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Response to Week 6 Blog-Ben's Midterm paper

Neat Ben. I am doing the same topic and my areas of focus are pretty similar to yours.

Mid-Term Project Topic

I will be writing a paper on the legal definitions of erotica and pornography, and touch on the reasoning behind the pro and anti feminist pornography movement.

Blog 6

Some of the other schools of feminist thought that we have looked at this semester are similar to postmodern legal feminist theory. Postmodern legal feminist theorists reject the idea that all women possess similar traits or that all women have the same experiences. This idea is similar to the beliefs of pragmatic feminist legal theorists and critical race feminists. Pragmatic feminists believe in embracing the views of subordinate and oppressed women. Matsuda writes that a "pragmatist says, 'listen hard. Consider all possibilities. In meeting other cultures and world views, try to enter them and to know them before judging them" (Matsuda 1777). This statement clearly shows that pragmatists believe in considering women from all walks of life and thinking about their situation before making any assumptions. Similarly, critical race feminists believe that we must look at all aspects of a person's identity. The chapter on different feminist legal theories in the book Feminist Legal Theories describes the views of critical race feminists by saying that "discrimination works differently depending on a person's combination of personal characteristics...it is the intersection of characteristics like sex, race, wealth, and sexual orientation the really suggest how people treat you" (Levit and Verchick 26). They believe we cannot just look at a gender group such as women, but we must look at other categories as well. Critical race feminist and postmodern feminists also possess another similarity; they both do not support the idea of biological differences. Frug writes calls the view of "male and female sexual identities as anatomically determined and psychologically predictable" inconsistent (1046). This is similar to the views of critical race feminists on biological characteristics. They believe that the "traits that define races are not biological or genetic categories with much scientific significance" (Levit and Verchick 28). Clearly, postmodern legal feminists, pragmatic feminists, and critical reac feminists also share the same disapproval for essentialism.

Comparing Postmodernism to other Legal Feminist Approaches

The postmodern feminist approach to legal thinking seems to me to share with both lesbian feminism and feminist pragmatism in that all three are concerned with how identity is constituted and the implications of unity and difference in identity for crafting law. They diverge in how they believe we should interact with identity.

Frug focuses in her work on identifying the ways in which law, rather than simply negotiating objective facts about the reality of groups of people, is actually implicated in the creation of those same distinct groups of people. In example, our society generally accepts the idea that being maternal is a distinguishing quality of the category "women", but part of the reason women are viewed this way is because the structure of law deliberately encourages women to be the primary child caregivers. For Frug, the solution is to challenge the manner in which law essentializes groups of people.

Robson is similarly concerned about the construction of identity in general, and through the mechanism of law in particular. This is evidenced by her discussion of what identity as a Lesbian means - who is excluded and who is included? She explores Rule 23 and class action suits for a similar reason. She finds hope in the terms by which these suits group people together and allow for their representation, serving as both an example of postmodern multiplicity while at the same time allowing for categorization necessary in moving forward with legal cases.

Matsuda, in defense of pragmatism, takes the same concerns of Frug but reaches a very different conclusion. She views categorization as necessary in our understanding of our world and in grasping the consequences of law. Yet for Matsuda, the solution to the problem of essentialism often inherent in the creation of categories (which postmodernism criticizes) is to focus on the intersections of identities and the ways in which oppressed people have analyzed their own oppression.

Week 6: Comparison

I think that this is a particularly a difficult question to answer. The main problem is that postmodern legal feminism tries to be different from preceding theories. By trying to be "non-essentialist", it almost has to deny the plausibility of other theories.
For instance, the anti-pornography stance is not entirely defendable from a postmodernist standpoint, because you first have to lay out a couple of maxims that I'm not entirely sure that a postmodernist would be comfortable with:
1) Pornography, in and of itself, is universally immoral/evil
2) Objectification of the human body is inherently wrong
3) Pornography affects everyone through the culture it develops

So it would seem that cultural feminism has the most in common with postmodernism, in that regard. Again, there is the issue that cultural feminism has to have some universals laid out, because in order to defend its (cultural feminism) position there are assumptions of common experiences.
What would best tie these two theories together is the usage of storytelling. There seems to be a good mixture of individual experience, implied commonality, and a need for the ability to understand subtext.
But this week's question seems to be concerned with the practicality of these various theories, to which I could not honestly answer. The problem with rejecting total objectivity is that there is no way to make sure that "justice" is distributed evenly if all evidence is unique, as well as all judgments and judges.

