Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography
Andrea Dworkin
Catharine MacKinnon

Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon: A Very Short Introduction

Andrea Rita Dworkin (September 26, 1946 – April 9, 2005) was an American radical feminist and writer best known for her criticism of pornography, which she argued was linked to rape and other forms of violence against women, and for statements that were interpreted as claiming that all heterosexual sex is rape, an interpretation she rejected.  An anti-war activist and anarchist in the late 1960s, Dworkin wrote 10 books on radical feminist theory and practice. During the late 1970s and the 1980s, she gained national fame as a spokeswoman for the feminist anti-pornography movement, and for her writing on pornography and sexuality, particularly in Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981) and Intercourse (1987), which remain her two most widely known books.

Source:  “Andrea Dworkin.”  Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  30 Dec. 2010.  Web.  5 Jan. 2011.

Catharine Alice MacKinnon (born October 7, 1946) is an American feminist, scholar, lawyer, teacher and activist.  MacKinnon's ideas may be divided into three central—though overlapping and ongoing—areas of focus: (1) sexual harassment, (2) pornography, and (3) international work. She has also devoted attention to social and political theory and methodology. 

In 1983, the Minneapolis city government hired MacKinnon and Dworkin to draft an antipornography civil rights ordinance as an amendment to the Minneapolis city civil rights ordinance. The amendment defined pornography as a civil rights violation against women, and allowed women who claimed harm from pornography to sue the producers and distributors for damages in civil court. The law was passed twice by the Minneapolis city council but vetoed by the mayor. Another version of the ordinance passed in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1984.

This ordinance was ruled unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. MacKinnon continued to support the civil rights approach in her writing and activism, and supported anti-pornography feminists who organized later campaigns in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1985) and Bellingham, Washington (1988) to pass versions of the ordinance by voter initiative.

MacKinnon wrote in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review in 1985:  And as you think about the assumption of consent that follows women into pornography, look closely some time for the skinned knees, the bruises, the welts from the whippings, the scratches, the gashes. Many of them are not simulated. One relatively soft core pornography model said, "I knew the pose was right when it hurt." It certainly seems important to the audiences that the events in the pornography be real. For this reason, pornography becomes a motive for murder, as in "snuff" films in which someone is tortured to death to make a sex film. They exist."

MacKinnon represented Linda Susan Boreman (better known under her stage name of Linda Lovelace) from 1980 until her death in 2002.

Civil libertarians frequently find MacKinnon's theories objectionable. They have also argued that there is no evidence that sexually explicit media encourages or promotes violence against, or other measurable harm of, women. However, Canadian researchers have demonstrated that, in subjects who are aroused by violent pornography, aggression against women increases with exposure.

Source:  “Catharine MacKinnon.”  Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  6 Jan. 2011.  Web.  6 Jan. 2011.

Dworkin: Testimony to Meese Commission 1

Dworkin: Testimony to Meese Commission 3

Dworkin: Testimony to Meese Commission 2

Dworkin: Testimony to Meese Commission 4

Web Resources about Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon

Transcript for: A Conversation with Catharine Mackinnon

Score: 18

Summary: This site provides readers with the extensive dialogue between Catharine MacKinnon and PBS “Think Tank” announcer Ben Wattenberg, concerning her feministic views and teachings.  It was aired on PBS to, “bring viewers something rare on television.”  Through this detailed discussion on a variety of topics including pornography, women’s rights, discrimination, rape, and her works of literature, the true identity and personality of Catharine MacKinnon is both challenged and accurately illustrated.  The discussion provides, if nothing else, a thorough and informative introduction into the life, opinions, and deeper motives of Catharine MacKinnon and her workings. 

Evaluation: Overall, this website is extremely credible.  It provides a separate and in-depth background information page about the announcer, Ben Wattenberg.  Aside from serving as an appointed delegate, vice-chairman, and other numerous governmental positions, he once “was an aide and speech writer to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1966 to 1968.”  Wattenberg’s prestigious accomplishments and previous experiences qualify him for this role in the debate, as his knowledge base is, thus, more honorable.  The website is sponsored by PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, which is regularly maintained and updated.  PBS is, “America’s largest public media enterprise.”  The site supports scholarly knowledge by conveying crucial information from the original speaker, allowing readers to be fully aware and engaged in the exchange of ideas. 

