2 Yale J.L. & Feminism 299 (1989-1990)
Graduation Address: Yale Law School, June 1989

handle is hein.journals/yjfem2 and id is 313 raw text is: Graduation Address: Yale Law
School, June 1989
Catharine A. MacKinnont
Catharine A. MacKinnon was one of two speakers elected by the graduat-
ing class to speak at the law school's commencement ceremony, June 1989.
Although her speech was addressed to the commencement audience, her
message speaks to all those whose lives are affected by the law. [eds.]
Dean Calabresi, members of the faculty, distinguished guests, our
wonderful graduates, and all of your friends: I must say, this is not
something I ever imagined doing. I may share with some of the graduates
here the sense of incredulity expressed by Cher when she won the
Academy Award: If I can get this, anyone can do anything.
I want to talk with you about the nature of law in terms of some of the
qualities shared by law in the academy and law in the world, and about
what it means to hold the power of law in your hands. Law is written by
the powerful. You know that. But there is more. Law is words in power;
it is written by power. Its power is not unlimited but it is real. This tends
to mean that experiences which take place outside the routes in which
power is socially negotiated do not make law because they do not count to
power. Problems posed outside of power are outside the scope of legit-
imacy. They leave no trace. Law resists them because it does not know
how to solve them or because it does not want them solved. When I say
law is power, you are thinking them. Of course, it's also us. And for
you, the graduates, now, or soon, it's you. I want to work this through
with one example. I could have chosen the example of all people of color;
I could have chosen the example of all working people; I choose the
example of all women. Women, compared with men, have been historical-
ly deprived of the franchise, and still are deprived of income and adequate
means of material survival and are systematically allocated to disrespected
f Catharine A. MacKinnon is a lawyer, teacher, writer, and activist who visited as Professor of
Law at Yale Law School in Spring 1989 and 1990. She pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment
as a form of sex discrimination and, with feminist writer Andrea Dworkin, co-authored ordinances
recognizing pornography as a violation of civil rights. Her most recent book is TOWARD A FEMINIST
THEORY OF THE STATE (Harvard, 1989).

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