The Constitution Still Betrays Women

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Professor Julie C. Suk. Photo courtesy of guest

On this episode of Scheer Intelligence, host Robert Scheer is joined by Professor Julie C. Suk, an eminent expert in constitutional law and a professor of law at Fordham University. Together, they delve into the challenges women face in society, which stem from the Constitutional framework despite the century old passage of the 19th amendment that belatedly granted women the right to vote. 

Professor Suk's latest book, "After Misogyny: How the Law Fails Women and What to Do About It," explores the ways in which systems of patriarchy and oppression against women and people of color are not explicitly established by the Constitution, but the document allows those in power to perpetuate their authority.

“It's not the Constitution that really excludes people from rights, but it establishes a set of institutions and the way they exercise power, which then makes it really easy for patriarchy to continue even after attempts to dismantle it,” Professor Suk said. A more precise definition of misogyny is warranted in this context where instead of focusing on a broader scope of the term that involves hatred and violence towards women, the more nuanced view establishes the value of women to the common good, as boiled down to reproductive labor and motherhood. Professor Suk explains that the misogyny inherent in the framework of the Constitution preserves “a patriarchal legal system in which women are expected to reproduce, essentially forced into motherhood, which is still happening when states ban abortion, and force women to do the reproductive labor for free and exclude them from equal economic and political participation.”

Professor Suk points to two important concepts as well: over-entitlement and over-empowerment. “[O]ver entitlement is when the society as a whole, controlled by men, is entitled, in an unfair way, to women's forbearance and sacrifices…And that over entitlement stays in place, even though it's deeply unfair and oppressive to half the population,” Suk explains. The Constitution, she argues, then allows for an over-empowerment, where those in power—originally white, property holding men—are allowed to sustain dominance by the legal order that existed, where married women were not allowed to own property nor allowed to keep their wages made outside the home.



Joshua Scheer