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Directions in Sexual Harassment Law$
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Catharine A. MacKinnon and Reva B. Siegel

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780300098006

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300098006.001.0001

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Subordination and Agency in Sexual Harassment Law

Subordination and Agency in Sexual Harassment Law

(p.111) 8 Subordination and Agency in Sexual Harassment Law
Directions in Sexual Harassment Law

Kathryn Abrams

Yale University Press

This chapter focuses on Jeffrey Toobin's article in the New Yorker that challenged the direction of sexual harassment doctrine. Toobin argued that feminists—led by Catharine MacKinnon—had gone wrong by arguing that “all sex is harassment and all harassment is sex.” Not only did apparently innocent sexual relationships come under scrutiny through this equation, but salient forms of harassment tended to be neglected in the focus on sex. Toobin's article is disturbing not only in its reductive characterization of MacKinnon's view of sexual harassment, but because it describes Vicki Schultz as an antidote to, if not an adversary of, MacKinnon. While this juxtaposition may be partly a journalistic trope, it reflects a strategy that has been prevalent among critics of feminist jurisprudence. This strategy limits feminists to a single description of the wrong of gender oppression and to a single value or norm in seeking to ameliorate it.

Keywords:   sexual harassment, Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, Catharine MacKinnon, sexual relationships, forms of harassment, Vicki Schultz, gender oppression

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