Memo to Rebecca Traister

There’s lots to say about Rebecca Traister’s recent unsuccessful attempt at a conversation with anti-feminist lawyer Kate O’Beirne, but Hopelessly Midwestern already covered it better than I could. I add only a reminder, and a kind of memo to Rebecca Traister, re: Catharine MacKinnon.

Here’s Traister trying to distance the feminist views she likes from the ones she thinks that O’Beirne unfairly dwells on:

R.T.: I was surprised that so much of your book was about Gloria Feldt, Ellie Smeal, Catharine MacKinnon. Only at the very end do you mention someone like Rebecca Walker.

K.O’B.: Are you asking about [why I didn’t discuss] twenty- or thirty-something feminism?

R.T.: Yes. The MacKinnon quote about how all heterosexual intercourse is rape is old news. There has been a whole other wave of sex-positive feminism in part in response to ideas like that. …

— Rebecca Traister (2006-01-17): My lunch with an antifeminist pundit

The quote described here as old news does not exist. Catharine MacKinnon never said this. (As O’Beirne might put it: never, ever, ever, ever, said it. Ever. Ever.) Not surprisingly: she doesn’t believe it. It is a gross misinterpretation of her views on sex, rape, patriarchy, consent, and coercion (which are spelled out in detail in, for example, chapter 9 of Toward a Feminist Theory of the State), and the one notorious example in which she was quoted as saying this, the quote was actually authored by critics trying to describe MacKinnon’s views, but misattributed to MacKinnon herself by an antifeminist columnist too lazy to pick up the book again to get his citations straight. (See also comments at Blind Mind’s Eye, for related issues.)

And no, in case you were wondering, Andrea Dworkin didn’t say it either.

I’m just sayin’.

Update (2006-03-01): Rebecca Traister has filed a correction on the interview as of 23 February 2006. See GT 2006-03-01: Do the Right Thing: Salon issues correction on misquotation of Catharine MacKinnon for details.

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  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    Do the Right Thing: Salon issues correction on misquotation of Catharine MacKinnon

    You may recall that I complained a few weeks ago about Rebecca Traister’s interview with Kate O’Beirne in Salon which repeated a fabricated quote from…

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