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episode 93: Aya Gruber, "The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration" (U California Press, 2020)


Aya Gruber, a professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School, has written a history of how the women’s movement in America has shaped the law on domestic violence and sexual assault.

In The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration (University of California Press, 2020), Professor Gruber contends that the legal reform movement on sexual assault began with feminists in the 19th century, who argued in favor of temperance reform, partly in the hope that it would lead to less violence against women. She also argues that the social context in which sexual assault allegations were made in the 19th century, especially regarding African-American males and white women, influenced the outcomes in legal cases and divided the feminists of the 19th century. Professor Gruber also addresses the fissures created in the women’s movement from the 1960s through today regarding how sexual assault should be treated under the law has worked against justice for both victims and their assailants. Professor Gruber argues that sexual assault law is premised upon erroneous beliefs about how men and women interact, the norms of nonverbal conduct, and the efficacy of punitive solutions. In addition to covering the history of sexual assault law she addresses how the criminal law might be reformed to meet the “convergent interests” of men and women.

Ian J. Drake is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University. His scholarly interests include American legal and constitutional history and political theory.

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