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Catharine MacKinnon

  • Before #MeToo, There Was Catharine A. MacKinnon and Her Book ‘Sexual Harassment of Working Women’

    March 20, 2018

    In 1954, presumably with no feminist agenda and decades before the phrase would enter the consciousness, John Cheever wrote “The Five-Forty-Eight,” inadvertently outlining the mechanics of sexual harassment as they have only now come to be better understood. The story would go on to become one of his best known, a wounding abrasion to the surface view of postwar American fortitude. Intended as a chilling admonition against female volatility, read 64 years later, amid the current reckoning, it presents itself least ambiguously as a chilling admonition against male entitlement...Cheever’s story appears nowhere in “Sexual Harassment of Working Women,” Catharine A. MacKinnon’s influential work of legal scholarship published in 1979, but it offers the clearest possible illustration of the dynamics that MacKinnon believed were central to the American workplace, a system in which women were judged by the standards imposed on wives and concubines, used and discarded similarly.

  • Catharine MacKinnon and Gretchen Carlson Have a Few Things to Say

    March 17, 2018

    Sexual harassment “was not considered anything you could do something about — that the law could help you do something about — until a book was written by a then-young woman named Kitty MacKinnon,” the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at the Sundance Film Festival in January...The Supreme Court agreed with Catharine A. MacKinnon. In its first case involving sexual harassment in 1986, with Ms. MacKinnon as co-counsel, the court ruled unanimously that sexual harassment is sex discrimination. For over 40 years, Ms. MacKinnon, 71, has been a pioneer and lightning rod for sex equality. Along with her work on sexual harassment, she has argued, more controversially, that pornography and prostitution constitute sexual abuse of women in the context of social inequality. Ms. MacKinnon now teaches law at the University of Michigan and Harvard. (In 1990, I studied with her, in a class called “Sex Equality,” when she was a visiting professor at Yale Law School.) Her most recent book, “Butterfly Politics,” surveys her four decades of activism.

  • Stormy Daniels Defies Trump to Join Chorus of Women Violating Nondisclosure Agreements about Sex, Abuse, and Harassment

    March 9, 2018

    The contract Stormy Daniels signed just before the 2016 election with Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to keep her mouth shut about a tryst with the candidate is now available for lawyers and bystanders to study. Now, in the wake of Weinstein, #MeToo and Donald Trump, anecdotal evidence suggests that Daniels is not alone in abandoning the nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Women are more inclined to bust out of agreements that offered them cash in exchange for silence about sexual activity, abuse or harassment...Legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, who conceived of sexual harassment as sex discrimination and actively litigates and advises cases, said NDAs can serve a positive purpose for survivors. “Without survivors agreeing to what defendants call ‘peace,’ i.e. defendants’ reputations not being subject to imminent critique in the mainstream media, companies and schools have no incentive to settle,” she said in an email.

  • The Constitution Gives Gun Owners Greater Rights Than Women

    March 8, 2018

    Here’s a disturbing fact to consider in 2018, the year women supposedly began to topple the patriarchy: Gun owners in the United States, a majority of whom are men, have better constitutional rights than women. Gun owners have the Second Amendment, in place since the 18th century. The U.S. is one of only three countries that offer constitutional protection to gun owners. Women, meanwhile, have been fighting for an equal rights amendment for decades. That’s because the Constitution does not actually grant women equal rights under the law, setting the country apart from 131 other nations that explicitly guarantee gender equality in their constitutions...“This amendment is the only legal initiative expansive enough to support what the Me Too revelations have shown is needed,” said Catharine MacKinnon, the legal scholar who first conceptualized the notion of sexual harassment in the courts and who sits on the advisory council of the current ERA Coalition.

  • #HerToo: 40 Years Ago This Woman Helped Make Sexual Harassment Illegal

    March 5, 2018

    Robert Adler was a thirtysomething attorney at a small Washington firm in the late 1970s when a woman arrived in his office to discuss her problems at work. The woman, Sandra Bundy, was an employment specialist at DC’s Department of Corrections, where she helped former inmates find jobs after their release. About four years earlier, she explained, her superiors had begun making repeated—and unwanted—sexual advances toward her. After she rebuffed them, things got worse...As Adler listened to her story, however, he felt compelled to act. In 1977, Bundy sued the director of the Corrections Department in federal court. “I had no optimism that we were going to win this thing, because we were really in uncharted waters,” Adler says. “But I didn’t care.” Today, some 40 years after she first walked into Adler’s office, Bundy’s lawsuit is considered a seminal event in the establishment of sexual harassment as a legal concept in America. “What is so incredibly significant about the case was finding that sexual harassment itself—the doing of it—was sex discrimination,” says Catharine MacKinnon, a University of Michigan law professor and a leading scholar on the issue. “That has been world-changing.”

