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Can the law be feminist?

Lorna Finlayson, 25 January 2018

Butterfly Politics 
by Catharine MacKinnon.
Harvard, 490 pp., £23.95, April 2017, 978 0 674 41660 4
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... Catharine MacKinnon​ believes that sexualised domination and violence, by men over and against women, are at the root of sex inequality. The conviction at the centre of everything she writes is that men’s domination and violence are pervasive in contemporary societies, and that their pervasiveness is intimately linked to the pornography industry, which exploded in the 1980s and has been growing ever since ...

Drawing lines

Bernard Williams, 12 May 1994

Only Words 
by Catharine MacKinnon.
HarperCollins, 128 pp., £9.99, June 1994, 0 00 255497 6
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... Best known as an eloquent campaigner against pornography, Catharine MacKinnon is a lawyer – a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. Not all of this book (based on talks given at Princeton) sounds much like legal argument, and particularly when she is talking about pornography she gives a rhetorical display which may well have been breathtaking in the lecture hall ...

The Beloved

Michael Ignatieff, 6 February 1997

Giving Offence: Essays on Censorship 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Chicago, 289 pp., $27.50, March 1996, 0 226 11174 1
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... wishes to forbid others desiring. Not even feminist critics of pornography like the philosopher Catharine MacKinnon actually want to censor pornography. ‘Censoring pornography would not delegitimise it; I want to delegitimise it.’ Besides, ‘censorship excites men a lot.’ So if not even the censorious will make a case for censorship, what is ...

Room for the Lambs

Elizabeth Spelman: Sexual equality, 26 January 2006

Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws 
by Catharine MacKinnon.
Harvard, 558 pp., £25.95, March 2005, 0 674 01540 1
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... The official US publication date of this portfolio of Catharine MacKinnon’s articles and speeches over the past twenty-five years coincided with the release of Inside Deep Throat, a documentary about the making of the notorious and hugely profitable pornographic exploration of the lady with the lively larynx ...

When you die you’ll go to hell

Wendy Steiner, 27 May 1993

Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes 
by Helen Benedict.
Oxford, 309 pp., £22.50, February 1993, 0 19 506680 4
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Reproducing Rape: Domination through Talk in the Courtroom 
by Gregory Matoesian.
Polity, 256 pp., £45, February 1993, 0 7456 1036 6
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... contact between men and women. The next step in the argument is most famously made in the work of Catharine MacKinnon, a professor of law and anti-pornography activist, and her co-polemicist, the novelist Andrea Dworkin. They and an army of feminist journalists, artists and scholars blame art, the media and language itself for reinforcing the patriarchal ...


Linda Colley: Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas, 19 December 1991

... and sociologists for at least a decade now, and they could easily have called on an expert such as Catharine Mackinnon (yet another Yale-trained lawyer) to give evidence to the Senate on the general issues involved. Instead, both sides took it for granted that sexual harassment is simply about sexual desire causing havoc in the workplace, and hauled in ...

How do they see you?

Elizabeth Spelman: Martha Nussbaum, 16 November 2000

Sex and Social Justice 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Oxford, 476 pp., £25, July 1999, 0 19 511032 3
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Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £17.95, May 2000, 0 521 66086 6
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... large part by her chosen sparring partners: Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Marx, John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Susan Moller Okin. Though some of the nudging she gives feminists – typically referred to in Sex and Social Justice as ‘them’ but in the more recent Women and Human Development as ‘my fellow feminists’ – is ...

Does anyone have the right to sex?

Amia Srinivasan, 22 March 2018

... erotics of racial and colonial oppression are important exceptions.) Beginning in the late 1970s, Catharine MacKinnon demanded that we abandon the Freudian view of sexual desire as ‘an innate primary natural prepolitical unconditioned drive divided along the biological gender line’ and recognise that sex under patriarchy is inherently violent; that ...
Moral Prejudices: Essays on Ethics 
by Annette Baier.
Harvard, 368 pp., £33.95, February 1994, 0 674 58715 4
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... the pre-feminist phases of egalitarian politics, well. But it has done rather little for women. As Catharine MacKinnon has pointed out, to do violence to a woman has, until very recently, been looked on not as offering violence to a sovereign, but rather to a subject whose sovereign (her father, her husband, her pimp) might take offence. Moral philosophy ...

The Edges of Life

Jeremy Waldron, 12 May 1994

Life’s Dominion: An Argument about Abortion and Euthanasia 
by Ronald Dworkin.
HarperCollins, 273 pp., £17.50, May 1993, 0 394 58941 6
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... of no consequence, like having a tooth pulled. He quotes feminist jurists like Robin West and Catharine MacKinnon, who deny that abortion is merely the destruction of a nuisance, or that the foetus is an organism with no value of its own. Most regard abortion as a serious issue and think it a pity, a matter for considerable regret, when a foetus is ...

Waiting for the Poetry

Ange Mlinko: Was Adrienne Rich a poet?, 15 July 2021

The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography 
by Hilary Holladay.
Doubleday, 416 pp., £25, November 2020, 978 0 385 54150 3
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Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 345 pp., £13.99, May, 978 0 393 54142 7
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... you think about it; but what you think about yourself.Atwood wasn’t alone. Elaine Showalter, Catharine MacKinnon, Robin Morgan and Susan Griffin were among her admirers. Reporting on the crowd that descended on a women’s bookstore when Rich gave a reading in New York, Holladay says that she ‘was welcomed as a sort of ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... in Britain, in which he tells some of the story behind the committee; and on Catharine MacKinnon’s discussion of the tangle that Americans get into with constitutional amendments guaranteeing free speech and ‘equal protection’, a review in which he cuts MacKinnon free from some tangles of her ...

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