[Paleopsych] NYT: Andrea Dworkin, Writer and Crusading Feminist, Dies
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Tue Apr 12 14:37:08 UTC 2005
Andrea Dworkin, Writer and Crusading Feminist, Dies
April 12, 2005
By MARGALIT FOX
Andrea Dworkin, the feminist writer and antipornography campaigner
whose work was a lightning rod for the debate on pornography and
censorship that raged through the United States in the 1980's, died on
Saturday at her home in Washington. She was 58.
Ms. Dworkin died in her sleep, said her husband, John Stoltenberg. The
cause of death had not been determined last night, but Mr. Stoltenberg
said that Ms. Dworkin had suffered from several chronic illnesses in
With her unruly dark curls and denim overalls, Ms. Dworkin was for
decades a visible presence on the lecture circuit, at antipornography
rallies and "take back the night" marches. In speeches and in her many
books, she returned vocally, passionately and seldom without
controversy to the subjects of sex, sexuality and violence against
women, themes that to her were inextricably and painfully linked.
Among her best-known books are "Pornography: Men Possessing Women"
(Putnam/Perigee, 1981), "Intercourse" (Free Press, 1987) and
"Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant" (Basic
Reviewing "Heartbreak" in The New York Times Book Review, Laura Miller
wrote: "Dworkin is one of the few remaining specimens of pure
countercultural Romanticism: fierce, melodramatic and utterly
convinced that all truth can be found in her own roiling, untempered
With her first book, "Woman Hating" (Dutton, 1974), Ms. Dworkin drew
the lines in what she saw as a pitched battle against men's historical
domination of women. She opposed all forms of pornography, which she
believed incited violence against women. She was also critical of
consensual sex between women and men, which she saw as an act of
everyday subjugation in which women were accomplices.
"One of the differences between marriage and prostitution is that in
marriage you only have to make a deal with one man," Ms. Dworkin wrote
in "Letters From a War Zone" (Dutton, 1989). Marriage, she added, "is
a legal license to rape."
Andrea Rita Dworkin was born on Sept. 26, 1946, in Camden, N.J., and
earned a bachelor's degree in literature from Bennington College in
1968. She later moved to Europe, where she married a Dutch political
radical. The marriage was abusive, Ms. Dworkin said later, and she was
divorced after three years.
"I was a battered wife," she told The New York Times in 1985, "and
pornography entered into it. Both of us read it, and it helped give me
the wrong idea of what a woman was supposed to be for a man."
To Ms. Dworkin, it did not matter that some critics condemned her
sweeping antipornography stance as a form of censorship. With the
feminist lawyer Catharine A. MacKinnon, she wrote a municipal
ordinance, briefly adopted by several cities in the 1980's, that
defined pornography as a form of sex discrimination. (In 1986, the
United States Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's ruling
overturning the ordinance in Indianapolis.)
If Ms. Dworkin's work was unabashedly polemical, her life was full of
nuanced contradictions. She publicly identified herself as a lesbian,
speaking movingly about "this love of women" as "the soil in which my
life is rooted," and her work was a touchstone for many gay men and
women. But in 1998, she married Mr. Stoltenberg, her companion of many
years. A writer, editor and a founder of Men Against Pornography who
also identifies himself as gay, Mr. Stoltenberg is her only immediate
Ms. Dworkin's other books include "Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel and
Women's Liberation" (Free Press, 2000), "Right-Wing Women" (Coward,
McCann & Geoghegan, 1983) and, with Ms. MacKinnon, "Pornography and
Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality" (Organizing Against
Pornography, 1988). Ms. Dworkin also wrote two novels, "Mercy" (Four
Walls Eight Windows, 1991), about serial rape, and "Ice and Fire"
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987), about prostitution.
Though some critics dismissed her work as unreasoned diatribe, Ms.
Dworkin remained an outspoken champion of the causes in which she
"I am not afraid of confrontation or risk," she wrote in "Letters From
a War Zone," "also not of arrogance or error."
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