourses and the subversion of traditional gender identities they seek to promote. In Part IV, I conclude by offering a constructive view of the way in which postmodernist insights could better further the goals of feminist legal theory, an approach that seeks to overcome the limitations of postmodern feminism to date.
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