W6: Postmodern Feminism Compared

Postmodern feminism shares certain aspects of intent with some of our previously researched theories, but I believe the philosophy of approach is unique. I would argue that the fundamental anti-essentialism (especially when Frug references gender, sex and encoding the female body) of postmodern feminism goes even further in rejecting an essentialist view than have critical race or lesbian feminism.

Frug argues that language is the root of human experience, and the use of language determines how women are defined in a society. Because language is malleable, our world is susceptible to change. While I recognize that both pragmatic and postmodern feminists believe in the importance of language, I feel they approach it with different intentions. Pragmatic theorists see language as a tool with which to convey experiences, as in the case of story telling. Rhetoric serves to facilitate individual understanding of differences, inequalities, and political power. Postmodern feminists see language as almost an independent agent that society (by harnessing it's power) is able to use to subjugate women. If women realize this, and recognize the power within language, they can take control and reshape their world using the same techniques.

Equal rights feminism holds that the language of the law must be changed to create literal equality. Substantive equality, presumably, follows. The comparison lies in equal rights feminism's perceived need to change the language of the law, and postmodern feminism's idea of malleable language. While both of these underlying attitudes towards action may present with certain similarities, postmodern feminism deviates in its anti-essentialist theory, and rejection of gendered roles.

Radical feminism would agree with postmodern feminism that inequality and gender roles are pervasive in society, and shape the hierarchy of equality. Radical feminism might agree that there is a role that language has played in creating present inequalities.
However, I would question whether or not postmodern feminism would condone the radical view that a new social system needs to be started from scratch, and that the old system should be completely abolished. Postmodern belief in language as a tool for effecting change within existing structures might negate this need.

Postmodern feminism would be in agreement with dominance theory. At least, they would consent mainly in cases where subjective viewpoints elucidate how and why one comes to be dominated. Postmodern feminism can complement difference theory, like how a more female orientated writing can be celebrated over male dominance language. Pragmatism would relate well with postmodern feminism. Though, I wonder if all theories would relate well with pragmatism.

Pragmatism might be universal enough to encompass most, if not all, feminist theories. The main idea of pragmatism suggests that one can use it mostly universally. Margaret Jane Radin in FLT says that in using pragmatism, "We must confront each dilemma separately and choose the alternative that will empowerment the least and further it the most (34)." The core problems of pragmatic feminism, that it's short-sighted, tentative, and lacks concrete legal solutions, are all criticizing a form of pragmatism that doesn't agree with the foundation of pragmatism.

The problem with the interpretations of pragmatism is that it presumes that if we don't know every single detail of something, it's more practical to do nothing. Pragmatism encourages one to choose the better alternative in the matter of the current situation. What is deemed as the current situation is unjustifiably decided arbitrarily. Pragmatism doesn't have to be tentative. If one can reasonably say that implementing a more universal theory might improve a situation, then pragmatism encourages more universal theories. Even if one isn't sure, one can argue that pragmatism encourages testing out implementing universal theories in certain situations. In this light, it's very agreeable when Matsuda says that "pragmatism as a method is valuable as a method to an end, and the end of all human striving is justice (1769)."

blog 06 // postmodernism & co.

When thinking about postmodern feminism in conjunction with other feminist thought, I feel like the underlying force of radical feminism is startlingly similar. Both focus on power, though they might measure power differently. They, similarly, both explicitly address the subordination present through power dynamics, and I think that they each have the capacity to address that theory through individual interactions as well as power on the structural level.

