Ideologies of Motherhood in European Community Sex Equality Law

Posted: 28 Oct 2000 Last revised: 21 Jun 2014

See all articles by Clare McGlynn

Clare McGlynn

Durham Law School, Durham University


This article argues that, in a series of cases from Hofmann in the mid-1980s to Hill and Stapleton in 1998, the Court of Justice has reproduced, and thereby legitimated, a traditional vision of motherhood and the role of women in the family, and in society generally. This vision, characterized as the "dominant ideology of motherhood", limits the potential of the Community's sex equality legislation to bring about real improvements in the lives of women. Accordingly, far from alleviating discrimination against women, the Court's jurisprudence is reinforcing traditional assumptions which inhibit women's progress. It is argued that the Court should reject the dominant ideology of motherhood and utilize its interpretative space to pursue a more progressive and liberating rendering of women and men's relationships and obligations to each other and their children.

Suggested Citation

McGlynn, Clare M. S., Ideologies of Motherhood in European Community Sex Equality Law. European Law Journal, Vol. 6, Issue 1, March 2000. Available at SSRN:

Clare M. S. McGlynn (Contact Author)

Durham Law School, Durham University ( email )

Durham University
Palatine Centre
Durham, County Durham DH1 3LE
United Kingdom
0191 334 2800 (Phone)


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