Engaging with and thinking beyond the current feminist dichotomies

Purple leaf Flickr Creative Commons

by Flora Renz | Photo: Forest and Kim Starr (Flickr)

Is it possible for a research project to productively contribute to an already contentious public debate? And if so, how can this be done without simply reinforcing existing polarised positions? Our project (FLaG) considers the impact of different law reform models on sex- and gender-specific provision, on advancing gender equality, and on the meaning of legal gender status and its potential reform for the wider public. From the outset, the project has also been committed to organising a number of public engagement events, aimed at different types of audiences from activists, to policy experts and the wider public.[1] However, this comes at a time when there are strongly conflicting views about the role and nature of gender in the context of law. The current public debate seems to be strongly divided between those who conceive gender as primarily a source of oppression and domination and those who see gender as a private matter than can be determined on an individual level.[2] So how can we productively acknowledge these disputes without becoming part of them? Is it possible to draw on and incorporate into our project some of the arguments currently being made while still maintaining the specific focus of our project, which is situated beyond the current tensions?

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Acting as if other law reform options were already on the table?

by Davina Cooper | Photo:  Ben Kanter

Now is an exciting time to be asking the question: do we need an assigned legal gender.

Our recently started research project on gender’s legal future is situated in a swirl of critical and creative approaches to gender and its possible futures – in terms of what gender means, what it does, and how it can (or can’t) be lived. It is also situated in the midst of legal and political debates about gender transitioning. In different countries, amid social movement and activist pressure, governments are deciding how to reform the ways gender status is determined and altered.

Prefigurative law reform provides a way of thinking about how to change statutory law, engaging with current options but from a different place.

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