Power comes from our collective effort: Gender equality pioneer Catharine A. MacKinnon tells audience at Stetson Law

Professor Catharine MacKinnon spoke to a packed Great Hall at Stetson Law in Gulfport on Oct. 19. Photo by Merve Ozcan.

Professor Catharine MacKinnon spoke to a packed Great Hall at Stetson Law in Gulfport on Oct. 19. Photo by Merve Ozcan.

Author and gender equality pioneer Professor of Law Catharine A. MacKinnon presented the Nichols Foundation Prominent Speakers Lecture on “Butterfly Politics: A Theory of Social Change through Legal Practice” at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport on Oct. 19.

Through her talk, also the title of her new book Butterfly Politics, Professor MacKinnon explained how the butterfly effect can be applied to show how even extremely small civil actions in unstable political systems can have targeted effects leading to systemic transformation.

“Power comes from our collective effect,” Professor MacKinnon told the audience of students, academics and members of the public gathered to hear her talk. “What butterflies set in motion cannot be stopped.”

Professor MacKinnon described the importance of identifying the hierarchy that determines social strata in promoting equality. She described the impacts of prostitution and the sexual assault of children on preserving inequality.

“Inequality is about hierarchy,” Professor MacKinnon said. “Indignity is one result.”

MacKinnon, the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and long-term James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, is among the most widely-cited legal scholars in the English language and the most widely-cited woman.

In 2000, she won with co-counsel a damage award of $745 million representing Bosnian women survivors of Serbian genocidal sexual atrocities, the first legal recognition of rape as an act of genocide. As the first Special Gender Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, she helped implement her concept of “gender crime.” In 2014, Professor MacKinnon was awarded the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award by the Women’s Section of the American Association of Law Schools.

Professor MacKinnon pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment, worked with Andrea Dworkin to create ordinances recognizing pornography as a civil rights violation, and proposed the Swedish model for abolishing prostitution. Her approaches to equality, pornography, and hate speech are widely followed by both domestic and international high courts.

Widely published in both the popular and scholarly press, Professor MacKinnon is the author of 13 scholarly books. Her latest book, Butterfly Politics, published in April 2017, proposes a theory of social change through law.

The Nichols Foundation Prominent Speakers Series was established at Stetson in 1995. The series namesake is Perry Nichols, among the nation’s most successful trial lawyers and past president of both the American Trial Lawyers Association and the International Trial Lawyers Association.