[Paleopsych] Andrea Dworkin Package
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Andrea Dworkin Package
[Not all of this is for family viewing.]
Guardian | 'She never hated men'
Andrea Dworkin was attacked as much for her personal appearance as for
her uncompromising views. But the death at the age of 58 of 'the most
maligned feminist on the planet' has deprived feminism of its last
truly challenging voice, says Katharine Viner
Tuesday April 12, 2005
Like most, I feel a shudder of shock whenever I read the words of
Andrea Dworkin. On crime: "I really believe a woman has the right to
execute a man who has raped her." On romance: "In seduction, the
rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine." On sexual intercourse:
"Intercourse remains a means, or the means, of physiologically making
a woman inferior: communicating to her, cell by cell, her own inferior
status ... pushing and thrusting until she gives in." Her radicalism
was always bracing, sometimes terrifying; and, in a world where even
having Botox is claimed as some kind of pseudo-feminist act, she was
the real thing. Her death at the age of 58 deprives us of a truly
But Andrea Dworkin was always more famous for being Andrea Dworkin
than anything else. Never mind her seminal works of radical feminism,
never mind her disturbing theorising that our culture is built on the
ability of men to rape and abuse women. For many, Dworkin was famous
for being fat. She was the stereotype of the Millie Tant feminist made
flesh - overweight, hairy, un-made-up, wearing old denim dungarees and
DMs or bad trainers - and thus a target for ridicule. The fact that
she presented herself as she was - no hair dyes or conditioner, no
time-consuming waxing or plucking or shaving or slimming or fashion -
was rare and deeply threatening; in a culture where women's appearance
has become ever more defining, Dworkin came to represent the opposite
of what women want to be. "I'm not a feminist, but ... " almost came
to mean, "I don't look like Andrea Dworkin but ... "
In 2001, the critic Elaine Showalter said: "I wish Andrea Dworkin no
harm, but I doubt that many women will get up at 4am to watch her
funeral." A couple of years ago, in an article in this newspaper on
hairiness, Mimi Spencer wrote: "The only visibly hairy woman at the
forefront of feminism today appears to be Andrea Dworkin, and she
looks as though she neither waxes nor washes, nor flushes nor flosses,
and thus doesn't really count." She didn't count because of how she
looked; she only cared about rape because no man could fancy her.
The attacks on Dworkin were not only personal; they also applied to
her work. John Berger once called Dworkin "the most misrepresented
writer in the western world". She has always been seen as the woman
who said that all men are rapists, and that all sex is rape. In fact,
she said neither of these things. Here's what she told me in 1997: "If
you believe that what people call normal sex is an act of dominance,
where a man desires a woman so much that he will use force against her
to express his desire, if you believe that's romantic, that's the
truth about sexual desire, then if someone denounces force in sex it
sounds like they're denouncing sex. If conquest is your mode of
understanding sexuality, and the man is supposed to be a predator, and
then feminists come along and say, no, sorry, that's using force,
that's rape - a lot of male writers have drawn the conclusion that I'm
saying all sex is rape." In other words, it's not that all sex
involves force, but that all sex which does involve force is rape.
She continued the theme in 1981 in Pornography, possibly her most
influential book. She wrote: "Pornography is a celebration of rape and
injury to women; it's a kind of union for rapists, a way of
legitimising rape and formalising male supremacy in our society." She
said that pornography is both a cause of male violence and an
expression of male dominance, that women who enjoy porn are harming
women, and that lesbian porn is self-hating. She had no time for the
textual analysis of porn so beloved of academia; what she cared about
was the women performing in the films, the harm they suffered, and
what other women had to suffer as a result of men watching porn.
While much of this was brilliant, there are few who could agree with
all of Dworkin's work. Her exhortation to vengeance was unpalatable to
many; she said that "a semi-automatic gun is one answer" to the
problem of violence against women, and that she supported the murder
of paedophiles: "Women have the right to avenge crimes on their
children. A woman in California shot a paedophile who abused her son;
she walked into the court and killed him there and then. I loved that
woman. It is our duty as women to find ways of supporting her and
others like her. I have no problem with killing paedophiles." And her
2000 book, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel and Women's Liberation,
suggested that women should follow the same path as Jews did in the
20th century: they were abused and fought back, and so should women.
