8 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, September 30, 1993
MacKinnon's first amendment
In "Only Words," the controversial law prof proposes partial laws
By OUVER GIANCOLA
University of Michigan Law pro-
fessor Catharine A. MacKinnon has
released her thirdbook, "Only Words,"
in which she explains why pornogra-
phy should not be protected speech.
Catharine A. MacKinnon
Harvard University Press
MacKinnon's central tenet is that
pornography discriminates against
women. In the first of three essays in
"Only Words," MacKinnon describes
how pornography encourages sexual
violence against women: "Sooner or
later ... the consumers [men] want to
live out the pornography further in
three dimensions. Sooner or later ...
they do. It [the pornography] makes
them want to; when they believe they
can ... they do." To MacKinnon, por-
nography is not merely words or pic-
tures, but an act.
Like most feminists, MacKinnon
attacks an easy target - violent por-
nography -and then generalizes that
all pornography harms women. Men,
of course, are her villains. At one
point she slips into absurdity: "Por-
nography is masturbation material. It
is used as sex. It therefore is sex. Men
know this." MacKinnon's goal in stop-
ping pornography, then, is to stop a
form of sex. It never occurs to
MacKinnon that women and homo-
sexuals might enjoy this kind of sex,
In her second essay, MacKinnon
discusses racial and sexual harass-
ment. Resorting to the simplistic and
melodramatic statements that charac-
terize the book as a whole, MacKinnon
writes, "Unwelcome sex talk is an
unwelcome sex act." MacKinnon be-
lieves that men (all men) get off every
time they sexually harass a woman,
and their victims feel verbally raped.
The same power relationships moti-
vate racial harassment, she thinks.
In her third and best essay,
MacKinnon provides some worrisome
thorns for civil libertarians. She sees
the 1st Amendment, which protects
free expression, as conflicting with
the 14th Amendment, which guaran-
tees equality. MacKinnon raises an
interesting legal question: should
speech that reinforces inequality be
MacKinnon says no. She believes
that hate speech and anti-pornogra-
phy laws can help end the daily in-
equalities that members of oppressed
groups must face. MacKinnon notes
that "there is a relation ... between the
use of the epithet 'nigger' and the fact
that a disproportionate number of chil-
dren who go to bed hungry every
night in this country are African-
American; [and] the use of the word
'cunt' and the fact that most prosti-
tutes are women." By changing the
racist and sexist atmosphere in which
these oppressed people live, she ar-
gues, equality will be easier to achieve.
MacKinnon adds that the United
States adheres to what she "affection-
ately" calls "the stupid theory of equal-
ity." In America, she writes, inequal-
ity means "indifferent to whether
dominant or subordinated groups are
hurt or helped" by laws, MacKinnon
believes that anti -defamation laws
must be written to aid specific groups
in order to ensure equality. According
to MacKinnon, equality can only be
achieved through partial laws.
Although $15 is a bit much for this
150-page hardcover, "Only Words"
offers a good introduction to some of
MacKinnon's ideas - even if you do
not agree with them.
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Cartoon couple says 'butt'
Continued from page 1
other back to health, while Beavis and
Butt-Head go straight to the hospital
to demand "the leading description
cold remedy" once they hear it's 70
Even though they're a few years
older than Bart Simpson, Beavis and
Butt-Head can't come close to Bart's
wit and imagination. They're much
closer to the muddled, media-induced
fog of Homer Simpson. In fact, Beavis
and Butt-Head could very conceiv-
ably grow up to be slightly more acidic
versions of Homer, like the Homer
from the first "Tracey Ullman Show"
shorts who used to chase the kids
around and try to hit them.
What Beavis and Butt-Head do
that has never been done before is
criticize a medium that up until now
has been largely ignored: music video.
With the possible exception of the
PMRC, there is no active criticism of
music videos. Not that Beavis and
Butt-Head offer any constructive sug-
gestions beyond "this video needs
more explosions," but they still touch
an area badly in need of critical dis-
In this field they are unparalleled.
They do for music video what "Mys-
tery Science Theater 3000" does for
crappy movies. They say what they
think, and more often than not, it's
what you were thinking as well. Beavis
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and Butt-Head see Slim Whitman sing-
ing "Paloma Blanca" and the first
words out of their mouths are "that
guy looks like a serial killer." And you
know what? He does. Michael
Damien's "Rock On" video? "ThiKr
video should have a warning label:
Parental Advisory: What you are about
to see sucks." Beavis dubs Winger's
"Seventeen" "Joey B uttafuoco's them-
song." Butt-Head watches the
Nelson's "Here She Comes" and thinks
"these chicks look like guys."
Despite their crass, immature, ir-
responsible views on life, Beavis and
Butt-Head do have occasional flashes
of brilliance, usually when some man-*
tra of the mass media which has been
stewing in their brains comes flashing
out at an incongruous moment. Why
in the world would Butt-Head say "I
don't want gimmicks, I want a long
distance phone company I can count
on," when he's sitting on the toilet?
Beavis and Butt-Head can even
translate complicated technology into
understandable jargon. When Beavi
asks how special effects are done Butt-
Head explains "They have all this
complicated stuff and it makes the TV
do stuff that looks weird." In a world
where only a small percentage of the
population has any understanding of
the mechanics behind the electronic
equipment they use every day, this is
about the best explanation most of us
could come up with, too. __
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