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Catharine MacKinnon Speaks on Women's Human Rights in the International Arena

On Thursday, September 29, the Law School's MacDonald Moot Court Room was packed to overflowing for a lecture by renowned legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon. Organized by University Lectures and the Dorothea S. Clarke Program on Feminist Jurisprudence, "Women's Status, Men's States" examined the bearing of developments in international human rights law on the legal status of women.

MacKinnon was introduced by Cynthia Grant Bowman, the Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Feminist Jurisprudence. "I think it is fair to characterize MacKinnon as the founder of feminist legal theory," said Bowman, citing her books The Sexual Harassment of Working Women, Feminism Unmodified and Toward a Feminist Theory of the State for their critique of liberal equality theory and articulation of sex equality "not as a question of formal equality in the Aristotelian sense but as a question of dominance and power."

This theme played prominently in MacKinnon's presentation, which identified the state as an institution of male power and elucidated its impediments to the redress of sexual injustice. The international human rights framework, MacKinnon argued, has presented promising challenges to this increasingly obsolete establishment, concluding, "The global consciousness of women's right to human status… is exploding across the potent artifice of state's barriers, erupting through the fissures of state subordination, and rising from the ashes of states' collapse."

MacKinnon is the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, and Special Gender Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. She works with Equality Now, an international NGO promoting sex equality worldwide, and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).