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Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law [Paperback]

by Catharine A. MacKinnon
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 31, 1988 0674298748 978-0674298743

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

From 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
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 New York Times Book Review)

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. (Burke Marshall, Yale Law School)

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. (Harvard Law Review)

[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 American Journal of Sociology)

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 ABA Journal)

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. (Diana E. H. Russell, Department of Sociology, Mills College, and author of Rape and Marriage)

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. (Gerry Spence, author of Trial by Fire)

It's a zinger. Ms. MacKinnon has made a difference before, and this book should further change society. (Miles Lord, former Chief Judge of the Federal Court for the District of Minnesota)

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. (Peter Bogdanovich)

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. (Derrick Bell, Harvard Law School)

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. (Phyllis Chester, Ph.D., author of Women and Madness)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 31, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674298748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674298743
  • Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 2.4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #770,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking July 1, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
How much you appreciate this book depends on what you want to get out of it. It is accessible to a non-academic reader, and although I disagree with her thesis, the speeches are well-argued. She basically thinks that gender *is* domination, and attempts to show that the meaning of woman-ness is in subjection. I think that if you care about feminism, you must at least understand this radical claim. She has definately made me rethink some of my kneejerk assumptions, which after all is the whole point.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rosetta of Social Constructivist Radical Feminism June 14, 2001
Format:Paperback
This eloquent book is a collection of insightful orations given by Ms. MacKinnon during the eighties with in their aggregation is a powerful text on social constructivist Radical Feminism and class analysis. Ms. MacKinnon's approaches provide needed shifts in paradigms away from patriarchy. Gender is understood in terms of the the only meaning it can have in this society: Dominance of one class over another. She provide incredible distinctions and indepth discussions on issues such as Full and Formal Equity, definitions and meaning of rape and pornography.
She has a requisite versing in philosophy as she appeals to provides epistemological shifts needed to question the meaning of difficult constructs such as gender. Being a lawyer, she is facile in illuminating basic assumptive inequities in Juris Prudence. I was most appreciative at her analysis of rape and shifting the definition of rape from penetration to violence and where rape is not an erotic act but one of dominance. She continues further and looks at how members of gendered class male define the sexuality of members of gendered class woman until we do not know what our sexuality really is.
She provides a variety of diverse topics but ties them together by pinpointing their interrelatedness in patriarchy. She skillfully examines issues of the first amendment vs pornography and aptly illustrates how the Bill of Rights is becoming a legal repository for male priviledge.
Ms. MacKinnon's messages are presented in multiple levels and at varying depths and accessibilities, one thing to know is that there is always another level of understanding to be attained from this book. The reader is assured that there is much here if she avails herself to it. Please do not short change yourself by a cursory reading. Ms.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FABULOUS! May 14, 2012
By C
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
MacKinnon is one of the leading voice for radical feminists, she is truely a scholar and this work reflects that. She provides an honest discussion about issues that affect women. IT IS BY FAR ONE OF THE GREATEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER WRITTEN. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
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23 of 68 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hateful Polemics March 21, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
One of my law professors was a disciple of McKinnon's and recommended this book to me. After reading it I can only conclude that the author seems to be suffering from some serious unresolved conflicts.
McKinnon represents a radical, and in my opinion, unacceptable view of feminism. There are better authors in this field such as Steinem, who presents a more balanced and substantially less radical viewpoint. McKinnon is to feminism as Louis Farrakhan is to Afro culture.
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