course logo Written Assignment:
Feminist Legal Strategies and Diversity Feminism
due February 15

Answer all questions; when referring to the readings, cite properly, including page numbers and a full citation at the end of the assignment.

1. Explain what Sandra Bem means when she states the following about the legal principle of gender neutrality: “as a strategy, it was helping only those few women who were similarly situated to men” (179). Give a concrete example that you think would illustrate this point. Explain the alternative strategy—often called “special protection” or “special benefits”? What problems do you see with this as a legal strategy? How do these varying strategies reflect what Martha Chamallas describes as the “stages” of feminist legal theory?

2. When you read Kimberle Crenshaw's article, do not be put off by the somewhat abstract theoretical language she sometimes uses (e.g. “intersectionality”). If you read carefully and pay close attention to the concrete examples she discusses, you will see that sentences such as the following make a very important point: “I will center Black women in this analysis in order to contrast the multidimensionality of Black women's experience with the single-axis analysis that distorts these experiences” (383). She is stating that she will use the feminist strategy of making the “other” the subject, of looking at various situations through the eyes of the disadvantaged rather than the dominant party—in this case Black women. Through this perspective, she says, it becomes clear that the situation of these women cannot be analyzed solely as a matter or race or solely as a matter of gender but as a complex interaction of the two. With this in mind, explain your reaction to the case she discusses, DeGraffenreid vs. General Motors. Why was the plaintiffs' complaint of sex discrimination dismissed? Why did the plaintiffs refuse to consolidate their case with another race discrimination case against General Motors? What does this case illustrate about the difficulty of using law and the courts as the sole weapon with which to combat discrimination? Give an example of another situation (not necessarily a legal case) in which the discrimination experienced by women from other racial/ethnic backgrounds might be quite different from that experienced by middle-class white women.

Daniel McCarthy <dmccar7871@earthlink.net>
Barbara F. McManus <bmcmanus@ix.netcom.com>
HON303/WMS303 Topics and Assignments I
January 2000