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Fineman takes vulnerability research to UK audiences in recent talks

A. Kenyatta Greer |

Deborah Dinner and Martha A. Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, recently participated in a workshop exploring Fineman's pioneering scholarship on vulnerability theory held across the pond at the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Dinner's topic, "Equal by What Measure? The Struggle for Universal Protective Laws," examined the erosion of sex-specific state labor standards regulating the conditions of women’s work in the late 1960s and early '70s. She used a vulnerability lens to challenge literature heralding this historical moment as the dawn of a new era of sex equality.

Dinner's talk recovered the vision of labor feminist activists, who argued that the maternalist labor standards should be extended to men – not eliminated. Universal labor standards held out the promise of realizing both equal employment opportunity for women and greater state protection for all workers. Today, Dinner argues, recent proposals to expand federal overtime laws are a positive step. But ongoing gaps in coverage as well the inability of premium pay significantly to deter mandatory overtime make state labor standards an issue of continued importance.

Fineman participated in a round table discussion at the close of the workshop inviting discussion on future research and possible collaborations with the Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative. 

Also, in a talk in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, Fineman delivered the inaugural address for Leeds University’s Centre for Law and Social Justice. Read more about the address here.

The Feminism and Legal Theory (FLT) Project was founded by Fineman in 1984, and she serves as director. With Emory University's Race and Difference Initiative, FLT helped create the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative. Since its inception, the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative has aimed to carve out academic space within which scholars can imagine models of state support and legal protection that focus on the commonalities of the human condition – most centrally the universal vulnerability of human beings and the imperfection of the societal institutions created to address that vulnerability.