Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law By Catharine A. MacKinnon

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    Catharine A. MacKinnon, noted feminist and legal scholar, explores and develops her original theories and practical proposals on sexual politics and law. These discourses, originally delivered as speeches, have been brilliantly woven into a book that retains all the spontaneity and accessibility of a live presentation. MacKinnon offers a unique retrospective on the law of sexual harassment, which she designed and has worked for a decade to establish, and a prospectus on the law of pornography, which she proposes to change in the next ten years. Authentic in voice, sweeping in scope, startling in clarity, urgent, never compromised and often visionary, these discourses advance a new theory of sex inequality and imagine new possibilities for social change.

    Through these engaged works on issues such as rape, abortion, athletics, sexual harassment, and pornography, MacKinnon seeks feminism on its own terms, unconstrained by the limits of prior traditions. She argues that viewing gender as a matter of sameness and difference--as virtually all existing theory and law have done--covers up the reality of gender, which is a system of social hierarchy, an imposed inequality of power. She reveals a political system of male dominance and female subordination that sexualizes power for men and powerlessness for women. She analyzes the failure of organized feminism, particularly legal feminism, to alter this condition, exposing the way male supremacy gives women a survival stake in the system that destroys them. Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law

    2007- It took me a few years to make sense of it all (because I had to experience some of it first-hand), but I agree with most of it. Especially the stuff on pornography.

    2012- I re-read this as a counter-point, just after reading How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Jenna Jamison's biography, in order to cleanse my brain and re-examine the big picture again.

    Catharine A. MacKinnon Buku ini kumpulan Pidato/ceramah Prof.Catharine Mackinnon...keren abiss, her consistency against patriarchy and her deepest and substance matters, her words are exceptionally poetic yet strong and provocative and true....

    quotation : (Prof. Catharine Mackinnon, women self possession and sports- in Feminism Unmodified Discourse on Life and Law)
    by Umi Lasmina on Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 5:12pm

    Sexism is a problem not differentiation. Gender hierarchy is in gender differentiation only one strategy. NOR Sexism is gender neutral in the sense that hurt men and women equally. The problem is instead male supremacy and female subjection. Gender hierarchy is beyond stereotyping, it is developing objectivication of women. Objectivication of women is different from stereotyping, which as though it's all in the head. The notion that women cannot do certain things, cannot break certain records, cannot engage in certain physical pursuits has been part of preventing women from doing those things.

    Masks become persona, persona become people, socially, especially when they are enforced. Feminine mean weakness, and physical weak mean more easily to be raped, available to be molested and harrashed. Feminine mean violable.

    In Athletics not only women have been exclude from resources, exclude from participation, we have learned actual disability,ENFORCED WEAKNESS, Lack of spirit/body connection in being and in motion. Man are trained to be strong and are just not trained. Women are trained to be weak. It's not learned; it's very specifically learned.

    From feminist perspective, athletic to men is a form of combat. It is a sphere in which one asserts oneself against an object, a person, or a standard. It is a form of coming against and subduing someone who is on the other side, vanquishing enemies. It’s competitive.

    And for women we have engaged sports, when we have been physical it has mean meant claiming and possessing a physicality that is our own. We have had something to fight and therefore something to gain here, and thati is a different relation to our bodies that women are allowed to have in this society. We have had TO GAIN A RELATION TO OUR BODIES AS IF THEY ARE OUR OWN. It is our bodies as being, and presence, our bodies that we doing with, that we in fact are and identify with ourselves, as acting rather than our bodies as thing to be looked at or for us to look at in preparation for the crucialness of how we will appear, or to carry our heads around in the world. Athletic can give US a sense of an Actuality of our bodies as our own RATHER than PRIMARIILY AS INSTRUMENT TO COMMUNICATE SEXUAL AVAILABILITY.

