Beyond Conventional "Womanhood": Feminist Legal Scholarship and Gender Identities


  • Oriana Confente


Feminism is a diverse discipline with political, legal, philosophical, sociological, and economic roots. In recent years, some of the conversations within this vast realm of discourse have extended beyond the binary categories of “male” and “female” which marked first- and second-wave feminist discourse. In addition to controversies within Canadian case law and legislation, feminists have been concerned with the following debate: Is there room for various forms of gender expression and identity within feminist legal scholarship beyond conventional conceptions of womanhood? The enactment of Bill C-16 (enacted in June 2017) and  the federal decision to amend the Canada Human Rights Act and Criminal Code so that these guiding legal principles will include gender identity and expression as a protected group has gained considerable media attention. Reactions have ranged from enthusiastic acceptance to intense disapproval. For instance, the viral denouncement from former University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson , who refused to use gender-neutral pronouns and claimed Bill C-16 would “criminalize pronoun misuse,” an unfounded but popularized argument against the Bill (Cossman, 2018, 43-45).