The aim of this Special Issue is to highlight the continuing relevance of feminist legal theory (FLT). Contributors are invited to engage with the vexed issues of the time that disproportionately impact women. These include not only the turning away from equality and social justice as a result of the neoliberal embrace, but also the roll-back of pro-feminist initiatives by right-wing governments, such as those of the Trump Administration. Contributors are at liberty to narrow their focus to a single issue or jurisdiction, as they wish. The only caveat is that the author makes a worthy contribution to the reappraisal of the place of FLT in contemporary scholarship.
In response to the Second Wave Feminism of the late 20th century, feminist legal scholars challenged conventional ways of thinking about law. They have exposed the claims to universality, objectivity, and neutrality of legal positivism as partial and masculinist. Their scholarly endeavors have led to feminist legal theory (FLT) being included in the curricula of many law schools and receiving the endorsement of the academic gatekeepers.
Nevertheless, the honeymoon period was short-lived, because of the ascendancy of neoliberalism. This led to the commodification of higher education, ever-increasing tuition fees, and pressure on universities to produce job-ready graduates to serve the new-knowledge economy. Students then began to say that they no longer wanted FLT on their testamurs, lest it harm their chances in the job market.
The demise of FLT was accompanied by a backlash against feminism and the popular asseveration that we now inhabit a post-feminism age. However, the “post” in post-feminism is ambiguous, as it can mean either that feminism is passé or that it signals a new beginning. The point is that issues such as violence against women, femicide, and sexual harassment have never gone away. Indeed, the world-wide “#MeToo” movement is a powerful reminder of the continuing relevance of feminism.
This Special Issue is intended to show that, far from being a spent force, FLT is a vital means of making sense of the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, which includes a distinctly anti-feminist as well as a pro-feminist dimension. This gives contributors considerable scope to write on a topic and perspective of their choice. Neoliberalism itself is a fertile field in light of its marked reaction against the central feminist values of collective action, equality, and social justice, in favor of individualism and promotion of the self. The impact of the rise of right-wing movements in many parts of the world, including the United States, also has profound ramifications for feminism. To take into account global diversity, specific country perspectives on prevailing sexual politics are encouraged.
The possibilities for innovative scholarly work are endless. The conjunction of neoliberalism and moral conservatism may therefore have given FLT an adrenalin shot in the arm.
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- feminist legal theory
- gender and law
- sexual politics
- sexual harassment