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Content Warnings: murder, violence, rape, domestic violence, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, coercive control, misogyny, transphobia, infant death, child abuse, trauma, reference to mental illness and self-harm. This may be a difficult read for some – use caution.
Working as a high-level barrister at the very heart of the justice system, Helena Kennedy is well placed to examine whether this system is working for women. In her book, she draws on extensive experience working with women, both as victims and perpetrators of crime, and the challenges she has faced as one of the only QC female barristers.
Eve Was Shamed is a shocking revelation of how women remain discriminated against by the law. It is also a powerful call for change.
First Page Impressions
I was immediately impressed by Helena Kennedy’s passion and knowledge. The audiobook narrated by the author was fantastic at getting across this passion, so I would definitely recommend it.
The introduction about the barriers to entering law school was something I could relate to from my own experience trying to access the veterinary profession, which is very elitist.
Having entered the university through a diversity programme (I was one of the few state school students on the course), I can appreciate the importance of such programmes. They couldn’t keep me there, but at least they got me there in the first place!
Kennedy makes a valuable point about increasing diversity within the justice system as a way to address discrimination inflicted upon the people it is supposed to serve.
Final Page Reflections
Wow, this book really hammers home the realisation that work is still needed to achieve equality. It is impossible not to be angered by the outdated, almost interrogative enquiries that female crime victims are subjected to by judges. It sometimes seems as if they are the ones on trial!
There are shocking, emotive stories throughout, from women falsely accused of murdering their infants to those fined for wasting police time after desperately trying to report stalking (yes, really). I would have liked some more of these case studies, drawn from Kennedy’s own knowledge and experience as a barrister, to humanise the facts.
Eve Was Shamed outlines solutions as well as problems, including improved diversity and training within the entire justice system. This creates a note of hope that means the book doesn’t feel too pessimistic.
Diversity and Representation
Kennedy’s intersectional feminist approach is refreshing. She considers how misogyny, race, class and trans issues all act together to affect women’s experiences in the courts.
- Crime and punishment
- Social mobility
Beyond the Book
If knowledge is power, then Eve Was Shamed is certainly empowering. It reminds us that awareness of discrimination is the first step in addressing it and that this awareness can be applied to any area of life.
- Kennedy discusses the need for increased diversity in professions such as law. Do you think these professions should have quotas to ensure they meet diversity aims?
- This book explores the ethical dilemmas faced by female barristers when representing criminals who have committed violence against women. Should barristers have more freedom to choose their cases, or would this threaten the right to legal representation?
- Eve Was Shamed focusses on the British justice system. If you live elsewhere, how did the issues raised compare? Were there similarities or differences?
“we have equal legal rights to spend real time with our families, where there really is equal pay, where the pressures of the long-hours culture are removed, where pay in the caring professions was made so rewarding that it did not invariably fall to women to look after the elderly, the disabled or children in nurseries, nor that teaching in primary schools was a female role.”
Read if: You are interested in reading a feminist challenge to an unjust justice system.
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If you enjoyed Eve Was Shamed you may also enjoy Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.
Have you read Eve Was Shamed or any other feminist non-fiction? What did you think? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!