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Women's Rights and the Limits of Constitutional Doctrine

Judith A. Baer
The Western Political Quarterly
Vol. 44, No. 4 (Dec., 1991), pp. 821-852
DOI: 10.2307/448797
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/448797
Page Count: 32
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Women's Rights and the Limits of Constitutional Doctrine
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Abstract

Between 1971 and 1984, the Supreme Court transformed the constitutional law of sexual equality. Several decisions replaced the old "blank check" for sex discrimination with a rule subjecting gender-based classifications to critical, though not hostile, scrutiny. This development has been roughly concurrent with the contemporary feminist movement. But analysis of the Court's overall record shows that men have been the primary beneficiaries of the new rules. Not only have most of the plaintiffs been male, but the doctrine has vindicated male claims while providing no help to women in areas such as divorce, child custody, and pornography. This article seeks explanations for this male bias. Its sources range from the simple — men bring more cases than women do — to the complex — rules of interpretation which appear irrelevant to male supremacy work to reinforce it.

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