26 Ariz. St. L.J. 413 (1994)
What is Feminism

handle is hein.journals/arzjl26 and id is 425 raw text is: What is Feminism?

Owen M. Fiss*
De Tocqueville once remarked on the unusual tendency of Americans
to give political and social controversies a legal cast.' This observation,
made more than a century and a half ago, remains true today, perhaps
more so than ever, and is confirmed by the peculiar American engage-
ment with feminism.
Feminism is the set of biliefs and ideas that belong to the broad
social and political movement to achieve greater equality for women.
As its governing ideology, feminism gives shape and direction to the
women's movement and, of course, is shaped by it. Women seek
equality in all spheres of life and use a broad array of strategies to
achieve that goal. Feminism does not belong to the law alone. Still,
the law has figured prominently in the fight for women's equality, both
as a domain to be reformed and as an instrument of reform. As a
result, feminism has become of special concern to the legal community.
Some lawyers, for example, Catharine MacKinnon, have played an
almost architectural role in feminist thought. Others have contributed
through more traditional professional activities. Lawsuits to achieve
greater equality for women fill the courts, and statutes seeking the same
end are now commonplace. Feminism also has been of great importance
in recent struggles for power on the Supreme Court.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Clinton's first appointment to the
Supreme Court, indeed the first by a Democratic president in the last
twenty-five years, made her career fighting for women's rights. Simi-
larly, the confirmation battles of two recent Republican nominees -
Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork - largely centered on feminist
issues. In the fall of 1991, the nation was gripped by the allegations
of sexual harassment lodged against Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill in
* Sterling Professor of Law, Yale University; Law Clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall
from August 1964 to July 1965, when the Justice served as a judge of the United States Court
of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This paper was presented in December 1992 to the Congreso
del Consejo General del Poder Judicial in Madrid and then in March 1993 to the Faculty of Law
of Tel Aviv University. It benefitted greatly from the comments in both settings. I also wish to
acknowledge the special contribution of my research assistants: Jennifer K. Brown, Brooks
Fudenberg, Christopher Kutz, Tracey M. Robertson, and Olivier Sultan.
1. ALEXIS DE TOCQtnEVILLE, 1 DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA 280 (Phillips Bradley ed., 1945).

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