Catharine MacKinnon in “On the Human”

She has an article, and you can join in the discussion. (Thanks, S!)

Over fifty years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined what a human being is. It told the world what a person, as a person, is entitled to. Are women human yet?

If women were human, would we be a cash crop shipped from Thailand in containers into New York’s brothels? Would we be sexual and reproductive slaves? Would we be bred, worked without pay our whole lives, burned when our dowry money wasn’t enough or when men tired of us, starved as widows when our husbands died (if we survived his funeral pyre), sold for sex because we are not valued for anything else? Would we be sold into marriage to priests to atone for our family’s sins or to improve our family’s earthly prospects? Would we, when allowed to work for pay, be made to work at the most menial jobs and exploited at barely starvation level? Would our genitals be sliced out to “cleanse” us (our body parts are dirt?), to control us, to mark us and define our cultures? Would we be trafficked as things for sexual use and entertainment worldwide in whatever form current technology makes possible? Would we be kept from learning to read and write?

7 thoughts on “Catharine MacKinnon in “On the Human”

  1. I’m a little torn by this. On one side, I completely agree with this, that feminism is about human rights for women. Which is why I find feminism so contentious a movement, precisely because so often it becomes an instrument of oppression, or corporeal nationalism against certain groups of women: sex workers, pornographers, BDSM, trans- people of all suffixes, non-european, that it becomes anti-human rights in the service of advancing a particular concept of what is woman.

    MacKinnon herself has engaged in an unstinting campaign of anti-pornography that has not infrequently crossed into territories of censorship and freedom of speech issues. Without disregarding the issues she raises — which others have also repeatedly raised (Human Rights Watch general and LGBT feeds for example) — it’s difficult for me to think her motives are only altruistic.

  2. Hmm. She writes as if men are never exploited and abused. Whether men in general (if there is such a thing) have it better than women, there are plenty of men trafficked to work in slavelike conditions picking vegetables, working in sulphur mines, on rubbish dumps and in other dangerous places for a pittance. Men’s bodies are also marked to define their cultures in some places, as women’s bodies are. And it’s a bit disingenuous to talk about escaping the funeral pyre, when I gather that sati is, and always has been, very rare. Narayan writes some excellent stuff on that issue.

    I’m not denying that there are some serious gendered injustices suffered by women, but I think this is unhelpful rhetoric.

  3. MacKinnon’s primary point is that wrongs suffered by men worldwide are attempted to be covered under human rights however the wrongs suffered by women qua women are not so covered. This gives rise to her question of whether women are human. Her “rhetoric” is to try to get the wrongs suffered by women qua women covered under human rights statutes.

    She does not deny that men suffer. Her point is otherwise. If you read the UN Declaration of Human Rights carefully, you will easily see that they do not protect women qua women. In fact and for example, famlies are _his_ and fair payment is for work only outside the home, and not inside the home where most women worldwide do the major share of the work done. I recommend reading her book for an accurate count of what she in fact does say.

  4. I understand the message. But I don’t think that the way she conveys it in the quoted passage is helpful.

  5. Wake up, if you are women. If you are men, just go to Pakistan or even today’s Egypt disguised as woman and see for yourselves what McKinnon is saying. If anything, her way of expressing it is too mild.
    Women are nothing, and their rights are forgotten, ignored or repudiated.
    Why I don’t see in the NYT today that the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted a gang of rapists? I have to go to BBC or AJE.
    Two male journalist were killed in Libya yesterday and it is frontline news everywhere. How many women where killed in Libya and made frontline news? Crimes against women and human right violations against women are invisible. Women are invisible (unless they advocate the rights of men)
    For shame!

  6. All you have to do is go online to porn sites to see women aren’t human – if we were the annihilation shown and done to women wouldn’t happen let alone be tolerated in all and every country. Women gang raped, urinated on, objects up vaginas, anuses, women in cages, women hung up, women choked, battered and murdered. I’m 52 and I see more violence against women now than when I was marching on Reclaim the Night protests in the early 80’s – they don’t even exist today – feminists can’t even agree that the male prostitution industry is misognist – that’s how dumbed down and jaded and complicit in our own hatred we’ve become. Women are poorer, still relegated to ghetto employment – and tens of thousands lose children in patriarchial family courts to batterers and pedophiles in the so-called democratic countries of the west. Again, this situation for women and their children is WORSE than 20 years ago. Why should Catharine MacKinnon write about injustices to men? Men think any denial of their superiority is an “injustice” – and I sure don’t see many out on the streets fighting for women’s rights – I’ve been waiting a long time for that one – instead any ‘advance’ women make is met with hostility, sexual violence, battery, genicide, feminisation of poverty, sex slave trafficking, ever-increasing murders of women in the home, rampant sexual abuse of children, including babies, cultural practices of genital mutilation, women denied contraception, abortions, imprisoned for being raped, imprisoned for killing their abusive husbands, imprisoned for defying court orders forcing their children into the hands of abusers, denied justice in every country. There is not one place on this planet where women are free from male violence, where women are not bought and sold for male sexual use – are we human? We are not even close.

  7. Thanks daredevil…you are right. Many of today’s feminists are just as abusive and hateful as rapists themselves. Honestly, I have more respect for the stranger that raped me than these idiot sex-positive feminists. I consider them one and the same. Both hate and try to silence me for saying things that rain on their rape/porn parade.

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