Let me begin with a scholarly confession: Ever since I read Helen Fisher, Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray (1993), nearly two decades ago, I've longed to write an article called Feminist Agricultural Law (or, alternatively, Agricultural Legal Feminism). Fisher's observations on agricultural technology stirred my blood:
The Plow. There is probably no single tool in human history that wreaked such havoc between women and men or stimulated so many changes in human patterns of sex and love as the plow. [Id. at 260.]Alas, it never came to pass. I envisioned Feminist Agricultural Law as an offshoot from (or at least a section of) the anticipated conclusion to my would-be "Vanderbilt trilogy" of articles on agricultural law: The American Ideology, 48 Vand. L. Rev. 908 (1995) and Of Agriculture's First Disobedience and its Fruit, 48 Vand. L. Rev. 1261 (1995). I never did finish that third article. To be sure, I salvaged some of my work in Fugitives and Agrarians in a World Without Frontiers, 18 Cardozo L. Rev. 1031 (1996) (which, in the fashion of I'll Take My Stand's Stark Young, preached agrarian ideas by remote control from New York City), and in my subsequent scholarship on Wickard v. Filburn. But neither the grand conclusion nor Feminist Agricultural Law ever emerged from my fingertips.
Read the rest of this post . . . .My own failure to finish what I started, however, takes nothing away from the idea of feminist agricultural law. At least one Australian legal scholar, Malcolm Voyce, has devoted his career to sex-based differences in farmland tenure. Organizations such as American Agri-Women (on Twitter as @women4ag) advance the cause of women farmers. As a global matter, perhaps nothing contributes more to preparedness in times of disaster — let alone overall social justice — than the complete economic and political empowerment of women. As an open supporter of Feminist Law Professors (the blog) and feminist law professors (the group as a whole), I'm glad I made this point in the latest edition of Disaster Law and Policy.
The role of women in farming is as old as agrarian society, and it remains every bit as relevant and as contested as ever. Just today, Peggy Orenstein, author of the memoir Waiting for Daisy, performed a very clever twist on the theme of Michael Pollan's classic, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006). Her New York Times essay, The femivore's dilemma, highlights a middle way that has drawn women seeking to avoid both the glass ceiling and the gilded cage: joining the growing cohort of chicks with chicks.
From the depths of remembrance and heights of romance, I now reach present time and real space. In the here and now, I remain painfully aware that I will probably never write a comprehensive piece called Feminist Agricultural Law. But I shall not flinch from promoting the idea, even if by so doing I am effectively assigning the mission of completing that piece to another scholar. I shall continue to ponder feminist agricultural law and agricultural legal feminism. These ideas lie close to the project — the one and only project — I regard as the sole legitimate expression of legal scholarship, that of translating legal knowledge for real-world use, that of realizing the dream of the law made flesh.