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Breaking Women's Silence in Law: The Dilemma of the Gendered Nature of Legal Reasoning, 64 Notre Dame L. Rev. 886 (1989)


Language matters. Law matters. Legal language matters. I make these three statements not to offer a clever syllogism, but to bluntly put the central thesis of this. Article: it is an imperative task for feminist jurisprudence and for feminist lawyers–for anyone concerned about what the impact of law has been, and will be, on the realization and meanings of justice, equality, security, and autonomy for women–to turn critical attention to the nature of legal reasoning and the language by which it is expressed. As I exhorted in a recent article, feminist legal theorists "must start to grapple with the nature of law itself, to understand the extent to which it is male defined, and the extent to which its language and its process of reasoning are built on male conceptions of problems and of harms–and on male, or epistemologically 'objective' and 'neutral,' methods of analysis. If the law has been defined largely by men, and if its definitions, which are presumed to be objective and neutral, shape societal judgments as to whether a problem exists or whether a harm has occurred, then can the law comprehend and adequately redress women's experiences of harm? This Article is my effort to take up my own call, and to push beyond my beginning reflections in the previous article.

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