Feminist Judgments: From Theory to Practice

November 4, 2010

Editors: Rosemary Hunter, Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley

Edition: First

Publisher: Hart

Pages: 470

Price: £22.95

ISBN 9781849460538

This is a fascinating and seductively simple idea. Someone must have thought of it before, but it must have seemed such a tangled undertaking fraught with alternatives that it has not actually been tried until now.

So what is it? A book that takes 23 significant judgments in the five fields of parenting, property and markets, criminal law and evidence, public law and equality and presents a commentary and "renewed" judgment on the case from a feminist perspective. That's it, in a nutshell.

The book provides three introductory chapters with an outline, a justification and an overview of the "game plan" for the writing of the judgment, seen from the feminist perspective. One chapter serves as an introduction to feminist judgments, one is on feminist judging and one is on the writing of judgments and the Feminist Judgments Project - further discussion of that undertaking follows in the main part of the text.

Within each of the chapters on the cases themselves, there is a commentary giving basic facts and important information to establish the foundations of the issues and to discuss why the case is significant. The commentary is extremely helpful, as no user is likely to be an expert in all the areas under consideration. This is followed by a "revisiting" of the judgment, which is presented as a judgment of the appropriate court. There is additional reading noted where suitable and the footnotes to the commentaries are a gold mine for later exploration; the comments on the historical background to the case and its reception will, in my view, be vital for most readers.

Not all the cases are recent. Most of the 23 were heard and judged between 2000 and 2008, but six occurred between 1925 and 1999. They are all of significance to any (feminist) clientele, and are, to a certain extent, amenable to a feminist viewpoint on the topic areas of the five substantive parts of the book.

This is, of course, a book written with the feminist perspective in mind, although readers need not expect a strictly political stream of diatribe here. But who in law could honestly claim not to be a feminist, if what that means is to strive to ensure that no person or group is diminished or treated badly because of their sex? In that sense, arguably, everything in law is feminist, because one expects a lawyer to be interested in ensuring that individuals are not ill-treated, and that the law is fairly applied in the circumstances.

So, do you have to be a feminist to appreciate this book? Of course not. After all, nobody's perfect (with apologies to feminists, non-feminists and one of the Marx Brothers). Besides, the trouble with being perfect is finding something to do for an encore.

Who is it for? Law tutors and students, those interested in feminist approaches in law (and social sciences generally) and, finally, the ambient feminist.

Presentation: Penetrating analysis, with a full, detailed but clear exposition that leaves few stones unturned (and it washes and polishes them en route).

Would you recommend it? Absolutely.

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