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“Will Feminist Judges Really Make a Difference?”

Bridget J. Crawford &  Anthony C. Infanti, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Tax Opinions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Feminist judgments projects originate in Canada.1 The initial Canadian project saw six equality decisions rewritten by ten women. The aim: to see if equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be interpreted and applied differently if feminists were authoring the decisions. Since that time, projects have proliferated, with volumes produced in England and Wales (Margaret Davies reviewed that volume in Jotwell in 2012), Australia, the United StatesIreland and Northern Ireland, and Aotearoa New Zealand. The Canadians enjoy the exercise of rewriting equality judgments enough to have offered a second cluster of decisions last year.2 And new volumes are expected from jurists in AfricaIndia, and on International Law.

The first volume of American re-writes focused on decisions of the US Supreme Court. Surprising only to people who do not teach tax, the next volume of American re-writes takes up tax opinions. Released on December 28, 2017, as an invitation to continue holiday festivities, a volume edited by Bridget Crawford and Anthony Infanti serves up a veritable buffet of delights.3 Eleven rewritten American tax opinions comprise the volume. Six are rewritten Supreme Court decisions, one if a rewritten federal circuit court opinion, and four are rewritten Tax Court opinions.

The end result is spectacular. I want to draw attention to two features in this short review. These features are not tied, given this more general audience, to the tax context of the decisions. That’s worth underlining: this is a volume that is worth reading for scholars in any area of law with an interest in feminist legal theory and practice and how feminists approach legal and factual questions.

First, and worth emulating, each judgment is preceded by a commentary. The commentaries are designed to set context for the judgment. The authors of the commentaries were charged with explaining the original court decision, identifying how the rewritten judgement varies from it, and articulating how the feminist approach may have led to a different result. This context allows a non-American, or non-tax reader to make sense of the decision that following, enhancing the potential audience for the decisions. It also liberates the authors of the judgments to focus on what a re-written judgment would look like, without also trying to signal how their decision is at variance with the original. The commentaries in this volume don’t serve as introductions or cheerleaders for the main event: they work collaborative with the re-written judgment in a duet.

Second, the decisions themselves serve as terrific source material. I could imagine a volume on this volume. The decisions allow us to ask questions like: What makes the decision feminist? If a judge adopts a feminist approach, what changes? Do they interpreting statutes differently? Weight facts in unexpected ways? Use different kinds of reference materials to support their reasoning? Situate the decision in different contexts? Do feminists bring different higher-order values to the exercise of making decisions in tax cases? Is their approach to judicial authorship different?

The judgments in this volume, set within the specificity of tax law, suggest the answer to these questions is “yes.”

  1. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 18, no. 1 (2006).
  2. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 30, no. 2 (2018).
  3. Bridget Crawford and Anthony Infanti, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Tax Opinions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Cite as: Kim Brooks, “Will Feminist Judges Really Make a Difference?”, JOTWELL (February 18, 2019) (reviewing Bridget J. Crawford &  Anthony C. Infanti, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Tax Opinions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017)),

Exclusionary Equality: France’s State-Feminism and Its Other Women

Darren Rosenblum, Sex Quotas and Burkini Bans92 Tul. L. Rev. 469 (2017).

Feminism in the Global North began as a critical social movement emphasizing the societal oppression and exclusion of women and the inadequacies of the patriarchal state. Since the 1960s, it has evolved into a fragmented constellation of groups and theoretical positions often with deep divergences and seemingly intractable disagreements. One of these disagreements has been about feminism’s relationship to the state. Some feminists have traditionally been uncomfortable with and wary of institutional political power. And for good reason. Alliances with a patriarchal state produces only limited success with considerable costs. Other feminists have taken the position that we must take what we can get. In order to improve the lives of women, we must engage the state—become insiders and change the structure from within.

Regardless of how feminists orient to the state, most commonly recognize that state-alliances invariably result in mixed results often with unintended and undesired consequences. Often the gains benefit elite women at the expense of minorities. Furthermore, engagement with the state and the use of state power can present problems if one takes the position that generally feminism is a politics and a project that promotes liberation and equality. For example, the critical feminist literature on mass incarceration points out that the use of criminal law and state apparatus has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of men of color. This has resulted in serious consequence for women by destroying many families and communities of color. Furthermore, gender neutral applications of criminal law have sometimes led to the policing of women themselves.1

Darren Rosenblum’s essay, Sex Quotas and Burkini Bans, is part of this critical literature raising important questions about feminist alliances with and uses of state power in France. Rosenblum’s article adds to the literature by exploring state uses of and, indeed, promulgation of a “state feminism.” Rosenblum traces the feminist movement for equal political representation (Parité). With the passage of Parité giving women a 50% quota, the state absorbed the “feminist interest in sex difference and women’s equality” making it a core state value. And then, as Rosenblum shows, these ideas “disappear in plain sight.” (P. 470.) The state, having incorporated a feminist position on equality, used it to exclude certain categories of women.

The central contribution of the essay is the juxtaposition of Muslim exclusion with elite/mainstream inclusion that demonstrates the way that a patriarchal state can (ab)use feminism. In this case, feminism comes in handy to discipline a beleaguered minority further marginalizing its women through the very language of equality and rights and the construction of freedom itself. The state, with the help of some prominent feminists (and feminist groups like Ni Poutes, Ni Soumises), established its feminist credibility through arguing that in order to achieve equality, Muslim women must be assisted out of their patriarchal religion, out of their seclusion behind the veil, and into the public sphere where they can be seen to participate.

According to the proponents of the veil ban, the law reflects a commitment to feminist principles. Of course, as Rosenblum notes, there were feminists on the other side of the debates on the headscarf as well. These outsider feminists pointed out the irony of being forced into the state’s notion of freedom and the oddity of having liberty defined and imposed. Muslim women are required to conform as a condition of belonging even while their unsurmountable difference is used to exclude them from the mainstream. “Unenumerated Muslim minorities remained subject to socio-economic exclusion and restrictions on their self-expression.” (P. 481.)

