Carrie Menkel-Meadow: Dispute Resolution in a Feminist Voice
10 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 151 (Fall 2022)
15 Pages Posted: 1 May 2023 Last revised: 5 Oct 2023
Date Written: April 28, 2023
The presence of women in the law has changed the law’s substance, practice, and process. Carrie Menkel-Meadow, whose scholarship centers on this theme, is one such revolutionary woman.
Professor Menkel-Meadow, who I am proud to call my colleague, co-author, and friend (hereinafter referred to as Carrie), began her career in 1977 with a series of simple questions that sparked a breathtaking body of work. Carrie probed the depth of male domination in the realm of law and wondered what changes female representation might engender. In particular, she focused her inquiry on the value orientation each respective gender might bring to the law: "To what extent are the legal institutions we deal with male-dominated, both in the values they reflect and the manner or means used to express those values? To what extent might the expression of feminine or female values, principles and qualities both in the ends desired and the means used to express those ends alter our legal institutions? How does the increased participation of women in these legal institutions move us toward or away from the realization of feminine values in the law?"
Over 40 years, Carrie elaborated on these questions to develop a thorough and wide-ranging feminist jurisprudence. This Essay attempts to do justice to her work. Part II recapitulates her account of the feminization of the law: the way that feminine values affect the substance of the law; the way that we practice and learn law; and the process of law, especially in the area of Carrie’s other love—dispute resolution. In particular, Carrie used a key narrative to illustrate competing approaches to problem-solving. Spurred by Carol Gilligan’s reanalysis of psychology studies, Carrie dove into the moral dilemmas used in psychology and recast the story of Amy and Jake (where they wrestle over the dilemma of whether to steal drugs to save a life) as a lesson in problem-solving. Throughout her writings, Carrie advocated for a feminine ethic of care to have equal footing with the more traditional (masculine) ethic of justice that has been hallowed in law.
Part III of this Essay uses a different narrative from Carrie’s scholarship to illustrate the application of the feminization of the law. In the case of Ziba—a hypothetical mediation between an underage bride and her controlling husband, Ahmed—we see how Carrie’s own passions for feminism and dispute resolution collide in the mediation process she typically champions. Ultimately, Carrie’s treatment of the case puts into practice the ethic of care developed within her feminist jurisprudence.
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