(Belknap Press, 2017)
Catharine A. MacKinnon, Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law
The minuscule motion of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tornado half a world away, according to chaos theory. Under the right conditions, small, simple actions can produce large, complex effects. Similarly, MacKinnon argues that the right seemingly minor interventions in the legal realm can have a butterfly effect that generates major social and cultural transformations.
Butterfly Politics brings this incisive understanding of social causality to a wide-ranging exploration of gender relations. The pieces collected here—many published for the first time—provide a new perspective on MacKinnon’s career as a pioneer of legal theory and practice and an activist for women’s rights. Its central concerns of gender inequality, sexual harassment, rape, pornography, and prostitution have defined MacKinnon’s intellectual, legal, and political pursuits for more than 40 years. Though differing in style and approach, the selections all share the same motivation: to end inequality, including abuse, in women’s lives. A powerful critique of the legal and institutional denial of reality that perpetuates practices of gender inequality, Butterfly Politics provides a model of what principled, effective, socially conscious engagement with law looks like.