"JUST WORDS?" A ROC Take on Catherine MacKinnon

by: Jim Tremlett


Let me teach you the meaning of fear. Everything you believe in is wrong. The freedoms granted by the First Amendment are in direct conflict with the equality granted by the fourteenth. Your every word can be a dagger, and, with the onset of the PC-style speech codes, each slip of the tongue will land your ass in jail. It's not what you meant, it's what you said, and your freedom, what little will remain, can be taken from you at any time by anyone.

Scared yet?

Well, you should be. We should all be very, very afraid at what is going on in our country right now. Thanks to people like Tipper Gore, the debate over "harm" caused by the First Amendment--specifically to minors via music--was taken from the lunatic fringe, where it belongs, into "mainstream" politics. Now, lots of people are following suit. Senator Simon and his TV violence witchhunt. Illinois Representative Cardiss Collins holding hardly-publicized hearings on the harm of rap music. Half-veiled threats about a governmental crackdown on violent video games. The FCC trying to flush Howard Stern for "indecency" and PC liberals about to flush Rush Limbaugh with "equal time."

It all sends the same message: be safe and boring--"responsible"-- or be silenced. But, this is just business as usual, right?

Pinhead pundits and do-gooders have always tried to protect children from the "harm" of popular culture. Whether they dance around the issue of censorship, or come right out and advocate it, we will always have our Comstocks, Werthams, Butts, and Gores. Why should we be scared now?

One needs only look due North for an answer. The Canadian Supreme Court recently upheld a law suppressing "obscene" material that "subordinates" women. Yes, the justices said, this ruling did limit Canada's freedom of expression which was tenebrously defined to begin with, but there was a need to stop the "Proliferation of materials which seriously offends the values fundamental to our society."

The ruling was based on the writings and legal philosophy of Catharine MacKinnon, a "radical" feminist lawyer with a tenured professorship at the University of Michigan. An anti-pornography crusader, MacKinnon was instrumental in the drafting of Mitch McConnel's Pornography Victims Compensation Act (S-1521): an act which would have allowed the makers, distributors, and sellers of pornography to be sued for damages "caused" by its use. It eventually died on the Senate floor, and although McConnel promised to resubmit it early in the '93-'94 term, there hasn't been much noise made about it so far.

Now Catharine is back with her magnum opus: a book ironically entitled Only Words (see subsequent review). It differs from the standard anti-porno tract only in one, important detail; whereas others are content to say that pornography merely causes rape, MacKinnon, through her cock-eyed legal-rhetorical logic, claims that it is rape.

According to MacKinnon, pornography is used as masturbation material, and since masturbation is sex and/or a sex substitute, then pornography becomes sex, and not just sex, but rape.

Think about that for a minute.

I could spend the entirety of this issue of THE ROC deflating each argument, although one deflation is more than sufficient (again see subsequent review), but one doesn't have to be a total moron to see the skewed logic in what she just said. Sure, it's horseshit, but it's horseshit that makes a certain kind of nonsensical sense. And that's what makes it so dangerous. Thousands of people will read this, and, finding an argument sympathetic to their own, one that "validates" their beliefs, they will act.

But the war on pornography is just one facet of what Catharine MacKinnon has hoisted on us. If pornography is not merely sexual, but sex itself, then every form of expression becomes what it portrays. Gangsta rap no longer "promotes" violence it becomes violence. Video games like Mortal Kombat no longer "encourages" violence, they are violence. TV. Movies. Comic books. Spoken word. Plays. Musicals. Music. Literature. Art. Everything becomes what it portrays, and can therefore be legislated without worrying about the First Amendment. After all, one would never use the First Amendment to defend a man who put out a contract on his wife.

Think about THAT for a minute.

This is what we are up against. This is no longer a matter of trying to out-think or outmaneuver those who would commit censorship. This is a matter of time, and it is only a matter of time before Catharine's ideas take hold and get brought into the forefront of the debate.

For example; just recently, there was an outbreak of demonstrations against gangsta rap at Sam Goody branches. Leading the ones in D.C. were C. Delores Tucker (National Political Congress of Black Women) and Patty Ireland (National Organization of Women & Children). They were calling for an outright ban on gangsta rap, and some of the placards read "Gangsta Rap Is Rape"; not "causes", not "promotes" but "IS". See what I mean?

How do we pit ourselves against such anti-intellectual intellectualism? Now more than ever, we need to create a united front against MacKinnonist doctrine. Most political magazines and journals on the Right and Left have ridiculed and panned her book, but we need to do more. We must ally ourselves with sympathetic civil servants from all sides of the spectrum, artists, musicians, ordinary working stiffs, indeed EVERYONE to try and stop not just MacKinnon, but people like Simon, Butts, and Collins, who would add fuel to her fire. We must dispel the myth often used by MacKinnonites that women shouldn't worry about the First Amendment since they aren't covered by it anyway. Were that true, there would have been no suffrage movement, and no women's lib, and Catharine & Co. would either be barefoot and pregnant or dead.

Above all, we must win. We cannot allow what happened in Canada to happen here. If we do, we will probably never get our rights back, since every attempt to change the status quo will be viewed as "violent", and put down accordingly. Any grass roots organizing outside of the political structure will be called "violent" and put down accordingly, just like what happened at Kent State.

Paranoid? Yeah, I hope so. Consider the alternative.

ONLY WORDS (a review)

Imagine for a minute that everything you believe is true. Everything. Sure, you wouldn't believe it if you didn't have faith, deep down, that it was true. But imagine what that means, if everything that everyone believes is true, even if our beliefs are contradictory. Reality as we know it would fly apart at the seams if this scenario were even partially true.

And that, unfortunately for her, is the main reason why Catharine A. MacKinnon's Only Words ultimately fails. In its first of three chapters, the author tells us that pornography does not merely describe sex but, in its intended use as "masturbation material", it becomes sex since it is used as sex. Therefore, the semantic matrix (words, drawings, and pictures) not only influences but BECOMES physical reality. Porno becomes sex which becomes rape and, therefore, becomes illegal.

Ignoring Catharine's uneven application of this idea (if men wanking with a PLAYBOY is rape, then is it the same if a woman gets off with a PLAYGIRL? Or is it impossible for women to commit rape, even in the metaphysical sense?), we must realize the full impact of what is being suggested. If porn IS sex, then everything ever written, created, drawn, or spoken IS exactly what it portrays and IS real. Everything! I obviously don't need to tell you that this is not true, but someone really needs to tell Catharine. Her entire book's argument relies on the veracity of that claim, and once it is disproved, the rest collapses, becoming, ironically, only words.

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