Are Women Human?: And Other International Dialogues

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Overview

More than half a century after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined what a human being is and is entitled to, Catharine MacKinnon asks: Are women human yet? If women were regarded as human, would they be sold into sexual slavery worldwide; veiled, silenced, and imprisoned in homes; bred, and worked as menials for little or no pay; stoned for sex outside marriage or burned within it; mutilated genitally, impoverished economically, and mired in illiteracy--all as a matter of course and without effective recourse?

The cutting edge is where law and culture hurts, which is where MacKinnon operates in these essays on the transnational status and treatment of women. Taking her gendered critique of the state to the international plane, ranging widely intellectually and concretely, she exposes the consequences and significance of the systematic maltreatment of women and its systemic condonation. And she points toward fresh ways--social, legal, and political--of targeting its toxic orthodoxies.

MacKinnon takes us inside the workings of nation-states, where the oppression of women defines community life and distributes power in society and government. She takes us to Bosnia-Herzogovina for a harrowing look at how the wholesale rape and murder of women and girls there was an act of genocide, not a side effect of war. She takes us into the heart of the international law of conflict to ask--and reveal--why the international community can rally against terrorists' violence, but not against violence against women. A critique of the transnational status quo that also envisions the transforming possibilities of human rights, this bracing book makes us look as never before at an ongoing war too long undeclared.