Prostitution and Civil Rights

Score: 18

Summary: This speech, by Catharine MacKinnon and available electronically, was given at the Michigan Journal of Gender & Law Symposium entitled Prostitution: From Academia to Activism.  This conference held on October 31, 1992, at the University of Michigan Law School, defines prostitution from MacKinnon’s perspective.  She preaches, “In rape, the security of women's person is stolen; in prostitution, it is stolen and sold.”  While prostitution of females is the standard case, she also addresses the existence of male prostitution.  Exploring how prostitution denies both men and women of basic human rights, such as the right to liberty, directly illustrates how prostitutes thus become “sexual slaves.”  Her belief that prostitution disputes the law such as human freedom from arbitrary arrest, property ownership, freedom of speech, one’s basic right to be recognized as a person, equality, and several issues in the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments are all of central focus in this discourse. 

Evaluation: This site, developed by Prostitution Research and Education (PRE), has a goal to, “conduct research on prostitution, pornography and trafficking, and offers education and consultation to researchers, survivors, the public and policymakers.”  Founded in 1995, the creator of this online organization is a research and clinical psychologist.  Known and sought for help around the world, PRE has collaborated in research projects that promote education on prostitution.  The inclusion of footnotes at the conclusion expands upon Catharine MacKinnon’s speech, therefore further verifying her messages and thoughts she attempted to convey to all readers.  They provide further support and suggestions that would advance the readers understanding and possible follow-up on the issue of prostitution and civil rights. 

In Harm's Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings

Score: 18

Summary: This site, edited by Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, “is a compilation of transcripts of those hearings [on pornography and its violations of civil rights] together with introductory material, commentary, and related information.” In the actual transcripts of hearings provided by this site the act of pornography is discussed in terms of production, sale, and distribution of these materials.  The violation of basic human rights due to pornographic material is clarified by both feminist activists.  The portrayal of women as victims of rape is yet another mentioned conviction that is supported with an example.  The other major themes are addressed, including the Frist Amendment, “defended as it is by many, and is the target of criticism as an instrument for pornographers to continue their oppression of women. It is a resounding tone throughout.” 

Evaluation: Published by the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association, this page was recently updated in September of 2010.  Both of the editors’ biographical and educational information is provided, verifying their individual expertise in the area.  Furthermore, the LPBR (Law & Politics Book Review) contact information is provided on the homepage.  LPBR “has a membership of almost 900 and presently sends the Review to over 1,300 readers in 39 countries.” Overall, sufficient information is provided in regards to the legitimacy and dependability of the site. It promotes educational benefits by preserving the original thoughts and teachings of MacKinnon and Dworkin. 

Statement by Catharine A. MacKinnon And Andrea Dworkin Regarding Canadian Customs And Legal Approaches to Pornography

Score: 17

Summary: This article provides the statement by Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin on Canadian customs and the issue of pornography.  The address, issued August 26, 1994, was Women's Equality Day in the U.S.  MacKinnon and Dworkin discuss the Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance in relation to the Frist and Fourteenth Amendments, the Supreme Court’s Butler decision, and the Canadian procedures regarding policies and importation at the border of pornographic obscenities.  The statement provides a complete analysis and clarification of Canada’s current status on pornographic matters.  Through this statement, the women hoped to ultimately “correct the published record--and deal with the attacks, rumors, and disinformation--surrounding the relationship of our anti-pornography efforts to the Canadian Supreme Court's Butler decision.” 

Evaluation: Sponsored by the “Institute for Global Communications,” the page is credible.  On the homepage, the web-crafter, Nikki Craft, has sufficient contact information available.  The site supports the original knowledge of MacKinnon and Dworkin for the advancement of further study and education.  Since the text is derived from its original state, the legitimacy and truthfulness aspects rise significantly.  Dworkin has given Craft, the creator, specific permission for each copyrighted text that appears.  The site also offers sufficient information about the site and its origins on the “About the Site” page.  Suggestions for further exploration on Dworkin and MacKinnon, including texts and other works, are also included. 

