Live Blog Report: Law, Culture and Humanities

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I am at the Law, Culture, and the Humanities conference this weekend. The conference is being co-sponsored by UC-Berkeley and San Francisco State University, and it is being held at Boalt Hall (i.e., what is now being referred to as the”UC-Berkeley School of Law”).

This morning I attended a very interesting session titled”Social Justice Feminism: Words, Movements, Theory, and Practice.”Feminist Law Profs Verna Williams and Kristin Kalsem (both of the University of Cincinnati:notwithstanding SSRN’s insistence that Kristin is”unaffiliated”) presented a paper that they are working on together. The paper is titled”Social Justice Feminism: History and Principles”: an abstract and a copy of the paper can be viewed/downloaded from SSRN here. In their presentation, they described the principles of social justice feminism and its methodologies, using the U.S. Supreme Court’s generally overlooked decision in Long Island Care at Home v. Coke as an example. The presentation, which included video clips from the 1977 National Women’s Conference, was quite interesting, and the paper promises to be very interesting.

After this first session, I was on a panel with Bennett Capers (Hofstra), who presented a paper titled”Cross-Dressing and the Criminal”(available here). This presentation was fascinating because Bennett didn’t talk about the criminalization of cross-dressing, but about how cross-dressing can be used as a metaphor in criminal law. He suggested that judges, prosecutors, and jury members question the bases for their decisions by imagining whether they would come to the same decision were the defendant of a different race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. One of my other co-panelists, Anne Bloom (McGeorge) had a great paper titled”The Regulation of Sexual Identity in Tort Law,”which examines the role of tort law in enforcing and reproducing cultural/legal norms that determine sexual identity. In her talk, Anne had some quite interesting things to say about this issue in the area of products liability and, particularly, as it relates to breast implant litigation. My last co-panelist was Hadar Aviram (Hastings), who presented a paper with the catchy title”Geeks, Goddesses, Leather and Heinlein: Political Mobilization and the Cultural Locus of the Polyamorous Community in the San Francisco Bay Area.”She described the results of her interviews with members of that community and some of the conclusions that she drew from her research.

In the afternoon, I made it to the panel where Feminist Law Prof Darren Rosenblum (Pace) was presenting his paper titled”Unsexing CEDAW.”His paper, which argues that the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women should not focus on”women”as such and treat them as a discrete and insular minority, but should instead focus on gender and cover both men and women, generated quite a bit of discussion in the room.

I’ll try to blog from the conference again tomorrow.

-Anthony C. Infanti

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0 Responses to Live Blog Report: Law, Culture and Humanities

  1. LB says:

    I happened to read the Williams & Kalsem article this week on SSRN and thought it was fabulous. I recommended it to several students already. I encourage others to read it. Thank you, Professors Williams and Kalsem, for reviving a herstory that needs to be told.
    One of their theses is that feminist movement/activism/scholarship has been dedicated to social justice concerns at least for the last 30 years (supporting this claim with detailed evidence of the platforms and processes from the Houston Conference of 1977). Their careful scholarship reminds us how easily important feminist hertories get lost if we don’t work every day to preserve them and keep their stories in the public. The dominant “public” rhetoric that continues to caricature feminism as a white, middle-to-upper class enterprise rooted in demands for “formal equality” and legal liberalism is designed to divide-and-conquer and defeat feminist struggle for social justice. Williams and Kalsem help us see how distorted that story is.
    My only suggestion for their paper or for another scholar who might want to follow up on it would be to highlight the role of the media in distorting public perceptions and rhetoric about feminism by deliberately silencing these stories. It breaks my heart that my students come to law school in 2008 believing that feminism is a special interest group for privileged white women who have ignored any concerns but their own exclusions from positions of power in business and politics. Unless a student specifically takes courses in feminism or women’s studies, s/he is likely to have this view of femnism. If we need to put the words “social justice” before feminism to convince people about who we are and what we have been working for for at least the last 30 years, then I am happy to do it. I worry, however, that unless we figure out how to prevent popular media from continuing to disempower feminist struggle by distorted dominant constructions of our work, even with the social justice label we will be undermined.