Only Words

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, Mar 1, 1996 - Law - 152 pages
7 Reviews

When is rape not a crime? When it's pornography--or so First Amendment law seems to say: in film, a rape becomes "free speech." Pornography, Catharine MacKinnon contends, is neither speech nor free. Pornography, racial and sexual harassment, and hate speech are acts of intimidation, subordination, terrorism, and discrimination, and should be legally treated as such. Only Words is a powerful indictment of a legal system at odds with itself, its First Amendment promoting the very inequalities its Fourteenth Amendment is supposed to end. In the bold and compelling style that has made her one of our most provocative legal critics, MacKinnon depicts a society caught in a vicious hypocrisy. Words that offer bribes or fix prices or segregate facilities are treated by law as acts, but words and pictures that victimize and target on the basis of race and sex are not. Pornography--an act of sexual domination reproduced in the viewing--is protected by law in the name of "the free and open exchange of ideas." But the proper concern of law, MacKinnon says, is not what speech says, but what it does. What the "speech" of pornography and of racial and sexual harassment and hate propaganda does is promote and enact the power of one social group over another. Cutting with surgical deftness through cases of harassment in the workplace and on college campuses, through First Amendment cases involving Nazis, Klansmen, and pornographers, MacKinnon shows that as long as discriminatory practices are protected as free speech, equality will be only a word.


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Review: Only Words

User Review  - Jessica - Goodreads

I am finding that small cadre of early radfems (centered around MacKinnon and Dworkin) remain incredibly relevant to present contexts. Given the ubiquity of pornography in the public conscience and ... Read full review

Review: Only Words

User Review  - Jasmine - Goodreads

Very interesting view on pornography as protected speech, how this is harmful to women in that it perpetuates the normalizing of violence against women and children, and how freedom of speech and the freedom of equality should line up, which it currently does not in this country. Read full review


Part II Racial and Sexual Harassment
Part III Equality and Speech

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About the author (1996)

Catharine A. MacKinnon is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

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