Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Catharine MacKinnon (born 7th October 1946) is an American feminist and lawyer. She was educated at Smith College (B.A., 1968), Yale Law School (J.D., 1977) and Yale University Graduate School (Ph.D. in political science, 1987). As of 2004, she is the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and is also a long-term Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago.
A proponent of "feminism unmodified," a form of radical feminism distanced from, for example, Marxist approaches, MacKinnon wrote Towards a Feminist Theory of the State, an attempt to understand the oppression of women and strategies to combat it in terms of states dominated by men.
MacKinnon, in the 1970s, was a pioneer in claiming that sexual harassment could be considered illegal discrimination and fall under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, this premise was not tested in court until the 1980s, in the Jenson v. Eveleth case.
In the 80s, in cooperation with Andrea Dworkin, she wrote ordinances for a law recognizing pornography as a violation of civil rights. The "Dworkin-MacKinnon ordinances" placed her at the center of a major controversy. Some favored the ordinances as a novel method of combating what they felt to be objectifying or violent depictions of women. Many others objected on free speech grounds, with some, such as the Friesian School going so far as to call her the epitome of "Stalinist feminists" and the Authoritarian left . Some who might have agreed with her opposition to pornography generally objected to her tactics out of concern that placing such control in the hands of male-dominated states could allow them to censor depictions of sex valuable to, e.g., lesbians or the BDSM community. That right-wing Christian organizations sided with MacKinnon did little to endear her to other feminists.
MacKinnon now works with litigation and legislation on women's human rights; her approach is notable in that she claims that traditional approaches to human rights gloss over abuses specific to women (e.g., sexual violence), both in wartime and peacetime. She has, for example, represented women and children victims of Serbian genocidal sexual atrocities.
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