book jacket

Split Decisions:
How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

Janet Halley

Cloth | 2006 | $29.95 / £18.95 | ISBN: 0-691-12737-9
418 pp. | 6 x 9

Ordering information - Princeton University Press

Chapter 1 [PDF format]

Is it time to take a break from feminism? In this pathbreaking book, Janet Halley reassesses the place of feminism in the law and politics of sexuality. She argues that sexuality involves deeply contested and clashing realities and interests, and that feminism helps us understand only some of them. To see crucial dimensions of sexuality that feminism does not reveal--the interests of gays and lesbians to be sure, but also those of men, and of constituencies and values beyond the realm of sex and gender--we might need to take a break from feminism.

Halley also invites feminism to abandon its uncritical relationship to its own power. Feminists are, in many areas of social and political life, partners in governance. To govern responsibly, even on behalf of women, Halley urges, feminists should try taking a break from their own presuppositions.

Halley offers a genealogy of various feminisms and of gay, queer, and trans theories as they split from each other in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. All these incommensurate theories, she argues, enrich thinking on the left not despite their break from each other but because of it. She concludes by examining legal cases to show how taking a break from feminism can change your very perceptions of what's at stake in a decision and liberate you to decide it anew.

Janet Halley is Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. She is the author of Don't: A Reader's Guide to Military Anti-Gay Policy and, with Wendy Brown, coeditor of Left Legalism/Left Critique.


"Split Decisions is a bold and nuanced new approach to questions of feminism and sexuality. In a field that's crowded with politically correct dogma and snide reaction, it stands out as critique in the noblest sense of that tradition: Halley is sensitive to feminism's contributions but she also refuses to apologize for its contradictions and its limitations. Split Decisions is more than a critique; it initiates a paradigm shift--Halley offers insights into the intersection of law and feminism that have never been seen in print before."--Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School

"This is a wide-ranging, vastly original, knowing, and challenging book; there is nothing like it in any of the antinormative challenges of the last two decades. What's more, its cheerful polemic is a pleasure to read."--Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago, author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship


After Sex? On Writing Since Queer Theory, with an introduction by the editors

With Andrew Parker, eds.

Duke University Press, 2011

For more information, please visit the Duke University Press