This conversational-style essay is an exchange among fourteen professors — representing thirteen universities across five countries — with experience teaching with feminist judgments. Feminist judgments are “shadow” court decisions rewritten from a feminist perspective, using only the precedent in effect and the facts known at the time of the original decision. Scholars in Canada, England, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, India and Mexico have published (or are currently producing) written collections of feminist judgments that demonstrate how feminist perspectives could have changed the legal reasoning or outcome (or both) in important legal cases.
This essay begins to explore the vast pedagogical potential of feminist judgments. The contributors to this conversation describe how they use feminist judgments in the classroom; how students have responded to the judgments; how the professors achieve specific learning objectives through teaching with feminist judgments; and how working with feminist judgments — whether studying them, writing them, or both — can help students excavate the multiple social, political, economic and even personal factors that influence the development of legal rules, structures, and institutions. The primary takeaway of the essay is that feminist judgments are a uniquely enriching pedagogical tool that can broaden the learning experience. Feminist judgments invite future lawyers, and indeed any reader, to re-imagine what the law is, what the law can be, and how to make the law more responsive to the needs of all people.'Prefiguring Feminist Judgment in International Law' by Hilary Charlesworth in Lavers and L Hodson (eds), Feminist Judgments in International Law (Hart, 2019) comments
Prefigurative politics is a form of activism harnessing theories of social change. In essence, it means a group’s adoption of structures and styles of reasoning that the group is promoting, a modelling of the desired political and social outcomes; the aphorism ‘be the change you want to see’ sums up the practice of prefiguration. The term ‘prefigurative tradition’ first emerged in the 1970s in the context of Marxist methods, describing them as a movement embodying ‘within the ongoing political practice … those forms of social relations, decision-making, culture, and human experience that are the ultimate goal.’ The idea was that Marxist prefigurative politics would undermine ‘the division of labor between everyday life and political activity.’ The women’s camp at Greenham Common, established in 1981 to protest against the presence of Cruise missiles at a US Air Force base in the United Kingdom, was a prefigurative venture in challenging traditional family structures. Another example is the Occupy! movement in 2011, which set out to establish public spaces in the heart of large urban areas where free food, medical care and education were available.