Having successfully absorbed and deployed the feminist arguments about Parité, the state then consolidated its commitment to what I would call “exclusionary equality.”

The CBQ’s [corporate board quota] passage marks a historical moment when feminist ideas of women’s inclusion became such a fundamental part of public norms that feminists were not needed to make the argument: it was feminist influence rather than feminist activism. As feminist ideas disappeared in plain sight with the veil and burqa debates, here they became intrinsic to the very definition of French democracy. After the CBQ, related regulations advanced sex equality throughout French elites in government, education, and other areas of society (P. 486.)

Politicians like Nicolas Sarkozy were able to assert their brand of feminism promoting women into the rarified circles of capitalist power while controlling the bodies of marginalized minority women “for their own good.” In other words, as Rosenblum shows, state feminism is used to legitimize both inclusion and exclusion in a coordinated double-move.

In the final section of the essay, Rosenblum connects the earlier arguments regarding the headscarf/burqa to the more recent attempts at banning the burkini. The state, now well practiced in the art of deploying feminist equality arguments, extended these to the burkini—a body-covering swim garment worn by a small minority of Muslim women beachgoers. The very substance and content of what it means to be a free French woman is determined by dominant franco-francais gender norms and performance. Both the state and the feminist proponents of Muslim dress bans came together to reprise the arguments about the meaning of the headscarf, the burqa, and the burkini. Resolving all longstanding debates among Muslims, they imposed their own meaning of these garments in essentialist and immutable terms: to cover is to be oppressed. For some feminists, the use of state power, the adoption, of feminism by the state was a victory in the march to women’s equality. But for those Muslim women who wear headscarves or burkas and on whose bodies the debates played out, it was not liberty or freedom that was experienced but oppression.

Rosenblum’s essay reminds us that there are costs when feminism becomes institutionalized and part of the state. State feminism has its own agenda that may reflect only a small, elite, set of feminist goals. And achieving these goals may exacerbate the divisions among different groups of women. In France, exclusionary equality benefits those who are already privileged while reinforcing the marginalization of  Muslim women. Rosenblum’s essay suggests that once entangled with the state, some forms of feminism can become the master’s tool for exclusion rather than inclusion and wielded against subordinated groups of women in a manner that is inconsistent with feminisms general ideals of equality and liberty.

  1. See generally, Leigh Goodmark, Decriminalizing Domestic Violence: A Balanced Policy Approach to Intimate Partner Violence (2018).
Cite as: Cyra Akila Choudhury, Exclusionary Equality: France’s State-Feminism and Its Other Women, JOTWELL (January 7, 2019) (reviewing Darren Rosenblum, Sex Quotas and Burkini Bans, 92 Tul. L. Rev. 469 (2017)),

Protecting the Intangible

The notion of property enshrined in the American legal system is a poor fit for what scholars have termed cultural property—tangible and intangible items of great importance to tribal cultural heritage. As Chante Westmoreland deftly reveals in her Note, An Analysis of the Lack of Protection for Intangible Tribal Cultural Property in the Digital Age, property law addresses only some of the concerns associated with cultural items of significance to tribes. Property law is designed to protect the object itself, but tribes are often concerned not only with an actual object, but also with the cultural and spiritual significance of the item. (In order to track Westmoreland’s own language, I will use the word “tribe” or “tribal” to refer to people indigenous to what is now the United States. Other scholars might use the words indigenous, Native American, Indian, or their variants. The choice of language is a vital conversation, but one I will not take up in this short review.)

Of particular importance today—when it sometimes seems that everyone wants to make everything available on the Internet—are the new problems associated with digitization of important tribal artifacts. Westmoreland offers a balanced account of the benefits and problems associated with digitization. On the one hand, digitization enables what some have called a “museum without walls”—an opportunity for anyone with an Internet connection to learn about tribal practices around the world. Such a virtual museum would benefit scholarly research and enhance understanding by laypeople. Moreover, digitization would help mitigate the risk of loss of irreplaceable cultural items in a natural disaster or a war. The recent fire at Brazil’s National Museum, which caused the tragic loss of many irreplaceable items, vividly illustrates the benefits of digitization. One researcher, a member of the Tenetehára-Guajajara tribe who had been studying his people’s heritage, offered a stark assessment: “It felt like a genocide.”

Yet digitization also opens the door to abuse. Commodification of sacred tribal objects has long been both commonplace and problematic. Troublingly, it has allowed non-members of tribes to profit from those objects at the expense of the tribe. Digitization would potentially expand the opportunities for exploitation by profit-minded outsiders. Such individuals could digitize various forms of cultural property and make them accessible to the entire world through the Internet while completely excluding the tribes themselves from the benefits.

Westmoreland confronts the promise and peril of digitization with empathy and pragmatism. At the outset, she gives her own definition of the notably fuzzy term “cultural property,” one that works better than most: cultural property is “intangible sacred traditional knowledge that has been fixed in a tangible medium.” She provides an admirably clear explanation of the significance of such cultural property, which those raised in non-tribal cultures often struggle to grasp. An analogy borrowed from Kristin Carpenter is helpful here: a wedding ring has a different value to a jeweler and a spouse. Similarly, cultural property has intangible aspects that differentiate its value to a tribe and to those outside the tribe. Those intangible aspects are nonetheless real and worthy of some degree of protection. Westmoreland then offers a lucid explanation of the reasons that various potentially-relevant subfields of law—trade secret, copyright, patent, and trademark—each fail to capture the components of cultural property most threatened by digitization and consequently in particular need of protection. She concludes that, to combat the unique threats of digitization, legislators and policymakers should encourage collaboration between tribes and third-parties with an interest in tribal cultural property.

A great deal of legal scholarship falters when it comes time for specific proposals for reform, but not here: Westmoreland concludes her article with a number of ingenious solutions to the digitization conundrum. One example involves straightforward incentives. She explains, “Congress could offer a ‘voucher-based’ system in which libraries and museums receive either federal funding or deeper tax breaks in exchange for negotiating with tribes for licenses prior to digitizing cultural property.” Such a regime would incentivize the educational entities to make an effort to respect tribal knowledge.” Westmoreland further proposes that libraries and museums could use the funds they receive under a program designed to reward collaboration to pay a member of the tribe as a consultant for the digitization project. This would ensure that the tribe benefits tangibly from the project, and moreover would ensure that the digitization is performed in an accurate and respectful way.

