excerpts from MacKinnon’s Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws

I’ve just finished reading yet another MacKinnon book, Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws, and as usual, it’s absolutely brilliant. The book is well worth a complete read; I paste below some perfect gems.

(My used copy is marked DISCARD by the Porter County Library system. In itself, telling. Sigh.)

Reading this now.  It’s heavy-going, but well worth it.  MacKinnon is absolutely brilliant.  Her ideas, her articulation of those ideas, … Read all her books.  As for this one, I’ll post outstanding bits as I go along.

“If something were done about male sexual aggression and intrusion on women as the paradigm of sex, there would be no abortion problem as we know it, if only because dramatically fewer abortions would likely be needed.” p19

“…  it is the way society punishes women for reproduction that creates women’s problem with reproduction, not reproduction itself.”  p26

“Men rise and fall. … In the lives of women, men are served, children are cared for, home is made, work is done, the sun goes down.” p32

“The allegedly forbidden quality of pornography sexualizes it by surrounding it with power and taboo and makes defending and using it appear to be an act of daring and danger … ”  p37

 “All the sexual abuses of women’s everyday lives that are not recognized by the law are there in the pornography: the humiliation, the objectification, the forced access, the torture, the use of children, the sexualized racial hatred, the misogyny.  As Andrea Dworkin has said, ‘Pornography is the law for women.'” p37

“In goin from everyday life to law, sexual harassment went from a grip to a grievance, from a shameful story about a woman to actionable testimony about a man.”  p40

“It is clear that men do not want to restrict pornography very much or they would treat it seriously, as they treat air traffic control, for instance.” p40

“Like other inequalities, but in its own way, the subjection of women is institutionalized, including in law, cumulatively and systematically shaping access to human dignity, respect, resources, physical security, credibility, membership in community, speech, and power.  Composed of all its variations, the group women has a collective social history of disempowerment, exploitation, and subordination …” p52

Read pretty much all of chapter 9, “Of Mice and Men” wherein MacKinnon compares humans’ treatment of animals with men’s treatment of women …

“Both animals and women have been socially configured as property … specifically for possession and use.  … status objects to be acquired and paraded by men … Men have also appointed themselvs women’s and animals’ representatives without asking …”(p93

“When your name is used to degrade others by attribution, it locates your relative standing as well, such as when ‘gir’l is used as an insult among boys.”  p94

“Both women and animals are seen as needing to be subdued and controlled.” p94

[There are laws against ‘crush videos’ … ] There is no such law against depicting cruelty to women …” p96

“The notion of consent …, the law’s line between intercourse and rape, is so passive that a dead body could satisfy it.” p129

“Men may identify more readily with the fetus more than with the pregnant woman if only because all have been fetuses and none will ever be a pregnant woman.” p135

“Men, as a group, are not comparably disempowered by their reproductive capacities.  Nobody forces them to impregnate women.  They are not generally required by society to spend their lives caring for children to the comparative preclusion of other life pursuits.”  p137

“… it shows how powerless women are that it takes a fetus to make a woman look powerful by comparison.” p141

“If states wanted to protect the fetus, rather than discriminate against women, they would help the woman, not make her a criminal.”  p143

“Some states quarantine arrested women prostitutes but not arrested male customers …  because the women are more likely to communicate venereal diseases than the men are.  Where the women got the venereal diseases is not discussed …” p154

“In light of the evidence, human sexual aggression is best understood as social—attitudinal and ideological, role-bound and identity-defined—not natural.  Causally speaking, nothing makes inevitable its high prevalence and incidence in everyday life, or in wars or genocides, except social rank orderings, advantage-seeking, inculcation, conformity (including to peer behavior and pressure, standards of prior generations, orders, media representations, and the like).” p240

“… consent to sex is not the same as wanting it.” p244

“You feel you have come upon a secret codebook that you were not meant to see but that has both obscured and determined your life.”  p251

“Women should study these medical articles [Jeffrey Masson’s A Dark Science] for the same reasons they should study pornography: to see what is behind how they are seen and treated and to find out what men really think of them.” p251

“In the nineteenth century, men were looking at pornography, writing theology; looking at pornography, writing literature; looking at pornography, writing laws and designing our political institutions.  Who is to say they were not also looking at pornography and writing and practicing science and medicine?” p255

“Men are very different with women than they are with men.”  p283

“Women learned, or relearned, that powerlessness means not being believed no matter how much sense you make or how much evidence you have.”  p288

“Whether Bill Clinton should resign depends on whether his ability to govern can survive being made into sex in public.  Welcome to women’s lives, Bill … Now that you are sex, do you have any authority left?” p295

“It tells us how much women are worth that something few people have much good to say about [pornography] is more important than we are.” p308

“Many spoke  of … the shattered self, and the shame, anger, anguish, outrage, and despair they felt at living in a country where their torture is enjoyed …” p314

“Through its consumption, it further institutionalizes a subhuman, victimized, second-class status for women by conditioning men’s orgasm to sexual inequality.” p316

“Most cities do not offer businesses where one can go and pay to abuse a Jew[ish man] or a Black [man] …” p317

[re protecting pornography as freedom of speech] “… women are now men’s ‘speech’ because our pain, humiliation, torture, use, and second-class status is something they want to say.” p325-6

“One [social belief about women and sexuality common on the Right] is that men have a stronger sex drive than women. That sex is a drive is assumed; that pleasure and reproduction drive men’s drivenness is treated as a natural fact.  Socially compulsive and compulsory masculinity is not considered as a competing explanation.”  p333

[In response to men being by nature predisposed to rape] “No one suggests that since men are evolutionarily more aggressive, they are hard-wired to murder, and that laws against murder should therefore be eliminated.”  p336

“Each new communication technology—the printing press, the camera, the moving picture, the tape recorder, the telephone, the television, the video recorder, the VCR, cable, and, now, the computer—has brought more pornography with it.”  p352

“Ever more women have had to live out ever more of their lives in environments pornography has made.” p352 [Consider ‘merely’ the increasing prevalence of being called a cunt.]

“As pornography saturates social life, it becomes more visible and legitmate, hence less visible as pornography.” p352

“Most pornography, if circulated in a working environment, would be actionable as sexual harassment.  The damage done would be clear if the materials were nonsexual libel or the people involved were understood to be people rather than prostitutes or sex or ‘some women’ who are ‘like that’.” p353

“… what is done to women in pornography is not a fact of nature or an act of liberation or a private peccadillo to be respectfully skirted but an ongoing social atrocity.” p356

“Public available, effectively legal, pornography has stature: it is visible, credible, and legitimated.  At the same time, its influence and damaging effects are denied as nonexistent, indeterminate, or merely academic, contrary to all the evidence.  Its victims have had no stature at all.” p359

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