At the University of Baltimore’s second annual Feminist Legal Theory conference in March 2009, Mae Quinn, Jennifer Hendricks and Karla McKanders did a fantastic workshop on creating space for feminist scholarship. They encouraged all of us to be audacious (in the way that men sometimes are, women less frequently so) about getting our scholarship out into the world. At that workshop, they presented the results of Minna Kotkin’s article on the dearth of women to be found in top journals. Kotkin’s results have been borne out over the past several weeks here at FLP, as largely estrogen free masthead after masthead from the top journals has been posted.
Which brings me to this post. I am audacious about many things, but not about my work. I am a terrible self-promoter; my letters to law review editors about why they should publish my work are underwhelming and I badly need tutoring in this area. But the combination of the workshop and the mastheads have spurred me to post here, for all of you, the link to my latest article. I’m posting in part to thank the editors of the Florida State University Law Review for accepting an article that has feminism in the title (bad enough that it was written by a woman!) And I’m posting in part because I care what this community thinks about my work and want your feedback. Unless it’s negative, of course.
If you read it, let me know what you think. If you don’t, appreciate that I’m trying to be audacious and that there are law reviews out there that will publish feminist scholarship written by women (because I have the sneaking suspicion that if a man wrote about feminism, he might make it into one of those estrogen-free zones nonetheless).
Here’s the abstract for Autonomy Feminism: An Anti-Essentialist Critique of Mandatory Interventions in Domestic Violence Cases:
In the 1970s and 80s, feminists led the way in crafting and advocating for policies to address domestic violence in the United States – and those feminists got it wrong. Desperate to find some way to force police to treat assaults against spouses as they would strangers, the battered women’s movement seized on the idea of mandatory arrest – relieving police of discretion and requiring them to make arrests whenever probable cause existed. But mandatory arrest also removed discretion from the women that the policy purported to serve, a trend that has come to characterize domestic violence law and policy. Later policy choices, like no drop prosecution and bans on mediating in domestic violence cases, are similarly marked by their denial of decisionmaking to women who have been battered. Domestic violence law and policy prioritizes the goals of policy makers and battered women’s advocates – safety and batterer accountability – over the goals of individual women looking for ways to address the violence in their relationships. The shift of decisionmaking authority has profoundly negative implications for the autonomy of women who have been battered and reflects the influence of dominance feminism on the battered women’s movement. This article argues that the time has come to shift the lens through which we view domestic violence law and policy from dominance feminism to anti-essentialist feminism, allowing us to see how problematic mandatory policies are and helping us to craft domestic violence law and policy that honors the goals and priorities of women who have been battered.