Westmoreland’s work is notable for its identification of a pressing problem, clear explanation of the law, and pragmatic proposals for infusing the law with respect for cultural property. More generally, however, her research powerfully exposes the way that applying “neutral” legal principles is often not neutral at all. Legal principles reflect the values of the culture in which they arose and the identities of the people who hold power within that culture. Westmoreland’s examination of intangible tribal cultural property provides a sophisticated analysis of an accessible example. Her research is an important contribution both within and beyond antidiscrimination law. It would be worthy of a more experienced scholar—indeed, it would be worthy of a tenure-track professor. I really liked it a lot.

Cite as: Nancy Leong, Protecting the Intangible, JOTWELL (November 27, 2018) (reviewing Chante Westmoreland, An Analysis of the Lack of Protection for Intangible Tribal Cultural Property in the Digital Age, 106 Calif. L. Rev. 959 (2018)),

Planning for a Post Neoliberal Future

In her summer 2018 article in Feminist Legal Studies, Silvana Tapia Tapia takes a close look at a fundamental concern for many contemporary feminists – the ways in which penal expansion under neoliberalism was a “feminist-sponsored” reform project, one which feminist movements took up while ignoring, neglecting or rejecting more redistributive efforts. Tapia Tapia’s exploration takes place in Ecuador, in 2012 – and Ecuador, part of Latin America’s “pink tide,”1 explicitly rejected neoliberalism in 2007. The Ecuadorian constitution of 2008 had “unprecedented constitutional provisions.” One of these, “Sumak Kawsay, the indigenous approach to community life, as a fundamental principle” could support alternatives to carcerality in Andean justice, among other “counter hegemonic” possibilities. In this “post-neoliberal” environment, Tapia Tapia asks, what is the relationship of feminist interventions in criminal law to feminist alignment with redistributive claims in law and politics?

Beginning with a discussion of current scholarship on “carceral feminism” and “governance feminism,” Tapia Tapia outlines the argument that penal expansion operates to shift resources away from redistribution, that it has become transnational via human rights based discourses, and that it is fundamentally punitive. She reads scholars like Elizabeth Bernstein, Janet Halley and Prabha Kotiswaran as positing a link between carceral feminism and a neoliberal form of feminism, but in reading the Ecuadorian ”post-neoliberal” context, she finds that “many feminists demanding criminalization are strongly committed to a redistributive agenda.” (P. 6.) Why and how, Tapia Tapia asks, do Ecuadorian feminists who are operating in a post-neoliberal context, and a context in which the constitutional framework embraces a plurality of sources of law (“Andean Constitutionalism”), continue to support criminalization?

The remainder of the article unpacks the positioning of Ecuadorian feminists, through a multimethod qualitative approach, including documentation and interviews with women who were involved in debate over 2012 draft bill that increased maximum penalties, increased most sentences, and created more than 70 new offences. This method allows an effective close read of how these narratives placed redistribution and gender equality in conversation. The details of the answer to Tapia Tapia’s research question are important and interesting. They offer insight into the challenge of moving from one paradigm to another in our thinking, and the pressures which lead valiant, if potentially fundamentally misguided, efforts to render various policy programs compatible. In this case, human rights serves as the bridge that both grounds feminist demands for protection against VAW, and serves to render criminalisation “minimally problematic” or even “benign.” (P. 9.)

The 1998 constitution of Ecuador, while neoliberal in frame, honoured many feminist demands in the rights paradigm, beyond criminalisation to gender quotas and sexual reproductive rights. The 2008 Constitution was pathbreaking in its incorporation of indigenous justice – but it also kept the human rights framework, which was seen by mainstream human rights advocates as good for the protection of women. It required the state to protect personal integrity and pointed to the right to a life free of violence. These became, though there were other avenues of possibility, requirements to carry out penal prosecution. Provisions that widened access to justice and minimize revictimization “framed the protection of women mainly as a set of legal conditions that enable penal litigation and promote the use of the criminal justice apparatus.” (P. 9.) Penal regulation is thus rights based.

At the same time, feminist organizations and scholars in Ecuador invoked rights to limit the state’s penal power. A constitutional principle linked the state’s obligations to protect the rights of “victims . . . the prosecuted and . . . those deprived of their freedom.” (P. 7.) Tapia Tapia posits that in fact “[a]ppeals to criminalization (feminist or not) are always already legitimized at the highest level of the legal system within progressive orders: they are rational responses to violations of human rights.” (P. 8.) But she laments the ways the “virality” of criminalization in this order “displaces non-hegemonic legalities . . . a crucial element of the new constitution’s emancipatory horizon.” (P. 9.) Satisfied that criminal justice is not a big problem, feminists have not taken up these possibilities.

Tapia Tapia’s 2012-2014 fieldwork in Ecuador puts rights-based frameworks at the heart of “side-lining alternative knowledges and strategies.” (P. 9.) Instead, her potentially startling conclusion is that “penality has entered leftist feminist discourse and has been articulated into the post-neoliberal project as a non-problematic, even redistributive device.” (P. 9.) In part this happened because part of the goal of feminist organizations involved in the creation of the 2008 Constitutions was to defend the gender provisions in the 1998 Constitution, not “reimagine gender-state relations.” (P. 9.) Mainstream women’s organizations both endorsed the redistributive project and dropped Indigenous approaches to gender justice in favour of human rights discourses. Differentiating between the younger feminists who had joined the government (oficialistas) and the mainly older feminists in the NGO arena (opositoras), Tapia Tapia notes while opositoras were concerned that full criminalization in the VAW context did not facilitate women’s access to justice, nor did it align with what survivors of VAW wanted, “other possible approaches” were completely disregarded by opositoras and oficialistas both.