Her analysis of the situation in the Middle East - an analysis which,
according to Linda Grant, "many Zionists, non-Zionists, Palestinians,
scholars of the Holocaust, pacifists, the left, women, men, are bound
to find offensive" - concluded with a call to women to form their own
In an interview with Grant, Dworkin described a Jewish childhood
dominated by family memories of the Holocaust. At a time when the
subject was simply not mentioned, Dworkin says she was obsessed: "I've
been very involved in trying to learn about the Holocaust and trying
to understand it, which is probably pointless," she said. "I have read
Holocaust material, you might say compulsively, over a lifetime ... I
have been doing that since I was a kid." Her mother was often ill, but
her childhood in New Jersey was happy, until the age of nine, when she
was sexually abused in a cinema.
From then on, it was a life full of horrors. After an anti-Vietnam
protest when she was 18, she was sent to prison and was assaulted by
two male prison doctors: "They pretty much tore me up inside with a
steel speculum and had themselves a fine old time verbally tormenting
me as well." She bled for 15 days and her family doctor told her he
had "never seen a uterus so bruised or a vagina so ripped". She
married a Dutch anarchist who beat her savagely; she managed to escape
from him, she said, "not because I knew that he would kill me but
because I thought I would kill him". She said that she never stopped
being afraid of him.
Then, in 1999, Dworkin was drugged and raped in a hotel room in Paris.
It was an attack that was to devastate her. In 2000 she wrote an
account of the rape for the New Statesman, which ended: "I have been
tortured and drug-rape runs through it ... I am ready to die." Her
account was questioned by some commentators, who wondered why she
hadn't told the police, how she could be so sure she was raped since
she was drugged at the time (she cited vaginal pain, bleeding, and
infection; bruising on her breast; "huge, deep gashes" on her leg).
But the undercurrent, tapping into the myths that Dworkin herself had
so carefully undermined in her work, was this: how could she be raped?
She's old, she's fat, she's ugly. As if anyone still thought that rape
was about sex and not about power.
This response, though, did not surprise Dworkin. "If the Holocaust can
be denied even today," she said, "how can a woman who has been raped
be believed?" But the impact of the rape and surrounding controversy
was severe, and Dworkin withdrew from public life for several years.
Her health was bad: she had a stomach-stapling operation because her
obesity had reached a dangerous level, and had severe knee problems
which made it difficult to walk. She became invisible in the US except
among those for whom her name was what she called "a curse word", and
her 2002 memoir, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Militant
Feminist, still does not have a publisher in the UK. But she was
coming to terms with her disability; she was being taken seriously
again by newspapers, at least in this country. In September, she told
the Guardian: "I thought I was finished, but I feel a new vitality. I
want to continue to help women." She also said: "At first [after the
rape] I wanted very much to die. Now I only want to die a few times a
day, which is damned good."
This black wit is remarked upon by everyone who met Dworkin. During
the Clinton/ Lewinsky affair, when Dworkin was vocally opposed to
Clinton, she said: "What needs to be asked is, was the cigar lit?"
When I asked her if her abusive ex-husband had remarried, she said:
"Oh yes, and very quickly. After all, the house was getting dirty." I
remember being in a restaurant with her in London when she joked that
she really ought to go on a diet, and did I know of any good ones?
People were startled by her gentleness and vulnerability; were
surprised that her friendships included the British author Michael
Moorcock and John Berger as well as feminists Gloria Steinem and Robin
Morgan. And although she once said she was a lesbian, she lived with
the writer John Stoltenberg for three decades, saying: "It's a very
deep relationship, a major part of my life which I never thought
possible." As Julie Bindel, feminist and Dworkin's friend of 10 years,
says: "She was the most maligned feminist on the planet; she never
Dworkin's feminism often came into conflict with the more compromising
theories of others, such as Naomi Wolf. "I do think liberal feminists
bear responsibility for a lot of what's gone wrong," she told me in
1997. "To me, what's so horrible is that they make alliances for the
benefit of middle-class women. So it has to do with, say, having a
woman in the supreme court. And that's fine - I'd love a woman, eight
women, in the supreme court - but poor women always lose out." She did
concede, however, that her radicalism was too much for some: "I'm not
saying that everybody should be thinking about this in the same way. I
have a really strong belief that any movement needs both radicals and
liberals. You always need women who can walk into the room in the
right way, talk in the right tone of voice, who have access to power.
