Fordham Law Review 6 (87):2433-2452 (2019)

Lynne Tirrell
University of Connecticut
Speech is a major vehicle for enacting and enforcing misogyny, so can counter-speech stop the harms of misogynist speech? This paper starts with a discussion of the nature of misogyny, from Dworkin, MacKinnon, and Frye, up to K. Manne’s new work, here emphasizing the ways that women are attacked or undermined through speech and images. Misogyny becomes toxic when it sharply and steadily limits the life prospects, including daily functioning, of the women it targets. To address the questions of counter-speech, one first needs a robust account of language—it’s power, how it functions, whether it can actually be gainsaid. Once the speech act is issued, can its damage be un-done, or substantially mitigated? To answer this, one must understand the kinds of harms that language achieves, and the kinds of counter-speech available. That is, one needs an understanding of how the speech of misogyny functions, rooted in a theory of how language works. This article offers a brief account of language as a complex set of social practices, which includes the speech of law, and an account of the power and limits of counter-speech. I argue that it is unhelpful to think in terms of free speech vs. censorship. Speech is not completely free, and censorship is a blunt tool. Instead, we should look at the ways that discursive harms are enacted and what kinds of normative changes could minimize the frequency of assault, and which changes might minimize the power of misogyny.
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Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne. [REVIEW]Audrey Yap - 2019 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 29 (1):10-17.
Toxic Speech: Inoculations and Antidotes.Lynne Tirrell - 2018 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (S1):116-144.
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