She argues that non-Indigenous feminist organizations were ill-equipped to pick up the opportunities in the 2008 Constitution for alternative approaches to violence, alternatives to incarceration. Instead, they returned to a narrative based on rights, one that used a technical system to render the violation of women’s rights (femicide) visible, one that was compatible with incarceration, and one which bypassed the possibility of building new state responses to violence against women through reviving and creating practices based in Andean justice. This attachment to transnational narratives of rights did not hamper feminist endorsement of the state’s redistributive projects – and indeed in some ways feminists understood the criminalization of patriarchal violence as a tool to “tackle gender-based economic inequalities.” (P. 18.) There was no “practicable field of intelligibility” available to do otherwise.

Aside from the decoupling of neoliberal thought and carceral feminism that Tapia Tapia’s work illustrates, her work offers an important thought, one that could be helpful regardless of your particular politics or focus. This is the critical nature of an available “practicable field of intelligibility” in those moments where change becomes possible. In the context she explores, developing the practicable field of intelligibility could have involved listening to Indigenous teachings, learning about and developing understandings of violence and inequality that are not rights based, focusing on access to justice and imagining and adapting social institutions – other than the prison – which could operate to provide freedom from violence for women. For those interested in anti-carceral feminism and hoping for a post-neoliberal era, this article is a cautionary tale which pushes us to focus, now, on preparing for the future.

  1. The “pink tide” was a trend towards the election of Left wing governments usually seen as starting in the late 1990s and ending in the early 2010s. These governments were seen as not left wing enough to be called “red.” See P. 2 n. 3.
Cite as: Sonia Lawrence, Planning for a Post Neoliberal Future, JOTWELL (October 31, 2018) (reviewing Silvana Tapia Tapia, Feminism and Penal Expansion: The Role of Rights Based Criminal Law in Post-Neoliberal Ecuador, Feminist Legal Studies (2018)),

Resisting Attempts to Control the “Hyper-Fertile”

Maya Manian, The Story of Madrigal v. Quilligan: Coerced Sterilization of Mexican-American Women, in Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories (forthcoming 2019), available at SSRN.

The meaning of “success” in litigation challenging inequalities is at the core of Professor Maya Manian’s essay about the extensive effort to end sterilization of Mexican-American women at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center in the 1970s.

In one sense, the case of Madrigal v. Quilligan is a great victory. The federal judge who first heard the case issued a preliminary injunction directed at making the Spanish language consent forms understandable to patients. This judge then signed off on a settlement agreement between the Madrigal plaintiffs and the California Department of Health, approving California’s enhanced sterilization consent requirements, which themselves had been the product of lobbying and media efforts by Chicana activists. The United States Department of Health issued new guidelines requiring bilingual consent forms and instituting a federal monitoring program. The case “galvanized Chicana feminist activism” in ways that made it clear that a broader notion of “reproductive justice” was necessary: it should not be limited to the emphasis by white feminists on abortion and contraception but must also include abusive practices intended to limit reproduction by women of color and impoverished women.

Yet in another way, the case ended in defeat. As Manian reports, after the initial judge died, the new judge refused to grant compensation to the women, stating that there was no “racialized targeting of Mexican-American women’s reproduction,” but simply “ten distinct random occurrences” in which the named plaintiffs were subject to tubal ligations. The trial had seemingly made clear that the “consent” of the “Madrigal ten,” as well as many other similar women, was procured in an atmosphere in which there was a language barrier and lack of medical understanding; many women did not know they had been sterilized and those who did believed that the procedure was reversible (if the “tubes” could be tied, they could be “untied”). And then there is this practice, which a medical student testified to as occurring on an almost daily basis in an effort to procure “consent” to tubal ligation: “The doctor would hold a syringe in front of the mother who was in labor pain and ask her if she wanted a pain killer; while the woman was in the throes of a contraction the doctor would say, ‘Do you want the pain killer? Then sign the papers. Do you want the pain to stop? Do you want to have to go through this again? Sign the papers.’” Yet the judge found that the doctors were “certain in their own mind[s]” that the women had consented, although the women were entitled to sympathy for “their inability to communicate clearly.” Further, the judge rejected the specific evidence relating to these plaintiffs about their harm—that “reproductive capacity was particularly important to women from small rural communities in Mexico”—because the doctors could not be expected to know that.

Professor Maya Manian’s vital essay is in the forthcoming anthology Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories. It’s part of the Law Stories series from West Publishing which has proven to be a necessary teaching resource, usually providing great background material to famous cases and especially useful epilogues. In the Story of Madrigal v. Quilligan, Maya Manian has done an even greater service, illuminating a case that is not generally in casebooks (the penultimate opinion of the district judge was unpublished, the Ninth Circuit affirmed without opinion), but which serves as a cultural touchstone, resulting in some legal scholarship and the 2015 PBS production of a documentary about the Madrigal women, No Más Bebés by Renee Tajima-Peña. It is a case and story that deserves wide recognition.

In her essay, Professor Manian rightly centers the Madrigal women. Their bravery in becoming plaintiffs is immense. After the revelations and litigation, some of the women managed to rebuild their lives. For others, the “involuntary sterilizations were devastating.” So too was the judicial defeat, as a woman’s son describes it, “then they go to court with many of them thinking they might make this right, and then all of a sudden the doctors get away with what they did….”

But in addition to the women plaintiffs, Manian provides inspiring glimpses into the people who worked to address the inequalities wrought by physicians who believed that sterilizing “hyper-fertile” immigrant women, whose children were assumed to be a likely drain on public resources, was not only justifiable, but good. Opposing these doctors were other medical professionals: not only the resident who testified about the practices she saw, but also the whistleblower resident who “surreptitiously copied medical records for hundreds of sterilizations at the Medical Center and spent hours after his shifts typing letters to journalists, civil rights groups, and government officials, in the hopes of spurring legal action.” In the legal arena, there was new attorney Antonia Hernández, who later became the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MADEF) working with other attorneys, as well as with activist Gloria Molina, who led the organization Comisión Feminil and later became the first Chicana elected to the Los Angeles City Council.

