Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Teaching Feminist Legal Theory with a Faith Perspective -- and a free book offer!

This past semester I taught, for the first time, a course in Feminist Legal Theory.  I supplemented one of the standard feminist legal theory casebooks with a number of essays by women taking various faith perspectives – Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim, and Jewish -- on feminist issues, including a couple of chapters from Erika Bachichio's edited collection, Women, Sex, and the Church:  A Case for Catholic Teaching.  I also used the draft of a Teaching Guide that the Murphy Institute commissioned from Erika, which keys the relevant chapters of that book to some of the standard feminist jurisprudence casebooks. 

I wasn't sure how my class (13 women, 4 men, probably about 1/3 Catholic) would react to the faith perspectives, or how well they would fit a legal theory class.  Based both on reactions from my students, and my own observations about the class, the experiment was a great success.  As a teacher, the most interested thing I learned was how important it was to have on the table for discussion in class some alternative visions of: (1) what a family is or should be; and (2) what relations between men and women should ideally look like.  The perspectives of religious feminists provided some alternatives that could be presented as comparison to the visions presented in the standard texts.    Most often, in our classroom discussions focused on what my students personally wanted as an ideal of the family or the type of relationship, what they wanted was something very close to the Catholic vision, no matter where their theoretical commitments might be leading them. 

As a scholar interested in feminist legal theory, the most interesting thing I thing I learned from this semester was how often the religious feminists made arguments that sounded an awful lot like the arguments of the Dominance Feminists.  I expected to see a lot of convergence with Relational and Care Feminists, and I did see those, but the convergence with Dominance Feminists like Catherine MacKinnon really surprised me. 

Erika's Teaching Guide is available for free at the Murphy Institute website, here.  It provides some truly meaty background for anyone wishing to provide a Catholic perspective on a multitude of issues addressed not just in feminist legal theory courses, but many course in the law school curriculum:  abortion, contraception, marriage, work-life balance, even priesthood.  And if you look at the ad on p. 14 of the June/July issue of First Things, you'll see that we're even able to offer a limited number of review copies of the book itself for professors teaching related courses.  Contact [email protected] for more information about the free book!

(By the way, the Murphy Institute is planning on commissioning more of these sorts of guides for professors interested in supplementing law school courses with a Catholic perspective, and offering them for free on our web site.  If you are interested in writing one on any legal topic, please contact me.)


Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink

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