Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Durba Mitra (DM): Today as part of Signs’ Ask a Feminist series, I have the opportunity to speak about sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement with feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, a lawyer, writer, teacher, and activist who is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School and the James Barr Ames Visiting Scholar of Law at Harvard Law School since 2009, and one of the most cited legal scholars in the English language. MacKinnon is the author of numerous books, including the groundbreaking work Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination, published in 1979 by Yale University Press, when Professor MacKinnon was completing her PhD at Yale. MacKinnon went on to write the brief and win, as cocounsel, the landmark Supreme Court case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, which established sexual harassment as discrimination. MacKinnon has authored numerous books on critical issues, including Feminism Unmodified, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, and Are Women Human? I had the opportunity before this interview to read some of Professor MacKinnon’s research related to her landmark first book in an extraordinary resource, her own papers, acquired by the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. Her study, published almost forty years ago, became the basis of transformations not only in sexual harassment law but in wider discourses that shaped the public perception of the very idea of sexual harassment. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cites MacKinnon’s Sexual Harassment as the landmark study, the foundation for legal debates and social understanding on discrimination on the basis of sex.