Born in 1946, MacKinnon received her Bachelor’s degree from Smith College and went on to obtain a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 1977. During her time at Yale, she wrote one of her most influential works, “Towards a Feminist Theory of the State” (1989). In this work, MacKinnon argued that the law was inherently sexist due to male dominance in the legal system. She further argued that the law should be used to advance women’s rights and that women should be able to use the law to challenge their oppression.
MacKinnon’s work has had a profound impact on gender equality around the world. She has been credited with pioneering legal theories that have led to significant progress in achieving gender equality. In 2006, she was appointed by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to chair an expert panel on ending sexual violence against women in armed conflict. Her appointment marked the first time that an American woman was given such a prominent role at the U.N.
MacKinnon has also worked extensively on issues related to pornography and sexual harassment. In 1993, she testified before the United States Supreme Court about pornography as an expression of discrimination against women. She argued that pornography perpetuates sexism by reinforcing stereotypes about gender roles and inequality between men and women. Her testimony resulted in a ruling from the Supreme Court which held that sexually explicit material can be regulated under certain circumstances if it can be proven to harm women or children or both.
In addition to her legal work, MacKinnon has been involved in many other aspects of advancing gender equality throughout her lifetime including teaching courses at various universities around the world and lecturing at conferences, symposiums and other events on topics related to feminism, sexuality and gender equality.
MacKinnon has received numerous awards for her contributions towards advancing gender equality including being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2017, being awarded the National Women’s Political Caucus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and receiving Harvard University’s Radcliffe Medal in 2002 among many others.
Catherine MacKinnon’s lifetime work proves that it is possible for individuals to make a real difference when it comes to challenging existing structures of power which perpetuate inequality and oppression based on sex or gender identity/expression. Her tireless efforts have inspired millions around the world who are fighting for justice and equality for all people regardless of their sex or gender identity/expression.