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Challenging the Public/Private Divide

Challenging the Public/Private Divide: Feminism, Law, and Public Policy

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Challenging the Public/Private Divide
    Book Description:

    Feminist scholars in disciplines ranging from law to geography challenge our traditional notion of a public/private divide in legal and public policy in Canada and internationally.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7281-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    • 1 Challenging the Public/Private Divide: An Overview
      (pp. 3-34)

      Since the 1960s notable shifts have occurred in the dynamics of both the paid labour force and familial relations in North America, and in the law and public policy relating to work and family relations. Some would say that, by enlarging the role of the public, these changes have transformed the divide between public and private spheres that informs liberal philosophy and capitalist states. The authors in this book agree that the public rolewasenlarged in the 1960s and 1970s; however, we show that these changes represented only part of a much longer history of shifts in the way...


    • 2 Restructuring Public and Private: Women’s Paid and Unpaid Work
      (pp. 37-61)

      The terms ‘public’ and ‘private’ have at least two meanings, both of which have significant implications for women and their work. At times, we use ‘public’ to refer to those services, supports, and regulations established by governments. The term ‘private,’ in this case, refers to what is not done by governments. Although this kind of ‘private’ can include both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, as well as households, we are usually thinking of divisions within the formal economy when we talk of the private and the public sectors. At other times, we use ‘public’ to refer to the world outside the...

    • 3 A Little Sex Can Be a Dangerous Thing: Regulating Sexuality, Venereal Disease, and Reproduction in British Columbia, 1919–1945
      (pp. 62-86)

      Contemporary feminist critiques have revealed the ideological resonance, historical malleability, and differential application of the concept of the public/private divide in Western liberal states (MacKinnon 1983; O’Donovan 1985; Pateman 1989). Although ‘separate spheres’ ideology – the belief that the marketplace and the family could and ought to be hived off from the political and the legal – reached a zenith in the nineteenth century minimalistlaissez-fairestate, it survived the era of so-called welfare states and has been rejuvenated with a vengeance in the current context of developing transnational states (Brodie 1995). Yet, as feminists and others have demonstrated, the...

    • 4 Sounds of Silence: The Public/Private Dichotomy, Violence, and Aboriginal Women
      (pp. 87-110)

      Critiques of the public/private dichotomy have been very much in vogue in legal scholarship over the past decade and a half (Horwitz 1982). While no one discipline has a monopoly on such critiques, they have been particularly prevalent in, and some would say central to, feminist scholarship and activism (Pateman 1983; Rhode 1989). Within this set of discourses, the public/private dichotomy has engaged a wide spectrum of feminist perspectives in a wide variety of contexts. This chapter focuses on the ways in which male violence against women in intimate relationships has been examined through the prism of the public/private dichotomy.¹...


    • 5 Who Pays for Caring for Children? Public Policy and the Devaluation of Women’s Work
      (pp. 113-143)

      This observation is presented in an article in theEconomistthat criticizes the growth of the public sector in Sweden, and suggests that it is responsible for many of the country’s recent economic woes. If only, the author seems to suggest, these Swedish women would return home to care for the dependent members of theirownfamilies, life would be simpler and government finances much healthier. The passage conveys both a sense that women’s employment outside the home is something less than legitimate, and that women’s caregiving work is not particularly worthy of financial compensation.

      In this chapter I argue...

    • 6 Across the Home/Work Divide: Homework in Garment Manufacture and the Failure of Employment Regulation
      (pp. 144-167)

      When Zhu, an industrial homeworker, wished to separate her working day from her domestic day, she left home by the front door and, a minute later, re-entered by the back door. This ritual act of leaving home to go to work enabled Zhu, at least for brief intervals, to assert her role as paid worker apart from her position as unpaid caregiver and homemaker. She said: ‘When I say now I go to work, the children wave goodbye, neighbours see me leave ... with everyone knowing that I really am working, I get more respect like in a real job...

    • 7 Some Mothers Are Better Than Others: A Re-examination of Maternity Benefits
      (pp. 168-194)

      As women have entered the paid labour force in greater and greater numbers, the question of how to reconcile having babies with continuing to work for money has become pressing both individually, for each woman who confronts this dilemma, and collectively, for Canadian society. Demographers have identified trends that may well reflect women’s responses to the inhospitability of the workplace to reproduction: as female labour force participation has increased, there has been a marked decline in the birth rate (Phillips and Phillips 1993, 44). Women are having fewer children: the average number of children per family is now 1.8, down...

