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2 Comm. L. & Pol'y 105 (1997)
Patterns of Harm: An Analysis of Gender and Defamation

handle is hein.journals/comulp2 and id is 107 raw text is: 



2 COMM. L. & POL'Y 105-141 (1997)
Copyright © 1997, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.



PATTERNS OF HARM: AN ANALYSIS OF
GENDER AND DEFAMATION


Diane L. Borden*

        This article explores whether the law of defamation is
        gender-specific. Through a quantitative and historical
        analysis of libel and slander cases, the study indicates
        that when women brought actions against those who
        assaulted their reputations their likelihood of being
        awarded judicial remedy was unalterably linked to
        their sexual identity. The study examined 278
        appellate cases brought by both male and female
        plaintiffs during two decades in United States history
        when emergent women's rights movements were
        pronounced, the late 19th century and the mid-2Oth
        century.

    Law is one of several clusters of belief' which persuade people
that the often-constraining and sometimes-destructive institutional
relationships in their lives are natural and necessary.' Like other
cultural institutions, such as religion, the mass media, politics,
commerce and education, the law is defined by and structured as a
hierarchy, driven by power and maintained through its own adap-
tation of hegemonic processes. At the same time, it appears to be
uncontroversial, neutral, acceptable.2
    While belief systems certainly are necessary in order to help
make sense of the world, they are no more natural or neutral
than traffic signals or income-tax brackets. They are based on the
social practices and cultural assumptions-usually defined by the
dominant culture-which people collectively value and promulgate.


  *Assistant professor, Department of Communication, George Mason
University.
  1Robert W. Gordon, New Developments in Legal Theory, in THE POLITICS OF LAW:
A PROGRESSIVE CRITIQUE 413, 418 (David Kairys ed., rev. ed. 1990).
  21d.

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