Women's Lives, Men's Laws

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Overview

In the past twenty-five years, no one has been more instrumental than Catharine MacKinnon in making equal rights real for women. As Peter Jennings once put it, more than anyone else in legal studies, she "has made it easier for other women to seek justice." This collection, the first since MacKinnon's celebrated Feminism Unmodified appeared in 1987, brings together previously uncollected and unpublished work in the national arena from 1980 to the present, defining her clear, coherent, consistent approach to reframing the law of men on the basis of the lives of women.

By making visible the deep gender bias of existing law, MacKinnon has recast legal debate and action on issues of sex discrimination, sexual abuse, prostitution, pornography, and racism. The essays in this volume document and illuminate some of the momentous and ongoing changes to which this work contributes; the recognition of sexual harassment, rape, and battering as claims for sexual discrimination; the redefinition of rape in terms of women's actual experience of sexual violation; and the reframing of the pornography debate around harm rather than morality. The perspectives in these essays have played an essential part in changing American law and remain fundamental to the project of building a sex-equal future.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

MacKinnon's first collection of essays since 1987, is absorbing and important... Perhaps more than anyone else, MacKinnon has changed the way we use the law in America today. The essays here on rape, abortion, prostitution and harassment law make clear how, and it's intellectually exciting stuff...Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a compelling vision of how our use of law shapes inequality and how we might rethink it.
— Jennifer Michael Hecht

Bookslut

Catharine MacKinnon brings several decades worth of writing and speaking on the role of women in law together in this collection of essays. Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a fascinating look at MacKinnon's vision of what law could be if it supported, or God forbid, promoted the rights of women in the court system. In essays on myriad topics such as the equal rights amendment (ERA), color and gender, the evolution of sexual harassment laws, Brown vs. the Board of Education , and even animal rights, MacKinnon makes the same point over and over again—that the law fails women, and change is too slow and not enough... Women's Lives, Men's Laws shows how the law can give women power if they know how to use it to their advantage, and encourages women to improve the law by getting their experiences included in the making and interpreting of laws.
— Wendy Anderson

Times Literary Supplement

The book contains much that is impressive, both intellectually and rhetorically, and it is instructive both about the history of MacKinnon's battles and about the issues.
— Thomas Nagel

American Lawyer

Histories of American law in the late twentieth century will discuss the contributions of only two or three people who made major contributions to the law as scholars, not judges. Richard Posner is one. Catharine MacKinnon is another. Women's Lives, Men's Laws, a collection of her essays, many published before but some in hard-to-locate journals, shows why...Historians will grapple with MacKinnon's role in constructing contemporary law. Today's readers will benefit enormously from grappling with her claims about what that law is and should be—even, or perhaps particularly, the claims that for the moment seem off-the-wall.
— Mark Tushnet

London Review of Books

One mark of [MacKinnon's] status as someone taken very seriously in some very serious quarters is the fact that the current collection is simply that—not a book woven together from or built on older pieces, but a handy repository for some of MacKinnon's law journal articles, anthology contributions and speeches...Women's Lives, Men's Laws offers reminders of what she thinks sexual equality would look like and how she thinks the law might come to share in the creation of such equality despite having spread its protective arms around sexual inequality for so very long.
— Elizabeth Spelman

Law and Politics Book Review

[Women's Lives, Men's Laws'] scope makes it an absorbing overview of MacKinnon's views on women's inequality...Her perspective obviously recognizes and builds on the insights of the legal realism and critical legal studies schools, but MacKinnon makes the extraordinarily bold move to develop positive theory and practice of sex equality under the law. In this I think that she joins only a handful of contemporary theorists whose work goes beyond critique and offers a genuinely new way of talking and thinking about significant problems...MacKinnon is extraordinary in her willingness to tackle big, provocative questions about the nature of law, the requirements of justice, and limitations of legal discourse...It is rare for a collection of this type to offer genuinely new intellectual insights but Women's Lives, Men's Laws does just that. It is a significant addition to legal scholarship abut equality and an important amplification of MacKinnon's vision for women's rights.
— Rose Corrigan