    (Prof. Catharine Mackinnon, women self possession and sports- in Feminism Unmodified Discourse on Life and Law) Catharine A. MacKinnon Fav to reread. The intro and afterword are soooo good Catharine A. MacKinnon I've started to review this book a couple times, and just could not get a grip on it. It's a hard book to review, because it's so piecemeal. Instead of a single argument or thesis given a book-length treatment, Feminism Unmodified is a series of transcribed speeches grouped by theme. Each one can stand alone, but they overlap a lot with one another in terms of subject matter and the argument they are making. You can read through them all, cover to cover, or you can flip through the book and read them as they pique your interest.

    I knew of Catharine MacKinnon before I got this book --- indeed, having heard of her was the reason I got it; the book itself isn't terribly inviting. (Neither is the other book I have of hers, Toward A Feminist Theory of the State. I probably wouldn't have bought either one if I hadn't been introduced to MacKinnon first, through a philosophy class.) I knew that her primary goal in her legal and theoretical writing is to point out that the abstract person is a man, and that there are gaps in law and philosophy where the laws and theories that fit around this theorized man don't work as well for women. (There are tons of other kinds of people who don't fit the mold either, and thus are also ill served by existing laws and social theories, but this book only deals with women. Indeed, probably the book's biggest failing is its supposition that women are all failed in the same way by male-dominated, male-defined laws and social structures --- that's where it is most apparent just how old this book is! There's a big difference between, say, a white, middle-class married woman and how the law fails to protect her interests and, say, an undocumented immigrant woman or a transsexual woman or a lesbian or a woman with disabilities whose caregivers live with her or are a party to her major life decisions. The law fails all of these people, and more, some more than others and all in different ways. The study of those differences is called intersectionality*, and it's a pretty big deal in feminism.)

    Anyway, on to a more specific discussion of what this book is about. The essays are grouped in three categories --- Approaches, Applications and Pornography --- but it seems to me that there's a lot of cross-pollination across categories, especially the first two. I don't know that MacKinnon ever talks about her approach to achieving equality between the sexes without bringing in specific examples, or discusses a particular application of her ideas without rehashing the general theory. The third section of the book stands out a little more from the others, since it has a much more specific aim: making the case that pornography isn't speech, but actual violence against women. (This is another thing that most feminists today seem to consider dated and wrong, but I find it persuasive.)

    In the first part, Approaches, there are five essays. The first one is a defense of the Equal Rights Amendment (which still hasn't passed, a generation later) given as part of a debate with Phyllis Schlafly. The second talks about how MacKinnon sees the relationship between the sexes: to her, gender is not the social roles built on top of naturally occurring sex differences, but is instead a violently imposed hierarchy of male over female. The third piece covers similar ground, but it does so differently, in more philosophical terms. It was derived from a talk she gave at a Marxist conference, so there's a lot of reference to the Marxist doctrine of class struggle, which she uses to describe her understanding of the relation between the sexes. Man is capital, woman is labor, and they are in conflict over the means of (re)production. The last two essays are a bit random; one of them could fit just as easily in the second part, as it is an analysis of one particular court case, and the other deals with what it's like being a woman in the male-dominated legal profession, and how the success of a few women in male-dominated fields doesn't change anything for women as a whole.

    The essays in the second part, Applications, are less theoretical and more concrete and specific. They also deal more with specific points of law than they do with any broad philosophical framework. The first one talks about rape, and why so few women report their rapes; the second one (which is actually pretty philosophical; it could fit in just as easily in the first section) about areas of overlap between sex and violence (MacKinnon, unlike some, sees rape, sexual harassment and sexual assault as both violent and sexual acts); the third is a long dissertation on Roe v. Wade and why MacKinnon thinks it was a bad idea to base Roe on the right to privacy rather than on the right to equal protection under the law; the fourth is about sexual harassment, and looking back on how sexual harassment has been prosecuted since it was first defined as a crime; and the last one is about Title IX and the importance of sports in helping women understand that their bodies are their own.

