Hastings Law Journal
Feminist Theory and Legal Practice: A Case Study on Unemployment Compensation Benefits and the Male Norm
This Essay explores the application of two key insights of feminist theory to practice. First, the law is often structured to fit male life patterns in a way that creates unstated male norms which are mistaken as inevitable or natural. Second, these male norms often disadvantage women. A recent unemployment compensation case handled in the University of Washington Civil Law Clinic illustrates these insights.
The clinic challenged the denial of unemployment benefits to a client who sought only part-time work so she could care for her special needs child. Initially, feminist theory provided a basis for recognizing and challenging the full-time work requirement's differential impact on women, who more often than men work part-time and provide child and elder-care.
Feminist theory also provided a basis for recognizing that the structure of the unemployment system is designed for the traditional model of a male "head-of-household" worker, who must work full-time in order to support a family. Yet the traditionally male need to support a family can be viewed as a domestic responsibility that corresponds to the traditionally female need to care for children. Under the statutory scheme both roles can and should be accommodated.
Feminist Theory and Legal Practice: A Case Study on Unemployment Compensation Benefits and the Male Norm,
43 Hastings L.J. 1081
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol43/iss4/12