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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2020

Introduction

Summary

The second part of the collection concentrates more specifically on feminist legal strategies and their potential consequences. In Chapter 5 Hansel explores a feminist conception of ‘time’ in order to induce international lawyers and academics to consider time as beyond its functional dimension and seeing how different, even competing conceptions of time might manipulate and shape international law. A currently dominant notion of ‘emergency time’ reflects law's preoccupation with crisis and the need for immediate and heroic intervention, which often negatively affects women by ignoring the dimensions of the crisis most relevant to their lives. This sense of crisis time tends to ignore root causes, viewing crises as discreet events rather than a heightening of continuing relations of inequality. She explores some of the potential the benefits of using alternative feminist time-frames where time may be viewed as ‘regression’ (finding value in the past); ‘redemption’ (future and positively focused); ‘rupture’ (not coherent or continuous); or ‘repetition’ (cyclical and infinitely reoccurring).

In Chapter 6, Cheah takes us back in time to explore three movements for justice as they were developed after World War II. While only one was explicitly about women, all three movements shared the organising principle of viewing the state as a perpetuator of harm as understood from a ‘victim's perspective’; Much of contemporary feminist theory is critical of the designation of women as victims because it robs them of agency and individuality and renders them as helpless beings in need of paternalistic protections. Cheah's examples show there is also occasionally (at least historically) some positive power in pursuing a victim stance and also that it is not only women who can be perceived as victims. Using existing international law and the human rights paradigm that emerged after the War, these movements employed specific notions of group harm and remedy in defining how justice should be understood. The comfort women justice movement arose out of the work of feminist academics in Korea with women who had been forced into prostitution by the Japanese military. Justice was redefined beyond individual remedy to the state giving both recognition to and atonement for the wrongs that were done. Interestingly, the stories themselves show how claiming victim status sometimes can be empowering for a group and belie the designation of the victim as passive and helpless.