    • 8 Balancing Acts: Career and Family among Lawyers
      (pp. 195-224)
      FIONA M. KAY

      During the past decade the dilemma of balancing paid work and family responsibilities has emerged as a pressing concern within the profession of law. Recently, a Canadian Bar Association task force published a controversial report on gender equality in the legal profession (1993). TitledTouchstones for Change, the report describes a legal profession that regularly discriminates against women through restricted professional opportunities and a failure to accommodate the special needs of women with children, resulting in further reductions of career opportunities and loss of income. The report argues that client development activities, evaluation methods, law firm culture, billable hour targets,...


    • 9 ‘A Jury Dressed in Medical White and Judicial Black’: Mothers with Mental Health Histories in Child Welfare and Custody
      (pp. 227-252)

      Over the past two decades feminists have demonstrated how idealized conceptions of motherhood and family pervade the legal standard of ‘the best interests of the child’ in child custody and child welfare law (e.g., Arnup 1989; Boyd 1989; Fineman 1990; Kline 1993, 1992). As essentialist views of women’s experience and forms of oppression were increasingly rejected (Butler 1989; Riley 1988; Spelman 1988), the analytical focus shifted to how the state and law operate in varying ways for different groups of women (Boyd 1994). At the forefront of discussions of the ways in which diversity matters are the ‘differences’ of class,...

    • 10 Looking beyond Tyabji: Employed Mothers, Lifestyles, and Child Custody Law
      (pp. 253-279)

      In March 1994 a high-profile member of the British Columbia legislature lost custody of her three children to her estranged husband. The custody decision rested mainly on the grounds that Judy Tyabji had a more ‘aggressive’ career-oriented lifestyle than the father, Kim Sandana, who lived in the rural outskirts of Kelowna and worked in a grocery store. Tyabji had left Sandana after she became intimately involved with Gordon Wilson, then leader of the B.C. Liberals. Wilson eventually was ousted as leader, and Tyabji resigned as Liberal house leader. They then began their own political party, the Progressive Democratic Alliance, and...

    • 11 Lesbians, Child Custody, and the Long Lingering Gaze of the Law
      (pp. 280-304)

      A number of feminists have articulated the illusory nature of the public/private divide and also shown how constructs of ‘the private’ have been used to justify a lack of legal protection for women in the ‘domestic’ realm (e.g., O’Donovan 1985; Olsen 1985, 1983; Thornton 1995). Other feminists have revealed the limited nature of ‘the private’ realm of marginalized groups of women, because of excessive state regulation such as intervention in the lives of First Nations mothers in the name of child welfare (Kline 1993, 1992; Monture 1989). The shifting nature of the public/private divide as it applies to lesbians has...


    • 12 Public Taxes, Privatizing Effects, and Gender Inequality
      (pp. 307-329)

      As this book demonstrates, there are many aspects of the public/private divide, and these different aspects have various effects in many legal spheres. In this chapter I focus primarily on the construction of the state (as represented by the federal government) as the public sphere and the family as the private sphere. I also discuss the role of the market and the ambiguity of its position as part of the public/private dichotomy. In contrast to the state, the market is the private sphere but, when juxtaposed with the family, it becomes part of the public sphere (Olsen 1983). From a...

    • 13 Blue Meanies in Alberta: Tory Tactics and the Privatization of Child Welfare
      (pp. 330-359)

      The Canadian state is undergoing a historic transformation (Brodie 1995; Panitch 1994; Teeple 1995). The postwar compromise on which the welfare state rested has now crumbled and societal expectations about provision for social need appear to be swiftly changing. Central to current political struggle over the fate of the institutions of the welfare state is a renegotiation of the appropriate division between public and private responsibilities (Armstrong and Armstrong 1994a, 32; Brodie 1995, 47, 53). Even the traditional public role in protecting the welfare of children has become subject to such reconceptualization. The increasingly dominant view is that the state...

    • 14 Going Global: Feminist Theory, International Law, and the Public/Private Divide
      (pp. 360-384)

      In recent years international law has come under the scrutiny of feminist scholars who have challenged its claim to objectivity and neutrality.¹ International law is generally defined as the law governing relations between nation states, and it includes treaties, trade agreements, and United Nations (hereafter U.N.) activity. Looking behind apparently neutral international law principles, such as non-intervention in domestic state affairs, feminist scholars have revealed the uneven and gendered impact of international law on the lives of men and women (Charlesworth, Chinkin, and Wright 1991, 614–15, 644). The burgeoning feminist literature on international law has raised questions about not...

  10. Index
    (pp. 385-392)