n Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif - Popular culture, law and our "sexed and gendered lives" : feminist reflections on "refusal" and "sisterhood"




This article reflects on the current trajectory of feminist legal theory from the perspective of popular culture and social discourse. With the use of film theory, literature and entertainment media, the author illustrates how depictions of gender codes and representations of gender relations in popular culture link up with larger questions on sex and gender politics, equality and power. Analysing these issues in terms of the extent to which popular culture reinforces patriarchal prescriptions of women's identity and contributes to strengthening the culture of male dominance in society, two distinct theories are formulated as possible responses namely, an "ethics of refusal" and a "politics of sisterhood". The notion of "refusal" as introduced by Karin van Marle is an approach to issues of gender (in)justice and (in)equality that explores the capacity of women to resist male dominance and in turn, problematise the values and norms laid down by the reigning patriarchal order. To connect the refusal of patriarchal conceptions of women's issues to the refusal of gender power, a "politics of sisterhood" offers a counterweight to the underlying phallocentric conditions and structures that subordinate, exclude and control women. The main purpose of this article is to emphasise the importance of thinking about women's lives and concrete realities, as experienced under (the) law, in dynamic ways that break from traditional approaches to feminism and gender equality. Refusal and sisterhood are two perspectives that disclose such possibilities for reflecting on women's struggles for equality, dignity and recognition and on eradicating the vestiges of patriarchy and sexism in our society. In the final analysis, the author argues for more than just legal reform and instead calls for reconciliation between the sexes and genders and a radical transformation of sex and gender relations.


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