I believe this book review is relevant to the educational experience of
students who are raped on or off campus and then must endure the
harassment that often ensues in the educational setting. It puts the
concept of sexual harassment in the context of each sex, and shows why
we need to focus on public education about Title IX, so that the public
can take gender equity enforcement more into its own hands.
Title IX Advocates
RAPE ON THE PUBLIC AGENDA: FEMINISM AND THE POLITICS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT by
Maria Bevacqua. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000. 280 pp.
$50.00. ISBN: 1-55553-447-3. Paper $18.95. ISBN: 1-55553-446-5.
Reviewed by Michelle Donaldson Deardorff, Department of Political Science,
Millikin University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, within the Law and Courts Section of the American
Science Association, there has been a lengthy debate over what aspects of
should be examined by political scientists. RAPE ON THE PUBLIC AGENDA is a
classic example of an examination of law that should be highly relevant to
public law scholars, but often is not. She explores a specific area of
in its entire context - historical and contemporary, including its legal
implications. Maria Bevacqua argues that the anti-rape movement attempts to
challenge a social, political, and legal culture in which "sexual assault
tolerated, violent and sexual images are intertwined, women are blamed for
being raped, sexist attitudes prevail, and male sexual privilege goes
unquestioned" (p. 9). This book, in part, examines the formalized response
by different groups of feminists to such a legal culture.
The first half of the book examines the perceptions of rape within
culture of the United States during the first half of the Twentieth Century
and its emergence on the feminist political agenda. She looks at the
development of grassroots organizations and their different individualized
and collective strategies to challenge a culture feminists perceived as
protecting and allowing rape. Bevacqua finds that liberal and radical
determined that multiple approaches were necessary to challenge not just
act of rape, but the culture that fostered and protected it. Most
importantly, they discovered that "statutes alone are sterile without
community-based organizations in place to hold lawmakers and law
officers accountable for their actions" (p. 109). So, even with laws on
books, Bevacqua finds that a culture that is radically opposed to the
expressed in the laws can prevent the laws from taking effect. The second
half of the book discusses the problems of selective prosecution, the
continued racialization of rape, concerns about the trivialization of the
problem by police and district attorneys, redefinitions of rape to include
date rape and marital rape, and the public stereotyping of racial victims
being a hindrance to filing claims. She concludes the book by examining
recent federal legislation that incorporates rape in the larger arena of
gender-based violence (the book was published prior to the Supreme Court's
decision in UNITED STATES v. MORRISON 2000) and recent public conflicts
regarding rape in the feminist community.
Through an examination of the secondary literature, numerous
with the leaders of these movements, and the manuscript collections of
grassroots organizations, Bevacqua has provided a very readable history and
analysis of a fairly recent political movement. More important Page 629
for our interests, she discusses the cultural and political forces that
affect the ways laws are written, enforced, and perceived by what Bradley
Canon and Charles Johnson (1999) call the "consuming population." Although
the focus of the book is not on the law, the implications of their research
is quite clear - culture and politics matter for both the creation and
enforcement of law, both criminal and civil.
This book asks a very important question, after the legislators
drafted a law to respond to a policy issue and the courts have interpreted
the meaning of this legislation, how can citizens respond to the
these new legal definitions? Bevacqua examines the development of the
rape movement within the feminist communities in the United States, the
battle for legislative protections, the courts' application of the law, and
development of more radical anti-rape grassroots movements when these laws
were found to be inadequate. Although the focus of her work has been to
place the anti-rape movement into the larger political movement literature
begin the process of documenting this fairly recent policy history, I
this type of research can have great import to public law scholarship. The
tendency in public law scholarship is to often look only at the court
decisions and implementation, this book places that smaller story into a
larger political context--a context that may give greater meaning to the
Canon, Bradley C. and Charles A. Johnson. 1999. JUDICIAL POLICIES:
IMPLEMENTATION AND IMPACT, Second Edition. Washington, D.C.:CQ Press.
UNITED STATES V. MORRISON, 120 S.Ct. 1740 (2000)
Copyright 2000 by the author, Michelle Donaldson Deardorff.
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Editorial Board: Charles R. Epp, University of Kansas.
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Previously published reviews may be obtained at the Law & Politics
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