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A Law of Her Own The Reasonable Woman as a Measure of Man by Caroline A. Forell, Donna M. Matthews

A Law of Her Own The Reasonable Woman as a Measure of Man



A Law of Her Own The Reasonable Woman as a Measure of Man by Caroline A. Forell, Donna M. Matthews

Despite the apparent progress in women's legal status, the law retains a profoundly male bias, and as such contributes to the pervasive violence and injustice against women. In A Law of Her Own, the authors propose to radically change law's fundamental paradigm by introducing a reasonable woman standard for measuring men's behavior. Advocating that courts apply this standard to the conduct of men-and women-in legal settings where women are overwhelmingly the injured parties, the authors seek to eliminate the victimization and objectification of women by dismantling part of the legal structure that supports their subordination. A woman-based legal standard-focusing on respect for bodily integrity, agency, and autonomy-would help rectify the imbalance in how society and its legal system view sexual and gender-based harassment, rape, stalking, battery, domestic imprisonment, violence, and death. Examining the bias of the existing reasonable person standard through analysis of various court cases and judicial decisions, A Law of Her Own aims to balance the law to incorporate women's values surrounding sex and violence.


A Law of Her Own will be an eye-opener to anyone who believes that the law has become even-handed in its treatment of gender. Very logically and politely, Forell and Matthews argue for one tiny change in the law that could finally balance the scales between the sexes. Reasonable men, as well as women, will be persuaded.

-Barbara Ehrenreich This lucidly written book marks a significant advance in feminist legal scholarship. Central to it is the simple but brilliant idea that, in certain legal situations, what counts as appropriate conduct-for men as well as women-should be assessed from the perspective of a reasonable woman. By insisting that this norm be applied only in situations involving sex, sexism, and aggression, the authors cut incisively through the sameness-difference dilemma that has long bedeviled feminist legal scholarship; they also address charges of essentialism by acknowledging that additional standards may sometimes be applicable. Utilizing a straightforward, non-technical style that-incredibly-dispenses with footnotes, the book demonstrates that existing law is still, in some respects, a `warrior code
and points the way to a more just and respectful future.

-Alison M. Jaggar,Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado The biases that underpin our legal system are far more difficult to change than individual laws. Forell and Matthews cut to the heart of the matter by replacing the `reasonable man
standard with

`reasonable woman,
a step toward a future in which laws are made by and for reasonable human beings. A Law of Her Own is readable, revealing, and important to everyone.

-Gloria Steinem A very thoughtful and thorough analysis of the logical reasons a reasonable woman standard should apply. Well-supported and clear, with plenty of examples supporting their argument for the viability of a reasonable woman standard. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the law of sexual harassment, stalking, homicide, or rape.

-Susan Estrich,University of Southern California, School of Law Pragmatic and action-oriented, Forell and Matthews take up the challenge of discovering why sexual harassment doctrine and other feminist-inspired law reforms in the last generation have not been more effective in eliminating sexual bias and violence against women.

-Martha Chamallas,University of Pittsburgh School of Law

About the Author

Caroline Forell is Professor of Law at the University of Oregon. Donna Matthews is an attorney in private practice in Oregon.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st May 2001


Caroline A. Forell, Donna M. Matthews

More books by Caroline A. Forell, Donna M. Matthews
Author 'Like for Like'


New York University Press


261 pages


Jurisprudence & philosophy of law
Constitutional & administrative law
Systems of law



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