    The third part, Pornography, is about ... you know what it's about. More specifically, it's about Deep Throat, and what it means that Linda Lovelace has said she was forced to perform in it. (MacKinnon says it means that Deep Throat is not mere speech, but the record of a crime, and itself an act of violence against its unwilling star). It's also about Playboy, and why MacKinnon thinks feminist organizations need to stop taking money from the Playboy Foundation. Another essay, Not a Moral Issue, revisits in broader, more philosophical terms the same points made in the brief discussion of Deep Throat: pornography is not just speech, and obscenity law is irrelevant to what MacKinnon sees as the central harms of pornography, which are 1) direct harms done to the performers themselves, who may, like Linda Lovelace, have been forced to perform; and 2) indirect harms to all other women who have to deal with men who watch pornography and think of all women in pornographic terms. She explores this latter idea more in another long essay, Francis Biddle's Sister, in which she riffs on Virginia Woolf's conception of Shakespeare's sister, talking about all the ways that rape culture hems women in and makes them divert energy that could be used to do great things into simple survival, and into trying to avoid being victimized. Another essay deals with the ordinance MacKinnon wrote with Andrea Dworkin, which would enable women to sue for damages if they thought they'd been victimized by pornography, and the last one addresses the Supreme Court decision that found that ordinance unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment. MacKinnon is not a First Amendment absolutist, and she thinks it's wrong that one person's freedom to make pornography should supercede another person's right to be compensated for wrongs that she can attribute to the first person's exercise of said freedom. For the longest time I thought I was a First Amendment absolutist, that words were only words and they ought to be protected because they can't really hurt you and they are the one thing the least powerful people can use as effectively as the most powerful, so they deserve to be as unrestricted as possible, but lately I've been reconsidering the part about how they can't really hurt anyone. MacKinnon's writing is one of the first things that made me start to question that.

    *There is one essay where she deals with this: Whose Culture?, where she talks about a 1978 court case involving a Native American woman who was trying to get her children recognized as members of her tribe --- a right that, at the time (I don't know how it stands now), only applied to men who married outside the tribe. Catharine A. MacKinnon It's interesting - though a bit unsettling - to see how the discourses from 40 years ago are still super relevant. Catharine A. MacKinnon


    gdi, this book has made me acknowledge that law isn't complete garbage as a lot of the things that MacKinnon criticizes have changed and for the better i.e. there's a pretty good framework in place in labour law for challenging standards based on men/able-bodiness/etc wrt Canadian law. Law is still a pretty much garbage instrument for handling systemic inequality though. Catharine A. MacKinnon On page 47 MacKinnon, without a hint of irony, says, We purport to want to change things, but we talkj in ways that no one understands. And yet this book was not easy to work through and not very accessible. I also found it redundant, as she repeats the same arguments several times in several different speeches.
    I'd recommend reading it piecemail, starting with Women, Self-Possession and Sport, More than simply a magazine: Playboy's Money and Sex & Violence: A Perspective. Catharine A. MacKinnon Imprescindible, absolutamente. Catharine A. MacKinnon Radical. Mind-blowing. Certainly the most exciting law-book I have yet read. Relies more on the shock factor than watertight argument but f*ck knows I was happy to find a readable (let alone inflammatory, engaging) legal text.
    Some parts I could not read however and would not advise the faint-of-hearts like me to attempt, for they were too detailed & personal accounts of horrors done unto women. Catharine A. MacKinnon I read this book for my Political Science class, and when my prof saw that I'd chosen it, he told me I'd hate it. He was correct. Not only do MacKinnon's arguments belong in the past with the rest of the SWERF mentality, but today's intersectional feminist movement recognizes a woman's right to do what she wants when she wants with her own body. MacKinnon fails to understand how her whole understanding of the pornography industry and its effect on women is based completely on the patriarchal structure of Western society telling women that our sexuality is not ours to control. Catharine A. MacKinnon