Cover: Only Words, from Harvard University PressCover: Only Words in PAPERBACK

Only Words

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$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674639348

Publication Date: 03/01/1996

Academic Trade

160 pages

5 x 7-1/2 inches


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This little book might as well come with a fuse and matches, lighting a fire as it does under the complacent acceptance of pornography and inequality, racial and sexual, in this country.—Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times

Only Words is a deftly crafted indictment of an absolutist free-speech doctrine that is applied hypocritically and inconsistently to protect pornography and other acts of inequality.—Amy Willard Cross, The Globe and Mail

In Only Words, [MacKinnon] presents the most lucid and concise presentation of her argument that porn is more than just words… Her argument is making significant legal inroads and, to understand where she would like to take us, Only Words provides a clear road map.The San Francisco Chronicle

MacKinnon’s book is an eloquent plea to Americans to move beyond what she sees as the prejudiced limitations of current doctrine, in particular of current liberal doctrine.—Bernard Williams, London Review of Books

In this thoroughly documented work, MacKinnon traces America’s obsession with expressive freedom to the trauma of the McCarthy era… An entertaining read as well as a challenge to take another look at what constitutes freedom of expression.American Bookman

In Only Words…Catharine MacKinnon makes a compelling, lucid and concise argument for reframing the debate [over limiting pornography].—Nina Schuyler, California Lawyer

Only words, yet look at the responses, look at the rage directed toward the professor. These responses and the anger and fear that lurk within them have in a sense become part of the text of Only Words; to read them is to read a part of what MacKinnon aimed to show… MacKinnon’s words have engendered real abuse, directed at her as a woman. In short, she has proved her point.—David C. Dinielli, Michigan Law Review

[This book] will almost certainly reconfigure the national debate over pornography, harassment, free speech, and equality. It merits careful study by scholars in rhetoric, communication, free speech, women’s studies, and law—in fact, by anyone wishing to participate in the political and legal process as an informed citizen.—Lester Olson, Quarterly Journal of Speech

Three passionate, intellectually fascinating essays… [MacKinnon’s] ideas are original and gripping, her references are wide-ranging, her legal logic is provocative—and her latest is must reading for anyone interested in either fairness or free speech.Kirkus Reviews

In her most cogent and accessible book to date…MacKinnon lashes absolutists who maintain that all forms of expression including pornography and hate propaganda should be constitutionally protected. MacKinnon counters that pornography and hate messages do the same thing: enact the abuse.Publishers Weekly

Professor MacKinnon offers a lucid and compelling account of how lawyers and judges have used the First Amendment to transform the terrorist acts of pornographers and racist vigilantes into political speech. Only Words should be required reading for every true civil libertarian.—Charles R. Lawrence III, Georgetown University

Anyone inclined to dismiss anti-pornography legislation as zealotry, or as short-sighted interference with individual rights, should read Only Words. MacKinnon states her case in prose that is as distinctive and as trenchant as Orwell’s.—Richard Rorty, University of Virginia

Only Words shows the keen power of Catharine MacKinnon’s immensely challenging intellect.—Patricia J. Williams, Columbia University

Awards & Accolades

  • Catharine MacKinnon Is Winner of the 2014 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award, Association of American Law Schools Section on Women in Legal Education

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