Roberts, Dorothy E. “The Dialectic of Privacy and Punishment in the Gendered Regulation of Parenting.” Stanford Journal of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties 5 (October 2009): 191-.
This short article provides the introduction to the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties’ fall 2009 symposium. In it, Dorothy Roberts begins by using interviews about Child Protective Services with women in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago to illustrate the two ways in which the state interacts with families: privacy and punishment. The privacy model, Roberts says, is a model of state regulation when “government agents leave parents alone to raise their child as they wish, with minimal state interference or support.” The punishment model is one of state regulation in which “government agents intervene in the home to punish parents who are unable to care for their children properly.” She traces the changing use of these models by the state, as well as through changing technology, during the last several decades’ rise of neoliberalism, to argue that the punishment model is used increasingly on poor women of color, but that the privacy model is not sufficient either. In the second part of the article, Roberts summarizes the contributions of the other authors in the symposium, and connects their arguments to her investigation of the state’s use of privacy and punishment to regulate families.
This article provides snapshots of arguments that Roberts expands on in details in other articles, as well as of the other symposium authors’ arguments. Thus, it is a good starting point for anyone interested in learning more about the ways in which the state interacts with families, and how this is affected by race, class, and gender, as well as how it has changed over time.