The question that I pose in the title is one that has been left for us in almost all of the readings. We read about what justice does for men (The Furies) and what the law provides for men (Declaration of Independence). What we don’t see is where the law has left room for women. This question is asked in Death and the Maiden and answered in an interesting way. Paulina has been unable to see justice for the horrible crimes committed against her. She shows serious disillusionment with the justice system which leads her to kidnap her abuser to put on her own trial. She sums up her thoughts at the end of the play by asking, “And why does it always have to be people like me who have to sacrifice, why are we always the ones who have to make concessions when something has to be conceded, why always me who has to bite her tongue, why?” (Dorfman 66). Because she knows that the actual commission won’t help her, Paulina tries to invent her own system of justice that still lets her down. I think here she is giving her own answer to the presented question. She says that it’s not as easy as women just being left out of the justice process, but they are the ones to lose the most. Not only is Paulina brutally tortured and raped, but then she has to be labelled as “sick” and irrational. She is lied to by her husband and her rapist who conspire against her. The system of justice that she invents, still finds a way to re-victimize her. I think an interesting and bold claim that Dorfman could be trying to make is that justice is sexist. The plotline features two men conspiring against a survivor of sexual assault who is just trying to heal. Rather than listening and believing her, Gerardo automatically believes the other man in the situation. There is a moment that he believes her, but it still seems that he turns on her. The law, and justice in the law, does not leave room for women so women have to make room for themselves. Still, however, the system is stacked against survivors hiding behind the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” which Gerardo brings up in the play. I think I am ending with even more questions than I began with about the law being sexist. Why do women have to find justice for themselves/why aren’t they believed? Why haven’t we fixed this? Where do we draw the line at innocent until proven guilty?
One thought on “Where are Women in the Law?”
I love the bigness and boldness of the questions you put forth here. I wonder whether playing around with some language might help us play around with our thinking: what if justice is *gendered* (not necessarily sexist, which might imply intent in a way that gets us tripped up when we’re talking about a system) or patriarchal (one step further than gendered, but with a focus on structural features of how gender’s political economy works rather than on individual bias)?