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Home > Publications > Bulletin > > Gender and Inequality: Old Questions, New Answers
Summer 2001 Bulletin

Gender and Inequality: Old Questions, New Answers

Linda K. Kerber (University of Iowa)
With an Introduction by Robert C. Post (University of California, Berkeley)

Robert C. Post

Commentator Robert Post and Vice President Patricia Meyer Spacks.

It is an honor to introduce Linda Kerber, the May Brodbeck Professor in the Liberal Arts at the Uni-versity of Iowa and the first recipient of the Radcliffe College Award for Distinguished Scholarship in the Field of Women. Her books include Toward an Intellectual History of Women and Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America, as well as her most recent publication, No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship.

I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity to speak about Linda, because her work has had such an enormous impact on those of us who teach in law schools. She represents the best of a new generation of historians who have begun to study law as a cultural formation that both reflects and forms the discursive construction of collective identity in society. Viewed from this perspective, law can tell us a good deal about who we are as a people. In this introduction, I shall take a few brief moments to discuss this approach to the study of law, using as my text the extremely important Supreme Court case of Personnel Administrator v. Feeney, which Linda discusses extensively in her most recent book.

The Feeney case concerned a Massachusetts law that gave an absolute preference to veterans in civil service hiring. Normally, applicants for civil service positions take examinations and are hired according to their scores. But in Massachusetts veterans went to the top of the list, regardless of their scores. Because 98 percent of veterans were men, women were effectively shut out from the higher reaches of the civil service in Massachusetts. This was not because women were in any respect less patriotic than men, but because they had also been excluded, through various mechanisms, from serving in the armed forces. It was alleged that the Massa-chusetts law should be declared invalid because it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The US Supreme Court decided the case in a way that has been very influential for American equal protection jurisprudence. The Court said that despite its terrible impact on women, the preference given to veterans did not constitute gender discrimination. The test for unconstitutional discrimination was a state's purpose in enacting a law. Massachusetts, said the Court, did not enact the law because of its adverse effect on women. It en-acted the law to aid veterans, which was a proper objective. Massachusetts enacted the law in spite of its adverse effect on women, and for this reason the law was constitutional.

Why did the Supreme Court conceptualize the issue this way? The Court conceived the constitutional question of equal protection according to a logic pervasive in American antidiscrimination law—a logic that Linda's work illuminates in a clear and extraordinarily helpful way. All persons possess social attributes. Some of these attributes, like race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or religion, can inspire prejudice. Prejudice can take many forms, but the two most pertinent for the law are the tendencies to denigrate the dignity and value of a person and to classify a person according to inaccurate and hurtful stereotypes—for example, to assume that all women are weak.

In the area of employment, American antidiscrimination law combats prejudice by requiring employers to make decisions about their employees as if they were without the attributes that might cause prejudice. Employers must thus act as if their employees were without race or gender. So long as employers can offer appropriate functional justifications for their decisions, their treatment of their employees is insulated from legal oversight. This is the logic that underlies Feeney. It is also the logic that underlies Title VII, which is the great federal law that prohibits sex and race discrimination in the workplace. Title VII basically prohibits employers from promulgating rules or making decisions that are "based upon" race or sex.

The logic of American antidiscrimination law is to blind employers to race and sex so as to eliminate the possibility of prejudice. This is similar to the strategy adopted by the philosopher John Rawls in A Theory of Justice, which has become a canonical text of American liberalism. Rawls imagines that the structure of a just society would be that which persons behind a "veil of ignorance" would agree upon. The veil of ignorance hides all attributes that might prompt prejudice. Behind the veil, persons have no race, gender, class, income, or religion; they have only an abstract personhood that makes them equal in dignity to every other person. American antidiscrimination law analogously requires employers to place their employees behind a veil of ignorance which hides their particular attributes, and so to make decisions on the purely "impersonal" basis of whether employees can fulfill the instrumental requirements of their jobs.

The perfect expression of this approach is the orchestra audition. At one time there was a great deal of sex discrimination in American orchestras. To combat it, orchestras began to require that musicians audition behind a screen that hid them from view. Sometimes they even put a carpet behind the screen to muffle telltale footsteps. Each musician would in effect audition behind a veil of ignorance; the musician had no sex and no race (except in Detroit, when they found that the screen prevented the hiring of a sufficient number of African American musicians). Playing behind the screen, the auditioning musicians were transformed into perfectly impersonal instruments. Hiring decisions, the theory went, ought to be premised solely on performance.