Catharine A. MacKinnon: The Rise of a Feminist Censor, 1983 - 1993

Score: 17

Summary:  This page offers a detailed look and analysis into the life of Catharine MacKinnon.  It includes numerous quotes, arguments, statements, and explanations of texts once spoken by her, thus offering direct proof for the descriptions.  Focusing primarily on her teachings, beliefs, and experiences, the reader is more inclined to understand the motives behind MacKinnon’s teachings and stances on certain issues, as pertaining to the women’s movement.  The article states, “By arguing that censorship is a legitimate tool for attaining civil rights, she has made herself the leader of a powerful movement to limit the protection of the First Amendment.”  Advocating the first amendment is readily addressed throughout her life, primarily in the years of the women’s movement, as illustrated in this article.  Within the given social contexts and time periods, MacKinnon maintained a lasting effect on the economy and way of thinking especially during this Regan era. 

Evaluation: This site is sponsored by Media Coalition, “an association that defends the First Amendment right to produce and sell books, movies, magazines, recordings, DVDs, videotapes, and video games, and defends the American public's First Amendment right to have access to the broadest possible range of opinion and entertainment.” Among the members of this educational organization include, Entertainment Merchants Association, Entertainment Software Association, Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.  The legitimacy of the site is rooted in their communicating “with federal, state and local government officials in an effort to advise them on proposed legislation affecting material that is protected by the First Amendment.” The executive director of Media Coalition, David Horowitz, is provided with sufficient contact information, as well as further information that may be relevant to the reader of the site. 

Andrea Dworkin

Score: 16

Summary: This article provides a thorough biography of Andrea Dworkin.  From her date of birth in 1946 to her death in 2005, it offers details of her childhood, upbringing, and involvement in the feminist movement.  It discusses her involvement with abuse at the New York's Women's House of Detention, which later became the catalyst to her prostitution in order to make ends meet.  The many writings Dworkin authored and the inspiration/context under which they were written are also included in the biography.  Highlighting the foremost points in Dworkin’s life, her successes and failures are accurately communicated through this article. 

Evaluation:  Sponsored by Encyclopedia of World Biography, the information included in the biography is accurate and credible.  Yet the author, Ashyia Henderson, lacks contact and background information, making her credentials not as certain.  However, because it is sponsored by a known educational institution that aims to advance the knowledge of its readers, the site becomes more legitimate.  While some ads and promotions are illustrated on the left side of the page, its review by this reputable subject directory is of greater importance.  The site was recently updated sometime in 2011.

Pornography, Censorship, & Technology

Score: 14

Summary: This website provides access to a variety of topics including, pornography, cyberporn, censorship, and feminisms.  Covering such a wide array of issues as they relate to MacKinnon and Dworkin’s feminist perspective teachings, are very beneficial to the advancement of the site’s ideas.  When discussing the women’s anti-pornography ordinance, it briefly follows their journey, including those opposed to their beliefs and teachings on such disputed issues, such as the Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force (FACT) formed in 1984 in resistance to the anti-pornography ordinance.  The origin on the “third wave” feminists from the infamous sex wars are also cited on this informative website.  As mentioned, “The ‘third wave’ sought to address class and race social hierarchies, as well as those based on gender and sex.”  Other possibilities for exploration are readily available to all site users’, to further advance one’s knowledge of Dworkin and MacKinnon.

Evaluation:  On the “About” page, it is revealed that, “This website explores the subjects of pornography, censorship and technology as they relate to one another, focusing in particular on the impact of the internet on pornography and its censorship.”  Although its last update was in 2007, a very detailed bibliography, works cited, works consulted, external links, are all listed.  Furthermore, all images, from “Wikimedia Commons,” are properly cited and have the source of origin fully indicated.  Although the author’s credentials are lacking, she is still made accessible through e-mail.  Finally, the site appears to be supported by the “School of Library, Archival and Information Studies” and the University of British Columbia, thus advancing the legitimacy of its facts and information discussed.

Are Women Human?

