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Carleton University
LAWS 2301
Ronald Saunders

Criminal JusticePage 59119 not 798524 Feminist Perspectives on Criminal LawForeword The Meaning of Gender Equality in Criminal LawFeminist theorizing has grappled with describing the nature of differences between men and women and identifying the relationship of these differences to gender equalityThe difference approach emphasizing gender disparities and advocates different treatment sometimes called special protection for women The sameness approach minimizes the differences between the sexes and advocates the same treatment for men and women based on gender neutrality Proponents of the sameness approach fear that acknowledging gender differences in power or biology perpetuates negative female stereotypes and rolesDefining gender equality as similar treatment causes people to perceive some efforts to protect women from sexual coercion as paternalismThis definition of equality also sees paternalism in efforts to recognize criminal womens distinct situations in determining their culpability or punishment Other feminists demonstrated that the very framing of the equality inquiry in terms of sameness and difference ignored an underlying male standard as well as the systematic subordination of womenThey reconceived gender equality as a question of the distribution of power rather than the differences between the sexes The path to gender equality does not lie in either ignoring or glorifying innate differences between men and women It lies in eradicating societys use of gender differences to keep women in an inferior political statusFeminists examining criminal law should be concerned with uncovering the ways that the criminal law contributes to womens deprivation by continuing to reflect and protect patriarchal interests The ultimate goal is not simply to remove the aspects that disadvantage women but to describe s feminist vision of criminal justice It is essential to acknowledge the power differences between men and women and then work to eliminate them Two additional features are critical to the feminist pursuit of gender equality in criminal lawFirst it must recognize that race and class help to determine the criminal laws treatment of female victims of crimeThe social meaning of rape in America has centered on a mythology that defines black women as sexual objectsWhite mens sexual exploitation of black women during and after slavery was an instrument of white supremacy as well as male dominationRace and class also influence the criminal laws treatment of female law breakers The punishment of criminal mothers reflects societys differentiation of mothers based on race and classProsecutions of drug use during pregnancy target poor black women because these women are subject to greater government supervision and fail to meet the white middle class ideal of motherhoodAchieving gender equality in criminal law requires eliminating racism and class bias from criminal law Second feminists should do more than simply reveal discrimination against or preferential treatment towards women in the governments enforcement of criminal lawThey should also reveal the inequality that is embedded in the very definition of crimean inequality which reinforces prevailing relationships of powerLaws criminalizing maternal conduct for example help to shape the very meaning of motherhoodLaws that punish mothers for failing to protect their children from anothers abuse often enforce a subordinating image of mothers as selfless beingsCourts often hold women responsible for harm to their children based on their role as mother rather than the particular circumstances of the violenceAchieving gender equality in criminal law requires uprooting patriarchal views of women at many levelsFeminist Challenge to the Study of JusticeThere are predominantly three approaches that systematically explore the nature of patriarchal relations to develop general theories of womens oppressionThe first is liberal feminism which views patriarchy primarily as operating through the unfair rules and practices of gender stereotyping which perpetuate sexrole dualisms throughout society and disadvantage womenLiberals believe that these rules governing society are based on mistaken or outmoded ways of thinkingBecause they view rules themselves as inherently neutral liberals do not challenge the rules themselves but rather emphasize the need for their reform Radical feminists on the other hand associate patriarchal rules directly with the interests of men This is because they equate patriarchy with the benefits that men derive from the appropriation of womens sexuality and procreative laboursThis appropriation occurs through heterosexual relations especially those within the familyFrom this perspective patriarchy benefits men both individually and collectively making it unlikely that they will relinquish privileges
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