But you also need a bottom line."
It was this bottom line that Dworkin provided. She was a bedrock, the
place to start from: even when you disagreed with her, her arguments
were infuriating, fascinating, hard to forget. Feminism needs those
who won't compromise, even in their appearance; perhaps I'm alone, but
I find it pretty fabulous that, as a friend told me, Dworkin would "go
to posh restaurants in Manhattan wearing those bloody dungarees". She
refused to compromise throughout her life, and was fearless in the
face of great provocation. In a world where teenage girls believe that
breast implants will make them happy and where rape convictions are
down to a record low of 5.6% of reported rapes; in a public culture
which has been relentlessly pornographised, in an academic environment
which has allowed postmodernism to remove all politics from feminism,
we will miss Andrea Dworkin. She once said: "What will women do? Is
there a plan? If not, why not?" And indeed, who is left to replace
Andrea Dworkin, 58, Feminist Thinker Wrote Against Pornography, Violence
BY STEPHEN MILLER - Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 12, 2005
Andrea Dworkin, who died in her sleep at her Washington, D.C., home
Saturday night at age 58, was the uncompromising crusader against
pornography and violence toward women, whose vituperative writings
helped to polarize feminism while casting her in an unattractive light
as the woman who said sex was rape.
That Dworkin said no such thing did not faze her legion of critics,
who picked up on the author's strong suspicion of sex as expressive of
male violence. Following the publication of her first book, "Women
Hating" (1974), sex, violence, and power would be part of the ground
on which a generation or more of feminists would wage their battles,
thanks to Dworkin.
She was also perhaps the greatest solipsist of the women's movement.
Dworkin's sexual politics (as a fellow pioneer, Kate Millet, termed
them) emerged directly from her accounts of being violated as a child,
raped as a teenager, beaten as a wife, and assaulted as a
streetwalker. A prolific essayist and poet, Dworkin also wrote novels
concerning a sexually brutalized young woman from New Jersey.
Dworkin made headlines in 1980 for collaborating with legal scholar
Catharine MacKinnon on behalf of Linda Lovelace, star of "Deep
Throat," whose civil rights they were convinced had been violated.
Dworkin and Ms. MacKinnon later collaborated on legislation based on
the notion that pornography constituted a form of sex discrimination.
Women could thus sue for damages.
"In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human
race to evolve," the feminist leader Gloria Steinem said in a
statement distributed by Dworkin's agent yesterday. "Andrea is one of
Dworkin was raised in Camden and Delaware Township (now Cherry Hill),
N.J., in a leftist-leaning working-class family; her father was a
guidance counselor, her mother a secretary. Dworkin credited her
Jewish heritage, including relatives who were Holocaust survivors, for
making her aware of human suffering and sexism. Her militancy she
credited to repeated readings of Ernesto "Che" Guevara's "Guerilla
Warfare." She characterized her first experience of oppression as the
result, in elementary school, of her refusal to sing Christmas carols,
which led to anti-Semitic graffiti and official punishment. It was the
first of many formative travails that marked her adolescence and young
In 1965, while a freshman at Bennington College, Dworkin was arrested
at an anti-war demonstration at the United Nations. Lacking the $500
for bail, she was incarcerated at the Women's House of Detention. Her
indignant protests against the cavity search and the facility's
conditions were covered by New York newspapers and television. Shortly
after, the antiquated jail was closed.
After graduating from Bennington, Dworkin went to live in the
Netherlands, where she married a man she variously described as a
"flower child" and "anarchist," but more appositely as a habitual
wife-beater who "thought I belonged to him, inside out." She escaped
from him after four years. She also credited her time in Europe for
helping her to grow as a writer.
Returning to America in the early 1970s, Dworkin failed to make a
conventional living - "I was too naive to know that hack writing is
the only paying game in town" - and turned instead to prostitution.
Again and again, in interviews, essays, memoirs, and anywhere she
could find a sympathetic publisher, Dworkin told the stories of her
sexual victimization. In 1992, in an 1,800-word letter to the editor
to the New York Times Review of Books, Dworkin wrote, "And so for 20
years now I have been looking for the words to say what I know."
