The relationship between the law and masculinity has not been as thoroughly examined as the relationship between the law and feminism or, more generally, between the law and gender. Yet, the reach of masculinity stretches deep into the very fiber of the law. Masculinity has for too long served as an invisible bedrock on which the law founded both its substance and method. The struggle for formal equality during the last half century sought the elimination of the masculinist bias, but has only exposed the extent of the entrenchment. The popular idea is that the law exists in a removed and exalted position where it sits in judgement of a pre-existing and fully formed masculinity. Indeed, much of the internal coherence of the law is premised on the integrity of the subject and the propagation of sexual difference. Thus, the law is precluded from acknowledging or engaging with its own productive power and vacuously characterizes itself as a neutral arbiter. Today, while significant changes occur in sex and sexuality, the study of masculinity appears theoretically stagnant.
Part I of this paper distinguishes between masculinity studies and the men's movement and explains the relationship of each to feminist theory. Part II looks at how the power of the law works and how masculinity studies is an effective tool to help understand how that power manifests and is employed. Part III examines the relationship between feminist legal theory and masculinity studies with a particular focus on two areas where I view masculinity studies as having successfully employed insights from feminist theory. Finally, Part IV considers four areas where I suggest masculinity studies could better incorporate certain insights from feminist theory, which would result in a more rigorous understanding of the relationship among power, masculinity, and law, and point masculinity studies in a more nuanced direction. To advance this critique, the paper analyzes underlying arguments that support the power of law based in classic liberal political theory. It employs recurrent critiques of the law, and of liberalism more generally, found in Feminist Legal Theory, Critical Race Theory, Queer Theory, and Critical Legal Studies to reveal the law as always already intertwined with masculinity.