Gender constructs our identity as social beings. Linda's work is dedicated to demonstrating that institutions like gender rest on constructed economic and social relationships that benefit one group at the expense of others. The procedure of the veil of ignorance, however, denies the history that Linda's work reveals. American antidiscrimination law requires us to imagine persons as abstract instruments rather than as the creations of particular social forces. Linda's work suggests that antidiscrimination law ought to be directed to modifying these forces. If that is correct, however, the procedure of the veil of ignorance can prove an enormous handicap. After all, at the root of Feeney is the notion that the impact of law on gender can be ignored so long as particular decisions are not subjectively infected by prejudice.

The work of people like Linda is so important because it rejects this conception of antidiscrimination law. It requires us to imagine antidiscrimination law as a social institution that acts on the social institutions that produce us as sexed human beings or as raced human beings. The ambition of American antidiscrimination law to make race and sex disappear is both utopian and theoretically incoherent. I can illustrate the point with a single example from Title VII law. Suppose a bank wishes to establish a conservative public image. A male teller at the bank asks to wear a dress to work, but the bank refuses the request. The bank will only permit women to wear dresses.

You might think that such a rule is "based on" sex, and so inconsistent with Title VII. But Title VII law refuses to draw this conclusion. The difficulty is that Title VII law cannot provide a coherent explanation for this refusal. American antidiscrimination law contains countless examples of such internal inconsistency—denying in theory what in practice it accepts. Linda would have us instead cut the Gordian knot. We should abandon the pretext that gender can be made to disappear, and instead frankly recognize how we use the law to construct and deconstruct sexual identity. We could then ask rationally exactly how we would wish to use antidiscrimination law to modify the institutions that establish and perpetuate gender.

Linda's eloquent discussion of the Feeney case, for example, shows that veteran preferences are tied to deeply held notions of citizenship, which would reward those who are willing to risk their lives for the republic. Citizens who are permitted and willing to deploy violence are predominantly men, not women; warmaking, violence, and the armed forces are gendered all the way down to the ground. When Massachusetts incorporates a veterans' preference into its law, it is thus deploying a concept that is deeply gendered. It is not acting in a neutral fashion; it is instead constructing a vision of citizenship that harms women. The impact of such a law on the field of gender is of great consequence. If we had a rational system of antidiscrimination law, we would take account of this impact in deciding which laws are consistent with the Constitution and which are not. The excitement and achievement of Linda's work lies in its invitation to participate in that inquiry.

Linda K. Kerber

Mary Maples Dunn and
speaker Linda Kerber.

The year 1999 was a difficult one for historians because we were always being approached by people—often journalists—who demanded, "Tell us something about the millennium" or "How is the year 2000 different from the year 1000?" It wasn't until after New Year's Day 2000 that I finally came up with an answer.

In the year 1000, across a wide range of communities and states, sophisticated and unsophisticated, throughout the world, husbands' authority over the bodies, property, and choices of their wives was expansive.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, men in virtually every nation had not yet relinquished their monopoly on political authority. Women had full suffrage in only one country: New Zealand. In 1900 it still seemed unthinkable that a woman ever could have the authority to judge the actions of a man. Virtually no women served on juries or as judges anywhere. By 1950 white women in the United States faced no impediments to voting, but black women—like black men—often did. In many states, husbands still controlled the earnings of their wives and decided where the family would live. The law provided no space for disagreement, short of divorce. Husbands were masters of their wives' bodies. The law recognized no such crime as marital rape until the mid-1970s. In 1950 many states still excluded women from jury service. Edu-cational and professional opportunities broadened, but only after nasty struggles.

When men and women were treated differently by the law, by employers, by schools, the difference was regularly explained as privilege—a shielding of women from the burdens and risks that men shouldered.

If the world of 1950 seems nearly as antique in these respects as that of 1900—or even that of 1000—it is because of feminism, the extraordinary international political movement that flourished in the United States from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s and has been with us ever since. When we consider the asymmetries of gendered citizenship, we do it in a perspective that is simultaneously very long (measuring trends since 1000) and very short (looking back barely 30 years). This evening I want to tell a few stories that illustrate how gender is embedded in the deep structures that undergird and sustain inequality.

