The Feminist-Neutrality Paradox
127 Dick. L. Rev. 101 (2023)
21 Pages Posted: 1 May 2023 Last revised: 2 May 2023
Date Written: April 17, 2023
Female judges are vital to a well-functioning third branch of government given the long-documented link between diversity and judicial legitimacy. Beyond appearances, however, the article explores the reasons why so many empirical studies have shown that judges do not decide cases differently on account of their gender. This article describes how women must act like men to gain acceptance into the male-dominated judicial sphere and then are expected to apply precedent that has been overwhelmingly decided by men. In other words, the decisions of female (and feminist) judges are largely the same as those of their male counterparts because of systemic pressures on female judges to conform to the unstated male norm under the guise of neutrality and the rule of law. These observations are not new. But in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the case that erased the constitutional right to abortion with little concern for the appearance of judicial neutrality or stare decisis – this article asks whether feminists should stop playing by the rules as well.
Keywords: feminist, neutral, Dobbs
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