Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1925-1993: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

CATHARINE A. MACKINNON

( 1946-), feminist unmodified

CATHERINE HELEN PALCZEWSKI

A platform and a period of time and listeners who choose to be there create a threshold of mortality. If you never say anything else to them (you might not) and if you die right afterward (you could), what would have been worth this time? The chance to be heard always seems momentous. Each discourse in [ Feminism Unmodified (FU)] was delivered, at some point, to a memorably responsive group--not one that arrived agreeing with me but one whose mental aliveness elicited these thoughts in this particular form. Audiences of every kind shaped these speeches. (FU:215)


BACKGROUND

MacKinnon received her B.A. in 1969 from Smith, a women's college, an experience she describes as teaching her that "women are real" (quoted in Strebeigh, 1991:52). She spent most of the 1970s at Yale as a graduate student in political science and a law student, receiving a M. Phil. ( 1973), J. D. ( 1977), and Ph.D. in political science ( 1987). Her revised doctoral dissertation became Toward a Feminist Theory of the State ( 1989). She also created the first course in the Yale women's studies program ( Strebeigh, 1991:30). She spent the first ten years of her postgraduate legal career as a professor at a list of distinguished law schools: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, UCLA, the University of Chicago, York University ( Toronto), and the University of Minnesota. During this time, she continued to practice law, write, and organize actively against inequality, especially sexual abuse. Until she was offered and accepted a tenured position at the University of Michigan in 1989, she had never sought tenure and was unconvinced that a life in legal academia would give her the necessary freedom to pursue her work ( Lewin, 1989:B5).

MacKinnon has captured public attention because of her involvement in the legal recognition of sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination and because of her efforts with ANDREA DWORKIN to seek enactment of an ordi

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