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Feminist Legal Writing

50 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2006  

Kathryn Stanchi

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law


Feminist Legal Writing analyzes feminist legal scholarship from a rhetorical, linguistic and writing perspective. Much has been written about the substance and method of feminist legal theory. This article is devoted exclusively to an in-depth look at the techniques of persuasion that make so much feminist legal scholarship so powerful.

The Article starts from the premise that the conventions of legal advocacy and legal writing may require feminist legal theorists to choose between following the conventions of legal persuasion and fully conveying their feminist message. Using linguistic theory as well as persuasive writing and rhetorical theory, the Article explores feminist legal scholarship that manages to be both subversive and powerful through the use of unconventional rhetorical techniques. These techniques include many of the rhetorical devices socio-linguists commonly identify as hallmarks of the language of subversive societies or classes - those groups or classes that stand in resistance to the established society in which they are forced to exist.

The use of these subversive rhetorical techniques, including negation, metaphor and other poetic devices, narrative, and relexicalization, reveal a rich tapestry of persuasive language in the writings of feminists. The legal scholarship of Catharine A. MacKinnon, Patricia Williams, Martha Mahoney and Susan Estrich, among others, are used as examples of the unique power of the unconventional techniques of feminist legal writing. Ultimately, the Article argues that the power of feminist legal writing should lead advocates to question the conventional wisdom of many of the rules of persuasive legal writing.

Keywords: feminist legal theory, feminism, rhetoric, linguistics, language, legal writing, persuasion

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Stanchi, Kathryn, Feminist Legal Writing. San Diego Law Review, Vol. 39, p. 387, 2002. Available at SSRN:

Kathryn Stanchi (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-8807 (Phone)

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