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Catharine A. MacKinnon
Leading legal scholar and activist to speak at Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Lecture Series

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Catharine A. MacKinnon

MacKinnon is a pioneer in the field of sex equality issues and sexual harassment. She is well known for her argument that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

On February 15, 2010 Catharine A. MacKinnon, PhD, JD, internationally renowned activist, lawyer, professor, and author is presenting a lecture titled "Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality" at the University of San Diego as part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Lecture Series for the College of Arts and Sciences.

MacKinnon is a pioneer in the field of sex equality issues and sexual harassment. She is well known for her argument that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In her 1979 book Sexual Harassment of Working Women, she set forth her argument that sexual harassment discriminated against women by reinforcing the existing inequalities between men and women in the workplace.

Catharine A. MacKinnon

Throughout the world MacKinnon has also worked to have crimes against women recognized as acts of genocide by the international law community.

In 1986 MacKinnon served as co-counsel before the Supreme Court in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, where the Court ruled in favor of Vinson, holding that in certain cases sexual harassment did constitute discrimination based on sex. In their unanimous ruling the Court also acknowledged MacKinnon’s distinctions between two forms of sexual harassment, quid pro quo, where sexual acts are exchanged for opportunities in employment versus a hostile work environment where sexual harassment is a reoccurring constant in the workplace. These definitions are used throughout the United States in current labor law.

MacKinnon is often cited for her work with feminist author, Andrea Dworkin to classify pornography as a civil rights violation. MacKinnon and Dworkin worked together, presenting the argument that pornography was a form of sex discrimination that violated the civil rights of women engaged in the industry. Throughout the 1980s cities in America drafted legislation based on MacKinnon’s civil rights argument, however her stance saw the strongest support in 1992 when the Canadian Supreme Court cited her brief in classifying pornography as a civil rights issue.

Throughout the world MacKinnon has also worked to have crimes against women recognized as acts of genocide by the international law community. She served as co-counsel in Kadic v. Karadzic, representing Bosnian women survivors of the Serbian genocide, winning a $745 million settlement for the victims in 2000. The ruling in Kadic v. Karadzic legally placed rape, forced prostitution, and forced impregnation as acts of genocide punishable by law.

While working throughout the international law community, MacKinnon serves as the co-director of the Lawyers Alliance for Women (LAW) Project, which is an initiative of Equality Now. She also works with the Coalition for Trafficking in Women (CATW) and was recently appointed as the Special Gender Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. She is currently the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, while continuing to practice, consult, and write on national and international cases.

- Lyndsey Scully

Her lecture on February 15, 2011 drew on her vast legal experience as well as her work as a sex equality and human rights activist to investigate the social connections between prostitution and trafficking, using India as an example to view the problems and potential solutions in light of current debates. This event is free and open to the public.