The story Manian ultimately tells is one of courage and resistance. As we confront renewed efforts to control the reproductive and sexual rights of immigrants, people of color, and all women, it is a story that is worth reading—and retelling.

Cite as: Ruthann Robson, Resisting Attempts to Control the “Hyper-Fertile”, JOTWELL (June 20, 2018) (reviewing Maya Manian, The Story of Madrigal v. Quilligan: Coerced Sterilization of Mexican-American Women, in Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories (forthcoming 2019), available at SSRN),

Illuminating Societal Stereotyping of Bisexuals and the Need for Strategies to Reduce Stigmatization

Despite the fact that bisexuals are, by most counts, the largest sexual minority group in the United States, they remain woefully under-researched and under-theorized. This invisibility in the realm of research and scholarship may be tied to the fact that bisexual programs and organizations receive only a minuscule amount of funding compared to either gay or lesbian organizations. As one study noted, over a forty-year period, bisexual programs and organizations received less than 0.3% of the funding awarded to their gay or lesbian counterparts. See Anthony Bowen, Forty Years of LGBTQ Philanthropy: 1970–2010 33 (2012). Furthermore, bisexuals face alarming physical and mental health disparities—including higher levels of mood and anxiety disorders and of suicidal ideation—compared to individuals of other sexual orientations, which may well be a consequence of the fact that bisexuality is stigmatized by both heterosexual and homosexual communities.

This background of invisibility and stigmatization helps illustrate the importance of Brian Dodge et al.’s Attitudes Toward Bisexual Men and Women Among a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Adults in the United States, published in the journal PLoS ONE. The article—and the study on which it is based—fills an important gap in the existing research on bisexuality as to prevailing societal attitudes toward bisexuals and the persistence of common stereotypes of this group, despite the considerable advances in societal attitudes towards gays and lesbians.

Prior to the publication of this article, the only published research to address such attitudes that was based on a nationally representative probability sample was a 2002 article by Gregory Herek in which he found that heterosexuals rated bisexual men and women lower than any of the other fourteen named political, racial, ethnic, and religious groups identified in the study—except for injecting drug users. See Gregory M. Herek, Heterosexuals’ Attitudes Toward Bisexual Men and Women in the United States, 39 J. Sex Res. 264, 268 (2002). While compelling, Herek’s findings have become outdated, particularly given the known advances in societal attitudes toward gay men and lesbians over the past decade and a half. Moreover, unlike the work of Brian Dodge and his colleagues, Gregory Herek was able to assess only heterosexuals’ attitudes toward bisexuals because the number of gay and lesbian respondents in his study was too low. Id. at 267. Because bisexuals are known to face prejudice from both the straight and LGBT communities and because this intra- and inter-group prejudice is thought to contribute to bisexuals’ poorer health outcomes, the information that Dodge and his colleagues obtained about gay and lesbian attitudes is crucial.

Dodge and his colleagues, who specialize in public health, medicine, and social work, asked their respondents to rate the extent to which they either agreed or disagreed with five stereotypes of bisexuals, relating to perceptions of confusion, perceptions of HIV/STI “riskiness,” perceptions of non-monogamy, perceptions of promiscuity, and perceptions of bisexuality as temporary. Because attitudes toward bisexual males are known to be more negative than those toward bi women, the researchers asked about attitudes toward each gender group separately, without separating out transgender men and women from either group.

Across all of the stereotypical statements regarding bisexual men and women, the authors found that the largest proportion of respondents—over one-third—neither agreed nor disagreed with each stereotype. Although it may appear on the surface that this result reflects neutrality toward bisexuals, in fact the result is quite concerning in that it appears to evidence a widespread unwillingness to disavow such stereotypes, whereas, with better-understood groups, one would expect respondents to readily recognize the perniciousness of stereotypes. Instead of recognizing the stereotypes as such, the largest proportion of respondents could be viewed as expressing indifference or perhaps lack of knowledge or understanding of bisexuals. Another cause for concern is that the authors found that attitudes toward bisexual men were in fact more negative across the board than those toward bisexual women. Although, for most of the stereotypical statements, these differences were slight, the negative attitudes were significantly stronger toward bisexual men on the question of the riskiness of contracting HIV or STIs from having sex with bisexuals. While, as the authors point out, there are several factors relating to the behavior of bisexual men that suggest that they are in fact less likely than members of other groups to transmit HIV, the study demonstrates that this stereotype of bisexual men as a bridge for HIV transmission is unfortunately alive and well. Finally, the study indicates that heterosexuals harbor more prejudice toward bisexuals than do gays and lesbians. Those who identified themselves as “other” or “asexual,” by contrast, demonstrated the least prejudice toward bisexuals.

While studies that utilize convenience samples are also valuable, the fact that the Dodge et al. study is based on a nationally representative probability sample is important because it means that the study provides generalizable information about our societal outlook as a whole. In an era when the United States government is dropping questions about sexual orientation from its own surveys and even forbidding agencies from mentioning some sexual minorities in their budget requests, the information uncovered in the Dodge et al. study will undoubtedly prove all the more valuable. See, e.g., Lena H. Sun & Juliet Eilperin, CDC Gets List of Forbidden Words: Fetus, Transgender, and Diversity, Wash. Post (Dec. 15, 2017). Moreover, this trend in the federal government is highly likely to lead to less research funding being available for the study of LGBT communities, which in turn will make studies based on nationally representative probability samples more difficult to conduct because of the expense of obtaining such samples.

In short, this study will serve as an indispensable resource for legal scholars who conduct empirical work or who engage in normative scholarship on bisexuality. It provides a much-needed lay of the land as to prevailing attitudes regarding bisexuality, demonstrating that, although attitudes have improved somewhat over the past fifteen years, perceptions of bisexuals still lag behind those of gays and lesbians. Moreover, the study particularly highlights the need for strategies to reduce stigmatization of bisexual men.

