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Week 3 Blog

In reading these three articles I found that there were aspects of each that I agreed with, and portions that I was directly opposed to. Most of the terms I was unfamiliar with from the previous two weeks were reviewed or at least touched on in these articles. The only significant new questions that I had were in reference to Marxist and post-Marxist feminism, areas I was slightly confused by, and have little background in.

The way that West described the underlying concept of the "connecting experience" provided me with a better understanding of cultural feminism. While cultural feminists see the intrinsic connectedness of women to others as a benefit and something to be embraced, Radical feminists view women's connected nature as the underlying causation for the inequalities in society.

The main problem I had with the theory of cultural feminism was its tendency to lump all women into general categories. While West addresses the possibility of women not having children, she maintains that they are then connected to society through their mothers. I feel that this essentialist view of differences between genders could eventually lead society down a 'slippery slope' towards a justification for inequalities in the law. However, this then suggests that all differences must be ignored in favor of laws that are gender blind, a situation that I do not believe is possible, let alone advantageous to women.

I appreciated, in the Ginsburg article, that she addressed the abstract nature of many feminist legal theories. I agree that maintaining a practical application of feminism is important in furthering the goal of what I perceive as eventual gender equality. While I agree that there has to be a certain level of equality before women can advocate for gender specific rights, I believe that the literal equality she references cannot change the inherent biological gap between the generalized groups of 'men' and 'women'. I find that the humanist approach is more convincing, as it subsumes both categories in the larger concept of 'people', and then allows us to focus on societal and cultural differences.

While I have never labeled myself a radical feminist, I found that the McKinnon article was rather compelling in its dominance/submissive categorization of male/female relations. I also thought that her argument regarding the inability of idealism to effect change was important in forming a working feminist theory. While I do not necessarily agree with all of McKinnon's assertions regarding rape, I was interested in the general concepts she presented, and would be interested in reading more about them in greater depth.

Week 3 Blog Assignment

When I first began the texts for this class about various approaches to feminist legal theory, I was confronted by a familiar problem: everyone seemed right. Yet the chapters from Feminist Legal Theory seemed persistently to proclaim this could not be so. Proponents of various strands of feminist legal theory disagreed. In many cases, they supported opposite sides in court hearings regarding issues such as pornography and pregnancy or family leave. "Pick a side," the text seemed to say - "you can't agree with everyone."

Thus I found sincere confirmation and reassurance that I wasn't simply missing something when I read Robin West's work on Jurisprudence and Gender. Her third-way explanation, where she posits that it is possible that the various theories are contradictory because reality is contradictory made a great deal of sense to me. I also enjoyed discovering this interpretation because I think it allows for feminist theory to negotiate with the way things are without believing that the current state in gender relations is essentially or necessarily true and therefore immutable.

This was my original difficulty with both radical and cultural feminism. While I could recognize truth in the fact that men and women are, as things stand, different, I found some of it's claims entirely too generalized. For example, the claim made by cultural feminists that women are more empathic because they are raised by women may indeed be a factor - yet as a woman who was at home with her father during her childhood and whose father still is the one who does all of the family cooking, some of it's generalization about the state of the matter seemed rather rigid in a world with rapidly changing gender roles and greater acceptance of non-heterosexuality. Roles which are probably changing in great part because of liberal feminists success in increasing male access to typically female roles and vice versa.

The question obviously raised by such an interpretation is how to strategically balance the truths and advantages supplied by each theory. That is a big question.

Week 3: Reflection

Last week, I stood in direct opposition to Dominance Theory. It struck me as too confrontational, and too accusatory. However, after having read the MacKinnon article, I feel that I have a better understanding of Dominance Theory. It didn't really strike me until the end, when MacKinnon was talking about how rape does not work because of the point of view from which we see the rape, that I had been making some of the mistakes that she was talking about.
Reading about how the law is not gender neutral, but everyone operates under the assumption that it is, it was easy to infer how law is male-centric. Furthermore, I feel that I may have erred when I said that "The government is the government, and made up of people", and said that in opposition to Dominance Theory (as a testament to the asexuality of an institution). Precisely because the government is made up of people, and because those people are generally men (who think nothing of that fact, and that we are partially products of our environment, it is not possible for the government to be gender neutral (as it stands).

