Cornell Law School Logo - white on transparent background

Print Vol. 106, Issue 4


Women on the Frontlines

Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law & Founding Director, Center for Biotechnology & Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine

, , ,

4 Aug 2021

This Article takes aim at the troubling and persistent dis-empowerment and invisibility of women generally, and particularly marginalized women of color even one hundred years after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. It observes how the persistence of sexism, toxically combined with racism, impedes full political, economic, and social personhood of women and girls in society, sometimes to deadly effect. On the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, it speculates reasons for women’s labor being undervalued, even while on the frontlines of service to their families, employers, and our nation. It examines how women’s invisibility and sacrifice are particularly striking during the 2020 pandemic—a public health crisis so severe that nations besieged by the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 closed their borders, issued shelter-in-place orders, or imposed quarantines.

In the United States, COVID-19 exposes preexisting institutional and infrastructural social problems, laid bare by a suffocating, debilitating virus. Racism, sexism, and xenophobia are the preexisting social conditions that further exacerbate harms manifested by the disease. Written during the heat of a pandemic, this Article closely examines the unique ways in which centuries of stereotypes and stigma further undermine women and girls as laborers during the 2020 pandemic and as patients. Meanwhile, their suffering is obscured in news media and not sufficiently accounted for in political spheres.

To read this Article, click here: Women on the Frontlines.