Suspicious Eyes: The Uneasy Relationship Between Feminism, Male Parenting, and Child Molestation Laws

Katharine Bartlett reviews Camille Gear Rich’s Innocence Interrupted: Reconstructing Fatherhood in the Shadow of Child Molestation Law, 101 Calif. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2013), over at Jotwell: Family Law (click for link to review).

This is an interesting read. Rich argues that while dominance feminists created the laws which generated the problem, liberal feminists have failed to confront the consequences:

I argue that until we fundamentally change our understandings regarding the role fathers should play in intimate care we will suffer negative social,economic and structural effects, stunt the evolution of parenting roles, and prevent the practice of parenting from being a driving force that challenges the evolution of gender itself.

Camille Gear Rich is a Professor at USC Law where one of her research and teaching interests is feminist legal theory.  Among her many publications is Race-ing Motherhood, a response to Unsex Motherhood, available here:


However, when one fully instrumentalizes Rosenblum’s concept of primary parent, one sees how deeply the model of white, middle class motherhood shapes his understanding.  His expectation is that a primary parent either opts out of labor market participation (particularly in the child’s early years) or retains a much smaller role in the world of paid work in order to perform this primary parent role.  Yet as feminists well know, even under a regime that ensures that one does not lose wages during this period, a primary parent suffers certain opportunity costs, as the decision to develop a childcare specialty prevents her from developing other more broadly marketable skills during this period.

The Jotwell Reviewer, Katharine T. Bartlett of Duke, is the co author of the leading gender law casebook in the US and recently published Feminist Legal Scholarship: A History Through the Lens of the California Law Review.

The article and the review help me sort out my own concerns about the implications of dominance feminism’s willingness to engage state regulation, particularly criminal law and punishment, as part of feminist method.  They also further our efforts to illustrate the variation within the category “feminist” and encourage us all to make efforts to define, refine and critique our own feminist commitments.  Are you a dominance feminist? eco-feminist? liberal feminist? radical feminist? one of Rich’s “post-dominance feminists”? …. Leaving “waves” aside for now, this kind of scholarship reflects a maturing field which can critically examine it’s own histories.



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