The Center on Applied Feminism serves as a bridge between feminist legal theory and the law.
It is with great sadness that I learned of Nobel Laureate Dr. Toni Morrison’s passing. The Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law was honored to host Dr. Morrison as the Keynote Speaker for our Applied Feminism Conference on March 30, 2011. Leading up to her Keynote, we hosted a community-wide book club where we read A Mercy (2008) and a screening of the film adaptation of her novel Beloved (1998). She delivered her Keynote in a packed Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and addressed the theme of the conference: Applied Feminism Globally. In my University of Baltimore Law Review essay about the conference, I wrote the following:
Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison was the keynote speaker for the Conference. During her address, she pondered the meaning of the conference's theme: Would applying feminism globally mean that the conference was advocating for an exporting of United States values and political theory to other countries and people? Upon her review of the abstracts from the conference, she found the answer to be a strong “No!” Instead, the Conference explored how feminist legal theory operates in a global and international context. The Conference raised a variety of questions: How has feminist legal theory affected the lives of women across the globe? How does feminist legal theory differ across cultures within and outside the United States? How could feminist legal theory from outside of the United States benefit American women and feminist scholarship? How do post-colonial perspectives on feminist legal theory apply in a domestic context? Can feminist legal theory improve our understanding of challenges facing immigrants within our own borders? How are human rights norms compatible with feminist legal theory? As such, the Conference explored transnational feminism. In doing so, the conference examined the meaning of feminism in different cultures and contexts and how or whether feminism has evolved and changed in its varying contexts.
Margaret E. Johnson, Foreword: Applying Feminism Globally, 41 U. Balt. L. Rev. 217, 217–18 (2012).
Dr. Morrison’s rigor in questioning the conference theme and exploration of the presentations comes as no surprise to those who have read Dr. Morrison’s outstanding novels. As she has been quoted when asked for whom she writes, Dr. Morrison replied "I want to write for people like me, which is to say black people, curious people, demanding people -- people who can't be faked, people who don't need to be patronized, people who have very, very high criteria." (Morrison biography provided to Center on Applied Feminism for her Keynote). We treasure the legacy of Dr. Morrison’s visit to our campus and her novels that move, inspire, and challenge us.
Unique within the legal academy, the center seeks to apply feminist insights to legal practice and the policy arena. In particular, the center examines how feminist theory can benefit legal practitioners in representing clients, shape legal doctrine and play a role in policy debates and implementation. The center has faculty affiliates from throughout the university. In addition to holding conferences and regular colloquia on emerging legal areas that intersect with feminism, the center sponsors the Special Topics in Applied Feminism course and helps students plan for careers in feminist advocacy.
In 2018-19: The center co-sponsored with the UB Law Review the 11th Feminist Legal Theory Conference: Applied Feminism and #MeToo. The conference mixed activism and scholarship focusing on sexual harassment and gender-based violence law. Sixteen scholars and practitioners presented papers concerning a wide array of legal topics, from sexual assaults during police searches to the credibility of survivors in courtrooms.
The keynote speaker was Debra Katz, the lawyer who represented Christine Blasey Ford during the confirmation hearings for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In addition, hotel workers from a union presented about being sexually harassed and their campaign to end such treatment in hotels. Center members continued to work with UB law students and the Reproductive Justice Inside coalition to create model policies for reproductive health care and menstrual hygiene product access for Maryland correctional facilities.