Blog 3: "You" and "Them"

I feel like dominance theory makes a little more sense, and it's raised more questions than the suggested brevity allows. I feel like I've never really grasped dominance theory. My lack of understanding the issue sheds some light as to why it's hard or maybe even impossible to grasp the logistics of it because the core idea of dominance theory itself suggests sexism, or as West would argue, that it's patriarchal. Feminism is both an structural, objective problem and a subjective problem.

Take the IT field for instance. There are roughly three times more men than women acquiring computer science degrees according to the National Science Foundation. I have 5 years of experience working in the IT field. Anecdotally, and I really don't think it's that big of a logical stretch, everything that could be done by a man in the IT field can be done by a woman just as well. The head of the IT department for Apple's technical support in Minnesota is actually a (brilliant) woman. I believe the discrepancy mostly exists because of cultural ideas structurally passed down from previous generations.

Subjectively the problem exists in our presumptions passed down mostly from previous generations and exacerbated from our own notions . It's the difference between saying "you" and "them," between saying "feminism" instead of "humanism." This is why in almost all of feminist theories that I looked, I could find the equivalent of an ethical or moral code. Feminist theory says "them" instead of "you." We are stuck at an impasse of an objective and subjective problem. As the dominant sex, I cannot help but be a sort of sexist. MacKinnon, while most of what I read I disagreed with, profoundly said, "If women had consciousness or world, sex inequality would be harmless, or all women would be feminist."

I reject West's argument that women are justifiably different epistemologically because of things like physical penetration and pregnancy. If I physically live inside of a tree, eating its nutrients from the inside, I don't somehow take the tree's thoughts. If I wear the skin of another man, I don't become a part of him, nor him of me; I'm just really creepy. The same can be said about any organism. I might sympathize better with the organism as I am sharing its physical space and biological functions, but to some extent, that can happen WITHOUT the physical oneness, like in the case of women syncing periods.

Week 3

The West article helped to clarify the differences between cultural and radical feminism. It also elaborates on the differences between men/women and the connection/seperation theories. Cultural feminism emphasizes the natural connection that women have with the world around them; they value intimacy and connection. Since these feminists view connectedness as their identity, any seperation can hurt their self-identity. On the other hand, radical feminist's approach to women's inherent connection is that of adversity. These women see any connection as intrusive, including pregnancy and intercourse. Also, this theory lends itself to the idea that a women is defined by her vagina and the consequences inherent not necessarily social implications. This helped me to clarify each camp's view and reasoning behind the theory of connection. I believe that each theory has both a positive and negative side. Cultural feminism does discuss the supposed natural connection between women and the world which can explain women's "inherent" qualities of of love and nurturing but it can also cause a lack of autonomy which can become harmful. Critical feminists' argument that autonomy is the only healthy value seems to become extreme when they seem to vouch for other women that even though a woman may think she wants a baby, she really does not.

I find MacKinnon very interesting. Her view and theories are quite radical and do expand on the radical feminist theory.She especially clarifies the radical feminists view of the body and it's individualistic form. MacKinnon focuses on the idea that the law is not neutral at all but is actually rooted in our patriarchal society. She argues that socially, women's identity consists of her sexuality. Since men exert power over women's sexuality, the state is male. Shey says that rape and intercourse are difficult to seperate because the influence of male dominence has blurred the lines of desire and control. MacKinnon's theories are a little too extreme for me in some instances but I do, however, agree with her argument that "point-of-viewlessness" will only result in law reflecting what already exists. Because of this, I agree with her that the reason rape and intercourse have become so hard to distinguish, legally anways, is because the law we have is determined by heteronormative forces that reflect societal norms. Her idea that sex and violence need to be mutually definitive, while, as she points out, can be helpful in a legal arena, implies metaphysics more than it does practicality.

