On Feminist Jurisprudence: Radical Feminism and the Construction of the Self
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Radical feminist jurisprudence rightly criticizes liberal feminist jurisprudence for its restrictive focus upon formal rights and guarantees of equality. Such legal provisions do not by themselves dismantle discrimination against women, which is more deeply located in social practices, institutional provisions, and cultural patterns of interpretation. In short, radical feminists argue their liberal sisters underestimate what patriarchy is and how it functions. While formal legal guarantees are a necessary condition of dismantling patriarchal discrimination, social practices and cultural patterns of interpretation maintain conditions that prevent those rights from being exercised. While this is undoubtedly an accomplishment, radical feminism focuses on gaining power over social, economic, and institutional resources. This Neo-Marxian notion of power is at odds with the way in which postmodern feminists have analyzed how patriarchy functions. For such postmodernfeminists, patriarchal power "constitutes" or "configures" female "subjectivities" and hence functions in more nefarious fashion than radical feminists presume. I argue that radical feminists can easily incorporate this insight into the formation of personal identities without embracing the postmodern conception of power, which compromises the possibility of critical agency. In this way, radical feminism incorporates the insight of both liberal and postmodern feminism without incurring their liabilities.