Request Inspection Copy

If you are an Academic or Teacher and wish to consider this book as a prescribed textbook for your course, you may be eligible for a complimentary inspection copy. Please complete this form, including information about your position, campus and course, before adding to cart.

* Required Fields

To complete your Inspection Copy Request you will need to click the Checkout button in the right margin and complete the checkout formalities. You can include Inspection Copies and purchased items in the same shopping cart, see our Inspection Copy terms for further information.

Any Questions? Please email our text Support Team on


Email this to a friend

* ALL required Fields

Order Inspection Copy

An inspection copy has been added to your shopping cart

Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

by Janet Halley Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 424 pages
AU$69.00 NZ$73.04
Product Status: In Stock Now
add to your cart
& Academics:

Other Available Formats:

Is it time to take a break from feminism? In this pathbreaking book, Janet Halley reassesses the place of feminism in the law and politics of sexuality. She argues that sexuality involves deeply contested and clashing realities and interests, and that feminism helps us understand only some of them. To see crucial dimensions of sexuality that feminism does not reveal--the interests of gays and lesbians to be sure, but also those of men, and of constituencies and values beyond the realm of sex and gender--we might need to take a break from feminism.

Halley also invites feminism to abandon its uncritical relationship to its own power. Feminists are, in many areas of social and political life, partners in governance. To govern responsibly, even on behalf of women, Halley urges, feminists should try taking a break from their own presuppositions.

Halley offers a genealogy of various feminisms and of gay, queer, and trans theories as they split from each other in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. All these incommensurate theories, she argues, enrich thinking on the left not despite their break from each other but because of it. She concludes by examining legal cases to show how taking a break from feminism can change your very perceptions of what's at stake in a decision and liberate you to decide it anew.

Janet Halley is Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where she teaches family law, comparative family law, discrimination law, the legal regulation of sexuality, and legal theory. She is the author of Don't: A Reader's Guide to Military Anti-Gay Policy and, with Wendy Brown, coeditor of Left Legalism/Left Critique.


''A groundbreaking book examining the contradictions and limitations of feminism in the law. . . . Halley is critical of feminists for relying primarily upon a 'prohibitionist' approach that identifies what's bad in the world and then writes a statute making it unlawful.''--Michelle Bates Deakin, Harvard Law Bulletin

''Janet Halley's readings of texts are an example of a form of theorizing that can take a break from feminism without dismissing feminist theory from the discussion. As a polemic the book pleads for openness as theorists, an engagement with ideas, events, and politics without knowing in advance our purpose or end point.''--Claire Rasmussen, Law and Politics Book Review

''[C]ompelling and intellectually stimulating.''--Carol Sternhell, Chicago Sun-Times


''Split Decisions is a bold and nuanced new approach to questions of feminism and sexuality. In a field that's crowded with politically correct dogma and snide reaction, it stands out as critique in the noblest sense of that tradition: Halley is sensitive to feminism's contributions but she also refuses to apologize for its contradictions and its limitations. Split Decisions is more than a critique; it initiates a paradigm shift--Halley offers insights into the intersection of law and feminism that have never been seen in print before.''--Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School

Acknowledgments xi

PART ONE: Taking a Break from Feminism

The Argument 3
My Complete and Total Lack of Objectivity 11
Taxonomies and Terms 16
m/f, m ??f, and Carrying a Brief for f 17
Governance Feminism 20
Feminism, Sexual and Reproductive 22
A Sex Lexicon 23
Convergentism and Divergentism 25
A Story of Sexual-Subordination Feminism and Its Others 27
Liberation and Responsibility 31

PART TWO: The Political/Theoretical Struggle over Taking a Break

Before the Break: Some Feminist Priors 41
Power Feminism 41
Catharine A. MacKinnon, Early and Late 41
Cultural Feminism 58
Robin West, Caring for Justice 60

Liberal Feminism 79
Convergentist and Divergentist Hybrid Feminism
The Combahee River Collective Statement 82

Gayatri Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" 91

The Break 106
Gay Identity/Feminism/Queer Theory 107
Gayle Rubin, "Thinking Sex" 114
Receiving French Social Theory 119
Michel Foucault, Volume One 119

The Split, from Feminism and within It 132
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet 133
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble 136

Butler, "Imitation" 140
Rubin, "Interview" 146
Feminism from Its Outside: Queer Theory by Men 150
Leo Bersani, "Is the Rectum a Grave?" 151

Duncan Kennedy, "Sexy Dressing" 167

Feminism and Its Others 187
Feminist "Paralysis" 187
Paranoid Structuralism and the Moralized Mandate to Converge 188
An Experiment in Political Stylistics (do try this at home) 192
1990-2000: From Political to Ethical Feminism 207
Marianne Hirsch and Evelyn Fox Keller, Conflicts in Feminism, and Elisabeth Bronfen and Misha Kavka, Feminist Consequences 208
1990-95: Getting to Deadlock 221
Judith Butler and Joan W. Scott, Feminists Theorize the Political, and Seyla Benhabib et al., Feminist Contentions 221
Around 1993: Mapping Feminism and Queer Theory 227
Henry Abelove, Miche`le Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin, The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader 228
Sedgwick, Tendencies, and Michael Warner, Fear of a Queer Planet 230

Elizabeth Weed and Naomi Schor, feminism meets queer theory 244
1998: Trans Theory Splits While Staying in Place 260
Jay Prosser, Second Skins 261


PART THREE: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

Taking a Break to Decide (I) 283
The Costs of "Making Difference Costless" 285
Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services 290
The Costs and Benefits of Taking a Break from Feminism 304
The Costs 304
Getting Rid of Feminism 304
Silencing Women 306
Flight from Feminism, Imagined as Limits, to the "Queer Utopia," Imagined as Libertine, Unbounded or Libertarian 308
Definitional Violence; the Foreclosure of Critique; and the Reinscription of Heterosexism in Queer Theory 309
Reifying Mere Terminology 312
Matricide, Misogyny, and Male Identification 312
Weakening Feminism and So Harming Real Women 316
The Benefits 319
Breaking with the Politics of Injury/Seeing around Corners of Our Own Construction 319
Seeing the Brain Drain as a Good Thing 340
Resisting Bad Faith 341
Minimizing Moral Perfectionism and Magic Realism 344
Deconstituting Women's Suffering 345
Taking a Break to Decide (II) 348
Twyman v. Twyman 348

Notes 365
Index 391

"[C]ompelling and intellectually stimulating."---Carol Sternhell, Chicago Sun-Times
Janet Halley is Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where she teaches family law, comparative family law, discrimination law, the legal regulation of sexuality, and legal theory. She is the author of 'Don't: A Reader's Guide to Military Anti-Gay Policy' and, with Wendy Brown, coeditor of 'Left Legalism/Left Critique'.