By then, it would be difficult to guess which words had eluded her.
She followed "Women Hating" with a book of essays and speeches, "Our
Blood: Prophecies and Discourses in Sexual Politics" (1976). In short
order, she published a collection of stories, "The New Woman's Broken
Heart," the major tract "Pornography: Men Possessing Women," as well
as "Right Wing Women" (1983), an explanation of what might possess
some women to register as Republicans, and her most notorious work,
"Intercourse" (1987), which finally brought Dworkin to popular
consciousness. In one iconic statement, she held that intercourse "is
the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women." The
gloom was not much relieved by her semiautobiographical first novel,
"Ice and Fire," published the same year.
Dworkin had already worked with Ms. MacKinnon on the Linda Lovelace
case, and in 1983 they co-taught a class on pornography at the
University of Minnesota. Soon they drafted anti-pornography
legislation and embarked on a campaign that brought them into
alliances with such conservatives such as Phyllis Schlafly. Dworkin
testified before the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography and
a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They were vilified
by free-speech advocates, and the president of the ACLU condemned "the
Dworkin blamed her First Amendment foes for her increasing trouble in
finding publishers in America. In England she was still quite popular.
There, "Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation" was first
published. A work of several years' gestation, it plowed many familiar
fields to yield the conclusion that Zionism had turned Israel into a
society of wife beaters who feminized the Palestinians in order to
oppress them violently.
Increasingly pushed to the side in mainstream American feminism,
Dworkin could deliver the odd zinger when provoked. "It will probably
bring the FBI to my door, but I think that Hillary should shoot Bill
and then President Gore should pardon her," she wrote in early 1998,
at the height of the Lewinsky affair.
Often in ill-health, perhaps be cause of her obesity (she was often
estimated to weigh more than 300 pounds), Dworkin appeared to suffer a
breakdown in 2000, when in extremely murky circumstances she alleged
that she had been raped in a hotel during a tour of Europe. She won
few supporters when it was disclosed that she had never reported the
incident to authorities, and she later wrote that even her husband
abandoned her emotionally. "Now a year has passed and sometimes he's
with me in his heart and sometimes he's not," she wrote.
That Dworkin, a lesbian, had a husband at all shocked many, but theirs
was an unconventional relationship. She sometimes described her
husband, the writer and editor John Stoltenberg, as a "nongenital
man." He is the author of two books, "Refusing to Be a Man" (1990) and
"The End of Manhood" (1993). Nevertheless, it was a conventional
enough relationship that when he was named managing editor of AARP The
Magazine in 2004, she accompanied him to Washington, D.C. "Who can
explain how anyone recognizes that they have fallen in love and that
life apart is simply unthinkable?" he once wrote of her. For all her
vituperation, interviewers and friends commented on Dworkin's
sweetness in person.
In 2002, she published "Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist
Militant." Reviewers noted that she had not lost her way with
invective, and she settled scores with everyone from her ninth-grade
English teacher to Allen Ginsberg, with whom she once supposedly had
the following exchange: "He said, 'The right wants to put me in jail.'
I said, 'Yes, they're very sentimental; I'd kill you.' "
Susie Bright, the essayist, filmmaker, and authority on pornography,
recalled Dworkin's influence yesterday on her Web log: "She was the
one who got us looking at porn with a critical eye, she made you feel
like you could just stomp into the adult bookstore and seize
everything for inspection and a bonfire. The funny thing that happened
on the way to the X-Rated Sex Palace was that some of us came to
different conclusions than Miss Dworkin."
Andrea Rita Dworkin
Born September 26, 1946, in Camden, N.J.; died April 9 at her home in
Washington, D.C., of unknown causes; survived by her husband, John
Andrea Dworkin - Obituaries - Times Online
April 13, 2005
Radical writer who scandalised convention and galvanised feminists
with her storming views on pornography and male aggression
THE author, lecturer and radical feminist Andrea Dworkin was one of
those writers whose own life provided a ceaseless supply of polemical
and literary material. With probability-defying regularity, she
herself fell victim to the violence, misogyny and bias that supplied
the primary theme of her speeches and more than a dozen books.
