Who’s afraid of feminist legal theory?

Post by Sheona Mary Lockhart Burrow (PhD Candidate, University of Glasgow)

Image credit: Sheona Mary Lockhart Burrow

Themed refreshments were provided in the form of fairy cakes featuring Mary Wollstonecraft

The CREATe Studio reading group met again on Thursday 20th March. The topic of discussion was feminist theory in IP law. There is a small but growing literature on feminist theories of IP and the paper for discussion raised a number of interesting questions about how to carry out empirical research from the perspective of feminist legal theory.

Ronan Deazley voiced concerns about the difficulties of carrying out multidisciplinary research in this field without a proper understanding of both the relevant IP law and jurisdictional implications. Researchers engaging in this type of research need to familiarise themselves with both the relevant case law and statutes, as well as relevant critical and feminist legal theories. For example, without a proper grasp of how copyright law treats joint and multiple authors, it is difficult to properly understand how feminist theories about authorship may relate to copyright. Fortunately for those working within CREATe, access to legal specialists should not be a barrier.

The applicability of social science research methods to assess feminist theories was another topic for discussion. In particular, the diverse range of feminisms presents problems in defining the parameters of empirical research. Without appropriate checks in place, research in this area runs the danger of essentialising and making generalist claims. The point was raised that feminist theories present their own unique challenges for social science researchers; in particular the rejection of objectivity as a measurement criterion. Despite the difficulties of constructing appropriate research projects to test feminist theories, critical and feminist theory should be considered by CREATe researchers.

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