Philosophy Colloquium to Be Held on Antiessentialist Deployments of Difference

Posted on 10/13/2017 11:35:26 AM

The Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that Mary MacLeod (IUP) will give a talk titled “Kimberle Crenshaw and Catharine MacKinnon on Antiessentialist Deployments of Difference” on Friday, October 20, at 3:30 p.m. in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, room 209.


In her landmark essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics” (1989), Kimberle Crenshaw argues that “Black women [are] harmed in court decisions that conditioned their recovery on their sameness to Black men or to white women, as well as by decisions that saw them as too different to represent those who were routinely permitted to represent them—namely, Black men and white women” (“Close Encounters of Three Kinds: On Teaching Dominance Feminism and Intersectionality” 156 (2010)).

Catharine MacKinnon’s critique of sex discrimination doctrine, fully articulated in “Reflections on Sex Equality under Law” (1991), similarly problematizes a sameness/difference approach to thinking about civil equality. Crenshaw has acknowledged the congruence of their critiques in print, but MacKinnon remains multiply derided as essentialist and marginalizing.

After exploring the congruence in their critiques, this paper assesses MacKinnon’s incendiary reply to antiessentialist critics, in “From Practice to Theory, Or What Is a White Woman Anyway” (1991).