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Unit information: Sex, Gender and Law in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Sex, Gender and Law
Unit code LAWD30110
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Russell
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will consider the following: feminist and queer theory as well as theories of sexuality as they relate to law. Other topics vary from year to year but can, for example, include: female suffrage campaigns; regulating the body; family law; reproduction; human rights; pornography; employment; legal reasoning; male violence).

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Explain the basic theories of sex, gender etc
  • Explain the relevance of these theories to legal studies
  • Explain the application of these theories to specific topic areas studied, including:
    • explaining the different approaches to sex and gender etc (essentialist, social constructionist etc) and discussing them in relation to, for example, criminal law and criminal justice and other topics studied
    • explaining and analysing feminist and queer theories in general as well as in the context of specific topics like the family and family law
  • critically assess both theories and the law and discuss potential solutions to any problems with current law and social policy, including the usefulness or otherwise of law reform

Teaching details

10 lectures and 10 two-hour seminars.

Assessment Details

1 x formative assessment (submitted for marking), plus additional informal formative feedback opportunities as indicated by the unit coordinator.

Formative assessments do not count towards final mark and can be optional.

2 x summative assessments (50% weighting each): 2 x 2,000 word coursework. Summative assessments do count towards final mark.

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

  • Catharine A. MacKinnon, Towards a Feminist Theory of the State (Harvard University Press 1989)
  • Nancy Holmstrom (ed), The Socialist Feminist Project: A Contemporary Reader in Theory and Politics (Monthly Review Press 2002)
  • Sandra Harding (ed), The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies (Routledge 2004)
  • Carol Smart Feminism and the Power of Law (Routledge, 1989)
  • Rosemary Hunter, Claire McGlynn and Erika Rackley (eds) Feminist Judgements: From Theory to Practice (Hart, 2010)
  • Kimberlé Crenshaw, ‘Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics’. University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989): 139.
  • Judith Butler Gender Trouble (Routledge, 1990)
  • Joanne Conaghan Law and Gender (OUP, 2013)
  • Joanne Conaghan and Yvette Russell ‘Rape myths, law, and feminist research: "myths about myths"?’ Feminist Legal Studies (2014) 22(1): 25-48.