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LWSO 201 Lecture Notes - Tax Deduction, Androcentrism, 3 Women

Law and Society
Course Code
LWSO 201
Marywyatt Sindlinger

of 4
Feminist Legal Theories
1) Feminist Legal Theories
i) Links the material conditions of women’s existence with the idea that the law
both constructs and maintains those conditions
ii) Historical position of women as property of men
iii) Push for formal equality for women
2) Broad Themes
a) Equality – originally mostly formal equality but later also substantive equality
b) Androcentric nature of law –law reflects male culture and ways of doing things
and trivializes important aspects of female experience
c) Questioning whether the law is neutral, objective or rational
3) Critiques:
a) Backlash effect – over exaggeration of the assumption of male dominance
b) Need to look at oppression of men as well
4) Readings:
a) Women’s Rights as Human Rights
i) Violence against women results from and is enabled by structural
relationships of power, domination and privilege between men and women
b) Feminist (Mis)Use of the Public/Private Dichotomy in Nixon v. Rape Relief
ii) The public private dichotomy
233. Infanticide
233. A female person commits infanticide when by a wilful act or omission she causes the death
of her newly-born child, if at the time of the act or omission she is not fully recovered from the
effects of giving birth to the child and by reason thereof or of the effect of lactation consequent
on the birth of the child her mind is then disturbed.
Feminist Legal Theories
• theories of law from a feminist perspective
• and how the law links the material conditions of women's existence with the idea that law both
maintains and constricts those conditions
• makes a link b/w law and those circumstances in life
• basic idea: for most of NA law has been dominated by men (enforced, enacted and interpreted)
• another basic idea: men have done that to the benefit of men and to the disadvantage of women
• make visible the invisible assumptions of legal systems
• History: 17 and 18 hundreds - women were property and existed as non wage earning labourers
(farm labour, wives)
• exchange of labour for subsistence and law facilitated that by denying women personhood, the
ability to enter employment contracts w/o men's consent, can't own property; therefore, can't get
wealth, no recognized legal custody of children, can't hold public office (be a jury), rape is
considered trespassing on someone's property
• early 1900's - right to vote and participate in elections, child custody
• 1929 - women became legal persons
• 1970 - rise of the feminist movement
• some girl - ideology of male supremacy - political and legal theory are male centred and say
that men are superior to women -> led to the rise of feminist movement
• negative aspects of laws on women - can't vote & own property, BUT ALSO benefits of
continuing those practices to men
• 1982 - Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms
• where it started - women wanted formal equality with men
• Now a days - set a standard
• the way that everyone should be - like men
• if women become like men and are treated like men
• why the male standard? why are women aspiring to be that?
• women - if they choose to be a stay at home — equal respect and worth for what they choose to
• 3 broad themes
• formal and substantive equality - looking at the law to see where the law promotes one or the
• ex. tax deduction (1990s) mom put children in care to find a job, and they said no you can't
claim that as a business expense (golf fees for man allowed to be a tax deduction)
• both go towards ability to succeed in your career
• now child care can be considered a business expense
• negligence law suit - two lawyers both injured in a car accident
• other driver must pay for what they have lost - negligent ( pay the man 100,000 and the woman
• reinforce inequality in society (woman will get less for damages because she EARNS less in
• do nothing — they didn't create the inequality
• use male actuary tables — all be compensated as if you were a male
• or take the average
• precedent system:
• androcentric nature of law
• law and legal system reflect the male culture and male ways of doing things
• law - conflict based system
• male based ways to solve a dispute - go in, argue and come out with a winner
• the way we DO law is a male perspective, not talking about it lalalal
• issues towards the women's side not taken seriously - police officers (female victims of sexual
• 10 to 12% are ever recorded to the police
• if you're not pure enough - "skirt is too short, heels too high" - less likely to believe you
• too calm, collective - you're not telling the truth because there's not enough panic
• too panicked - you're blowing it out of control
• systemic
• neutral, objective or rational
• looking at laws and the legal system as a whole
• feminists - law supports some aspects of life more than they do others
• ex. the reasonable man test
• appropriate response? apply the reasonable man test
• whose perspective should we take? particular perspective? what is reasonable?
• 1 - question why and how the rules promote male perspective over female (bring in a female
one and try to make it work)
• critiques
• 1 - backlash - over exaggeration of the assumption of male dominance
• 2 - men also suffer from patriarchy
• problem with essentialization - fem, theories have a tendency to treat all women and men the
• male perspective - what is it?
• women's rights as Human Rights
• 1rst and 2nd generation rights
• 1rst - political , most easily enforced
• 2nd - right to food, shelter, water (less widely accepted as human rights and not as easily
• this represents an androcentric point of view b/c voting and all that is male realm and second is
realm of women around the world
• women declaration - food and shelter would be more important