Feminist methods in international law 

Feminist methods in international law understood– A path to transformation: Asking “The Woman Question” in International Law / Cochav Elkayam-Levy


Methods matter and the discussion over feminist methods in international law is an important one. As Kathrine Bartlett famously noted, “thinking about method is empowering.” It makes us more aware of the nature of what we do and what we aim to improve in the law. Consequently, we can act more effectively when we examine legal structures and do it with a stronger sense of commitment to our feminist work. Methods are also the fundamental means by which we produce “valid knowing.” The discussion of feminist methods in international law is one that engages with the combination of rules and assumptions that shape and delimit our views about the exclusion of women’s experiences from this doctrine. Despite their significance, feminist methods in international law have been deserted. They seem neglected in ways that have weakened the sense of discipline that nurtures our feminist knowing. The prospect of clarifying some of the vagueness is the primary motivation for this new article. The article is dedicated to identifying, explaining and differentiating feminist methods in international law.
It then introduces the potential contribution of the method of asking the woman question – or what can be also termed as the gender question for broader inquiries about people of all genders – as a transformative question – for the work of many international lawyers on their path to developing feminist consciousness. It encourages a bold ambition to tackle structural barriers, embracing a commitment to transformative equality.
While this question seeks to highlight and address the continuing injustice that
women experience, it also allows scholars to see beyond the gender binary in ways that take into consideration a spectrum of genders and the impact of the law on people of all genders. It proposes clarity and promises a feminist sensitivity to any analysis of international law. Based on this method, the article develops a unique analytical model that tackles the distinctive structural ways in which the international legal system perpetuates women’s inequality.

The model is predicated on the evolving global idea of transformative equality – which I further develop in my research – asking us to reimagine the rules by which our society operates. It urges scholars to undertake a transformative reconstruction endeavor asking –

How would the law look like in a gender-just society? What rules would we have had women had a part in the design of the law? How would the law look like if women had equal social power? (pages 473-5).

It is intended to encourage transformative processes that confront entrenched social and legal gendered structures within the international legal system. It requires a complicated intellectual effort to reimagine the future as means to move toward a gender-just global system. Hopefully, reimagining the future will be the most empowering, fulfilling, and transformative result of this work.

Recommended Citation
Cochav Elkayam-Levy, A Path to Transformation: Asking “The Woman Question” in International Law, 42
MICH. J. INT’L L. 429 (2021).
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjil/vol42/iss3/2
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3543189

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