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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.
[MacKinnon's] book offers an unorthodox but relentlessly consistent perspective on issues fundamental to feminism. It is passionate, brilliant, polemical and sectarian. Ms. MacKinnon defends what is frequently called "radical feminism." As the title of her book indicates, she believes this approach to be the only true or genuine feminism because it alone speaks for all women...Her position is grounded on a clear assertion of the primacy of the social over the biological...Fundamental to her radical feminism is the claim that gender is a system of dominance rather than of difference...Ms. MacKinnon offers a systematic and persuasive perspective on issues that are central not only to feminism but to social theory in general.
— Alison M. Jaggar
[The book] is to feminism what The German Ideology is to Marxism. Using the tools of sociology of knowledge, Catharine MacKinnon relentlessly uncovers male bias, also known as objectivity and male perspectives also known as universality...On every page are epigrams one wants to print and hang on one's walls.
— Pauline B. Bart
This is heavy stuff. [The book] does not tell us what to do. It may, however, make us think, and challenge, and possibly act.
— Lorraine Schmall
Introduction: The Art of the Impossible
Part I: Approaches
1. Not by Law Alone: From a Debate with Phyllis Schlafly
2. Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination
3. Desire and Power
4. Whose Culture? A Case Note on Martinez v. Santa Clara Pueblo
5. On Exceptionality: Women as Women in Law
Part II: Applications
6. A Rally against Rape
7. Sex and Violence: A Perspective
8. Privacy v. Equality: Beyond Roe v. Wade
9. Sexual Harassment: Its First Decade in Court
10. Women, Self-Possession, and Sport
Part III: Pornography
11. Linda's Life and Andrea's Work
12. "More Than Simply a Magazine": Playboy's Money
13. Not a Moral Issue
14. Francis Biddle's Sister: Pornography, Civil Rights, and Speech
15. On Collaboration
16. The Sexual Politics of the First Amendment