Cite as: Ann E. Tweedy, Illuminating Societal Stereotyping of Bisexuals and the Need for Strategies to Reduce Stigmatization, JOTWELL (May 24, 2018) (reviewing Brian Dodge et al., Attitudes Toward Bisexual Men and Women Among a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Adults in the United States, 11 PLoS ONE (2016)),

Milk’s Global Rise: A Case Study to Illuminate the Transspecies Violence of Law and Colonialism

Mathilde Cohen, Animal Colonialism: The Case of Milk, 111 Am. J. Int’l L. Unbound 267 (2017), available at SSRN.

Many progressive scholars and advocates on the Left presume that the animal rights movement is culturally imperialist (at least in its American and Canadian iterations).1 This presumption holds steadfast in spite of the considerable scholarship, notably originating in ecofeminist thought, demonstrating the multiple ideological, discursive, and material links between human and nonhuman animal oppression advanced through dominant Western epistemologies and political, social, economic, and legal orders.2 Or, put differently, in many ways, arguments highlighting what is wrong with animal commodification and exploitation often indict Western worldviews on animals rather than seek to extend such worldviews elsewhere.

Why this presumption nonetheless persists is a complex issue. Certainly, one reason is the real and imagined whiteness of the movement (again, in its American and Canadian iterations). A further reason may be the related insufficient adoption of an intersectionalist ethic in high-profile animal rights campaigns where animal injustice is disconnected from human injustices. The perception can then flow that those who care about equality for animals do not care about vulnerable (often racialized and indigenous) humans.3

Most legal scholarship on animals in the United States does not embrace an intersectionalist orientation when discussing injustice against animals. To the extent the dearth of intersectional analysis in animal law scholarship fuels the association of animal rights with cultural imperialism, Mathilde Cohen’s Animal Colonialism: The Case of Milk is a very welcome corrective. Her short yet informative analysis about milk’s global rise compellingly illustrates the transspecies nature of law’s violence and ensuing inequalities. Specifically, Cohen shows how Eurocentric international law and trade, European dietary and legal norms in relation to animals, and European and American modernist discourses championing cow’s milk over traditional breastfeeding and maternal care occasioned a global rise of the human consumption of cow’s milk that was pivotal to empire-building throughout the world. This entailed devastating harms for colonized peoples and animals both.

Using an ecofeminist frame, the article helpfully develops the emergent umbrella concept of “animal colonialism” as well as the sub-concepts of “milk colonialism” and “breastfeeding colonialism” that Cohen identifies as central to animal colonialism. (P. 268.) Through a generative discussion of these nascent terms, Cohen explains why the normativity of humans’ drinking another mammal’s milk should be seen as an injurious colonial practice that works against most of the world’s colonized peoples (and, of course, animals themselves).4 In doing so, she contributes postcolonial understanding to the body of literature that discusses milk’s cultural status worldwide as a pure and ethically benign substance.5

Cohen begins by explaining the concept of “(a)nimal colonialism… as a dual phenomenon, consisting, on the one hand, in using animals to colonize lands, native animals, and people and, on the other hand, in imposing foreign legal norms and practices of human-animal relations upon communities and their environments.” (Id.) Cohen notes how Europeans were keen to bring their pastoral and agricultural practices, which included cows and sheep used for their milk, with them during invasions, and were also keen to acquire the land mass needed to sustain these large ruminants, and later to colonize appetites toward drinking cow’s milk. Although a critical part of animal colonialism in the case of milk is compromised by the literal colonial spread of animal bodies that international law enabled, Cohen ensures that we also understand the imposition of European legal norms that normalized animals as property as critical to animal colonialism. She writes: “The notion of animals as property proved essential to the diffusion of animal farming, particularly dairying, as it justified taking the milk from female animals for human consumption.” (P. 269.)

In explaining “milk colonialism,” Cohen draws from historical accounts to highlight how the dairy industry spread from European metropoles as an integral part of colonial and neocolonial expansion. (Id.) Most people around the world had never raised animals for lactation and milk consumption. Europeans viewed non-dairy diets as civilizationally inferior. They promoted cow’s milk as a universal healthful food and also justified land dispossession on this ground so that more and more animals could be raised. By the nineteenth century, Cohen notes, modernizing technologies enabled this highly perishable substance to withstand global export to new populations in colonized lands as well as constitute a vital part of the diet for colonizing human forces. Cohen emphasizes that in the twentieth century, international law and trade allowed American and European powers to export their milk surpluses to newly created markets in colonies and countries of the Global South such as China and India. (Id.)

Cohen goes on to highlight how the global ubiquity of humans’ drinking cow’s milk today is detrimental to both women and animals’ ability to feed their children from their own bodies. Cohen calls this “breastfeeding colonialism.” (P. 270.) Cohen notes how the British and French, but also other European states, linked the regulation (read: discouragement) of breastfeeding to ideas of nationhood, imperial identity, and racial superiority. European powers also ridiculed indigenous breastfeeding and other mothering practices and the quality of the milk that non-European cows produced. They promoted European and American cows’ milk as the best nutrition for human children through discourses of “civilization, modernity, and scientific medicine.” (Id.)

Although feminists and reproductive justice experts have exposed the harms of such colonial mindsets on women and their infants worldwide, Cohen importantly emphasizes the harm the colonial trumpeting of cow’s milk and its entrenchment today enacts on cows and their calves, highlighting the grief and trauma inherent in the practice of separating mothers from their nursing-ready newborn calves so humans may appropriate the calves’ milk. (P. 271.) As an outcome of this last point, Cohen innovatively concludes that long-standing and contemporary postcolonial and intersectionalist feminist concerns about reproductive justice surrounding the global politics of breastfeeding should let go of their anthropocentric focus and focus instead on a transspecies right to breastfeed. (Id.)

