MacKinnon, Catharine A.
MacKinnon, Catharine A. (Alice)(1946– ) legal scholar; born in Minneapolis, Minn. She graduated from Smith College (1969) and Yale Law School (1977), later taking a graduate degree in political science from Yale (1987). Even before graduating from law school, she had begun to focus on women's social and legal inequality; expanding a student paper, she published a landmark study, Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination (1979), arguing that sexual harassment in the workplace constitutes a violation of civil rights statutes; her ideas became the law of the land in a 1986 Supreme Court ruling. Her other, more controversial focus was to urge that pornography be recognized as another form of sex discrimination; she and Andrea Dworkin, a prominent feminist writer, conceived and drafted an ordinance that would allow women who can prove they are harmed by pornography to sue pornographers; adopted by two city councils, it was vetoed (in Minneapolis) and overturned by the courts (in Indianapolis). In addition to sexual harassment and pornography, she pioneered the approach to law from the perspective of women's experience of sex inequality. From this perspective she addressed other gender-related issues including rape and abortion, and her views, cogently and forcefully expressed in articles and lectures (some gathered in Femininism Unmodified, 1987), have gained her the reputation of being both iconoclastic and "the central figure in feminist legal thought." Throughout these years of public engagement (1977–89), she practiced law and taught at seven prestigious law schools before accepting a tenured post at the University of Michigan Law School (1989).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.