Gender and Judging: Reflections on “Sisters in Law”

January 2016

Gender and Judging: Reflections on “Sisters in Law”
Type: Law review article
Author: Mary Jane Mossman
Source: Can. J. Women & Law
Citation: 28 Can. J. Women & Law 685 (2016)
Notes: Date is approximate

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Article Text

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Linda Hirshman, Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (New York: Harper Collins, 2015).

Mary Jane Mossman

Gender and Judging: Reflections on "Sisters in Law"

We want to explore what it might be possible to achieve within the law and whether the barrier to substantive equality is the law itself or the lack of equality vision in those who are charged with interpreting and applying the law.1

This comment about a project of "rewriting" decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, a project undertaken by a group of Canadian feminist law academics a few years ago, reveals the issue that is at the heart of Linda Hirshman's book about the first two women appointed to the United States Supreme Court: What is the relationship between gender and judging, especially with respect to goals of substantive gender equality?2 Certainly, as women have increasingly entered the legal professions in many jurisdictions in the twentieth century, there have been high expectations that the appointment of women to the judiciary would signifi cantly advance gender equality goals. Yet, as the feminist academics who tried to rewrite the decisions about equality cases in the Supreme Court of Canada discovered, it was a difficult challenge of "pushing the law and, at the same time, staying within the limits of the law." 3 In such a context, fundamental principles about judicial decision making may sometimes prove resistant to aspirations of gender equality in law.4

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