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Editorial Reviews

Martha Minow
Why does the war on terrorism after 9/11 offer lessons for struggles against domestic violence? As Catharine MacKinnon explores this and other international legal questions about genocide, rape, and women's status, these essays supply ample evidence for her stature as one of the most original and provocative legal theorists of our age. The essays gathered here are quintessential MacKinnon and reflect her journeys to Bosnia, Canada, Sweden, and across the terrains of international law, and gender politics, and the injustices that lie beyond the power of any single nation.
José E. Alvarez
MacKinnon's bracing essays globalize her signature ideas--the hidden power behind "neutral" rules, the role of male privilege in the construction of hierarchal rules and law-making processes, the invisibility of those subordinated by the public/private divide, the flaws in Aristotle's concept of equality--with devastating results for the heretofore complacent field of international law. These stinging rebukes to how international law is thought about and practiced, produced over little more than a decade, demonstrate the transformative potential of jurisprudence that seeks to engage (and change) the real world. MacKinnon's thoughtful critiques of matters as diverse as the handling of class actions to the selective choices reflected in the war on terror provide indispensable reading for anyone who cares about how nations (mis)behave. They provide the "shock and awe" that the Bush Administration promised but never delivered.
Elizabeth Evatt
Any work from Catharine MacKinnon is bound to be provocative and exciting. Here is a feast, a collection of work showing how the author's ideas about women's rights have developed over 20 years. The simple question "are women human?" leads us to see more clearly a male dominated world which, since time immemorial, has tolerated, condoned and even encouraged gender based violence and abuse. No area is spared the damning spotlight, from sexual harassment to pornography, from rape and violence to terrorism and armed conflict. But this is no hand-wringing exercise. The author's passion for true equality, her analytical skills and her creativity shine from these pages. Her new approaches to accountability have inspired many women to assert their rights and have found their way into domestic law and international instruments. All this, and much more in a truly awesome book.
The Guardian - Stuart Jeffries
[MacKinnon] is undeniably one of feminism's most significant figures, a ferociously tough-minded lawyer and academic who has sought to use the law to clamp down on sexual harassment and pornography.
Times Literary Supplement - Charles King
Catharine A. MacKinnon is the world's leading feminist legal theorist, and her work over the past three decades has helped create an entire field of theorizing about gender, the State, and law. Along with the late Andrea Dworkin, MacKinnon has also become one of the major thinkers and activists on the issue of women's rights in the global arena, particularly regarding the way in which enduring distinctions between the public and the private spheres (in areas such as pornography, for example) sustain a matrix of inequality and exploitation. In this collection of previously published essays and public lectures, MacKinnon focuses on the international legal dimensions of feminist theory. She asks how international law, specifically international human rights protections, might be structured to take account of the uniqueness of crimes against women.
New York Law Journal Magazine - Kay E. Wilde
Ms. MacKinnon provides numerous vivid and intensely disturbing examples of governments, through overt action or callous indifference, treating women as less than human and, thus, denying women their human rights...She is seeking to effect legal change on a global scale.
The Nation - Martha Nussbaum
A sparkling book, perhaps her finest. Unsettling in the best sort of way, Are Women Human? shows [MacKinnon] to be not only a prodigiously creative feminist thinker who can see the world from a fresh angle like nobody else (and I mean the angle of reality, as opposed to the usual one of half-reality) but also one of our most creative thinkers about international law. As elsewhere in MacKinnon's work, we find plenty of trenchant and eloquent writing; but we also find more systematic analysis and more extensive scholarship than we sometimes get, and the book is the richer for it. MacKinnon's central theme, repeatedly and convincingly mined, is the hypocrisy of the international system when it faces up to some crimes against humanity but fails to confront similar harms when they happen to women, often on a daily basis...Are Women Human? is a major contribution both to feminism and to international law...By casting herself as a peace-builder, MacKinnon issues a pointed challenge to her adversaries, who boringly stereotype her as a fierce amazon on the warpath against male liberties. This book is indeed fierce, unrelenting in its naming of abuse and hypocrisy. In a world where women pervasively suffer violence, however, it takes the fierceness of good theory to move us a little closer to peace.
Herizons - Susan G. Cole
Over the past 25 years, Catharine MacKinnon has changed the face of feminist legal theory. A law professor at the University of Michigan, she is, as one reviewer notes, 'a famously polarizing figure'...A new collection of MacKinnon's speeches and writings, Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues takes note of the political work she has done in Canada, the U.S., and abroad, and asserts her recent approach to accountability in the global human rights arena. Discussing ritualized forms of violence conducted by military forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and other regions, she argues that international human rights measures can be applied to halt such forms of violence against women.
South China Morning Post - Antonella Gambotto-Burke
To refer to Catharine A. MacKinnon--the author of 11 brilliant and theoretically rigorous books, professor of law at the University of Michigan, and a fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study at Stanford--as a feminist scholar is somewhat like describing her as a bookish blonde: accurate, but also a little ridiculous. MacKinnon is a towering figure on the world stage, far beyond categorisations that in application, trigger derision or marginalisation. The leitmotif of her work is the correction of social injustice, and her role in shaping perception of quotidian iniquities, incalculable...She has dedicated her life to creating a world in which we all accept, or are made to accept, responsibility for the dignity and wellbeing of our fellows. Are Women Human? only furthers her success.
Ethics & International Affairs - Clare Chambers
MacKinnon's writing is astonishingly powerful, combining a compelling air of authority and outrage with a sense of despair at the enormity of women's domination by men. It is hard to disagree with her central thesis that much violence against women has the severity of a human rights violation. Moreover, MacKinnon provides a compelling critique of the doctrine that only states can violate international law, and that only transborder atrocities merit international intervention...Are Women Human? is a book that deserves to be widely read. It contains important empirical and legal analysis of particular conflicts...It develops MacKinnon's own feminist philosophy, building on the approach developed in her earlier works and demonstrating how feminism should respond to international issues. And it engages directly with contemporary debates about culture, global justice, human rights, international law, and the demands of equality.
Ms
In this collection of essays, the pioneering feminist lawyer calls for international laws to protect women from the denial of property rights, the deployment of rape in war and other brutalities that flow from male oppression.
The Guardian

[MacKinnon] is undeniably one of feminism's most significant figures, a ferociously tough-minded lawyer and academic who has sought to use the law to clamp down on sexual harassment and pornography.
— Stuart Jeffries

Times Literary Supplement

Catharine A. MacKinnon is the world's leading feminist legal theorist, and her work over the past three decades has helped create an entire field of theorizing about gender, the State, and law. Along with the late Andrea Dworkin, MacKinnon has also become one of the major thinkers and activists on the issue of women's rights in the global arena, particularly regarding the way in which enduring distinctions between the public and the private spheres (in areas such as pornography, for example) sustain a matrix of inequality and exploitation. In this collection of previously published essays and public lectures, MacKinnon focuses on the international legal dimensions of feminist theory. She asks how international law, specifically international human rights protections, might be structured to take account of the uniqueness of crimes against women.
— Charles King

New York Law Journal Magazine

Ms. MacKinnon provides numerous vivid and intensely disturbing examples of governments, through overt action or callous indifference, treating women as less than human and, thus, denying women their human rights...She is seeking to effect legal change on a global scale.
— Kay E. Wilde

