Rebecca Tushnet is a professor of law at Georgetown University. She obtained her J.D. at Yale Law School in 1998, where she was an editor of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism and an articles editor of the Yale Law Journal. During her summers at Yale, Professor Tushnet worked for the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy and for Bredhoff & Kaiser, a labor law firm. After graduating, she clerked for Chief Judge Edward R. Becker of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and for Associate Justice David H. Souter. She practiced intellectual property law at Debevoise & Plimpton, then taught at NYU for two years before moving to Georgetown.
Professor Tushnet has published many interesting articles, including “Rules of Engagement” (Yale L.J. 1998), which addressed the law governing engagement rings. The Supreme Court of Montana later relied on the note to reject the modern rule that a woman always has to return the ring after a broken engagement, on the grounds that the rule was rooted in discriminatory attitudes.
Professor Tushnet answered these questions for FeministLawProfs:
â€¢How does feminism influence your teaching/ scholarship/service?
Pervasively, I hope. I think of my work as focusing on how ordinary people experience the law, or fields regulated by the law, like trademark, copyright and advertising law. Feminism asks us to examine the effects of formally neutral rules on real people in practice, and I try to apply that to intellectual property. My work on fan fictionis an example of looking at a predominantly female creative practice for lessons for the law. I’m also very proud of my recent article on sex, gender, and fair use in copyright law.
I am very privileged in other ways, and feminism encourages me to pay attention to those privileges as I try to teach a diverse group of students.
â€¢What are you working on now?
My major project is an analysis of false advertising law from the perspective of First Amendment doctrine, but without the usual assumption in free speech literature that the First Amendment has it right and that most restrictions on speech are illegitimate. I’m also working on articles on trademark dilution, the right of attribution in copyright, and teaching intellectual property with audiovisual materials.
â€¢ Could you recommend at least one book/article/theorist to law students who are interested in feminism’s relationship to the law?
Catharine MacKinnon’s Feminism Unmodified. Disagree or agree with her (and there’s plenty of room for both), MacKinnon’s work is required reading for anyone who wants to understand American feminist jurisprudence. It is also a stellar example of powerful rhetoric, and has a lot to teach about persuasive speech.
-Bridget Crawford and Amanda Kissel