The Matsuda reading frequently referenced postmodern feminist approaches to feminist legal theory, and together with pragmatism, established the ways that I think many of the approaches work together. For example, Matsuda pressed the question on page 1769, "Can one deconstruct law and use law at the same time?" Which I think is a really relevant question for many leftist ideological approaches. On the next page, though, she stated "The method of holding truth provisional does not, for me, mean there is no truth, no justice." This is personally what brought postmodernism back to our other feminist legal theories, down from this "perception is reality" separation.

With that background, I thought about the ways that postmodern feminism would or would not have worked with the anti-pornography battle. In an ideal situation, I think that postmodernist thinking might have illustrated the ways that pornography affects women. For example, a key argument was that it is precisely how women perceive pornography that makes it violent specifically to women (while in many cases it IS literally violent), and postmodernism addresses that value of construction and perception as reality.

Blog 6

As far as post modern feminisim goes, I do not think that it would have changed the anti-pornography battle because our government and country is ran by men and the pornography industry is perdominately ran by men, so it will never go away just by a small group of feminist women who feel that it is wrong. Because for them it is taking money out of their pocket.

In terms of post modern feminism, I did see a commonality with pragmatic feminism. Obviously, there will be minor overlaps and differences, but what I saw between the two was an emphasis on rhetoric and the power of the words. With pragmatic feminism, there is an understanding of someone having knowledge that you have never been exposed to before, Matsuda writes, "In my work I strive to learn from those who have access to a world I do not know, a world I cannot hope to imagine in full and telling detail (1766). Matsuda emphasizes the importance of every woman's differences and the elements that they bring to the table. With post modern emphasis, the one unique belief is the emphasis of sex being a socially constructed identity and therefore, is something that women as a whole cannot fully understand since it is the individual (and the individual's stories) that are unique. With pragmatic feminism, there is a lack of "access" to a person's perspectives, beliefs, understandings, etc. because of the individual identities we possess. With post modern, it is similar in regards to the lack of full knowledge, that we are never quite sure of the exact meaning behind a gender, a word, etc. Both are open to interpretation by the intrinsic differences that make up each of us.

With post modern feminism and radical feminism, there were some overlaps in arguments as well. Radical feminism views women as lacking any power within the current system. Post modern feminism sees society as putting restrictions on how women express themselves, speak to one another, etc. mainly through verbal communication. Language is open to interpretation (and always has been) according to post modern feminists, but this very nature of language can be damaging to women. Radical feminists would agree, for example, with the words used to describe women as being all derogatory, but paraded around the patriarchal world we currently live in as being socially permitted. Rhetoric is an important tool for feminism, but because of it's constant interpretation, can be dangerous as well.

Lastly, I will discuss post modern feminism and critical race theory. Critical race theory is concerned with the social construction of race; the direct influence that race has on an individual's role in society (specifically within a legal setting.) With post modern feminism, Frug emphasizes that sex is not biologically innate or natural, but something that is upholded and constructed by individuals. In regards to this perspective, critical race theory is similar in its perspective that race is a very important factor (in terms of marginalization of a group), but it something that should not be biologically defined according to legal proceedings. Society puts the emphasis on both race and gender, but both schools of thought see these as socially constructed fixtures that are used to define and encompass individuals, a very treacherous perspective.

Postmodern Feminism

I personally don't believe post-modern feminism would have influenced the anti-pornography debate, except to make it more muddled. Postmodern feminism seems to rely on not using classifications or solid definitions, thus opening it up to a wide, disorganized melange of ideas that differ based from proponent to proponent.

Additionally, due to the arcane nature of postmodern feminism in general, it would give the movement as a whole a aura of intractability and alienation, leading others to spur it for it's heavy intellectualism.

