SEXISM AND THE LAW by Albie & Joan Hoff Wilson Sachs


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An examination of the bias of legal systems on both sides of the Atlantic. Albie Sachs, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Southampton, England, details historic cases in which British law substituted paternal ""protection"" for justice to exclude women from professions and public life, sketches changes in family law enabling a wife to inch along ""from head servant to junior partner"" in marriage, and finally shows how the legal profession maintains itself as a male preserve. In parallel chapters, Wilson, history professor at Arizona State College, discusses American legal history, the sexist implications of landmark decisions from Susan B. Anthony's conviction for illegal voting to the Patty Hearst case, and the plight of the American Portia in a masculine ballgame. Oddly enough, although authority, procedure, and reasoning are totally different in the two systems, English and American judges arrive at the same conclusions at the same times. So much (say the authors) for the impartial majesty of the law and the myth of judicial neutrality. Both British and American law, while claiming to be liberal and equitable, have stood as ""barriers"" to equality and have been nudged forward only by massive attacks from outside. This indictment is amply documented and convincingly argued through the self-consciously ""scholarly"" prose (why use a short word when a long one will do?) can be thick going. If anything, Sachs and Wilson are over-scrupulous--""We do not feel that the legal profession is any better or worse than any other professional group""--but that does not keep them from arguing a strong case and, in this first comprehensive survey, making it stick.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan