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Catharine A. MacKinnon

Sex Equality; Legal Scholar, Political Theorist & Activist 


Catharine A. MacKinnon is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School (long-term). She holds a B.A. from Smith College, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale, specializing in equality issues, especially sex equality, under international and domestic (including comparative, constitutional, and criminal) law and in political theory.

Professor MacKinnon pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment and, with Andrea Dworkin, created ordinances recognizing pornography as a civil rights violation and proposed the Swedish model for abolishing prostitution. The Supreme Court of Canada has largely accepted her approaches to equality, pornography, and hate speech, which have been influential internationally as well. Representing Bosnian women survivors of Serbian genocidal sexual atrocities, she won with co-counsel a damage award of $745 million in August 2000 in Kadic v. Karadzic under the Alien Tort Act, the first legal recognition of rape as an act of genocide.
Among the schools at which she has taught are Yale, Stanford, Minnesota, Chicago, Osgoode Hall (York University, Canada), Basel (Switzerland), Hebrew University (Jerusalem), and Columbia. She was awarded residential fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, Stanford, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and the University of Cambridge, UK.
Professor MacKinnon’s thirteen scholarly books include Sexual Harassment of Working Women (1979), Feminism Unmodified (1987), Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989), Only Words (1993), Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws (2005), Are Women Human? (2006), the casebook Sex Equality (2001/2007/2016), and Traite, Prostitution, Inegalité (2014). Her latest book, Butterfly Politics (April, 2017), proposes a theory of social change through law by strategic reflection on a collection of interventions spanning forty years. She is widely published in scholarly journals, the popular press, and many languages, of which she is competent in three in addition to English.
Professor MacKinnon practices law, consults nationally and internationally on legislation, litigation, and activism, and works regularly with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), and The ERA Coalition. Serving as the first Special Gender Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (The Hague) from 2008 to 2012, she helped implement her concept “gender crime.” In 2014, she was awarded the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award by the Women’s Section of the American Association of Law Schools, and is an elected member of the American Law Institute (ALI).
Empirical studies document that Professor MacKinnon is among the most widely-cited legal scholars in the English language and the most widely-cited woman.

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Catharine A. MacKinnon
  • Gender Violence
  • Law & Politics