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Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism Hardcover – August 6, 2006

3.2 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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

"A provocative and refreshing look at where the pieces have fallen since the feminist sex wars of the 1980s and theoretical developments that have followed in the past two decades. Halley's first person, conversational style . . . is bold, witty, candid, incisive and accessible. A potentially polarizing call to take a break from feminism could not be more elegantly presented."--Prabha Kotiswaran, Feminist Legal Studies

From the Back Cover

"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

"This is a wide-ranging, vastly original, knowing, and challenging book; there is nothing like it in any of the antinormative challenges of the last two decades. What's more, its cheerful polemic is a pleasure to read."--Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago, author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (August 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691127379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691127378
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,463,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Janet Halley's *Split Decisions* is an impressive piece of critical inquiry. In it she outlines a genealogy of theoretical feminism from Catherine MacKinnon's work in the early 1980s through queer and trans theory in the late 1990s. Providing close readings of representative texts from this especially dynamic/fraught era in feminist thought (which coincides with the institutionalization of Women's Studies on college campuses), Halley offers the most complete picture to date of the major figures and theoretical debates in academic feminism.

Halley's first-person, conversational tone makes these debates accessible, even enjoyable, for lay audiences to follow. She breaks down difficult jargon terms into their constitutive elements, showing how theoretical feminists use language itself (and not just content-driven argument) to convey critical and political points. This sensitivity to language leads Halley to re-read the early work of MacKinnon in a way that's not supported by most theoretical feminists. By refusing the caricature of MacKinnon as the "anti-sex," power-hungry lawyer, Halley is able to understand and appreciate the radical appeal of her early work -- and how that appeal echoes throughout the feminist canon, even in unexpected domains (e.g., Judith Butler's "Against Proper Objects"). Such careful attention to language is rare in contemporary academic theory circles, where the "idea" is typically prioritized over clear, detailed analysis of language. As a legal and literary scholar, Halley brings a refreshing perspective to theory, and gives us examples of the many illuminating connections that can be made if we simply paid more attention to not only what people are saying but how they're saying it.
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Format: Paperback
This book is not actually a critique of feminism so much as a critique of feminism's ubiquity as a framework within which to think about gender and sex/sexuality. It has much more to do with stepping outside of the structuralism and moralism of feminism, to get a different perspective. It's also a great model for students, who will benefit from seeing a top scholar do close readings of important texts. I appreciate that while Halley is trading in big and often complex ideas, she writes to reveal and is very readable. I got a lot out of it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent critique of the reifying effects of feminist theory. Some strange legal interpretations allowing for different perspectives, though a bit short on pragmatic possibilities. A few sharp lines, such as "Feminists walk the halls of power," seem poorly conceived and unsubstantiated by evidence.

Mostly a great read with truly thought provoking ideas in this landmark work that moves from feminist theory to queer theory.
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Format: Hardcover
What sounds like an intriguing book falls flat upon reading it. Halley's version of feminism is an elite and whitewashed feminism that has been under attack for 25 years. Her critique is nothing new. By positing her definition of feminism, Halley exposes her own ignorance, particularly of the central place women of color have in feminism. What's also frustrating is the complete lack of political efficacy in her argument. She completely avoids issues of reproductive rights, which are central to feminism. She attacks feminism on the ivory tower theory level (which just so happened to have helped get her, and other female professors, her job) but completely ignores the other side of feminism: activism. Halley's book was dated when it was published and does more harm than good. To critique feminism, she needs to use a fuller, more accurate, and contemporary definition.
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