Growing up as a Jew in New Jersey, she refused to sing Christmas
carols in elementary school and had an ugly anti-Semitic slur scrawled
on her classroom art work. At 18 she was arrested during an antiwar
demonstration and subjected to a body cavity search, at a women's
correctional facility, that left her bleeding for two weeks.
(Throughout this ordeal, she said, her tormentors told dirty jokes
about women.) As a speaker and writer in the 1970s and 1980s, she was
frequently denounced by the literary establishment, who, she
theorised, had a vested interest in suppressing her ideas. In 1999,
she was drugged and raped, she believed, by a barman and a waiter in a
Paris hotel -- and even that was not the first time she had been
raped. Dworkin filtered these experiences through writing, which she
called the quintessentially optimistic occupation. "I would rather
fail at that," she said, "than succeed at anything else."
With her first book, Woman Hating (1974), she aspired to "destroy
patriarchal power at its source" by enumerating historical examples of
women's subjugation, from foot-binding to witch-hunting to the
propagation of sex-role mythology in fairy tales. Also in 1974, she
moved to tears and tremors a gathering of 1,000 activists at a
National Organisation for Women conference on sexuality and became, at
the age of 28, a fiery mainstay of the radical lecture circuit, and a
cult heroine of women's studies majors.
Andrea Rita Dworkin was born in 1946 in Camden, New Jersey. Her
father, a pro-union, anti-segregationist schoolteacher, was at the
moral and emotional centre of her early development. Her mother, too,
was forward-thinking. She favoured legal birth control (then not
established in the US), and sent Andrea to the library with notes
allowing her to withdraw books thought inappropriate by many parents
of the day. After Dworkin's hometown library had censored "socialist"
and "indecent" books, Andrea found one that had been overlooked, Che
Guevara's Guerrilla Warfare. "I read it a million times," Dworkin told
an interviewer in 2000. "I'd plan attacks on the local shopping mall."
In her youth, Dworkin read Dostoevsky, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot
and the Brontës. And growing up Jewish, she later wrote, informed her
views on feminism. "Being a Jew, one learns to believe in the reality
of cruelty and one learns to recognise indifference to human suffering
as a fact."
Dworkin won a scholarship to the progressive Bennington College in
Vermont, where she received a BA in 1968. She lived for five years in
the Netherlands, where, in 1971, she extricated herself from her
marriage to her "abusive" Dutch husband.
Distressed by America's Vietnam policy and by racism back home,
Dworkin stayed on in Europe to write, but had not yet attracted notice
when she returned to the US in the early 1970s. In America she
supported herself as a waitress, receptionist, factory worker and
teacher, before becoming, in her own words, the "worst assistant in
the history of the world", to the poet Muriel Rukeyser. It was with
Rukeyser's encouragement that Dworkin completed Woman Hating.
In 1976 Dworkin published a collection of her essays and speeches, Our
Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, followed, in
1981, by Pornography: Men Possessing Women. For the latter, Dworkin
had immersed herself in the work of the Marquis de Sade, which caused
her to suffer nausea, nightmares and intense pessimism about relations
between men and women. The book maintained that "Pornography exists
because men despise women, and men despise women in part because
pornography exists." In Punch, a reviewer called Dworkin a "Leon
Trotsky of the sex war . . . She writes -- dare I say it? -- with an
aggressive manner, like a man." But though she won praise as a
stylist, many saw Dworkin's position as a dangerous form of
In the early 1980s, Dworkin joined the law professor Catharine
MacKinnon in developing legislation that would make pornography a form
of sexual discrimination, and allow civil action against people who
make, sell or distribute it. The group Feminists for Free Expression
argued that this crusade only gave credence to the "porn made me do
it" excuse for rapists. Local ordinances based on the MacKinnon Bill
flourished briefly in some urban centres before being overturned.
In 1983 Dworkin published Right Wing Women: The Politics of
Domesticated Females, an analysis of a Reagan-era defection of women
from the Democrats to the Republicans. While withholding the Equal
Rights Amendment and daycare from women voters, Dworkin asserted, the
Republicans seduced them with an offer of protection from male
violence through "shelter, safety, rules and love . . . if women are
obedient and subservient".
Her book Intercourse (1987) described the sexual act as "the pure,
sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women." Erica Jong
called the book thrilling, but the London Review of Books reviled it
as "a torrent of filthy abuse . . . against sex and men". A reviewer
in The New York Times was only slightly kinder: "I'm a feminist too --
that's why this nonsense disturbs me so much."
