From Women and Labour Law to Putting Gender and Law to Work

Authored by: Judy Fudge

The Ashgate Research Companion to Feminist Legal Theory

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409418597
eBook ISBN: 9781315612973
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043423


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My goal in this chapter is to reconstruct the main themes and key debates that have threaded through the ‘feminist theoretical project’ in labour law. I will begin by defining my terms, and setting out the scope of the endeavour. I am borrowing the phrase ‘feminist theoretical project’ from Joanne Conaghan (1999: 17) who laid out some of the theoretical foundations of feminist labour law scholarship. She identified three core features of this project: first, that feminist scholarship ought to highlight and explore the gendered nature of accounts of the social world; second, that it should focus on disadvantage and change; and finally, that it should place women at the centre of the analysis. Like Conaghan, I believe that the scope of what counts as labour law is ideological and not conceptual (Conaghan 1999: 21, Fudge 2011a: 136). 1 1

‘Labour law’ is conventionally defined to denote a specific subject of regulation, employment relations, and law to encompass a variety of legal forms. It refers to the legal regulation of individual and collective employment via contract, statute and collective bargaining, and it includes the application of legislation and common law by administrators, statutory adjudicators, private arbitrators and the courts.

A distinctive contribution of much recent feminist scholarship is that it has expanded the reach of labour law’s domain, to include women’s unpaid work that takes place in the household, and, thus, feminists have expanded labour law’s normative concerns beyond redistribution to include recognition of identity and status (Conaghan 1999).

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