Kara W. Swanson, Northeastern University School of Law, is publishing The Corset in A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects (Dan Hunter and Claudy Op Den Camp, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2018). Here is the abstract.
Two centuries ago, women and girls throughout the United States reached for one piece of technology first thing in the morning, and kept it with them all day long -- the corset. Although earlier men had worn corsets, the corset’s purpose by the mid-nineteenth century was to create the public shape of the female body. It emphasized (or depending on the whims of fashion, deemphasized), bust, waist, and hips in ways intended to accentuate differences between male and female. Today, the corset still fascinates, an emblem of femininity that appears on fashion runways, the concert stage (famously worn by pop star Madonna), and in blockbuster movies (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Gone with the Wind). Less visible are the ways the corset as an object of intellectual property has exposed the masculine assumptions in our understanding of technology, patents, and law.Download the essay from SSRN at the link.