What's fair? What counts as equal treatment? What counts as equal protection of the laws? Asking these question was creatively disruptive in 1776, 1860, 1933, and 1954—years in which Americans' sense of what constituted reasonable answers underwent major transformations. A transformative moment occurred very recently, in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the different treatment of men and women might, under certain circumstances, constitute denial of the equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. The case was a dinky one from Idaho. Hardly any money was involved. To most people it was a family squabble, barely worth all the attention it was going to get. Yet as Sally Reed knew from the outset, it had the potential to be very destabilizing.

The Reeds were a family of modest resources. Cecil was a mechanic for the state highway department. Sally had a little more education than he; she had worked white-collar jobs as a secretary and a bookkeeper. They adopted a son, but they were divorced in 1958 and argued bitterly about who would have custody. In 1967, when Richard died at the age of 16, he left a small amount of property and savings; he had not written a will. Under Idaho law dating back to 1864, when a person died without a will, the administration of the estate was assigned in the following order: to the surviving husband and wife, to the children, to the father or the mother, to the brothers or the sisters. The statute specified that of the several persons equally entitled, males must be preferred to females. (Similar statutes were in force in Nevada, South Dakota, Arizona, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.)

Outraged, Sally Reed filed a petition to be named administrator. The probate court, however, promptly appointed Cecil, on the grounds that while both parents were equally entitled, the statute clearly stated that males must be preferred. Sally appealed to the district court, arguing that the statute violated the Idaho Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment—and she won. But Cecil appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, which said that although it could be argued philosophically that the statute discriminated against women, nature itself had established the distinction, and the statute was designed only to alleviate the problem of holding hearings. The legislature evidently concluded that men are better qualified than women to act as administrators.

Sally filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court. By then it was 1971, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then 38 years old, had just taken an appointment at Columbia Law School and was spending half her time working for the American Civil Liberties Union as head of its new Women's Rights Project—whose basic principle was that discrimination on the basis of sex was neither benign nor harmless. Sally Reed's attorney, Alan Derr, agreed to accept the ACLU's help if he could conduct the oral argument before the Supreme Court. Derr was backed by a formidable 88-page brief—written mostly by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with some help from ACLU director Mel Wolf—that laid out what would be-come the standard line of argument against sex discrimination.

A new appreciation of women's place had been generated in the United States. Courts and legislatures had begun to recognize the claim of women to full membership in the class called "persons entitled to due process guarantees of equal protection of laws." Ginsburg emphasized the similarities between discrimination based on race and discrimination based on sex. Both misused congenital and unalterable biological traits of birth and were based on inaccurate stereotypes.

Ginsburg, Wolf, and Derr were asking the Supreme Court to overturn relatively recent opinions, which it generally resists doing. The Court had ruled, 23 years earlier, that Michigan could pass a law stating that only men could be bartenders, that the only women who could be bartenders were the wives and daughters of bar owners, and that it was inappropriate for the widow of a bar owner to continue her husband's business and tend bar there. Ten years earlier, the Court had held that Florida could establish a number of barriers that women had to cross before being included in pools of prospective jurors, making it highly unlikely that women would ever be called to jury service—and thus making it normal that any woman accused of a crime had virtually no chance of a jury pool that included anyone like herself.

But the Supreme Court's signals were confused. In 1960 it had ruled that a wife could be personally charged with criminal conspiracy, overturning the old rule that a wife must be presumed to act under the coercive influence of her husband. The Court had also ruled that a wife could be compelled to testify against her husband on occasion. All over the country, as Sally Reed found in Idaho in 1968, lower courts had reconsidered their old assumptions. In 1969 a federal appellate court had held it unconstitutional to exclude women from a jury in a civil case concerning testicular cancer. In 1970 Faith Seidenberg and other New York City women had won their claim that it was unconstitutional for McSorley's Old Alehouse to exclude women patrons unaccompanied by men on the grounds that they might be prostitutes. And in 1971, just before the Reed case was argued in the Supreme Court, Wendy Williams—barely 30 years old—had written the brief that persuaded the California Supreme Court to overturn a law forbidding wo-men to tend bar.