Through chronicling in condensed yet incisive fashion the colonial dynamics instrumental to the historical and global rise of cow’s milk as a human food, Cohen’s analysis compellingly disrupts several misconceptions: that animal exploitation and human exploitation are separate phenomena, that caring about animals is always already culturally imperialist, or that reproductive justice is only a human concern. She enriches both animal law scholarship and equality law scholarship by facilitating understanding of why decolonial politics requires attending to the human instrumentalization of animals.6

  1. For more on this presumption, see Will Kymlicka & Sue Donaldson, Animal Rights, Multiculturalism, and the Left, 45 J. Soc. Phil. 116 (2014).
  2. See Carol J. Adams & Lori Gruen, Introduction, in Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth (Carol J. Adams & Lori Gruen eds., 2014), discussing this scholarship.
  3. For further elaboration of this problem of the perceived whiteness of the movement as well as the politics of racism and cultural imperialism surrounding single-issue campaigning, see Angela P. Harris, Should People of Color Support Animal Rights?, 5 J. Animal L. 15 (2009); Claire Jean Kim, Multiculturalism Goes Imperial: Immigrants, Animals, and the Suppression of Moral Dialogue, 4 Du Bois Rev.: Soc. Sci. Res. on Race 233 (2007); Claire Jean Kim, Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species and Nature in a Multicultural Age (2015).
  4. Cohen builds on Yoriko Otomo’s postcolonial analysis of milk as a global commodity. See Yoriko Otomo, The Gentle Cannibal: The Rise and Fall of Lawful Milk, 40 Austl. Feminist L.J. 215 (2015).
  5. For an influential example, see Deborah Valenze, Milk: A Local and Global History (2011).
  6. For more on this last point, see the indigenous ecofeminist-inspired scholarship of Margaret Robinson. See Margaret Robinson, The Roots of My Indigenous Veganism, in Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-Species Social Justice 319 (Atsuko Matsuoka & John Sorenson eds., 2018) and other works.
Cite as: Maneesha Deckha, Milk’s Global Rise: A Case Study to Illuminate the Transspecies Violence of Law and Colonialism, JOTWELL (April 25, 2018) (reviewing Mathilde Cohen, Animal Colonialism: The Case of Milk, 111 Am. J. Int’l L. Unbound 267 (2017), available at SSRN),

Women and Guns

Amanda Dale, Gun Control and Women's Rights in Context: Reflections of the Applicant on Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic v Canada, 13 J.L. & Equal. 61 (2017), available at HeinOnline.

In Gun Control and Women’s Rights in Context: Reflections of the Applicant on Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic v Canada, Amanda Dale not only provides the reader with an embodied account of law that exemplifies the limits of legal discourse, she also offers a compelling (and disheartening) explication of how and why the Stephen Harper government’s repeal of the long-gun registry threatens the lives of women.

As Dale points out, gun control in Canada is different from that in the United States. Canadian gun control laws are, of course, much more robust. For example, restricted weapons, such as handguns, have been subject to gun control legislation, including a registry, since 1932. However, a Canadian registry for long guns (shotguns and rifles) was not put into place until 1995 – following a mass shooting in Montreal that engendered significant activism aimed at reducing violence against women. The shooter targeted women and said he was motivated by a hatred of feminists. Noting that most women are shot by people they know and that most domestic violence involving firearms involves legally owned shotguns and rifles, Dale explains the connection between the protection of women’s physical safety and the need for a long-gun registry.

Unfortunately, in 2012 the Conservative government eliminated the obligation to register non-restricted firearms (rifles and shotguns) and required the destruction of all of the records that had been collected under the long-gun registry. Dale is the executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. The Schlifer Clinic is a Toronto-based organization that seeks to reduce the prevalence and impact of violence against women by advocating for law reform and providing legal and counselling services to women who have experienced violence. The Schlifer Clinic, under Dale’s direction, brought a constitutional challenge to the repeal of the long-gun registry, arguing that it infringed women’s rights to equality and life, liberty, and security of the person. Gun Control and Women’s Rights in Context tells the story of the Clinic’s legal intervention.

Here are four things that make this article exceptional.

First, the piece is both beautifully written and rigorous. Dale seamlessly weaves together a narration of her experience of the litigation, the literature on feminist methodologies that deploy voice scholarship of this nature1, an empirically grounded explanation of the risks and costs to women caused by the repeal of these gun control laws, and a persuasive legal argument identifying the ways in which the elimination of the registry and its records breach the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Second, because Dale has chosen to tell this story from a first-person perspective, the article offers a fascinating opportunity to understand legal process from the perspective of the litigant. She draws upon transcripts of her testimony, correspondence between the Clinic and its advisors, and her observations of, and reflections about, the process.

As an aside, had she chosen a different methodology the reader would not learn about, for example, the hate mail she received, or the vandalism and threats perpetrated against the Clinic. While gun culture in Canada is thankfully different from that in America, the violence to which Dale and the Clinic were exposed as a consequence of challenging the repeal of this aspect of Canadian gun control legislation serves as a helpful reminder that we cannot become complacent about the need to resist further erosion to our gun control laws.

Third, Dale draws upon the Clinic’s knowledge gained by decades of advocacy and service provision in response to domestic violence to highlight the relationship between intimate femicide and gun control laws regarding commonly held weapons. There is a poignancy to this experiential knowledge that throws into relief the distressing and senseless loss caused by the repeal of the long-gun registry.

Fourth, Dale does a wonderful job of demonstrating the ways in which traditional legal discourse privileges a narrow conception of “expert knowledge” and strips legal claims and the stories we tell about litigation of critically important context. Moreover, she deftly demonstrates how this gap in legal commentary and process imposes particular harms upon the equality interests of women.

While the Schlifer Clinic’s legal intervention was not successful – the court rejected the Clinic’s Charter claims – Dale’s adept narration, the way she brings the story of this process to life, might aid in future attempts to formulate feminist arguments in favour of better protections against firearm-based domestic violence. At a minimum, her article ensures that the harms caused to women as a consequence of the loss of the long-gun registry will not go unregistered.

  1. See, e.g., Patricia J. Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor (8th ed. 1995); Kim L. Scheppele, Foreword: Telling Stories, 87 Mich, L. Rev. 2073, 2075 (1989).
Cite as: Elaine Craig, Women and Guns, JOTWELL (April 4, 2018) (reviewing Amanda Dale, Gun Control and Women's Rights in Context: Reflections of the Applicant on Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic v Canada, 13 J.L. & Equal. 61 (2017), available at HeinOnline),

Justice for Equality

Constance Backhouse, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life (2017).

