“Catharine MacKinnon and law as courage, emotion, and social change”

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From the Harvard Law Record:

When Catharine MacKinnon said goodbye to us at the end of her Sex Equality class on Wednesday October 28, she choked up, and we all choked up with her. The emotion was evident in her voice as she read us a passage from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own that can be found in the center of MacKinnon’s Sex Equality textbook. The passage entreats us to work: it reminds us of why we work at all, and describes vividly the people for whom we work when we work on sex equality …

… We all choked up along with Professor MacKinnon as she read, because we know from our own experiences that what she read is true: we know that Shakespeare’s sister is dead and that she won’t rise up unless we work. We know that Virginia Woolf wouldn’t have been allowed to enter Harvard Law School because it did not admit women at that time. We know it to be true that if we sit here and do nothing women will not advance. And so we tear up and we jump to our feet and we clap our hands, because we’ve made it inside these hallowed institutions that Woolf dreamed of entering, and so now we have the power to resurrect the poet, to let her be born in great numbers in the next generation. We felt our own privilege in that moment, but it was not the usual privilege and arrogance regarding Harvard’s rank in the world and our rank along with it; it was privilege with meaning and power to affect change. It is the privilege to use our law degrees to improve the lives of those who are truly depending on the law for help.

Read the entire essay here.

–Ann Bartow

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