  • #MeToo Has Done What the Law Could Not

    February 5, 2018

    An op-ed by Catharine MacKinnon. The #MeToo movement is accomplishing what sexual harassment law to date has not. This mass mobilization against sexual abuse, through an unprecedented wave of speaking out in conventional and social media, is eroding the two biggest barriers to ending sexual harassment in law and in life: the disbelief and trivializing dehumanization of its victims. Sexual harassment law — the first law to conceive sexual violation in inequality terms — created the preconditions for this moment. Yet denial by abusers and devaluing of accusers could still be reasonably counted on by perpetrators to shield their actions.

  • Before sexual harrassment was given a name (audio)

    January 29, 2018

    It wasn't until 1979 that the term "sexual harrassment" was recognised as a legal concept. Julian Marshall speaks to the woman who made it possible to challenge abuse in the workplace - Professor Catharine MacKinnon.

  • “RBG”: New Documentary Celebrates Life of Groundbreaking Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (video)

    January 24, 2018

    One of the most talked-about documentaries at this year’s Sundance Film Festival looks at the groundbreaking life of the nearly 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 2018 marks her 25th year on the court, and she has no plans to retire...[Amy Goodman]: We’re going to go to a break, and then we’re going to come back and hear a really interesting comment from Justice Ginsburg just yesterday. She spoke at the Filmmakers Lodge. She was interviewed by NPR’s Nina Totenberg, and she talks about this seminal, foundational work of Catharine MacKinnon and how it changed her view also of women’s rights and what the whole issue of gender harassment is all about.

  • How litigation laid the ground for accountability after #MeToo

    January 2, 2018

    An op-ed by Catharine Mackinnon. Women’s voices recounting sexual abuse being heard, believed, and acted on is a real change. The accountability for sexual harassment seen today, termed “voluntary compliance” in the discrimination field, has been driven primarily by mainstream and social media, not by litigation. But make no mistake. If sexual harassment had not been recognized as a legal claim for sex discrimination decades ago, powerful, prominent men would not be losing their lucrative jobs, political and academic positions, deals and reputations. Transforming a privilege of power into a disgrace so despicable that not even many white upper-class men feel they can afford to be associated with it took decades of risk, punishment and work, including legal work.

  • The women’s revolt: Why now, and where to

    December 22, 2017

    When allegations of serial sexual misconduct by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein broke in October, they triggered an intense national reckoning over sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and beyond...Today [Catharine Mackinnon] the James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School tells the Gazette she is “inspired by the brilliance, heart, and grit of all the survivors who are speaking out and reflecting on their experiences of sexual violation, and being listened to.” And she said the downfall of so many powerful men is stunning, “especially given decades of stonewalling and recalcitrance and siding with abusers.”...“When you take a higher view of everything that’s going on, a meta-analysis, you can see that that is absolutely the way that defense works. Anytime somebody comes forward, there’s an attempt to discredit her,” said [Diane] Rosenfeld.

  • The Year of #MeToo: A scoop, a tweet, and then a reckoning

    December 20, 2017

    It began with a news story, and then a tweet, and suddenly it seemed like everything had changed overnight. 2017 will forever be known as the Year of the Reckoning. Or, more precisely, the year of the beginning of the reckoning. Because at year’s end, the phenomenon of powerful men being knocked off their perches by allegations of sexual misconduct — in Hollywood, on morning television, in chic restaurant kitchens, in the U.S. Senate — showed no signs of slowing. Each morning, we awoke to ask: “Who’s next?”...And what about the alleged abusers we’ve never heard of, because they’re not famous? “There have been stunning accounts of farm workers harassed in the field, factory workers on lines, restaurant workers,” says law professor Catharine MacKinnon, who decades ago pioneered the legal claim that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. “They don’t have the high-profile man ... but I’m telling you, to the women he does it to, he’s plenty big.”

  • No means no is fine but a number of women aren’t in a position to say no, says Catharine MacKinnon

    December 4, 2017

    An interview with Catharine Mackinnon. One of the tornados we're seeing today is against sexual harassment — and as the person who first got it recognised as illegal, what do you make of this moment? [Mackinnon]: We're seeing that cataclysm, and it's been building all along. It's about creating a perception that public disclosure will be heard, that women's voices will be listened to. It's partly that we are the backlash to Trump — that his open misogyny and white supremacist appeals were ultimately rewarded awakened a lot of people. Women like Ashley Judd made it possible for other women to speak about their experiences. That has set off this chain reaction, this butterfly effect that is bringing out all the pain, violation, hurt, anger and humiliation.

  • Catharine MacKinnon: Women’s refusal to be subordinate is beautiful

    November 17, 2017

    Literature intersects with current affairs, philosophy, cricket, cinema, economics and theatre at the ongoing Tata Literature Live! LitFest in Mumbai. The four-day festival, which is discussing a range of burning issues, looks at the world through the lenses of Nobel laureates, writers, economists and intellectuals...Lounge caught up on email with Catharine A. MacKinnon, one of the US’ leading feminist scholars, a lawyer and an academic...[Mackinnon]:Many women, and men who oppose sexual harassment, are engaging the conversation on the best way forward at this juncture of change. The fact that sexual harassment affects all women does not mean that it affects all women in the same ways, or that all women are equally vulnerable to it. But it is true that women are subjected to pressures to deliver sexually in order to survive or advance economically, educationally, and in their work generally.