Score: 13

Summary: This website offers a discussion with Catharine A. MacKinnon’s regarding her text, “Are Women Human?” With Stuart Jefferies as the facilitator of the conversation, he raises several questions that are essential to her teachings from the particular book.  Jefferies offers his personal opinions on MacKinnon throughout the discussion of the text, testifying, “She is undeniably one of feminism's most significant figures, a ferociously tough-minded lawyer and academic who has sought to use the law to clamp down on sexual harassment and pornography.”  Touching upon certain topics of rape, pornography, public assault, discrimination, lesbianism, and questioning even the title of her work, “Are Women Human,” Jeffries challenges MacKinnon to define and specifically articulate her stance on such matters.  Her civil rights approach dovetails her companionship with Andrea Dworkin, as communicated in the conversation as well. 

Evaluation: The author’s profile contact information is provided, however not to any exhausting extent.  Yet, because the article is sponsored by “the world’s leading liberal voice,” The Guardian, it conveys credible facts and information.  Promoting understating and clarification of MacKinnon’s writing, the site also provides “Article History,” which lists the interview’s date and time of publication.  While surrounding ads and promotions exist in the margins of the page, the website has been maintained and updated on a consistent basis.  It is copyrighted in 2011 by Guardian News and Media Limited.  Overall, the interview creates original and scholastic advancement. 

Modern Times Interview of Andrea Dworkin with Larry Josephson

Score: 12

Summary: An entire radio interview transcribed into written form for people to read and engage with, this page is an interview with guest Andrea Dworkin on Larry Josephson’s “American Public Radio Network.”  Such a detailed and extensive account is both light and heavy at times, certainly discussing Dworkin’s central women’s rights beliefs as he challenges them with his own ideas, false assumptions, and preconceived notions from a male’s perspective. A thorough discussion and look into her popular novels, along with talk of the relation between rape and pornography is contained in the interview.  Josephson tests the basis for Dworkin and MacKinnon’s “career,” by questioning their past actions, teachings, and perspectives.  While conclusions are not necessarily “agreed” upon, the reader does gain a greater understanding of Dworkin’s past and thus her resulting intentions and actions. 

Evaluation: Contact information of the website creator and host, Nikki Craft, is provided at the conclusion of the discussion. The link directs the user to a detailed biography and account of Nikki Craft’s life and her journey to becoming a feminist.  The page also contains accurate citations of most references, thus legitimizing her credibility to a greater extent. Also, the interviewer, Larry Josephson, gains authority throughout the interview. Mentioning of his individual writings and teachings are used for comparison to Dworkin. The website appears to be last updated 3 years ago, in 2008.  The site may contain personal biases due to personal opinion; yet, the preservation of this original dialogue supports scholarly knowledge coming from the original speaker. 

Who Was Afraid of Andrea Dworkin?

Score: 12

Summary: Upon Andrea Dworkin’s death at the age of 58, this New York Times article was written by her business partner and close friend, Catharine MacKinnon. As a past battered wife, MacKinnon sheds some light on her friend’s life, literary contribution, and underestimated level of power and admiration.  In fact, “In the words of John Berger, she was ‘perhaps the most misrepresented writer in the Western world.’”  Dworkin sought to empower women and change their roles in such a male-dominated existence.  She faced such hatred of women on a firsthand basis, and consequently utilized this experience as justification and basis for her beliefs.  MacKinnon speaks highly of her friend, praising her life achievements, in this article professing, “Andrea Dworkin exposed the ugliest realities of women's lives and said what they mean.”

Evaluation: Although Catharine MacKinnon is the author of this article, automatically creating an extreme bias, her credentials are also included.  The site concludes, Catharine A. MacKinnon, "A law professor at the University of Michigan, is the author of 'Women's Lives, Men's Laws.'  She was an editor, with Andrea Dworkin, of 'In Harm's Way.'"  Going beyond this inherent bias, the article is published by The New York Times, which is a widely known  and legitimate multimedia news engine.  Although the article dates back to 2005 and consists of additional advertisements and superfluous pop-ups, the URL's and the URL's domain illustrates its reputable review prior to publication.  The broader search engine is likely maintained and updated on a consistent basis.  The facts and insights in the article should be read with discretion, while the author is indeed an "expert" in the field, arguably.

Content created by Rachel Neltner.