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The Illusion of Equality

The Rhetoric and Reality of Divorce Reform

How do "no-fault," "gender-neutral" divorce reforms actually harm the lives of women and children they are designed to protect? Focusing on the language and symbols of reform, Martha Fineman argues that by advocating measures based on equality of treatment rather than of outcome, liberal feminists disregarded the socioeconomic factors that simultaneously place women at a disadvantage in the market and favor their taking on primary domestic responsibilities. She traces in persuasive detail the detrimental effects of equality rhetoric in shaping divorce law — such as the legal separation of parents’ and children’s interests; equality replacing need as the prime criterion for settlements; and the increase of state intervention into family life. More than a critique, this book is an incisive argument for adopting outcome-oriented measures and a valuable overview of the pitfalls of uncritically implementing any rhetoric as social policy.

262 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1991

Gender and Sexuality

Law and Legal Studies: Legal Thought

Sociology: Sociology--Marriage and Family

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Recasting of Family Law
Part I - Equality Rhetoric and the Economics of Divorce
2. The Family as a Site of Rhetorical and Ideological Contest
3. Equality Discourse and Economic Decisions Made at Divorce
4. Embracing Equality: A Case Study
Part II - Equality Rhetoric and Child Custody Decision Making
5. Child Custody: Equality as the Aftermath of Economic Reforms
6. The Individualization of the Family: Child Advocacy
7. The Use of the Social Sciences in Custody Policy-Making
8. Constructing the Social Science Foundation for an Ideological Solution
9. The Resort to Alternative Decision Makers
Part III - Abdicating Equality
10. Alternative Visions from Discarded Discourses

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