Gender and Human Rights

Publication Date01 May 2006
AuthorBryony Poynor
is not. But to use an out-of-fashion distinction, there is a di¡erence between
rhetoric and reality, or, in more Luhmannian terms, the observer can observe
quite di¡erent operations seemingly existing in the same ‘time’. So colonisation
can co-exist with passionate debates about arbitrary power ^ di¡erent points and
frames of reference, some threatening some not. It is only the collapse of the First
British Empire (ie the loss of America) and the beginnings ofthe Second (India) ^
it really was as simple as this ^ that started the long debate about what Britain
stood forand believed in and what it was doing in its foreign forays.
It may seem that some of these observations are written through the prism of
Iraq. This would not be true. Iraq will probably disintegrate but then there is no
‘Iraq’there in the ¢rst place beyond a culturally short-term postcolonial concoc-
tion. Iraq is just the latest of a long series of colonial adventures in which it is
appropriate to ask what the real meaning or embeddedness of the rule of law in
Britain reallyis, as opposed to something di¡erent ^ the longuedure
Łeof a bolshiness
which neverreally accepted authority easily and which frequentlycaused trouble.
Brits are good at trouble-making. Antinomianism, rather than Calvinism, had ^
has? ^ a long life.
Tim Mur phy
KarenKnop(ed),Gender and Human Rights,Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2004, xi þ256pp, pb d23.00, hb d40.00.
This collection o¡ers a refreshing perspective on gender and human rights. It
takes an in novative angle, drawing on literary, anthropological and feminist
approaches alongside those of constitutional law, legal conceptions of citizenship,
and International legal history. Nicola Lacey contributes a comprehensive theore-
tical introduction in Chapter 2. Giving a historical account of the evolution of
feminist legal theory from the eighteenth century, Lacey takes us through liberal
feminism, radical feminism, Marxist and socialist feminism and ‘di¡erence’fem-
inism. She then considers the theoretical and historical basis of human rights,
guiding the reader through the theories in terms of their subjects and aims, and
their place i n moral and political thought, also looking at the impl ications of fem-
inist legal theoryas a feminist critiqueof rights. Final ly, Lacey seeks to reconstruct
the conceptof rights in a way which escapes feminist critique,and looks at impli-
cations of this for the i nternational women’s human rights movement. The
emphasis of Janet Halley’s thought provoking ‘Take a Break from Feminism’
(chapter 3) is not on human r ights, but mirrors the theme of the col lection in
emphasisingthe bene¢ts of ‘Takinga Break’from re£ecting on a ¢eld solely from
the inside. Despite accepting that liberal feminism is often indispensable, Halley
looks to Queertheory to challenge its failure to celebrate femalefemininity. Hal-
ley takes us through the essential elements of feminism in the US, the ways in
which it resists moves in the direction of ‘Taking a Break’ and the potential costs
of doing so. She defends herself against claims that her theory belittles the
harm su¡ered by women. Furthermore, using the case-study of Twy m a n v
London School of Economics.
484 rThe Modern LawReview Limited 2006

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