Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights
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 The definitive feminist critique of MacKinnon/Dworkin anti- pornography laws, by ACLU president and legal scholar Strossen (Law/New York Univ.). Since the late 1970s, feminist discourse has been dominated by the anti-pornography voices of law professor Catharine MacKinnon, writer Andrea Dworkin, and their followers, whom the author dubs ``MacDworkinites.'' MacDworkinites hold that pornography should be suppressed because it causes (and is itself a form of) violence against women. These feminists have forged what Strossen calls ``frighteningly effective alliances'' with religious fundamentalists staunchly opposed to women's rights. This alliance has won victories on many fronts: in Canada, where obscenity laws have been interpreted as embodying MacDworkinite standards for pornography (e.g., whether the work of art ``dehumanizes'' women); on campuses, where draconian speech codes cover ``sexually suggestive looks.'' Dworkin and MacKinnon are great communicators, but Strossen proves their match. Her response to them is tough, clear, and pithy. She offers a host of reasons why MacDworkinite measures actually imperil civil liberties: The laws are a ``hopelessly vague'' curtailment of free speech; they will be enforced unevenly by traditionalist governments against disfavored groups such as feminists, gays, and lesbians; they perpetuate the stereotype of women as victims requiring protection from the patriarchy; they distract us from concrete discriminatory conduct. Strossen also explores the MacDworkinite ambivalence toward sex in general: On the one hand, both MacKinnon and Dworkin portray sexual conduct as inherently degrading to women--as rape; on the other hand, both express themselves in hot-and-heavy language that the author gleefully quotes. Sometimes Strossen's attacks seem personal and petty, as when she chides MacKinnon for avoiding debate and mocks Dworkin for having two of her own books seized at the Canadian border under anti-pornography statutes. But her counter- argument is firmly rooted in both the First Amendment and the real world. An important book that will rally free-speech feminists and civil libertarians of all stripes. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-19749-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994


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