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What does gender equality need? Revisiting the formal and informal in feminist legal politics

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Law & Society
Volume49
Issue number4
Accepted/In press2022

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Abstract

This article explores the political conflict over reforming how sex and gender categories are used in British law, focusing on the speculative legal proposal to ‘decertify’ sex and gender. Three interconnected arguments are advanced. First, diverging views on decertification are both about and seek to marshal competing perspectives on the value and risks of formalization and its undoing. Second, understanding these views, and decertification more generally, benefits from an account of the formal and informal as interconnected movements of (un)settling, (un)acknowledgement, system (un)intelligibility, and (non-)deference which remains irreducible to the presence or absence of state and law. Third, while formalization can pin down responsibilities and entitlements, it can also fix unequal and exclusionary status relationships. Focusing on positive action in the final part of the article, I consider how movements of formalization and informalization interrelate and the choices available, in conditions of decertification, if positive action is to counter gender inequality.

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