Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence
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Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence

Edited by Robin West and Cynthia G. Bowman

The Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence surveys feminist theoretical understandings of law, including liberal and radical feminism, as well as socialist, relational, intersectional, post-modern, and pro-sex and queer feminist legal theories.
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Chapter 18: The gendered jurisprudence of the Fourteenth Amendment

Julie A. Nice


This chapter synthesizes two centuries of women’s exclusion from constitutional protection and describes the judiciary’s inauguration of equal protection in the 1970s. It highlights how the US Supreme Court’s use of middle scrutiny for sex discrimination claims is unpredictable in application and porous to gender prejudice. The chapter dissects the conservative architecture underlying equal protection jurisprudence, which has contributed to its failure to achieve substantive sex equality. It then shows how liberty jurisprudence mirrors equality jurisprudence, for example by reducing the scrutiny applied to abortion restrictions. Finally, the chapter also explores the myriad ways that equality and liberty interrelate. The author concludes that feminists have always understood constitutional law as a language and the courts as a forum for the ongoing societal dialogue about ending gender subordination.

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