As a white woman, I want to respond to Catharine MacKinnon's recent essay subtitled "What is a White Woman Anyway?" I am troubled both by the essay's defensive tone and by its substantive arguments. MacKinnon's contribution to feminism has emphasized the ways in which gender is constructed through male domination and sexual exploitation, and the profound structuring effect of male power on women's lives. This emphasis on what is done to women creates conceptual problems in understanding race and particularly in understanding whiteness. Defining gender by what is done to women makes it hard to see the many ways in which women act in our own lives and in the world. Dominance and privilege tend to seem normal and neutral to the privileged. To overcome this tendency, white people need to see aspects of our actions in the world that are particularly difficult for us to see. The difficulty in seeing women as social actors interacts with the difficulty that white people have in seeing whiteness and its privileges.
Martha R. Mahoney,
Whiteness and Women, In Practice and Theory: A Reply To Catharine MacKinnon,
Yale J.L. & Feminism
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol5/iss2/2