Culture and the Humanities Law
Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a powerful collection of more than two decades of Catharine MacKinnon's feminist legal scholarship. Perhaps MacKinnon's greatest strength in this compilation--in which she discusses a range of issues, from equality theory to sexual harassment to pornography--is her methodology. She truly builds her "theory out of women's practice, comprised of the diversity of all women's experiences." Her steadfast connection to the women upon whom and for whose benefit her theory is based can be credited for the richness and persuasiveness of her arguments.
— Jennifer Denbow
New York Times Book Review - Jennifer Michael Hecht
MacKinnon's first collection of essays since 1987, is absorbing and important... Perhaps more than anyone else, MacKinnon has changed the way we use the law in America today. The essays here on rape, abortion, prostitution and harassment law make clear how, and it's intellectually exciting stuff...Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a compelling vision of how our use of law shapes inequality and how we might rethink it.
Times Literary Supplement - Thomas Nagel
The book contains much that is impressive, both intellectually and rhetorically, and it is instructive both about the history of MacKinnon's battles and about the issues.
Martha Nussbaum
Women's Lives, Men's Laws contains the deepest and best feminist writing around, and there is nothing like it. MacKinnon is a figure of singular importance for the history of feminist thought and for its present. Before MacKinnon, there was no legally usable concept of sexual harassment. Now in any law library there are shelves of publications developing her ideas. Before her work, sexual advances in the workplace were not typically seen to involve an asymmetry of power (although they always did involve this, and women knew it). Now even the most conservative judge will use MacKinnon's framework of analysis in adjudicating cases. Before MacKinnon, again, issues of sexual equality were commonly dealt with by saying "equals to equals, unequals to unequals" - so if a difference could be shown between women and men, for example that only women get pregnant, not providing employees with pregnancy insurance did not constitute sex discrimination. After MacKinnon the concept of equality was understood in terms of a different antonym - subordination, second-class citizenship. Before MacKinnon, the law of obscenity focused on the alleged offensiveness of the sexy. Now even those who do not agree with her practical proposals agree that issues of violence, subordination, and abuse must be central in coming to grips with the problem of pornography. Finally, it is to a considerable extent due to MacKinnon's influence that sexual abuse of women is now regarded as a major human rights violation internationally. In short, as even critics of her views will readily agree, there is no single person who has done more to change the course of American law. She is among the century's most important thinkers, and I can think of none whose theoretical work has done more to improve human well being.
Frances Elisabeth Olsen
The writings in MacKinnon's Women's Lives, Men's Laws continue to be excellent - fresh, concise and incisive. She has new things to say that will continue to enrapture and enlighten a large readership (and perhaps enrage others, many of whom perhaps never actually read her work).
Bookslut - Wendy Anderson
Catharine MacKinnon brings several decades worth of writing and speaking on the role of women in law together in this collection of essays. Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a fascinating look at MacKinnon's vision of what law could be if it supported, or God forbid, promoted the rights of women in the court system. In essays on myriad topics such as the equal rights amendment (ERA), color and gender, the evolution of sexual harassment laws, Brown vs. the Board of Education , and even animal rights, MacKinnon makes the same point over and over again--that the law fails women, and change is too slow and not enough... Women's Lives, Men's Laws shows how the law can give women power if they know how to use it to their advantage, and encourages women to improve the law by getting their experiences included in the making and interpreting of laws.
American Lawyer - Mark Tushnet
Histories of American law in the late twentieth century will discuss the contributions of only two or three people who made major contributions to the law as scholars, not judges. Richard Posner is one. Catharine MacKinnon is another. Women's Lives, Men's Laws, a collection of her essays, many published before but some in hard-to-locate journals, shows why...Historians will grapple with MacKinnon's role in constructing contemporary law. Today's readers will benefit enormously from grappling with her claims about what that law is and should be--even, or perhaps particularly, the claims that for the moment seem off-the-wall.
London Review of Books - Elizabeth Spelman
One mark of [MacKinnon's] status as someone taken very seriously in some very serious quarters is the fact that the current collection is simply that--not a book woven together from or built on older pieces, but a handy repository for some of MacKinnon's law journal articles, anthology contributions and speeches...Women's Lives, Men's Laws offers reminders of what she thinks sexual equality would look like and how she thinks the law might come to share in the creation of such equality despite having spread its protective arms around sexual inequality for so very long.
Law and Politics Book Review - Rose Corrigan
[Women's Lives, Men's Laws'] scope makes it an absorbing overview of MacKinnon's views on women's inequality...Her perspective obviously recognizes and builds on the insights of the legal realism and critical legal studies schools, but MacKinnon makes the extraordinarily bold move to develop positive theory and practice of sex equality under the law. In this I think that she joins only a handful of contemporary theorists whose work goes beyond critique and offers a genuinely new way of talking and thinking about significant problems...MacKinnon is extraordinary in her willingness to tackle big, provocative questions about the nature of law, the requirements of justice, and limitations of legal discourse...It is rare for a collection of this type to offer genuinely new intellectual insights but Women's Lives, Men's Laws does just that. It is a significant addition to legal scholarship abut equality and an important amplification of MacKinnon's vision for women's rights.
Law, Culture and the Humanities - Jennifer Denbow
Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a powerful collection of more than two decades of Catharine MacKinnon's feminist legal scholarship. Perhaps MacKinnon's greatest strength in this compilation--in which she discusses a range of issues, from equality theory to sexual harassment to pornography--is her methodology. She truly builds her "theory out of women's practice, comprised of the diversity of all women's experiences." Her steadfast connection to the women upon whom and for whose benefit her theory is based can be credited for the richness and persuasiveness of her arguments.
London Review of Books
One mark of [MacKinnon's] status as someone taken very seriously in some very serious quarters is the fact that the current collection is simply that--not a book woven together from or built on older pieces, but a handy repository for some of MacKinnon's law journal articles, anthology contributions and speeches...Women's Lives, Men's Laws offers reminders of what she thinks sexual equality would look like and how she thinks the law might come to share in the creation of such equality despite having spread its protective arms around sexual inequality for so very long.
— Elizabeth Spelman
New York Times Book Review
MacKinnon's first collection of essays since 1987, is absorbing and important... Perhaps more than anyone else, MacKinnon has changed the way we use the law in America today. The essays here on rape, abortion, prostitution and harassment law make clear how, and it's intellectually exciting stuff...Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a compelling vision of how our use of law shapes inequality and how we might rethink it.
— Jennifer Michael Hecht
Times Literary Supplement
The book contains much that is impressive, both intellectually and rhetorically, and it is instructive both about the history of MacKinnon's battles and about the issues.
— Thomas Nagel
American Lawyer
Histories of American law in the late twentieth century will discuss the contributions of only two or three people who made major contributions to the law as scholars, not judges. Richard Posner is one. Catharine MacKinnon is another. Women's Lives, Men's Laws, a collection of her essays, many published before but some in hard-to-locate journals, shows why...Historians will grapple with MacKinnon's role in constructing contemporary law. Today's readers will benefit enormously from grappling with her claims about what that law is and should be--even, or perhaps particularly, the claims that for the moment seem off-the-wall.
— Mark Tushnet
Law and Politics Book Review
[Women's Lives, Men's Laws'] scope makes it an absorbing overview of MacKinnon's views on women's inequality...Her perspective obviously recognizes and builds on the insights of the legal realism and critical legal studies schools, but MacKinnon makes the extraordinarily bold move to develop positive theory and practice of sex equality under the law. In this I think that she joins only a handful of contemporary theorists whose work goes beyond critique and offers a genuinely new way of talking and thinking about significant problems...MacKinnon is extraordinary in her willingness to tackle big, provocative questions about the nature of law, the requirements of justice, and limitations of legal discourse...It is rare for a collection of this type to offer genuinely new intellectual insights but Women's Lives, Men's Laws does just that. It is a significant addition to legal scholarship abut equality and an important amplification of MacKinnon's vision for women's rights.
— Rose Corrigan
Bookslut
Catharine MacKinnon brings several decades worth of writing and speaking on the role of women in law together in this collection of essays. Women's Lives, Men's Laws is a fascinating look at MacKinnon's vision of what law could be if it supported, or God forbid, promoted the rights of women in the court system. In essays on myriad topics such as the equal rights amendment (ERA), color and gender, the evolution of sexual harassment laws, Brown vs. the Board of Education , and even animal rights, MacKinnon makes the same point over and over again--that the law fails women, and change is too slow and not enough... Women's Lives, Men's Laws shows how the law can give women power if they know how to use it to their advantage, and encourages women to improve the law by getting their experiences included in the making and interpreting of laws.
— Wendy Anderson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674024069
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (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

