ArticlesVolume 12, Number 3 (2003)

I Know It When I See It, or What Makes Scholarship Feminist: A Cautionary Tale

Abstract

Before we can intelligently discuss the significance of feminist law journals, it is important, as a preliminary matter, to identify and define what makes scholarship feminist. While we may have an intuitive sense of which writings are feminist and which are not (hence, the “I Know It When I See It” phrase in the title), it can be quite difficult in practice to identify the common features of a piece of writing that allow us to label it as feminist. I discovered this difficulty as I prepared this symposium paper and presentation and reluctantly concluded that I should append to the title the phrase “A Cautionary Tale.”

My original intent in this piece was to take an empirical approach to the question, examining classics of the feminist legal literature of the past twenty years or so to discern common features. I planned, somewhat facetiously, to refer to the articles I reviewed as the “Top Forty Feminist Law Review Articles of All Time” or the “Greatest Hits of Feminist Scholarship. Of course, I knew all along the impossibility of compiling the authoritative list or even an authoritative list, but I did not realize exactly how difficult the task was until I began. I was walking into a quagmire.