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“Masculinity as property”: Towards a new legal theory on the relationship between gender-based forms of privilege and the law

Rooted in Critical Race Theory and Feminist Legal Theory, this project starts from the premise that masculinity continues to occupy a privileged position upheld by law. Despite the fact that gender equality has been formally achieved through the anti-discrimination framework, the law still legitimizes gender-based disparities.

The development of a new legal theory that departs from the traditional anti-discrimination framework is crucial to pinpoint and explain where male privilege is still endorsed by law. Inspired by Harris’s foundational “Whiteness as Property”, which conceptualizes whiteness as a form of property guaranteed by law, this project aims to explore whether, and if so how, her theory of race-based oppression can be used to develop a new legal theory that better makes sense of (remaining) gender-based forms of oppression, by conceiving of masculinity as a form of property.

In the same way as the exclusive enjoyment of property is legally protected, it can be argued that the privileges associated with cis-gender straight white masculinity evolved to become advantages guaranteed by law. Along this line of reasoning, after formal equality was achieved the law continues to protect this form of property in that it supports the status quo that de facto benefits men.

Once it becomes apparent that the law upholds masculinity as property, it will be possible to craft legal reforms that devalue its worth and in doing so, finally achieve gender justice. In order to test this hypothesis and further develop the theoretical framework, recent European Union and Council of Europe law and case law that pertain to gender equality will be critically examined.

  • Research Foudation – Flanders (FWO-Fellowship Nov 2020-Oct 2024)


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