I. EQUALITY RE-ENVISIONED

Section A. Changing the World for Women

1. To Change the World for Women

2. Unthinking ERA Thinking

3. From Practice to Theory, or What Is a White Woman Anyway?

4. Law in the Everyday Life of Women

5. Toward a New Theory of Equality

6. Law's Stories as Reality and Politics

7. "Freedom from Unreal Loyalties": On Fidelity in Constitutional Interpretation

8. What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said

9. Keeping It Real: On Anti-"Essentialism"

10. Of Mice and Men: A Fragment on Animal Rights

11. The Power to Change

Section B. Sexual Abuse as Sex Discrimination

12. Sexual Harassment: The First Five Years

13. Reflections on Sex Equality Under Law

14. Prostitution and Civil Rights

15. The Logic of Experience: The Development of Sexual Harassment Law

16. On Accountability for Sexual Harassment

17. Beyond Moralism: Directions in Sexual Harassment Law

18. Disputing Male Sovereignty: On United States v. Morrison

19. A Sex Equality Approach to Sexual Assault

II. SEXUALITY, INEQUALITY, AND SPEECH

Section A. Theory and Practice

20. Sex, Lies, and Psychotherapy

21. Liberalism and the Death of Feminism

22. Does Sexuality Have a History?

23. Speaking Truth to Power

24. Mediating Reality

Section B. Pornography as Sex Discrimination

25. Civil Rights Against Pornography

26. Pornography as Defamation and Discrimination

27. From Silence to Silence: Violence Against Women in America

28. Pornography Left and Right

29. Vindication and Resistance

30. The Roar on the Other Side of Silence

Notes

Credits

Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2005

    Examining injustice and inequity.

    MacKinnon has the answers for those who think that the corporate-sponsored denigration of women by the multi-billion dollar pornography industry is merely free speech. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. In these collected speeches, some before international organizations, MacKinnon explores how laws made by and for the interests of men, still do not take into account the interests of women. This is an important and essential book for anyone who cares about human rights and dignity.

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