The Nation

A sparkling book, perhaps her finest. Unsettling in the best sort of way, Are Women Human? shows [MacKinnon] to be not only a prodigiously creative feminist thinker who can see the world from a fresh angle like nobody else (and I mean the angle of reality, as opposed to the usual one of half-reality) but also one of our most creative thinkers about international law. As elsewhere in MacKinnon's work, we find plenty of trenchant and eloquent writing; but we also find more systematic analysis and more extensive scholarship than we sometimes get, and the book is the richer for it. MacKinnon's central theme, repeatedly and convincingly mined, is the hypocrisy of the international system when it faces up to some crimes against humanity but fails to confront similar harms when they happen to women, often on a daily basis...Are Women Human? is a major contribution both to feminism and to international law...By casting herself as a peace-builder, MacKinnon issues a pointed challenge to her adversaries, who boringly stereotype her as a fierce amazon on the warpath against male liberties. This book is indeed fierce, unrelenting in its naming of abuse and hypocrisy. In a world where women pervasively suffer violence, however, it takes the fierceness of good theory to move us a little closer to peace.
— Martha Nussbaum

Herizons

Over the past 25 years, Catharine MacKinnon has changed the face of feminist legal theory. A law professor at the University of Michigan, she is, as one reviewer notes, 'a famously polarizing figure'...A new collection of MacKinnon's speeches and writings, Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues takes note of the political work she has done in Canada, the U.S., and abroad, and asserts her recent approach to accountability in the global human rights arena. Discussing ritualized forms of violence conducted by military forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and other regions, she argues that international human rights measures can be applied to halt such forms of violence against women.
— Susan G. Cole

South China Morning Post

To refer to Catharine A. MacKinnon—the author of 11 brilliant and theoretically rigorous books, professor of law at the University of Michigan, and a fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study at Stanford—as a feminist scholar is somewhat like describing her as a bookish blonde: accurate, but also a little ridiculous. MacKinnon is a towering figure on the world stage, far beyond categorisations that in application, trigger derision or marginalisation. The leitmotif of her work is the correction of social injustice, and her role in shaping perception of quotidian iniquities, incalculable...She has dedicated her life to creating a world in which we all accept, or are made to accept, responsibility for the dignity and wellbeing of our fellows. Are Women Human? only furthers her success.
— Antonella Gambotto-Burke

Ethics & International Affairs

MacKinnon's writing is astonishingly powerful, combining a compelling air of authority and outrage with a sense of despair at the enormity of women's domination by men. It is hard to disagree with her central thesis that much violence against women has the severity of a human rights violation. Moreover, MacKinnon provides a compelling critique of the doctrine that only states can violate international law, and that only transborder atrocities merit international intervention...Are Women Human? is a book that deserves to be widely read. It contains important empirical and legal analysis of particular conflicts...It develops MacKinnon's own feminist philosophy, building on the approach developed in her earlier works and demonstrating how feminism should respond to international issues. And it engages directly with contemporary debates about culture, global justice, human rights, international law, and the demands of equality.
— Clare Chambers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674025554
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,412,219
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Catharine A. MacKinnon is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Women's Status, Men's States

I. THEORY VERSUS REALITY

1. On Torture

2. Human Rights and Global Violence against Women

3. Theory Is Not a Luxury

4. Are Women Human?

5. Postmodernism and Human Rights

6. The Promise of CEDAW's Optional Protocol

II. STRUGGLES WITHIN STATES

7. Making Sex Equality Real

8. Misogyny's Cold Heart

9. On Sex and Violence: Introducing the Antipornography Ordinance in Sweden

10. Nationbuilding in Canada

11. Equality Remade: Violence against Women

12. Pornography's Empire

13. Sex Equality under the Constitution of India: Problems, Prospects, and "Personal Laws"

III. THROUGH THE BOSNIAN LENS

14. Crimes of War, Crimes of Peace

15. Turning Rape into Pornography: Postmodern Genocide

16. Rape as Nationbuilding

17. From Auschwitz to Omarska, Nuremberg to the Hague

18. Rape, Genocide, and Women's Human Rights

19. Gender-Based Crimes in Humanitarian Law

20. War Crimes Remedies at the National Level

21. Collective Harms under the Alien Tort Statute: A Cautionary Note on Class Actions

22. Genocide's Sexuality

IV. ON THE CUTTING EDGE

23. Defining Rape Internationally: A Commentary on Akayesu

24. Pornography as Trafficking

25. Women's September 11th: Rethinking the International Law of Conflict

Notes

Index

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