Cecil Reed's attorney, Charles Stout, was left to splutter that Idaho women were voters, and if they didn't like the law, they could have changed it. He argued that the legislators, in enacting the statute in question, knew that men are generally more conversant with business affairs than women. It is a matter of common knowledge, he said, that women are not engaged in politics, the professions, business, or industry; nature protects the female and the offspring in order to propagate the species.

I'm happy to say that this argument got Charles Stout nowhere. The Court's decision was unanimous: Idaho's preference for males was arbitrary. Mere administrative convenience was not enough; they sent the case back for a hearing on which of the Reeds was better suited. But they did not mention the Michigan case. They did not overturn their previous opinion on Florida jurors. They did not offer broad principles. It was not the triumph for which Ginsburg and Derr had hoped. The California Supreme Court had gone much farther in the bartending case, treating sex discrimination as a suspect category as dangerous as race discrimination. Certainly, the pressures and arguments had been building to persuade the Court to be skeptical of discrimination on the basis of gender. There were the lower court decisions, and there was a lot of public street theater, but the decision in Reed was very narrow, as were the decisions in the cases that followed it. They were reinforced by resistance to a general equal rights amendment, which ultimately was not passed. Thus, in 1971 it was reasonably clear that each issue would have to be litigated on its own merits at great length. Much of this struggle has now been forgotten. The claims women can now make are often taken for granted. Let me run through some matters that Reed did not settle.

In 1971 Massachusetts was one of 25 states that still permitted birth control to be sold to married couples only. This forced the question of whether the unmarried had the right to sexual intercourse free of unwanted pregnancy, or whether the state had the right to forbid it on the grounds of "purity and chastity." In many states, girls were treated as persons in need of supervision two years longer than boys, which was not fair to girls—but boys could be tried as adults at 16 and girls at 18, which was unfair to boys. In some states, men got longer sentences than women did for the same crimes. In Maine, women who escaped from prison got 11 months added to their sentence; men who escaped got an additional 6 to 12 years. It was not considered unreasonable to compensate according to one's sex. Sharon Fronteiro, an air force officer, had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to claim her husband as her dependent. A man in Colorado had to go to the Supreme Court to claim his elderly mother as a dependent because a single man was not supposed to have a woman dependent. In many states, a court had to approve before a married woman could engage in an independent business. In Illinois, an unmarried father was, by law, a stranger to his children; if their mother died, the court considered the children orphans and put them up for adoption.

The Supreme Court did not settle the issue of jury inequities until 1975, when it ruled for the first time that mens' and womens' names were to be put in jury pools on equal terms. It did not rule that peremptory challenges cannot be based on gender until 1994.

In 1972 Title IX had not yet been passed. That year there were 50,000 men's athletic scholarships available in US colleges and universities, but only 50 women's scholarships—so we had the phenomenon of a woman Olympic medalist being ineligible for a college scholarship. It took lawsuits to get some states to permit a 5-person women's basketball team.

Also, women were generally required to drop their birth surnames at marriage. If they married more than once, they had to change their surnames repeatedly. Men were not so compelled. In 1972 the Supreme Court summarily affirmed an Alabama court's ruling that it was constitutional to require a married woman to adopt her husband's surname. This led to an amazing amount of bitter litigation—and lots of people lost. In Massa-chusetts a group called Name Change was organized to assist women who wanted to keep their birth names. In some states it took the leadership of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women to allow married women to be listed separately from their husbands in the telephone directory. Throughout the institutional and economic landscape, it took litigation, anger, and resistance to open blue-collar jobs—telephone line worker, firefighter, police officer—to women, and to open single-sex state universities to women. There was a major fight to break open professional-school quotas at the University of Virginia. In 1972 only 9 percent of the medical degrees, 7 percent of the law degrees, and 15 percent of the doctoral degrees went to women, as compared with 40 or 50 percent in each case today. Almost no change came easily, with one partial exception: change within the American military. The Pentagon, delighted to have warm bodies, did not resist opening the army to women. There was a lot of social resistance, but the formal resistance was gone.

The landscape we walked on in 1971 was mapped in the era of the American Revolution, when men of the founding generation made an ominous choice. Even while they were energetically destroying much that they had inherited from England—inventing a new concept of the citizen; using a capacious rhetoric of equality that ignored differences of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and class; and embedding this concept solidly in 13 state constitutions and the federal Constitution—they absorbed virtually unchanged the traditional English system of law that had governed the relationship between husbands and wives throughout the colonial era.

