I visited my friend at law school last weekend, and he made me read the article they were discussing in his contracts class. It’s pretty long and dense, but basically it’s about this specific British case Lumley v. Wagner from 1852. An opera singer made a contract to sing exclusively with one theater for a season, but another theater offered her more money to sing with them. She agreed, and then the original theater sued. The judge ruled that she couldn’t be forced to sing at the theater because of issues with involuntary servitude/enforcing specific performance (I don’t fully understand the legalese), but he did enforce an injunction to prevent her from singing anywhere else. This makes sense, because she shouldn’t have broken her contract and so on, but the issue is that men in similar situations did not receive the injunction. They only had to pay damages for breaking the contract, but their ability to perform was not stilted in any way. The author of this article, Lea S. VanderVelde, argues that this reflects the “gendered context in which the rule was examined at the time.” It’s an interesting perspective on how the law, which I’ve always considered to be some higher, impartial force, can be dictated by a few individuals.
I was going to attach the article, but I’m not sure how… If you’re interested, I can email it to you.
Hope that works!