The Double Bind of Gender Inequality in Capital Punishment Cases

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The Double Bind of Gender Inequality in Capital Punishment Cases

Many groups in American history have traveled various paths to challenge the one dimensional thinking that has been etched in our cultural thought process due to the Constitutional language this country was built on. While these pathways have their individual twists and turns, they all have intersected for the common cause of equality. Hispanic, African American, Homosexual, and Disabled Americans are just a few of the groups that have each raised a cohesive voice to synergize the cause. One group that sometimes gets overlooked but still continues to carry the torch is Women. Apart from the Equal Rights Amendment and the Suffrage movement, the path of gender equality unfortunately appears to be the road that no one talks about too much. A potential reason for this subdued voice could be attributed to the suggestion that we live in a perceived male dominated society which distorts, dictates and many times defines our reality. This reality has prevailed for so long that it has unfortunately become accepted on a sub-conscious level to the point where many women fall prey and put on their own invisible shackles of defined roles without even thinking about it. While gains have been made, the magnitude of the remaining path that still lies ahead can be seen through the spillover effects in our country’s basic doctrine, free enterprise, and judicial system. In an attempt to further dissect the issue of gender equality, this essay will focus on the idea of gender bias in capital punishment cases and how women actually seem to be benefiting from the sameness/difference double bind in this particular case. The question that cannot be ignored is if this benefit is really a benefit?

Previous authors have established the fact that the ratio of women who have faced and been sentenced to capital punishment is significantly low to the 13% of women who have been convicted of violent crimes such as murder. Before linking the sameness/difference bind to capitol punishment cases, we must first identify the foundation and relevance of this bind. In an attempt to position themselves against men and gain leverage in the equality debate, women have argued that they are the same as men and should be seen just as capable to get the job done and handle any adversity thrown their way. While this argumentative strategy has worked in some cases, women have also had to flip the page and draw the sands in the line to show how their gender difference could add value to tasks and opportunities traditionally set aside for men. While playing both sides of the coin appeared to be necessary, it unfortunately gives way to the tide of inconsistency. Opponents of equality in various cases were able to use the see-saw of the sameness/difference arguments used by women to establish their counter attacks. One such person who experienced this inconsistency factor was Myra Bradwell. Although she passed the Illinois bar exam with high honors, she was originally denied the right to obtain her license and practice law by the Illinois State Supreme Court. As she brought her case to the U.S Supreme Court, the reality of the female “difference “ weapon being used against her was displayed by Justice Bradley’s opinion that “ the paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother”. Author Kathleen Jamieson highlights two of the earliest instances (Suffrage and E.R.A) where women have used the sameness/difference argument. In her analysis, she suggests that there is a dangerous pitfall and paramount challenge in this strategy which helps to lay the foundation of the bind. .

The Suffrage Movement initially took shape with women proclaiming their sameness to men, which should grant them access to the same rights and respect. They argued that the Constitutional doctrine should be interpreted to include women. The main counter argument these...
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