Catharine MacKinnon

Heart writes:

“…I’m betting you’d enjoy reading the chapter Difference and Dominance in Catherine MacKinnon’s book, Feminism Unmodified. I’d post an excerpt for you but I can’t find my copy right now. Ignoring or not recognizing inequalities of power which are central to who gets defined as the default or the standard and who is defined as “different” from the standard is by and large what is wrong with traditionally liberal approaches to feminism. If the goal is “equality”, as it is with a liberal approach, what ends up happening is, it is only as women approximate the male “standard” that they begin to be rewarded on the basis of their approximations. Women can achieve “equality with men”, in other words, to the degree that they do what men do in the same way that men do it. That leaves out of the equality equation all women who, for whatever reason, can’t do what men do/be what men are (for whatever reason, including women’s history of subjugation). Women who have to take a few days off to bear kids and who then take responsibility for caring for their kids (as historically men never had to do, they had women to do this for them) can rarely approximate a male standard, because males have never born primary responsibility for caring for children and, of course, have never born children. The targeting of women by men for sexual harassment in the workplace is not only a mechanism for women’s subordination, it also ensures that women’s experience in the workplace will not be the male default experience, which only rarely involves being sexually harassed by coworkers or superiors. So it is only as women pretend they are not being sexually harassed (and endure it) or participate in sexually harassing coworkers that their experience in the workplace closely enough approximates the male experience that they will achieve “equality” with males, measured in this instance as the ability to ignore issues around sexual harassment. In the divorce courts, an equality approach results in divisions of property and custody decisions which do not recognize women’s unpaid labor and care-giving in the family and home.”

“The alternative to the liberal goal of “equality” with the male standard is forcing, in various ways, recognition of the fact of male-centeredness in the world in the first place and insisting that it end, that women share the center rather than inhabiting the margins and aspiring towards a “center” which ignores women’s reality, in other words, insisting that the standard or the default include women and women’s reality.”


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