32 Austl. Feminist L.J. 97 (2010)
Power and Danger: Feminist Engagement with International Law through the UN Security Council

handle is hein.journals/afemlj32 and id is 103 raw text is: POWER AND DANGER: FEMINIST ENGAGEMENT
Dianne Otto
The claim that feminist 'achievements' are now so substantial and 'sufficiently institutionalised' as
to wield significant power in international law2 has ignited debates among feminist academics and
activists. Janet Halley, the chief proponent of this view, has coined the term 'Governance
Feminism' to describe the way that feminists and feminist ideas have become 'installed' in legal-
institutional power, most notably in the development of international criminal law aimed at
prosecuting sexual violence.3 She criticises Governance Feminism for its failure to be critically
self-reflective,4 its reliance on state-centred forms of power,5 its promotion of the 'sexual-
subordination' feminism of Catharine MacKinnon,6 and its persistent self-representation as the
'political underdog'.' Her claim that feminism has 'come to power'8 is a spectacular divergence
from the familiar accounts of feminist attempts to engage with international law and its
institutions, which tell a saga of 'marginalisation', 'silencing', and 'talking to ourselves'.9 The
Mv title recalls Vance Carole S (ed) Pleasure and Danger exploringfrmale sexualiy Routledge and Keagan Paul Books 1984.
Although this ground-breaking collection is interested in exploring the tensions between pleasure and danger in the
context of feminist struggles related to women's sexuality, the need to find a place for understanding both 'power' (in the
pleasurable sense of achievement) and 'danger' (in the sense of consequences that are antithetical to feminism) is also
applicable to an assessment of feminist projects in international law.
Dianne Otto is a Professor of Law, Melbourne Law School, Australia 3010. d.otto@unimelb.edu.au. My thanks go to the
many workshop participants for their enthusiastic and insightful feedback, and to my partner Joan Nestle for her patience
and advice.
2   Halley Janet, Kotiswaran Prabha, Shamir Hila and Thomas Chantal 'From the International to the Local in Feminist Legal
Responses to Rape, Prostitution/Sex Work, and Sex Trafficking: Four Studies in Contemporary Governance Feminism'
(2006) 29 Harvard Journal of Genderand Law 335 at 336.
3   As above at 342-347.
4   Halley Janet Split Dedsions: How and Wby to Take a Break from Feminism Princeton University Press New Jersey 2006 p 29-
5   Halley et al above note 2 at 341-342.
6   Halley above note 4 at 29.
7   As above at 32.
8   As above at 22.
9   Byrnes Andrew 'Women, Feminism and International Human Rights Law - Methodological Myopia, Fundamental Flaws
or Meaningful Marginalisation? Some Current Issues' (1992) 12 Australian Year Book of International Law 205; Durham
Helen and Gurd Tracey (eds) Listening to the Silences: Women and War Brill Academic Publishers 2005; Charlesworth Hlarv

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