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Article Review: Lucinda M.

Finley’s Article relating to Feminist Jurisprudence

The article starts with a clever syllogism to bring out its central thesis and its relation with
feminist jurisprudence. The article initially question if these “objective and neutral” laws made
by men (majority of law makers) would redress women’s experience of harm. The article further
breaks this question into three more parts and is answered one by one.

The author starts with the powers and limitations of legal language. She skillfully portrays how
legal language not just defines a particular thing but also reflects the way the world sees it.
Careful examination of legal language reveals the assumptions considered before putting it into
words. She explains this further by pointing out a few instances where, without any intentions,
we tend to relate the word “mother” with someone who is married, with children and is
financially dependent on her husband. If not we tend to add certain prefixes such as, “single” or
“working.” This shows that without any questions the world views women the ay the law has
defined them. She further explains the point by giving example of how men are considered
“gender less” and all gender related problems are referred to that of a woman’s problem and yet
we claim to live in a society which is gender neutral. Legal language sometimes fails to take into
account the feelings of women and express it without any regard to the same. She explains this
by stating how “surrogate mother” is used instead of “birth mother” and the process of surrogacy
is considered as a mere legally enforceable contract without taking into consideration the
feelings of the mother (birth). She gives more examples regarding the same and successfully
convinces the readers how legal language is used as a tool to maintain status quo rather than
reaching radical understandings.

The author moves to the issue, why legal language is not gender neutral. She links this to
historical and empirical reasons. She states that laws are based on life experiences of a typical:
educated, politically and economically privileged men, to which I agree, as historically the
human race was ruled by such men with no regard to other races. So our current legal system
would be nothing but the perspectives (with a few modifications) of these men on issues which
they would have never experienced. The author explains this by giving an example on law
relating to rape; the law has defined rape based on a woman’s consent and male’s perspective
instead of defining it based on the emotional experience of a woman. With this being established
she moves on to the powers and limitation of male legal language, where she concentrates
mainly on the latter, while considering her argument as “objective.” This part of the article
illustrates and criticizes with various examples as to how legal language is a reason/emotion
dichotomy which relies mostly on reason. She tries to establish the importance of consideration
of emotion and past experiences during the process of decision making with respect to a rape
case, how a rape victim will never be a member of the jury as she might be biased. The author
here states that experience might help her judgment and give importance (once) to the voice of
women in legal language. I strongly disagree and state that emotion should not be considered
while taking a decision. Let us consider her example of rape; if a rape victim was made part of
the jury, then the accused might be given an impression that he will be convicted (even if he is
innocent). Giving the appearance of justice is as important as the process of administration of
justice. The author has considered examples specifically related to women and fails to consider
the general scenario which made her arguments less objective and more trivial.

The author sums up by stating that the knowledge that such dilemma exists in the legal language
is very important for feminist jurisprudence. The knowledge will encourage people to think
critically regarding this and bring a change in such laws in the near future. I think this is an apt
conclusion to a well written article.

In my opinion the article sticks to its central purpose but at the same time ignores laws that give
women more preference. She repeatedly refers to how the legal system is biased towards men but
fails to mention laws that positively discriminate men. After reading the article it appears as if
the entire legal system is a system of “beliefs.” It is the beliefs of one community against the
other. We will never be able to achieve neutrality if belief is what we are fighting for.