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Gender is a constant struggle. Throughout our lives, we contend with multiple unstable and oppositional social constructions of gender, or hierarchies of masculinities and femininities. Knowing, or trying to know, who is male and who is female, and how men and women should act, is a major part of the structure of our identities, our societies, and our democracy. These gender questions are not separate from race or class; together for example, they shape what is expected of a poor young White man or a middle-class, African American grandmother. Racialized and class-based, gender helps to tell us who is frightening, who is powerful, and who is human.

Condemning females does not disrupt the masculinities of capital punishment, but condemning femininity does. This Article addresses, in turn, the gender in punishing by death, the gender of those chosen for death, and the gender-bending execution of Karla Faye Tucker. By understanding what Justice Blackmun called the “machinery of death” as repeated performances of White masculinities, we might loosen our attraction to capital punishment and to hierarchies of racialized gender.

Publication Citation

81 Or. L. Rev. 183 (2002).