Her next book was Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the
Continuing War Against Women (1998), a collection of essays, speeches
and topical commentary. Writing in The Times Literary Supplement,
Elaine Feinstein found Dworkin's case against pornographic depictions
of sexual violence "hideously convincing" but argued, given the
context of the Holocaust and massacres in Bosnia, that "where human
beings suffer such anguish, there seems little point in treating women
as a separate category".
In two novels, Ice and Fire (1986) and Mercy (1990), Dworkin's female
protagonists are both writers who are victims of sexual abuse. The
Observer called Ice and Fire an effort to "elevate the temper tantrum
to an art form". But Mercy impressed a New York Times critic as
"lyrical and passionate -- a cross between the repetition of the early
Gertrude Stein and, ironically, the unfettered flights of Henry
Miller". The reviewer added, however, that Dworkin's positions were
sometimes "intolerant . . . and just as brutal as what she protests.
Ms Dworkin advocates nothing short of killing men."
In May 1999, while reading a book on "French literary fascism" and
sipping a kir royale in a Paris hotel garden, Dworkin was, according
to her later account, slipped some kind of drug by a barman. Back in
her room, reeling from the narcotic, she was savagely raped by two
hotel staff members, she said. She said she did not report the
incident to the authorities because she could not piece together the
events of the evening, or even determine what had caused her bruises
or injuries. Slowly, she said, she worked out what had happened. In
the aftermath of this episode, she fell into a deep, long-term
depression, "consumed by grief and horror until I was lucky enough to
become numb," she told the New Statesman in an interview the following
year. For the first time in her life, she sought psychotherapy.
In 2000 she published Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel and Women's
Liberation, a study with the premise that the abusive relationship
between men and women is analogous to that between Gentiles and Jews.
The reviewer in The Times Literary Supplement acknowledged Dworkin's
"undoubted rhetorical strengths" but concluded that the book "is too
badly put together, and the social categories she claims to be dealing
with are all far too complex, for it to carry conviction".
An autobiography, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Militant
Feminist, appeared in the US in 2002.
Dworkin maintained a deliberately raw appearance, wearing overalls and
sneakers and letting her hair fall in an uncombed mane. She suffered
longterm obesity and osteoarthritis, and underwent several knee
Identifying herself as a lesbian and a celibate, Dworkin nevertheless
shared a home, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a man. Her long-time
"mate," John Stoltenberg, whom she married in 1998, is the author of
two books, Refusing to be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice and The End
At the time of her death Dworkin was busy on her fourteenth book with
the working title Writing America: How Novelists Invented and Gendered
a Nation -- a study of the contribution by writers such as Ernest
Hemingway to American identity.
John Stoltenberg survives her.
Andrea Dworkin, feminist writer, was born September 26, 1946. She died
on April 9, 2005, aged 58.
Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005 By Bidisha Banerjee
Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005
By Bidisha Banerjee
Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2005, at 3:35 PM PT
Bloggers debate the legacy of pioneering feminist Andrea Dworkin; they
also react to the allegations that Spain sold weapons of mass
destruction to Venezuela and dissect President Bush's iPod playlist.
Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005: Feminist Andrea Dworkin, vehement critic of
pornography and author of many polemic works including Intercourse,
died over the weekend. "I loved that she dared attack the very
notion of intercourse. It was the pie aimed right in the crotch of Mr.
Big Stuff. It was an impossible theory, but it wasn't absurd. There is
something about literally being fucked that colors your world, pretty
or ugly, and it was about time someone said so," writes sexologist
Susie Bright, who has claimed that Dworkin called for her
assassination. "I'm sorry Andrea Dworkin started a sexual revolution
that she ended up repudiating. ... She was the animator of the
ultimate porno horror loop, where the Final Girl never gets a chance
to slay the monster, she only dies, dies, dies, with the cries of the
angry mourners to remember her." Creep and Blink, a blog about "sex
laws and science," insists, "[D]workin's life was a living
testament to the blurry line between leftist and rightist
totalitarianism and paranoia, as well as the contempt on both extremes
for a genuinely free information market. While her criticisms may have
had kernels of truth in the porn market of the 70s and 80s, Dworkin,
on the whole, underestimated, infantilized and desexualized women with
her overbroad generalizations and her quest to limit their sexual
choices in the name of gender liberation."
