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Law and the power of feminism: how marriage lost its power to oppress women

Auchmuty, R. (2012) Law and the power of feminism: how marriage lost its power to oppress women. Feminist Legal Studies, 20 (2). pp. 71-87. ISSN 0966-3622

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s10691-012-9197-6


In Feminism and the Power of Law Carol Smart argued that feminists should use non-legal strategies rather than looking to law to bring about women’s liberation. This article seeks to demonstrate that, as far as marriage is concerned, she was right. Statistics and contemporary commentary show how marriage, once the ultimate and only acceptable status for women, has declined in social significance to such an extent that today it is a mere lifestyle choice. This is due to many factors, including the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s, improved education and job opportunities for women, and divorce law reform, but the catalyst for change was the feminist critique that called for the abandonment (rather than the reform) of the institution and made the unmarried state possible for women. I conclude that this loss of significance has been more beneficial to British women in terms of the possibility of ‘liberation’ than appeals for legal change and recognition, and that we should continue to be wary of looking to law to solve women’s problems.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:28986

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