  • ‘I Believe the Women’

    November 17, 2017

    The first time a woman made a very public allegation of sexual harassment before Congress, against a very prominent man, she was greeted with skepticism and hostility by male members of Congress...More than a quarter century later, public people in politics, entertainment and journalism are battling sexual harassment or assault charges...But one things appears to be changing, something that was voiced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he was asked about the Alabama man hoping to join McConnell's caucus next month. "I believe the women," McConnell said in his characteristic, low-key intonation...Catharine MacKinnon, who pioneered the legal concept of sexual harassment, notes the change in attitude – if not necessarily behavior. "Women reporting sexual harassment, for the moment at least, are being believed. The biggest difference as a result is that what was a privilege of power has become a disgrace," says MacKinnon, who teaches law at both Harvard Law School and the University of Michigan.

  • How Donald Trump Rules America’s Garden of Dicks and Sparked the #MeToo Movement

    November 13, 2017

    ...Trump’s victory in November was an insult to all the women who had accused him of sexual assault or harassment and been called liars...Catharine MacKinnon has been fighting this fight for 40 years. She’s now 71, still an avid anti-porn feminist, still teaching law at the University of Michigan. Her advice: If women (and men) want real change, they should fight for more codified rights, in the form of an Equal Rights Amendment.She also says the #MeToo-ers should prepare for a bilious backlash. “Don’t assume that the women who have come forward—the real drivers of this awareness—won’t be assailed and reviled. Don’t assume that because there are so many of them, the awareness they are creating is irreversible. Don’t assume that a lot of sympathy won’t be generated for the consequences to these men for their voluntary behavior. White male supremacy didn’t get where it is today by allowing reality to win.”

  • The ‘Click’ Moment: How the Weinstein Scandal Unleashed a Tsunami

    November 6, 2017

    Forty years ago this month, Ms. magazine put sexual harassment on its cover for the first time. Understanding the sensitivity of the topic, the editors used puppets for the cover image — a male hand reaching into a woman’s blouse — rather than a photograph. It was banned from some supermarkets nonetheless. In 1977, the term sexual harassment had not been defined in the law and had barely entered the public lexicon. And yet, to read that Ms. article today, amid a profound shift in discourse, is to feel haunted by its familiarity...It was two years after that Ms. magazine cover, in 1979, that Catharine A. MacKinnon published a groundbreaking legal argument: that sexual harassment was a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was based on a legal theory she had developed while in law school...“Ashley Judd is the butterfly of this moment,” Professor MacKinnon said of the actor who began the recent groundswell of accusations against Mr. Weinstein. “She is the one who broke it open, who has made this possible for so many other women. And so you have an explosion of it because it’s for so long been suppressed.”

  • Pioneering professor on challenging sexual assault using the law (audio)

    October 24, 2017

    On MidPoint we air a recent speech by pioneering feminist law professor, Catharine MacKinnon of the University of Michigan, on social change through legal intervention; MacKinnon spoke Thursday at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida. There are several instances of rape and sexual assault in the news: from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, to President Donald Trump to former Fox News host Bill O’Reilley and comedian Bill Cosby.

  • Fighting Male Politics Means Fighting the Occupation, Feminist Catharine MacKinnon Says

    June 5, 2017

    In Israel, the author of the new book 'Butterfly Politics' talks to Haaretz about her 40 years intervening for social equality through law.

  • Butterfly Politics

    June 5, 2017

    Pioneering lawyer and activist for women’s rights Catharine A. MacKinnon argues that seemingly minor interventions in the legal realm can have a butterfly effect that generates major social and cultural transformations. Catharine MacKinnon is a pioneer of legal theory and practice, a groundbreaking activist for women’s rights, and one of feminism’s most significant figures. For over forty years MacKinnon’s intellectual, legal, and political pursuits have been defined by a driving motivation: to end inequality, including abuse, in women’s lives. Many of her ideas are now staples of legal and political discourse. Others urge changes that have yet to be realized.

  • Secrecy of Settlements at Fox News Hid Bad Behavior

    August 22, 2016

    Like many companies confronted with sexual harassment in their executive ranks, Fox News and its parent, 21st Century Fox, say they do not tolerate such behavior and have strict policies prohibiting it. ...If that’s so, how could the former Fox News chief executive, Roger Ailes, have conducted what now appears to have been a decades-long campaign of sexual abuse and harassment of subordinates? ... “A lot of men have gotten away with sexual harassment with absolutely no consequences,” said Catharine A. MacKinnon, a professor of law at the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School who pioneered sexual harassment lawsuits. No matter what companies say, she added, “the real rule is that the more powerful a man is, the more he gets away with.”

  • Catharine MacKinnon

    At HLS, Catherine MacKinnon comments on the state of gender equality

    April 14, 2016

    In an event at Harvard Law School on March 10, leading feminist scholar Catharine MacKinnon commented on the state of gender equality law in a conversation with Ron Suskind, Pulitzer-winning journalist and lecturer on law at HLS.