The Price We Pay Summary

The Price We Pay

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Laura Lederer and Richard Delgado have gathered essays by legal scholars, social scientists, feminists, and self-identified victims of harassment, intimidation, and violence based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. First-person accounts of experiences with hate speech are followed by sociological and theoretical analyses of the harm done to individuals and the damage done to society by legally protected speech acts. The final sections of the book propose ways to limit, suppress, or provide redress against such harm through current legal channels and through alternative legal models.

The book’s organization is its strength: Moving from individual stories of victimization through research studies to proposals for action is an effective rhetorical strategy, and it makes the issues and arguments accessible to a wide range of readers. The book’s weakness is its dubious connection of pornography with the very different categories of hate speech and racist propaganda. Cross burning, while arguably a protected form of expression, is inevitably also an act of hatred, intimidation, and violence; the distribution of PLAYBOY or the swimsuit issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is unlikely to strike most readers in the same way, despite arguments that these represent hostile anti-woman propaganda. Thus, the weakest essays are by Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, longtime anti-pornography activists whose latest essays seem more desperate than convincing.