To take the pulse of feminist legal theory, a good place to start is family law. Feminist legal theory delves broadly and deeply into questions of structure and gendered assumptions in the law, but within this larger inquiry, feminist scholars perennially address issues that are the bread and butter of family law – domestic violence, reproductive freedom, compensation for care work, equal partnerships, and so on. Many family law scholars are engaged in an ongoing project of developing a critical understanding of the family by examining issues such as the role the family performs in society, the legal construction of the family and the relationships within it, and how the law perpetuates and potentially dismantles inequalities within and among families.
Despite popular accounts portraying feminism as moribund among young people, feminist legal theory is an energizing force for a new generation of family law scholars engaged in this larger critical project. The energy it provides, however, is not uncomplicated. The work of these "emerging family law scholars" (our name) demonstrates the maturation of feminist legal theory: scholars are embracing feminist legal theory as a resource but also not hesitating to adapt it or move beyond it when it becomes too restricting. In this twin approach – treating feminist legal theory as both an enabler and a constraint – I see healthy development. As evidenced by the work I describe below, emerging family law scholars are engaging with feminist legal theory in their own way, extending the insights of earlier generations to new challenges, merging feminism with other critical discourses, and exposing the still very much unfinished work of bringing feminist consciousness to mainstream legal thinking.
Family Law | Law
Issues Legal Scholarship
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/3984