Ginsburg's article gives a nice summary of Equal Rights Theory. She states that she believes engaging both sexes is important in women's advancement. The cases she exhibits show examples of literal equality which she hopes will challenge assumptions and stereotypes of sex classifications and gender norms. With met with the criticism of not being forward enough she says that it was important to make the first move to educate. Also important, I agree with her when she says that it is important to keep these ideas comprehensible and not too abstract, as say, postermodern feminism. She also raise the question of whether gender neutral laws can bridge the gap between biological and cultural differences. I do not think that this is possible. While it has been shown and theorized that standing behind women's differences can ultimately further subordination, it has been also shown that androgony is neither possible nor is it necessarily desirable. Ginsberg also presents the possibility of reducing values placed on gender norms, while perhaps a bit idealistic, this seems, to me, to be the best route.

Blog 3

The Ginsberg/Flagg reading helped me to better understand how the Equal Treatment Theory has been played out by using the three cases discussed in the reading. I still feel that while this theory is a step in the right direction, it is still had it's limitations.

Personally, I really appreciated the graphs that are included in the West reading which give a visual comparison of the various theories and the ways they differ from one another along with their main points.

I would not exactly call myself a radical feminist but I can see the points of radical feminism when it comes to intercourse and pregnancy. Both are an invasion of a woman's body, whether it's consensual/wanted, non-consensual/unwanted. Both radical feminism and cultural feminism view women's connectedness to nature and with the "other" to have a profound effect on patriarchy within society and law. Radical views it as being the cause of womens misery and oppression and cultural embraces the connectedness and sees it as bring natural and good.

Both the "connection thesis and separation thesis" for myself is pretty easy to understand. On page 25 of the West reading, Marilyn French states, " Women of course, do the caring, both before both and immediately after it, but we have all had the experience of being cared for. We have all, that is, women as well as men, had the experience of "connection."

This statement brings me to where on page 54, the author suggests considering the "fundamental" experienced contradictions between the material and the actual state of connections women have with others. This may be a step towards closing the gap between the cultural and radical feminists theories.

I was asked by Ben on Thursday if, as a mother, did I agree with the general thoughts of the connection thesis and separation thesis? In part, I do. I also believe that for whatever reason there may be, it goes both ways. A man may not be able to carry a child and give birth, but through his own cultural and/or family upbringing or even though his own choices, he can parent children just as many women do knowing that raising a child takes much more than covering the financial costs involved. As for women, there are some who just know they do not want to have children. Despite what society thinks a woman's role is or a man's role, it is the individual who really needs to listen to themselves and do what's best for them.

In regards to feminist jurisprudence vs modern or masculine jurisprudence, according to the Rule of Law, masculine jurisprudence does not value connectedness/intimacy but separation/autonomy. Masculine/modern jurisprudence is about men, not women(pg.60).

The author has closed the article with a view of re-constructive feminist jurisprudence working towards a Utopian world-view of being.

blog 03 // legal approaches

What I gained the most out of the West reading was the exploration of how to handle contradictions. The reading built up to this great difference between cultural feminism and radical feminism, and approaches to feminist theory/activism that are incredibly conflicting in the ways that we use them. She brought them together, though, and really effectively so. While she uses legal terminology throughout the reading, it is still incredibly clear both in theory and practical usage when she explains how intimacy and invasion interact. Plainly, I think she sums it up best with, "Alternatively, we can start to think about the possibility that the contradiction in women's lives is experientially felt and materially based." (56) This specifically brought the issue back to a comprehensive reality, placing the theories we discussed in real terms.

Her solutions specifically entail the use of "unmasking" instances of invasion, which is a term I posted in the first week and could better understand the usefulness of in this context. I connected specifically with the description of her own experiences reading things like Dworkin and Gilligan, feeling the utter truth and power of each work. And, being able to pull from both approaches. This is something that I have felt frequently, most directly when I read Intercourse, but have never been able to explain so clearly. This, in turn, addresses my questions last week about the different approaches and how to understand them together, as well as how the shifts even take place.

