Today the Women’s Association of Law Students at my home institution, Pace Law School, held a brunch in honor of Professor Catharine MacKinnon. The students presented their annual “Pioneer of Justice” award to Professor MacKinnon in recognition of her work as a lawyer, scholar, teacher and activist. In her remarks to the assembled group of students, faculty, alumni, local lawyers and community members, Professor MacKinnon was thoughtful and thought-provoking. She said many things that have kept me thinking all day.
One of Professor MacKinnon’s remarks was simultaneously simple and complex: “Law does matter.” This belief in the law’s capacity to make equality meaningful is part of what makes her writing so interesting to me. Professor MacKinnon’s theory of gender and power is so comprehensive that it could descend into paralysis, but it doesn’t. From her unflinching study of the systemic subordination of women, MacKinnon emerges with optimism — an optimism that the law can and will do better.
After the brunch, Professor MacKinnon was extremely generous with her time. This semester, Darren Rosenblum and I have been teaching a 1-credit, intensive legal theory seminar centered around MacKinnon’s work. Professor MacKinnon met with our group of seminar students and shared ideas on everything from pop culture to sexual freedom. She brought a special intellectual energy and excitement to that classroom.