The Rock Ethics Institute


Second Wave Feminist Texts

Towards a Feminist Theory of the State 

Catherine MacKinnon
Harvard University Press (1989)

Toward a Feminist Theory of the State presents Catharine MacKinnon's powerful analysis of politics, sexuality, and the law from the perspective of women. Using the debate over Marxism and feminism as a point of departure, MacKinnon develops a theory of gender centered on sexual subordination and applies it to the state. The result is an informed and compelling critique of inequality and a transformative vision of a direction for social change. Abstract retrieved from amazon.

MacKinnon, Catherine (1989). Towards a feminist theory of the state. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Pornography: Men Possessing Women

Andrea Dworkin
Plume  (1991)

This strongly argued feminist case against pornography stirred tremendous controversy when first published in 1979, and has lost none of its bite during its several years out of print. Dworkin (Letters from a War Zone), who lobbies for municipal statutes declaring pornography a violation of women's civil rights, insists that pornography links sex and violence by incorporating violent domination of women as a key element of sexual fantasy: "Force in high-class pornography is romanticized . . . as if it were dance." Dworkin also takes what many consider to be an extreme position; she believes that pornography incites men to sexual violence. To support her thesis, she draws parallels between the life and writings of the Marquis de Sade and provides critical summaries of several contemporary pornographic works. Dworkin's style is intense, vivid and eloquent, infused with a sense of urgency. Abstract retrieved from amazon.

Dworkin, Andrea (1991). Pornography: Men possessing women. New York: Plume. 

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women

Naomi Wolf
Harper Collins Publishers (1991)

In today's world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. Alongside the evident progress of the women's movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It's the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society's impossible definition of "the flawless beauty." Abstract retrieved from amazon.

Wolf, Naomi (1991). The beauty myth: How images of beauty are used against women. New York: Harper Collins. 


Andrea Dworkin
Basic Books (1987)

Andrea Dworkin, once called “Feminism’s Malcolm X,” has been worshipped, reviled, criticized, and analyzed-but never ignored. The power of her writing, the passion of her ideals, and the ferocity of her intellect have spurred the arguments and activism of two generations of feminists. Now the book that she’s best known for-in which she provoked the argument that ultimately split apart the feminist movement-is being reissued for the young women and men of the twenty-first century. Intercourse enraged as many readers as it inspired when it was first published in 1987. In it, Dworkin argues that in a male supremacist society, sex between men and women constitutes a central part of women’s subordination to men. (This argument was quickly-and falsely-simplified to “all sex is rape” in the public arena, adding fire to Dworkin’s already radical persona.) In her introduction to this twentieth-anniversary edition of Intercourse, Ariel Levy, the author of Female Chauvinist Pigs, discusses the circumstances of Dworkin’s untimely death in the spring of 2005, and the enormous impact of her life and work. Dworkin’s argument, she points out, is the stickiest question of feminism: Can a woman fight the power when he shares her bed?Abstract retrieved from amazon.

Dworkin, Andrea (1987). Intercourse. New York: Basic Books. 

Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape

Susan Brownmiller
Open Road Integrated Media (1975) 

Rape, as author Susan Brownmiller proves in her startling and important book, is not about sex but about power, fear, and subjugation. For thousands of years, it has been viewed as an acceptable “spoil of war,” used as a weapon by invading armies to crush the will of the conquered. The act of rape against women has long been cloaked in lies and false justifications. It is ignored, tolerated, even encouraged by governments and military leaders, misunderstood by police and security organizations, freely employed by domineering husbands and lovers, downplayed by medical and legal professionals more inclined to “blame the victim,” and, perhaps most shockingly, accepted in supposedly civilized societies worldwide, including the United States. Against Our Will is a classic work that has been widely credited with changing prevailing attitudes about violence against women by awakening the public to the true and continuing tragedy of rape around the globe and throughout the ages. Selected by the New York Times Book Review as an Outstanding Book of the Year and included among the New York Public Library’s Books of the Century, Against Our Will remains an essential work of sociological and historical importance. Abstract retrieved from amazon.

Brownmiller, Susan (1975). Against our will: Men, women, and rape. New York: Open Road Integrated Media.