Marcia L. McCormick is an associate professor at Samford University, Cumberland School of Law. Her undergraduate education was at Grinnell College, where she majored in philosophy with a focus on postmodern and feminist thinkers. Her law degree is from the University of Iowa, where she served as a managing editor for the Iowa Law Review and was named Outstanding Woman Law Graduate. Professor McCormick began her legal career as a staff attorney with the International Human Rights Law Institute where she directed analysis and research of allegations of sexual violence committed during the war in what was then Yugoslavia. She then went to the Illinois Attorney General’s office where she litigated civil appeals in state and federal courts. She left the Illinois Attorney General’s office to join the faculty at Chicago Kent and recently moved to Cumberland. Professor McCormick recently answered a few questions for FeministLawProfs.
FLP: How does feminism influence your teaching/scholarship/service?
MM: Feminism really is so much a part of the way that I think, teach, and write, that it’s difficult for me to see how it influences my work. I teach Federal Courts, Employment Law, Civil Rights, and Criminal Law. In each of those classes, I get students to explore their assumptions about gender, behavior, rights, privileges, class, and the power of law. I have written about how the structure of legal institutions promotes (or fails to promote) civil rights and equality. In terms of service, because I am an outspoken and self-identified feminist, I’ve been appointed to the main university’s diversity committee, and at the law school I’ve served on the admissions committee, hiring committee, and policy committee, which is sort of an executive committee that vets issues before bringing them to the whole faculty.
FLP: Has feminism reached the limits of what it can accomplish via the law? Should feminists focus on issues other than the law (i.e., culture, youth education, etc.)?
MM: I wouldn’t say that feminism has reached the limits of what it can accomplish through the law, necessarily, but I do think that lasting change requires a significant culture shift, and so law and other methods of change must work together. In line with that, Cassandra Adams, one of my colleagues, and I started a discussion group this year to explore issues of race and gender in a safe and more loosely structured format than the usual law school class. Learning to reflect is critical for individual growth, but it’s also essential for social change. Research in a wide variety of disciplines shows that reflection is the only way to remove biases and to fundamentally change patterns of behavior. And so each person in the group who develops better skills of reflection can take those skills and influence others that they meet in the future to do the same thing. And just as importantly, the members of the group take those skills into their practice, which I hope makes them better able to serve the traditionally underserved and to advance the law.
FLP: Could you recommend at least one book/article/theorist to law students who are interested in feminism’s relationship to the law?
MM: I see that other people have suggested some of the great books and thinkers. Catharine MacKinnon, Robin West and bell hooks are certainly essential. But there is a British sociologist named Carol Smart who I would also highly recommend. She has written a number of books, and”Feminism and the Power of Law”is a must-read.
– Bridget Crawford and Amanda Kissel