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Understandably, early feminist legal theory and history focused almost exclusively on establishing white women's autonomy against white male dominance. The vehicles of nineteenth century women's liberation included elements of public equality such as ownership of property, the right to vote, access to male dominated occupations, equal education and employment opportunity. Twentieth century feminists extended the equality project by penetrating the "private" sphere and attacking the very notion of a separate zone of family relations which was immune from government intervention to protect women from male abuse. Cultural feminists like Carol Gilligan took another approach, arguing that women's experiences as sexual subordinates gave rise to a distinctive moral sensibility. The portrait of white men as victimizers thus became central to advancing the psychosocial and legal agendas for white women's autonomy in this century. This largely bi-polar account of gender relations was a necessary, yet woefully defective, model for true autonomy. If the feminist dialogue is to mature, the complex story of the violence that underlies white women's power as distinct from the power of white men must move from the parenthesis to the central thesis of a new debate about the uses and abuses of power among women. A healthy next stage of feminist discourse will include engagement and accountability for the dual role of victim and victimizer. This will require exploration of the paradox that a subordinated group could at once be the target of violence and disadvantage, while at the same time be the perpetrators of pervasive racial and sexual violence. This Essay seeks to explore the meaning of the complex history of lynching for understanding the relationships between black women and white women today.

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3 J. Gender Race & Just. 545-580 (2000)