Claire L’Heureux-Dubé was Canada’s second woman to join our Supreme Court of Canada. She was famous for her strong personality, her charm, her directness, and eventually her willingness to dissent. She was loved by some, loathed by others.

My opening paragraph so dramatically understates the significance of Justice L’Heureux- Dubé. It pretends that the life of one woman – a woman who faced substantial personal and professional challenges – can be adequately captured in a few words.

Enter Constance Backhouse’s brilliant biography. Biography is an art. How to render a person visible? To be appropriately honest about her failings and reflective about her successes? To situate her life within its broad context – social, political, economic, and scientific? To reflect her social character – her relationships and the effects of those relationships on the path of her life?

Backhouse’s considerable work answers these questions.

In over 700 meticulously researched pages, she takes us on a magnificent journey. For those who love reading about “formative years,” five early chapters are devoted to tracing L’Heureux-Dubé’s family heritage and early education. The chapters give us a sense of everything from L’Heureux-Dubé’s early years with a lively and cheerful mother to school under the tutelage of nuns to the impact of the mighty St. Lawrence River on the development of sense of her place in the world.

The next part of the book turns to L’Heureux-Dubé’s legal education and life in practice. As one of the earliest women law graduates, L’Heureux-Dubé confronted resistance at each stage of her career because of her sex. Her father did not support her educational and career choices, she was excluded from scholarships, she faced sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet, she prevailed and through force of will found herself a mother of two children and a leading member of the Quebec City bar.

On to her time at the courts. The book takes us through L’Heureux-Dubé’s contributions at the Quebec Superior Court, the Quebec Court of Appeal, and finally the Supreme Court of Canada. L’Heureux-Dubé’s widely acknowledged work ethic shines through, as do the ways her fortitude was tested by exclusion from the “inner club” of largely male lawyers and judges and the pressures of a particularly demanding set of family circumstances.

These opening twenty-eight chapters (in a book with thirty-eight chapters) are gorgeously written with specificity that leaves the reader feeling like she is standing right beside L’Heureux-Dubé as her life unfolds. That’s credit to Backhouse’s use of detail, her reliance on hundreds and hundreds of hours of interviews with L’Heureux-Dubé and those who know her, and her fierce analytical skill, which renders plain the subtle.

Unconventionally, but useful especially to the legally trained reader, the biography then looks carefully at six of Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s Supreme Court of Canada decisions – decisions she rendered on sexual assault, spousal support, human rights for same-sex couples, tax law, Quebec secession, and immigration. These decisions are presented as signature moments in Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s self-expression. Backhouse situates each decision in its broader social context. Each of these last six chapters has its own story to tell and each should be included in any course materials that include the underlying decision. Each is dazzling.

When the biography ended, after a couple of chapters that explore the effect of Justice L’Heureux-Dubé and her work on Canadian justice and the international legal scene, I felt bereft. I longed for the book to continue. Not because anything was missing, but because reading the book was such a pleasure. The book is more than a biography of an extraordinary woman authored by an extraordinary woman; it is a story about the way justice reflects our lives and about how our lives are lived in the space of the possibilities justice presents, and sometimes denies.

Cite as: Kim Brooks, Justice for Equality, JOTWELL (February 26, 2018) (reviewing Constance Backhouse, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life (2017)),

Reasoned Debate on Religious Exemptions

John Corvino, Ryan T. Anderson & Sherif Girgis, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (2017).

The tenor of the debate over the propriety of creating religious exemptions to generally applicable laws has changed dramatically in recent years. As recently as 1993, progressives and conservatives joined forces to secure passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the granting of such exemptions in cases where compliance with a statute would “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless the denial of the exemption was necessary to serve a “compelling” governmental interest. However, as the focus has turned to requests for exemptions by employers who object to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act and merchants who wish to avoid providing goods and services for same-sex weddings, the debate over religious exemptions has taken on a starkly partisan aspect, with advocates for both sides often eschewing reasoned argument in favor of emotionally charged rhetoric that demonizes their opponents and effectively denies the possibility of good faith disagreement.

Against this background, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, by John Corvino, Ryan T. Anderson, and Sherif Girgis, is a particularly welcome contribution to the debate. After a brief overview of the legal and political background of the current dispute over religious exemptions, Debating Religious Liberty presents a series of essays designed to illuminate the different positions on the issue. Corvino, a longtime advocate for LGBT rights, makes the case against all but the narrowest religious exemptions to laws designed to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI laws). By contrast, Anderson and Girgis, both of whom are well-known for their opposition to government recognition of same-sex marriages, contend that religious objections should be honored in a much broader range of circumstances.

Taken together, the essays illuminate the differences in basic premises that underlie the dispute over the granting of religious exemptions to SOGI laws. At the core of dispute is the debate over the analogy between SOGI status and race. Corvino contends that the position of LGBT people is analogous to that of African-Americans in the pre-Brown era, and that religious exemptions to SOGI laws should be strictly limited for the same reasons that we would not countenance broad exemptions to laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race. By contrast, while conceding that LGBT people suffer from some discrimination in American society, Anderson and Girgis assert that the magnitude of this discrimination pales in comparison to that which was faced by African-Americans prior to the passage of federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Based on this view, they question the need for SOGI laws and insist that, in any event, any such laws should provide for broad religious exemptions.

Each of the authors plainly has a strong commitment to his position, and the authors construct the arguments for both sides with great care and rigor. But what is equally impressive about the essays in this book is the respect with which all of the authors treat the views of those with whom they disagree. Corvino, Anderson, and Girgis demonstrate that even the most controversial, emotionally charged issues can be discussed without resorting to vitriol or ad hominem attacks. In so doing, they provide an object lesson in civility from which we can all benefit.

Cite as: Earl M. Maltz, Reasoned Debate on Religious Exemptions, JOTWELL (January 10, 2018) (reviewing John Corvino, Ryan T. Anderson & Sherif Girgis, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (2017)),