Blog 3

Reading the Ginsburg article really helped me to better understand the equal treatment theory. The court case examples that she used, such as Weinberger vs. Wisenfield, really helped me to how the equal treatment theory comes into play in the law. It also helped to better understand terms such as strict scrutiny. Although I found it very informative, the Ginsburg article did no change my opinion on equal treatment theory. I share a similar opinion of the equal treatment theory as the cultural feminists as explained in the readings from the book. I feel that although the equal treatment idea helps women gain equal rights by law, it bases its whole idea on male norms. Also, the equal treatment theory assumes that all women are treaty equally and does not consider the many different experiences of different women around the world.
Although I found the MacKinnon article interesting, I think it complicated things for me rather than clarify them. The first half of the article was a little confusing for me. I don't really understand Marxist feminism and post-Marxist feminism. I thought the second half about rape and law was very interesting. MacKinnon talks about sexuality and gender in relation to rape. She talks a lot about heterosexuality, but she doesn't say anything about homosexuality. I was just wondering what MacKinnon or the law would have to say about men raping men or women raping women. I was also wondering what she would have to say about women who rape men. These were just some things that crossed my mind when I was reading. I also thought about marital rape. I would like to know what rape laws say about marital rape. It seems like marital rape is not part of rape laws. I think it would be interesting to read some rape laws to see what they say.
Reading the West article helped to better understand radical feminism. Before reading the West, I think I had a basic understanding of radical feminism as wanting to change the whole system, but I did not really understand radical feminist views on specific topics such as sex and pregnancy. I now understand that radical feminists view intercourse and pregnancy as invasions of the body. Even though I can see where they are coming from, I guess I don't agree with most of what radical feminists say. I can see how they would consider intercourse to be an invasion of the body, but I'm not share about a fetus. I think it would be helpful to read more about radical feminism and their views on these topics. I found the cultural feminists arguments about connection very interesting. I think that I agree with most of what they are saying, but I think they fail to consider women who do not have children, women who adopt, and women who do not grow up with a mother. Also, I don't think I agree with the way cultural feminists paint men. It seems as if they believe all men have a fear of intimacy. I think West should consider the fact that some men have no problem with intimacy.

Week 3 Blog

In my first blog entry, one of the phrases that needed more clarification, for me, was cultural feminists. I was confused with what exactly their argument was, but from these weeks readings, this was clarified. I understand now that cultural feminists take into account the biological differences between men and women and use these differences to argue in the accommodation of women's needs and rights. Now that I further understand this term, I do not agree with their overall arguments and evidence offered to support it. For example, they suggest that since women are biologically built to carry and birth children that they should be accommodated by legal and social means (i.e. maternity leave, medical benefits, etc.) I understand the logic behind this argument, but what is lost on me is the evaluation, then of people who identify not as strictly a women or a man. And, if someone does identify as a woman, but chooses not to ever have children (or biologically cannot,) where does that leave them? Would the laws simply cease with these women and therefore lead them to have fewer rights? In my opinion, there are too many gapping holes that need to be filled with explanations behind the use of gender norms here (women and men), and where other genders stand in this type of feminism.
Even though new questions have been raised, I do have a further understanding of this concept because of this weeks reading and class discussion.

In my week two blog, I related cultural feminism to critical race feminism. I still believe that these two relate in terms of taking into account the intersectionality that arises from gender relating to other aspects of a woman's life, but once again, this is problematic. West states,
". . . women's ways of knowing are more "integrative" than men's; women's aesthetic and critical sense is "embroidered" rather than "laddered;" women's psychological development remains within the sphere of "attachment" rather than "individuation" (West 17).
With this being said, cultural feminism is presented as labeling women with this different lifestyle then men that is innate. This makes me wonder then if in cultural feminism, can men ever be victimized or blamed by society? Or, are men in constant control because of some biological and social fix? Are women the only gender in society that has an "integrative" way of understanding? West further clarifies their argument here, but I see more holes in their argument as my understanding on cultural feminism becomes greater.

Week 3 Blog Assignment

The articles by Ginsburg, West and MacKinnon that we read last week and this week elaborate on equal rights, cultural, and radical feminist approaches to using the law to address gender inequality. I would like you to revisit your blog posts for the first and second weeks of class in light of these readings. What questions that you posed were answered by these readings? Have your opinions of these approaches changed or not, and why? What new questions arise in light of the arguments these authors make? As you consider these questions, keep in mind the aspects of the readings that I asked you to focus on: the argument, the evidence offered in support, criticisms that the author addresses, and what the author wants her readers to do next.

Suggested length: 150-200 word