"I could say that every cruelty and every uncharitable swipe taken at
her--by the pimps and the pornographers, by self-satisfied liberal men
and by critics from within the movement--was a testament to how much
she mattered and how important it was that someone was there to tell
the truth without flinching, that that someone was her. All of these
things would be true. But they don't even begin to touch it. Nothing
that I could say would," mourns Radgeek People's Daily's
self-described radical feminist Charles Johnson. "It's common, and
tempting, to wish peace on the dead, and Andrea Dworkin deserves to be
at peace, but I can't imagine her being satisfied with death, or with
anything short of an almost unimaginable justice," muses
Hopelessly Midwestern. At The Corner, The National Review's Rick
Brookhiser recalls Dworkin's admiration for George Washington and
compliments her "unrelenting, hard, clean and compelling" writing.
View the Andrea Dworkin Lie Detector on Dworkin's Web site.
Continue Article [down-caret.gif]
VMD?: Donald Rumsfeld criticized Spain recently for selling war
planes and patrol boats to Venezuela. Barcepundit's Franco Aleman
thinks it's worse than that: Based on this translation of a Europa
Press report, he notes that Spain sold Venezuela "chemical warfare
agents and radioactive materials" as well. "All of this happened
during the year 2004, when control of Spain shifted from American ally
Aznar to socialist Zapatero, int he wake of the 3/11 Madrid train
bombing," observes The American Thinker. (In a later post, Aleman
pointed out that "the sales were not only during the Zapatero
administration, but during Aznar's too.") Venezuelan news blog VCrisis
claims that Spain broke European Union regulations and that
the European Union has been asked to investigate.
"Spain is also selling C-212 cargo planes and is discussing the sales
of military helicopters and patrol boats to Colombia. Perhaps this is
to aid the fight against drug smuggling, but the big worry in that
part of the world is the potentially explosive situation between those
two countries," points out "Eurosceptic" blog EU Referendum.
Visit Venezuela News and Views for an interview with freelance
journalist Francisco Toro, who was in Venzuela during the failed coup
of April 2002.
iPod One: On Monday, the New York Times revealed that President
Bush listens to country music and rock on an iPod while exercising.
"If Bush only has 250 songs in his iPod, he should get an iPod
Shuffle," recommends law professor Ann Althouse. "The [NYT]
article quotes the observation that 'it's interesting' that the
President likes the music of artists who don't like him, but actually
it's not interesting. It would be interesting if he paid any attention
to what old rock stars thought about politics."
Surprised by the short length of the presidential playlist,
Semioclast, a blog that claims to be "Smashing Signification,"
huffs, "What a friggin' waste of technology. I'm surprised his
born-again, creationism-believing, science-hating ass,
non-intelligence-having ass doesn't get scared at the voices in his
head. Or maybe he thinks it's just God talking to him again." On
Questions and Answers, software engineer Wayne Moran notes that Bush
likes "My Sharona" by the Knack, and asks, "GWB, what are you
doing listening to raunchy lyrics? Oh, I bet you don't listen to the
lyrics? This sounds like a conversation I will have with my kids ...."
Wonkette speculated about the contents of Bush's playlist back in
January; last year, Mac junkie Larry Angell at Happy Go Larry finally
got to the bottom of the mysterious bulge in Bush's jacket back
during the debates.
Have a question, comment, or suggestion for Today's Blogs? E-mail .
Bidisha Banerjee is a Slate editorial assistant.
Yahoo! News - ANDREA DWORKIN AND ME
ANDREA DWORKIN AND ME
Tue Apr 12, 7:58 PM ET
By Maggie Gallagher
Andrea Dworkin died this week.
Maybe the name means nothing to you, but for women of a certain age,
Andrea Dworkin's very name is "fighting words." A fiercely radical
feminist, she (along with law professor Catherine Mackinnon) pioneered
a blistering feminist attack on pornography and male sexuality in
general. As a former battered wife, she fused these concerns with a
broadside against male violence against women. Think "intercourse is
rape," and you are thinking vintage Dworkin.
