feminist jurisprudence

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Feminist jurisprudence is a philosophy of law based on the political, economic, and social issues of equality. As a field of legal scholarship, feminist jurisprudence began in the 1960s. It now holds a significant place in U.S. law and legal thought and influences many debates on sexual and domestic violence, inequality in the workplace, disability rights, and issues of discrimination. Through various approaches, feminists have identified gendered components and gendered implications of seemingly “neutral” laws and practices. Laws impacting employmentdivorce, reproductive rights/abortion, rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment have all benefited from the analysis and insight of feminist jurisprudence.

Feminists believe that history was written from a Western cis-male point of view and does not reflect anyone else’s role in making history and structuring society. This male-written history has created a bias in the concepts of human nature, gender potential, and social arrangements. The language, logic, and structure of the law are male-created and reinforce Western male values and power dynamics. Creating a “binary” of male and female also creates an implied hierarchy. By presenting male characteristics as a "norm" and anything/anyone outside of that as deviation from the "norm" (otherness), the prevailing conceptions of law reinforce and perpetuate patriarchal power. Feminists challenge the belief in the biological and social concepts of a gender binary. Gender is a social construct on a spectrum, and is not biological. Sex determines a reproductive capacity, but not psychological, moral, or social traits.

Though feminists share common commitments to equality, feminist jurisprudence is not uniform; there are many schools of thought within feminist jurisprudence. 

Federal Material

U.S. Constitution:

Federal Judicial Decisions

  • U.S. Supreme Court:
    • Recent Women's Rights Decisions
    • Roe v. Wade
    • liibulletin Oral Argument Previews

Additional Resources: 

[Last updated in December of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]