Cover image for The gender line : men, women, and the law
The gender line : men, women, and the law
Levit, Nancy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
ix, 301 pages ; 24 cm.
Gender separatism -- How courts enforce gender separatism -- Making men : the socio-legal construct of masculinity -- The "f" word : feminism and its detractors -- Feminist legal theory and the treatment of men -- Reconstructing images of gender in theory -- Remaking gender in practice : looking forward.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library KF475 .L48 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Despite tremendous advances in civil rights, we live in a world where the sexes remain sharply segregated from birth to death: in names, clothing, social groupings, and possessions; in occupations, civic association, and domestic roles. Gender separatism, so pervasive as to be almost invisible, permeates the fabric of our daily social routines. Preferring a notion of gender that is fluid and contextual, and denying that separatism is inevitable, Nancy Levit dismantles the myths of gender essentialism Drawing on a wealth of interdisciplinary data regarding the biological and cultural origins of sex differences, Levit provides a fresh perspective on gendered behaviors and argues the need for careful cultivation of new relations between the sexes.

With its focus particularly on men, The Gender Line offers an insightful overview of the construction of gender and the damaging effects of its stereotypes. Levit analyzes the ways in which law legitimizes the social segregation of the sexes through legal decisions regarding custody, employment, education, sexual harassment, and criminal law. In so doing, she illustrates the ways in which men's and women's oppressions are intertwined and how law molds the very definition of masculinity.

Applying feminist methodology to the doctrine of feminism itself, Levit artfully demonstrates that gender separatism infects even our contemporary views of feminism. Levit asks questions that have been too long been unspoken--those that lie at the core of the feminist project, yet threaten its very foundations. Revealing masculinity as both a privileged and a victimized condition, she calls for a step forward, past the bounds of contemporary feminism and its conflicts, toward a more egalitarian and inclusive feminism. This brand of feminism would reshape traditional masculinity, invite men into feminist dialogue, and claim men as political allies.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Drawing on studies from a variety of disciplines, Levit contends that both society generally and some feminists in particular have exaggerated the evidence of differences between males and females and have overlooked the far more prevalent similarities between males and females. Gender separatism, she believes, is pervasive and harmful in that the separation of men and women underscores and perpetuates alleged differences between the genders. Gender separatism continues in educational settings (e.g., Virginia Military Academy and the Citadel), clubs for young men and women (e.g., girl and boy scouts), social clubs (the Lion and Elks), and in business promotions. Gender differences are fostered through societal stereotypes about appropriate colors, toys, behavior, interests, and attire for boys and girls. Such stereotypes help to create a firm "gender line" that upholds artificial distinctions between males and females. The law has failed to adopt innovative directions. Levit states, for example, that family law continues to reflect outmoded ideals of the place of the mother and father with regard to child-rearing. She believes that feminism has failed to address the societal constraints faced by men. Without factoring men into feminist theory and inviting men to join feminists in changing society, feminism will not succeed in producing a society with more options for both men and women. A readable, thoughtful, and controversial volume. Recommended for general readers and undergraduate/graduate libraries. M. Hendrickson; Wilson College

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