In 1949 Simon Beauvoir, with her work titled "the second sex" who expressed the position of women down the ages, possibly creating a landmark in this area. As she said "… man defines woman not in herself but relative to him. He is the Subject. He is the Absolute-she is the Other. This attitude was portrayed in all areas of society- political, economic, social and very importantly legal; this giving rises to the principle of Patriarchy. By patriarchy feminists mean the ordering of society under which standards -political, economical, legal, social- are set by, and fixed in the interests of men, men more highly valued than women.
We shall now move on to see how patriarchy manifests itself in law, despite some great improvements, even today. Men shaped law. Women were not even included. It was from the 17th century that the notion of equality provided the political and conceptual context in which the feminist voice could be contracted. Until the 19th century he broader notion of equality became reduced to the notion of equal rights whereby feminism, took the view of a true political force in demand of those equal rights. The 19th century brought with it the beginnings of a feminist jurisprudence.
By the end of the 1960s beginning of 1970s, the second wave of women's movement was set up. Feminists instead of trying to create the perfect law were concentrating more on criticizing the existing one. Various feminist theories developed but all had one main thing in common: the attack on patriarchy. Feminists do not speak with a single voice. At least four schools of feminist thought can be identified: liberal, radical, cultural and postmodern feminism. Liberal Feminism: In liberal feminism (1960-1970) all persons are regarded as autonomous and the values of equality, rationality and autonomy are emphasized.
Its central claim is that since women and men are equally rational they ought to have the same opportunities to exercise rational choices. Radical Feminism: While liberal feminism emphasizes in equality, radical feminism is concerned with difference and claims that women's differences should not put them in a disadvantage, for example pregnancy. The preoccupation with difference, expressed more coherently by the leading radical feminist, Catharine McKinnon as she challenges the view that since men have defined women as different, women can ever achieve equality.
Cultural Feminism: Cultural feminists saw women's differences as a source of strength not as a source of weakness. Women speak a different voice than men as Carol Gilligan claimed, something advantageous to the world: a voice of caring, concern, and responsibility. McKinnon was not willing to accept Gilligan's point of view, as she suggested that the different voice determination was in response to patriarchic values. Postmodern Feminism: PMF claimed that gender categories were mere constructions of society and what was needed was a feminist reconstruction.
What they really did was to criticize the essentialism of other feminisms. The focus was on the variety of human experience. People are different should not be viewed as a class. These feminist movements were attempts to eliminate Patriarchy and the truth is that women have achieved a lot over the centuries and have managed to gain a position in a society which until1929, at least as far as judges were concerned, did not accept women as persons. But the result of this was not quite as positive as may sound.
In reality judges were judging women on the basis of their own political convictions, impartiality was of no significance and on using common law, they were only using their male-determined previous modes of reasoning. Women's battle did not stop there and it was not an easy one: they had to fight against inheritance rules, holding of property, entry in schools and universities, professions and also very private issues like rape in marriage. According to Catherine McKinnon, rape is a very good example of Patriarchy.
It is based on the male perspective and not on women's experience of violence and interference. It is the male view whether there has been consent or not. In courts in many areas as a test of objectivity the reasonable MAN testis used, which indeed reflects the male's state of mind considering that judges are predominantly male, white, middle-class. As far as pornography is concerned, there was a strong debate on the issue between McKinnon and Dworkin.
It was said to be a great indication of women's subordination to man. It was said for those women enjoyed being subjected to pornography; it is a matter of "false consciousness" a product of the oppressive society they were brought up with. It is therefore obvious I believe that Patriarchy persists in the British law and it manifests itself in several ways. It is very difficult to convert a law built on the foundations of a male ruling society into one of equal rights and expectations.
Women through their moves and theories have achieved a lot but there is still a lot of more to be done. Maybe the right approach to go about the matter has not yet been adopted or discovered. In any case, it won't be easy as women have learnt to look at themselves through the man's spectacles and until those are taken off women will not be able to break free and reestablish themselves and the value of their being.