In a famous letter, Abigail Adams told John to "remember the ladies." If we read on, it becomes clear that the vote was the least thing she wanted. Her real concern was more immediate: "Put it out of the power of husbands to use us as they will. Remember all men would by tyrants if they could." Abigail Adams had domestic violence in mind, and well she might. The old law of domestic relations that she knew began from the principle that at marriage, the husband controlled the physical body of the wife. From that premise followed the elaborate system known as coverture, which treated married women as covered by their husband's civic identity. Because of the sharp limits on the extent to which married women controlled their bodies and their property, their obligations to their husbands and families overrode their obligations to the state.

In many ways, the liberal revolution of the period was stabilized by the conservative, even retrograde choices embedded in the old law of domestic relations. By treating unmarried women as though they would someday be married, the old law of domestic relations was a barrier to their ability to exercise the rights of free citizens. And significantly, by making the fathers responsible for children born to married couples but making the mothers responsible for children born to unmarried couples, the old law of domestic relations ensured that children born to a free father and an enslaved mother followed the mother into slavery.

The Three-Fifths Compromise ensured that slaves and women remained tightly bound to labor and permanently vulnerable to the sexual appetites of their masters. Sally Hemings inherited her slave status from her mother. Her father's other daughter was Martha Wayles, whom Thomas Jefferson married. Whatever the emotional relations between Jefferson and Hemings may have been, had Hemings wished to resist him, she had no legal way of doing so. Black men and women dragged with them into freedom a heightened obligation to look like they were working—an inheritance that persists in the "welfare queen" accusations of our own time. Another persistent piece of this inheritance is the tradition that a father has no responsibility for the children born to a woman he has not married.

The system of law established in the era of the Revolution, and the ideological rationale that accompanied it, would be attacked wholesale by the men and women who came together at Seneca Falls in 1848. In practice, however, they would never fall wholesale; they would fall only piecemeal, bit by bit, as legislators, litigants, and individuals making private choices in their own lives and their own communities forced one change after another.

The 19th Amendment—the suffrage amendment, ratified in 1920—would be interpreted narrowly for black women in the South and would mean little for them until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Not for a decade after suffrage could women sit in the legislatures of several states. Those who were restive with the narrow results of these changes would have to fight for them state by state, issue by issue. Although few could articulate it over the course of the twentieth century, their target would always be the old law of domestic relations, with the privileging of married white men as its invisible base.

Since the 1970s, tremendous progress has been achieved through hard work, anxiety, pain, and anguish. We have changed educational and athletic opportunities. We have placed women in police forces and in armies as executors of the force of the state. We are slowly closing job segregation by sex. In three areas, however, gender equality still eludes us, and this requires serious attention.

The first area goes back to the basic principle of the old law of domestic relations, which remained largely unspoken: the husband controlled the wife's body. Earlier, I alluded to a Florida trial that tested the presence of women on juries. It was the 1957 trial of a woman charged with second-degree murder.The defendant said that her husband, in a rage, started to throw things around in the kitchen, then went after her and tore her dress off. When she tried to leave the house, he ran after her, twisted her arm, started to choke her, and said he would kill her. The prosecutor simply observed that her marriage was not working out too successfully; neither the prosecutor nor the attorney for the defense pursued that line of questioning. In the context of 1957, acknowledging violence in the household would have introduced the possibility of premeditation and raised the charge to first-degree murder, a capital crime—and even the prosecutor didn't want that.

We can credit the second wave of feminism for our recognition of gender-based violence and its place in American society; for the invention of rape shield laws (which prevent the introduction of evidence about dress and previous sexual history); for the invention of the concept that it is possible for a husband to rape his wife; for the expansion of the notion of self-defense so that it might be reasonable for a weaker person to use armed force in attacking a more powerful person; for the recognition that 30 percent of female homicide victims are killed by their male partners.

The good news is that domestic violence is estimated to be down by 20 percent since 1994. On the other hand, one afternoon in June 2000, in New York City's Central Park, police officers ignored calls for help from dozens of women who were terrorized by the real fear of gang rape. The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized last Septem-ber, despite the elimination of the original act's provision that gender-based violence could be a federal crime. The act now authorizes $3 billion to fight violence against women, including $1 billion over five years to help prosecutors track down domestic abusers, $875 million to expand shelters for battered women, $95 million over two years to protect foreign women brought into this country by the international sex trade, and $140 million to stop violent crimes against women on college campuses. It is chilling to confront this evidence that women in our country are in such great danger.

Second, we are only beginning to understand deeply how gender intersects with race and ethnicity in constructing class. The American labor force has always been segregated by gender and by race, which continue to be key determinants of earnings. The concentration of women in low-paying, female-dominated occupations sustains earnings disparities between men and women. Racialization is clearest in local economies where a subordinate racial or ethnic group is sizable enough to fill a substantial proportion of jobs. In southern cities, black women are twice as likely to be employed in service occupations as white women. In San Antonio and El Paso, Spanish-origin women are twice as likely to be employed in service occupations as non-Spanish-origin white women. Throughout Hawaii, Asian and Pacific Islander women are more likely than other women to be employed in service jobs. In most hospitals the hierarchy of race and gender is dramatically displayed: white male physicians at the top; registered nurses overwhelmingly women and disproportionately white; licensed practical nurses disproportionately women of color; nurses' aides predominantly women of color; kitchen workers predominantly women of color; orderlies and cleaners predominantly men of color.

Finally, there is the movement for gay rights, which occurred simultaneously with women's liberation. Many lesbians were part of both movements, articulating their own expanding sense of unequal treatment and oppression with increasing energy, challenging heterosexuals to redefine equality more expansively. Some feminists, including Betty Friedan, found acceptance of the full range of human sexuality impossible; others held it to be implicit in the claims feminists had made all along. Although the Supreme Court has refused to allow Colorado voters to exclude sexual preference explicitly from human rights ordinances, it sustained the Boy Scouts of America's exclusion of gay men as scoutmasters last June. An overwhelming majority of states currently permit employment, housing, and credit discrimination against gay people; 18 states still criminalize consensual gay sex.

Even so, the year 2000 is different from 1900. The agenda of international feminism now has words to describe as unfair the many disparities in access to citizenship, education, and the professions. It has words to describe as crimes what were once viewed as customs. But conceptualizing harms is not the same as eliminating them. Undermining the assumption that only heterosexual people are "normal" has not meant that gay people can confidently claim equal rights. Out of their own bitter experience, women of color analyze the ways in which systems of racial, sexual, and class hierarchy are linked—but analysis is not magical transformation. The ideal worker remains the male head of household whose dinner awaits him when he returns from work. Although over half of all mothers with children under age six work outside the home, the length of the workday has not changed. Child care is only marginally more available in the United States than it was 30 years ago (in sharp contrast with the capacious national system of child care in France). The extraordinary expansion of educational and professional opportunities for women has been accompanied by the feminization of poverty, which characterizes not only the United States but also much of the world. And although the wage gap is closing among younger and childless men and women with equal levels of skill and education, women continue to earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by men. Two-thirds of all minimum-wage workers in the United States are women.

In the 1990s—led by energetic nongovernmental organizations allied with the United Nations and sensitized by the sexualized violence of the war in Bosnia, the transformation of governments in Eastern Europe, and the response to the UN's 1995 Beijing Conference—many American women connected issues in the United States to international challenges. Persuading the International Court of Justice to define rape as a war crime, supporting African women who insist that genital cutting is mutilation, US activist women found colleagues all over the globe and entered forcefully into the work of developing shared agendas for change.

The great work of feminism—philosophical, scholarly, and activist—is to claim women's intellectual and bodily integrity for the human rights agenda, both nationally and internationally. To do that work requires us to understand how gender relations function in the construction of personal identities and class and race relations. What counts as equal protection of the law is simultaneously obvious and elusive. Addressing these issues could surely consume the next century's worth of our energy. And we had better expend it, or what has been accomplished will erode, and we will have to do that work all over again.

Commentary © 2000 by Robert C. Post. Communication © 2000 by Linda K. Kerber. Photos © 2000 by Sebastian Nichols.

This presentation was given at the 1840th Stated Meeting, held at the House of the Academy in Cambridge on December 6, 2000.