2007 Utah L. Rev. 421 (2007)
Toward a Feminist Theory of the Rural

handle is hein.journals/utahlr2007 and id is 429 raw text is: TOWARD A FEMINIST THEORY OF THE RURAL

Lisa R. Pruitt*
Feminists have often criticized law's ignorance of women's day-to-day, lived
experiences, even as they have sought to reveal the variety among those
experiences. This article builds on both critiques to argue for greater attentiveness
to a neglected aspect of women's situation: place. Specifically, Professor Pruitt
asserts that the hardships and vulnerability that mark the lives of rural women and
constrain their moral agency are overlooked or discounted by a contemporary
cultural presumption of urbanism.
This Article considers judicial responses to the realities of rural women's
lives in relation to three legal issues: intimate abuse, termination of parental
rights, and abortion. In each of these contexts, Pruitt scrutinizes judicial treatment
of spatial isolation, lack of anonymity, a depressed socioeconomic landscape, and
other features of rural America. She contrasts responses to the plight of rural
women in these legal contexts, where courts often show little empathy or
understanding, with judicial responses to the vulnerability and hardships
associated with sustaining rural livelihoods in non-gendered contexts.
Drawing on rural sociology and economics, as well as from judicial opinions,
Pruitt argues that the combination of features that constitute rural America
seriously disadvantages rural women. She further maintains that this disadvantage
is aggravated when society's prevailing urban perspective obscures legal
recognition of the rural. Unlike Catharine MacKinnon's landmark work under a
similar title, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State Pruitt does not purport to
articulate grand theory. Nevertheless, by showing how features of rural life are
often overlooked or misunderstood by legal actors, and by explaining the legal
relevance of these features to critical junctures at which women encounter the law,
Pruitt begins the process of articulating a feminist theory of the rural.
* Professor of Law, University of California, Davis. Thanks to Meghan Haswell,
Krista Maher, Elizabeth Strayer Buehring, class of 2008, and to UCD Law Librarian Erin
Murphy for superb research assistance. Thanks to Melissa M. Benites, David Chase,
Fernando Flores, Micah A. Globerson, Kimberley Jensen, Teri Ann Kezirian, and Erica
Sorosky, class of 2007, and Cindy Dole, class of 2009, for editorial assistance. Diane Marie
Amann, Alan Brownstein, Joan MacLeod Heminway, Elizabeth E. Joh, Lisa C. Ikemoto,
Katherine Porter, and Jennifer R. Smith critically read earlier drafts and directed me to
helpful sources. All errors are my own. I dedicate this to my mother, grandmothers, and
great-grandmothers, all of whom knew the hardships and vulnerability of being rural
women.

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