Blog 6

Matsuda's take on pragmatism, first of all, is much less proactive than she alludes to. Her modified pragmatism theory lacks any solid plan of action. She brings up seeking justice and truth from subordinated groups but never speaks of where to go after that. Also, to an extent, I agree with her that categorization can be useful but she contradicts herself when she initially speaks of pluralism and intersectionality. Then in closing says that she wants to listen to all - insert subordinated group - but is especially interested in the group within that group that is self organized. To me, this is not taking advantage of groups; it is taking preference to them and denying the individuality she initially emphasizes. When compared to Equal Rights Theory, I think her theory is incompatible as it involves pluralism, attention to individuals, consciousness raising in search for self knowledge and the rejecting of a Truth. However, what it turns into is essentialist but emphasized to the point that I don't believe it could serve a pragmatic purpose. The emphasis on groups and labels paired with a lack of a clear cut plan of action makes her argument compatible with Equal Rights Theory feminism.

Postmodern feminism, as Frug discusses, I think could have to an extent helped the course of the anti-pornography campaign. Frug's main criticism's surround the campaign's emphasis on dichotomies both in the style in the campaign support and language used. Frug calls the campaign "gendered" (1073) and also points out that the campaign used normative speech surrounding sex instead of actively asserting and challenging those norms. Frug calls the campaign "dichotomized" and oversimplified (1074). Postmodern feminists attempt to deconstruct social norms, hierarchies and polarized gender norms. I don't believe Postmodern feminism is particularly useful outside academia but if some of its techniques would have incorporated I think the ordinance may have turned out differently but would have at least received a different reaction.

In Critical Race Theory (CRT), storytelling is a device used by, in this case oppressed women, to bring attention, specifically legal attention, to the realities of woman's lives. The belief is that these stories, or narratives, humanize the experience and make it more 'real' to the legal circuit. Frug discusses the historical and social contexts that define and inscribe women's bodies. Frug's article focuses on the way in which our legal system creates and reinforces the meaning and implications of woman. Her emphasis on the legal system's power which is imposed on the rest of society as well is based on the same idea as CRT's. One goal of CRT's storytelling is to bring to attention the ways in which individuals are affected by their own separate contexts. While CRT and Frug focus on different sources of this effect, the conclusion is the same; women's lives and bodies are inscribed with meanings that are imposed upon them by societal influences. Story telling is a tool to bring this phenomenon to surface and Frug attempts to uncover these effects by deconstructing these effects focusing on the historical and specific contexts that women are shaped by and enforced by law. Both use their own tools to bring attention to the oppression of women and its hidden complexities.

Week 6 Blog

As we wrap up the unit on feminist legal theory, I'd like you to address a question from Thursday's class: what other schools of feminist thought share characteristics of postmodern legal feminism? Which approaches that we have studied seem most compatible? For example, could postmodernist feminism have changed the course of the anti-pornography battle, as Frug suggested? How does the emphasis on storytelling in critical race theory relate to the emphasis on historical specificity and encoding that Frug discussed? Is the pragmatic approach that Matsuda critiques compatible with equal rights feminism and it's focus on eliminating barriers to legal equality?

You do not need to address all of these questions and theoretical approaches, but I'd like you to consider the interactions between at least three areas of feminist legal theory.

Suggested length: 175-200 words

Week 6 Blog

As we wrap up the unit on feminist legal theory, I'd like you to address a question from Thursday's class: what other schools of feminist thought share characteristics of postmodern legal feminism? Which approaches that we have studied seem most compatible? For example, could postmodernist feminism have changed the course of the anti-pornography battle, as Frug suggested? How does the emphasis on storytelling in critical race theory relate to the emphasis on historical specificity and encoding that Frug discussed? Is the pragmatic approach that Matsuda critiques compatible with equal rights feminism and it's focus on eliminating barriers to legal equality?

You do not need to address all of these questions and theoretical approaches, but I'd like you to consider the interactions between at least three areas of feminist legal theory.

Suggested length: 175-200 words