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Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

[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

Harvard Law Review
MacKinnon has been perhaps the most important force behind the burgeoning theoretical literature in law on sex discrimination and feminist theory...Each of the essays published in [the book] stands on its own, making the book a collection of separate entries rather than one sustained argument. Because each essay was originally a speech, the discussions are lucid and dramatic, with the dynamism, immediacy, and sense of discovery of a live presentation; they are also filled with irony, wit, and humor...the book contains brilliant insights, genuine creativity, and rare originality. It should have a significant impact on thinking about sex discrimination and on social and legal thought more generally.
American Journal of Sociology

[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

ABA Journal

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

New York Times Book Review - Alison M. Jaggar
[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.
Burke Marshall
Catharine MacKinnon's discourses in Feminism Unmodified are final evidence, if any were needed, that hers is the most powerful mind and forceful voice now at work in this critical area of law. I commend her book most vigorously to many who question as well as those who accept her position.
American Journal of Sociology - Pauline B. Bart
[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.
ABA Journal - Lorraine Schmall
This is heavy stuff. [The book] does not tell us what to do. It may, however, make us think, and challenge, and possibly act.
Diana E. H. Russell
Feminism Unmodified shows Catharine MacKinnon to be one of the most brilliant, original, thought--provoking, and uncompromising feminist theoreticians and strategists in the contemporary United States.
Gerry Spence
I wish to celebrate this book by a peer, a book for reading by men should they wish to keep up with the human race.
Miles Lord
It's a zinger. Ms. MacKinnon has made a difference before, and this book should further change society.
Peter Bogdanovich
Catharine MacKinnon's Feminism Unmodified is a remarkably penetrating, bracingly uncompromising view of what it means to be a woman in our society. Written with extraordinary incisiveness and an acid wit, this is an important book for anyone interested in freedom.
Derrick Bell
MacKinnon dispatches from her post on the front line of the sexual battlefield searing, sharp communiqués that voice a fierce, relentless, and finally persuasive analysis of how pornography, a perversion of free speech, perpetuates the powerlessness of women.
Phyllis Chester
In this book MacKinnon enlarges our understanding of the nature of civil rights as applied to women. MacKinnon's radicalism is thrilling, her determination brilliant, her passion literal. With rigor and irony MacKinnon teaches us what feminism--unmodified by cowardice or by disassociation from other women-is, what it sounds like, and what its goals are. MacKinnon's identification with silenced women is precisely what defines feminism unmodified.
ABA Journal
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
New York Times Book Review
[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
American Journal of Sociology
[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
Library Journal
This is a collection of lectures given by the author, a feminist and legal scholar. Mainstream feminism, with its emphasis on obliterating the differences between the sexes, she states, has failed to deal with the real problem: the existence of a social hierarchy in which power is vested in men, and women have a vested interest in their own subordination. Rape, sexual harassment, and pornography as evidences of the social and legal subjugation of women are explored in detail. MacKinnon, whose legal and philosophical arguments are not easily absorbed, aims to shake the complacency of those who claim there has been real progress resulting from the women's movement. This thoughtful contribution to feminist literature deserves a place in women's studies collections. Anne Twitchell, Univ. of Maryland Architecture Lib., College Park
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674298743
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 1,452,255
  • Product dimensions: 0.73 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (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: 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

Afterword

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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