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46 Tulsa L. Rev. 151 (2010-2011)
Close Encounters of Three Kinds: On Teaching Dominance Feminism and Intersectionality

handle is hein.journals/tlj46 and id is 157 raw text is: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THREE KINDS: ON
Kimberl6 W. Crenshaw
I am pleased to be a part of this symposium honoring Catharine MacKinnon's
groundbreaking work as a feminist theorist, legal advocate, and global activist. This
invitation not only presents the opportunity to examine the interface between dominance
theory and intersectionality, but also the occasion to delve further into the vexed
rhetorical politics surrounding feminism and antiracism.
By now the fact that there has been a contested relationship between antiracism
and feminism is almost axiomatic.1 Yet as with most things that have become matters of
common knowledge, there is a risk that generalizations can metastasize into hardened
conclusions that obscure rather than illuminate important dynamics among people,
theories, and movements.
This interpretive rigidity is often evident whenever I reference MacKinnon's work
favorably in presentations that explore intersectionality and antidiscrimination law.
Listeners often register surprise that MacKinnon would occupy any constructive space in
the conceptual universe of intersectionality. I sometimes push the envelope even further
by suggesting that her controversial essay From Practice to Theory, or What Is a White
Woman Anyway? is among my favorite MacKinnon essays to teach.2
Teaching MacKinnon, particularly What is a White Woman Anyway? is not
1. See generally Michele Barrett & Mary McIntosh, Ethnocentrism and Socialist-Feminist Theory, 20
FEMINIST REV. 23, 24 (1985) (Black feminist critiques of the work of white women have made two particular
points . . . [o]n the one hand it is argued that black groups are typecast, stereotyped and ghettoized; that the
dominant racist ideologies ... are reproduced rather than challenged in white feminist work. On the other hand
...it is argued that they are invisible and unheard in white feminist work); Kum-Kum Bhavnani & Margaret
Coulson, Transforming Socialist-Feminism: The Challenge of Racism, 80 FEMINIST REV. 87, 88 (2005)
([W]hite women cannot avoid the legacy of racism within feminism); Margaret A. Simons, Racism and
Feminism: A Schism in the Sisterhood, 5 FEMINIST STUD. 384 (1979) (critiquing important, classic feminist
works by exploring ethnocentrism, racism, and minority women's invisibility). For discussion of the contested
relationship between antiracism and feminism within the law, see, e.g., Angela P. Harris, Race and
Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory, 42 STAN. L. REv. 581 (1990); Barbara Johnson, The Postmodern in
Feminism, 105 HARv. L. REv. 1076 (1992); Martha R. Mahoney, Whiteness and Women, In Practice and
Theory: A Reply to Catharine MacKinnon, 5 YALE J.L. & FEMINISM 217 (1993); Alisa D. Nave, Book Received
(reviewing FEMINIST LEGAL THEORY: AN ANTI-ESSENTIALIST READER (Nancy E. Dowd & Michelle S. Jacobs,
eds., 2003)), 19 BERKELEY WOMEN'S L.J. 313 (2004); Joan C. Williams, Dissolving the Sameness/Difference
Debate: A Post-Modern Path Beyond Essentialism in Feminist and Critical Race Theory, 1991 DUKE L.J. 296
(1991); Jane Wong, The Anti-Essentialism v. Essentialism Debate in Feminists Legal Theory: The Debate and
Beyond, 5 WM. & MARY J. WOMEN & L. 273 (1999).
2. Catharine A. MacKinnon, From Practice to Theory, or What Is a White Woman Anyway?, 4 YALE J.L.
& FEMINISM 13 (1991).


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