Bryan first explores the disconnect between the feminist goal of equality for women and women's experience at divorce. Divorce continues to devastate women's economic prospects, frequently deprives them of their children, and sometimes compromises their physical safety. Many feminists have proposed changes to existing law and procedure that offer to protect women's interests in their children, in marital assets, and in their physical safety. Yet theoretical and strategical rifts between feminists continue to compromise their political ability to promote women's interests in divorce. Bryan urges feminists to abandon these differences and return to the basic "woman question" by supporting legal changes that respond to the voices of divorced women. Even if feminists unite around a divorce agenda, however, external factors provide formidable obstacles. If feminists lobby male-dominated state legislatures for reforms favorable to women, they can expect legislators to resist reforms contrary to their own interests. If feminists litigate and/or appeal cases that present the opportunity to create precedent favorable to women, they face judges biased against women.
While Bryan recognizes the danger of such a proposal, she urges feminists to develop a political agenda focused more on the interests of children than on the equality of women. She notes that women, as caretakers of most divorced children, would benefit from such reforms. She justifies this approach by arguing that male legislators might find such an agenda less threatening and, perhaps, more morally and socially compelling than an agenda based on equality between men and women. To confront judicial bias, Bryan recommends that only committed and educated judges should preside over divorce cases. She concludes with a call to all feminists to recognize the importance of divorce issues to women and to mobilize as effectively as they have on other women's issues.
Penelope E. Bryan,
Reasking the Woman Question at Divorce,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol75/iss3/6