Interesting. I have a lot of overlap for the positions that Gruber takes – I look forward to the discussion this should generate!
Neofeminism by Aya Gruber 50 Houston Law Review 1325 (2013) [open access]
Today it is prosaic to say that “feminism is dead.” Far from being moribund, feminist legal theory is breaking from its somewhat dogmatic past and forging ahead with new vigor. Many modern feminist legal scholars seek innovative ways to better the legal, social, and economic status of women while simultaneously questioning some of the more troubling moves of second-wave feminism, such as the tendency to essentialize the woman’s experience, the turn to authoritarian state policies, and the characterization of women as pure objects or agents. These “neofeminists” prioritize women’s issues but maintain a strong commitment to distributive justice and recognize that subordination exists on multiple axes. In defining “neofeminism,” this Article examines how the troubling nature of certain second-wave feminist principles engendered new schools of feminist thought. It then illustrates this process in the domestic violence law reform context. The Article concludes that recognizing a new and vibrant progressive feminism can counter exaggerated claims of feminism’s demise, the belief that feminism has been devastated by postmodern critique, and the appropriation of the feminist label by conservative women’s groups.
Some readers might be particularly interested in this bit of the conclusion:
Neofeminism is somewhat of a misnomer because the ideas and critiques it encompasses are not really brand new. Many of the ideas have been germinating since the late 1980s and some even before.330 For example, the racial critique of liberal feminisms essentialist assumptions has been around for decades.331 Left feminists have also long been critical of dominance feminisms down-playing of class and economic status.332 Even the critique of domestic violence criminal reform has existed for over twenty years, having been formulated in response to early discourse and efforts.333 In fact, neofeminism is quite similar to what Martha Minow identified in 1989 as the third stage of feminism.334
Professor Gruber is at University of Colorado Law School. Here is her faculty page, and here is some of her other work (date ascending):
In order to build coalitions and advance a general strategy of antisubordination, one must, as Eric Yamamoto opines, envision oneself as both oppressed and oppressor
“One of the most celebrated successes of the feminist movement is its lasting impact on domestic violence criminal laws. …. I know all too well how far the pendulum has swung, having practiced as a public defender in the District of Columbia domestic violence system. Day after day, prosecutors proceeded with cases against the wishes of victims, resulting in the mass incarceration of young black men. Could this have been the result feminist law reformers hoped for when they began their movement of resistance against patriarchy that legitimized domestic violence?This Article answers the foregoing question with a resounding no. It demonstrates that domestic violence reform has become far removed from its progressive roots and now supports rather than supplants patriarchal ideology. The Article traces the history of domestic violence reform and explains how it transformed from a grassroots populist movement to a politically powerful lobby deeply allied with law enforcement. One of the reasons for this transformation was the influence of the powerful victims’ rights movement. This movement originated as a conservative counter to Warren Court civil liberties and employs essentialist discourse objectifying victims and characterizing defendants as purely autonomous agents to unmoor crime from its social roots. The Article argues that in recent times, victims’ rights reformers and the government have appropriated the domestic violence issue, not to change the patriarchal institutions that support battering, but rather to further a pro-criminalization agenda. In addition, feminists, whose original program was to vindicate women’s autonomy, have begun to adopt the essentialist discourse of objectifying battered women by characterizing abused women as helpless, scared, irrational, and sick. The Article suggests that feminists simply stop advocating criminal law reforms as the solution to the problem of domestic abuse and proposes some pedagogical methodologies for teaching domestic violence without characterizing abused women in an essentialist manner.”
” This Article cautions feminists to weigh carefully any purported benefits of reform against the considerable philosophical and practical costs of criminalization strategies before considering making further investments of time, resources, and intellect in rape reform. In advancing this caution, the Article systematically catalogues the existing intra-feminist critiques of rape reform and discusses reasons why these critiques have proven relatively ineffective at reversing the punitive course of reform. The Article then crafts a separate philosophical critique of pro-prosecution approaches by exposing the tension between the basic tenets of feminism and those animating the modern American penal state. Finally, it discusses why purported cultural and utilitarian benefits from rape reform cannot outweigh the destructive effect criminalization efforts have on feminist discourse and the feminist message. The Article concludes that feminists should begin the complicated process of disentangling feminism’s important anti-sexual coercion stance from a criminal justice system currently reflective of hierarchy and unable to produce social justice.”
“It seemed to me that feminist criminal law reform had become less about critiquing the state and society’s treatment of women3 and more about allying with police power to find newer and better ways of putting men, who themselves often occupy subordinate statuses, in jail. 4 These personal experiences informed my view of feminism when I later became a law professor. Concerned over feminists’ embrace of the penal state and prosecutorial interventions, I produced critiques of feminist interventions like domestic violence mandatory arrest and prosecution policies. 5 Because my scholarship is critical of some of the most “successful” feminist law reform interventions, some view it as antifeminist. However, I never intended to reject or recede from feminism. Rather, I dub my analysis a “neo-feminist” critique.”
Miscarriages of Race and Gender Justice, 76 ALBANY L. REV. 1571 (2012-13)
There is, however, a set of cases in which the lenient treatment of criminal defendants engenders critique from progressive scholars—scholars whose sympathies otherwise lie with defendants‘ rights.