Feminism and Post-Modernism

The concept of Post-Modernism is ambiguous, i.e. it has no proper definition. It can be said to be a continuation of Modernism. Modernism is seen as an attack on existing Law and Post-modernism is an attempt to break through existing laws.
Post Modernism do not believe in any theory, i.e. no ultimate truth. There are no standards on which one can rely on. Once one breaks the claim of any theory to truth, one can open up space for marginalised section or individual of a society.
On the other hand, Feminism do not look on forms of Law. All Feminist challenges is based on the idea that one has to look at substance of the matter and not form. Form may be gender-neutral but consequence will be gender in equal.

Example- In a Qualification for a job, it is mentioned that the person should be of minimum 5 feet 6 inch. Average height of women is 5 feet 2 inch. Formally, this appears to be gender-neutral but underneath it says that women are not fit for this particular job.

3 Questions raised by Professor Bartlett

Professor Bartlett raised three important questions: –
• Women’s Question should be asked.
• Practical Reasoning.
• Consciousness Raising
1. If one asks the first question, one shall realize that it is gender neutral or not.
2. An example of the second question would be of marital rape.

In State v. Smith – 210 Conn. 132, 554 A.2d 713 (1989), a wife was living separately without divorce. At midnight, the husband broke in, beats her up and forcibly had sex with her. The question was whether it was rape or not. It was argued that after marriage, women have consented for sex, thus there cannot be Marital rape. Back then, women did not have individual identity. Her identity was merged with that of her husband’s.

Bartlett asked when it comes to Practical reasons that leads to women having reasons that leads to women having particular experience, that can persuade Law-makers to create an exception.

3. A women’s experience has to be documented and shared. It must be matched with experiences of others and thus have a proof, which can be used later in changing institutions.

Bartlett’s Stand Point Epistemology
The question here is that what is the reality of Women’s status from the standpoint of women that has to be raised so far as women are concerned but reality is different. Women’s point of view would privilege the idea of being victim. Then, no one else except women can have that experience. They will say we alone can represent women.

It falls short of victim explanation that are generally faced by women. It only talks about victimology of gender, but there are other explanations as well. (Example- Women with disability constitute Double Discrimination).


• Gender based discrimination does not give comprehensive idea of victimage.
• Women do not look at experience of victimage on the same way their interpretation may be different.
(Example- Domestic Violence is bad for some while tolerant for same, i.e. it depends on upbringing).
• Victimage Perspective also deals that the opposite party is evil. Here, opposition party is male. When one thinks she is a victim and others are enemies, it is difficult to have reforms.

Concept of Tolerance

3 elements of Tolerance are: –
1. There is an undesirable Act.
2. One’s capacity to react to it.
3. One chooses not to react.

Problem: –

Here, the question is how far will one tolerate? There is no fixed degree to that. Therefore, tolerant cannot make difference. Answer is accepting the difference and diversity will be continued with the Acceptance. Another question is in Post-Modernism concept, how to deal with experiences of different people?

Standpoint Epistemology

Women was victim by man. Women all over the century has internalized Patriarchy. The patriarchal consciousness is inculcated by women. Bartlett said that every one’s experience counts. Any experience which is not on general experience, many people cannot be reasoned to deny the cognizance of that particular’s experience in Law.


In R V. R [1992] 1 AC 599, Marital Rape was recognized. It was argued that it was not retrospective Criminal Law that they were applying. Partial and individual experiences count in Law.

Legislation presumed to be perspective, Judicial decisions are Retrospective.
In R v Ahluwalia [1992] 4 All ER 889, Kiranjit Ahluwalia was tortured by her husband for years. She puts petrol on him and set fire. She was charged for murder.

It was argued that it was not a grave and sudden provocation as it was preceded by good deal of deliberation. She should have thought about it for 13 years.

Then, it was argued that the women were physically and mentally weak and until that day, she could not master courage. This is called Battered Women’s Syndrome.
Another example was the case of K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra AIR 1962 SC605.

Another major example will be Suchita Srivastava and Another vs. Chandigarh Administration, AIR 2010 SC 235: 2009. In this case, Suchita was mentally retarded. She was raped by a staff and became pregnant. It was held that as she was mentally retarded she can’t take care of her child but she was allowed to go ahead with the pregnancy. It was held that a Mentally retarded woman has equal rights of motherhood.

It is Post-Modernism Conception of Partial Truth or Individual’s explanation as worthy of legal cognizance and action. One cannot look at different situations if one does not apply standards of objectives and cultures. One should take into account the experiences of marginalized individual or society.

It does not recognize final i.e. complete truth. Only talks about individual’s experience from his limited perspective. Post-Modernism only deals with individual experience from his limited perspective.
Post Modernism only deals with individual situation. It cannot lay down only general principles or rules. Supreme Court under Article 42 laid down the concept of doing complete justice in a particular case. However, Post-Modernism leads to Nihilism, i.e. no standards to be recognized, no objectivity in understanding of Law. Theorizing is opposed to Post-Modernism.
One can either go with general view by ignoring marginalized sections and abnormal situations or go with individual’s experiences.

1st Year, MNLU, Nagpur.

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