Andrea Dworkin's book "Intercourse" (which Germaine Greer called "the
most shocking book any feminist has yet written") came out in 1987. At
the time, I was a young editor, contemplating leaving National Review
to write a critique of orthodox feminism, which was eventually
published as "Enemies of Eros: How the Sexual Revolution Is Killing
Family, Marriage and Sex."
To most conservatives, Andrea Dworkin was an expletive to be deleted,
demented, dangerous and probably lesbian. By rights, I should have
hated her book.
Yes, I received a gift from Andrea, the kind of gift which,
intellectually speaking, you can receive only from someone with whom
you profoundly disagree. From the opposite ends of the political
spectrum, we had each glimpsed a piece of the same truth. Against the
backdrop of a pornographic Playboy culture that tried to teach us that
sex is just a trivial appetite for pleasure, radical feminist Andrea
Dworkin wrote that "sexual intercourse is not intrinsically banal."
I was not alone! Andrea saw it, too. As I wrote in "Enemies of Eros":
"In sex, persons become male and female, archetypically,
exaggeratedly, painfully so. And to us, corseted in modern sexual
views, femininity appears incompatible with the personhood of women.
... What Dworkin observes is essentially true. Sex is not an act which
takes place merely between bodies. Sex is an act which defines,
alters, imposes on the personhood of those who engage in it. We wander
through the ordinary course of days as persons, desexed, androgynous,
and it is in the sexual act in which we receive reassurance that we
are not persons, after all, but men and women."
And as I later learned, to a lesser degree, Andrea Dworkin received
the same gift from me. Standing in the local bookstore in Park Slope
in Brooklyn (where we both then lived), she thumbed through my first
book. "At last, someone who understands my writing!" she shrieked
Then she, the infamous feminist, invited me, the unknown young
conservative, to tea. I found her soft-spoken, pale, intellectual,
anxious, motherly. She seemed to me the kind of woman who has the
peculiar courage of her fears. Andrea lived with a man whom she
introduced as John. "Every day I wake up and realize that tomorrow
John may not be there," she told me.
She was describing a kind of unmarital bond, endorsing the special
kind of relationship produced when two people know they can leave and
yet each morning still choose to be together. Once again, Andrea put
her finger on my truth. For as she spoke, it occurred to me that
everything I had written about (as everything I've done since) was a
deliberate and desperate attempt not to live in her kind of world. I
longed to find marriage ties as binding as the ties between mother and
child. I wanted not only to get, but to become the kind of person who
can give that kind of dependable love, the kind that can be taken for
granted because it lasts.
According to Reuters, "Dworkin is survived by her husband, John
Stoltenberg, also a feminist activist and author."
Maybe in the end, she found that kind of love, too. I hope so. Rest in
(Readers may reach Maggie Gallagher at MaggieBox2004 at yahoo.com.)
Telegraph | News | Andrea Dworkin
Andrea Dworkin, the American radical feminist who has died aged 58,
campaigned ferociously against pornography and the abuse of women for
almost 40 years; the author of several controversial feminist texts,
she dismissed men as moral cretins, said that seduction was hard to
distinguish from rape, and regarded pornography as akin to terrorism.
Although she was lauded by some of her fellow feminists, many felt
that her inflammatory writing (and possibly her appearance) did little
for the cause; to Dworkin, men were, at best, oafish misogynists,
while most were rapists for whom the primary sexual motive was
Her own experiences - as a rape victim, a prostitute and a battered
wife - only added to the trenchancy of her views, but she reacted with
fury to suggestions that such traumas had made it difficult for her to
"I've never heard Solzhenitsyn asked if he can be objective about the
gulag," she snarled. "As if not paying attention to rape and wife
battery were some kind of objectivity."
In America, it was her battle with pornographers that earned her
respect from other radicals and the contempt of the multi-million
dollar porn industry. To some she was a heroine, but she was demonised
not only by pornographers but by many liberals, whom she held in
almost equal contempt.
Andrea Dworkin's most public attack on pornography began in 1980 when
she was approached by the ex-porn actress Linda Lovelace, who said
that she had been forced to make the film Deep Throat.
With the help of the feminist academic, Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea
Dworkin drafted an ordinance for Minneapolis recognising pornography
as sex discrimination and a violation of women's civil rights. Women
involved in pornography were called to testify from all over America.
The porn industry reacted with fury, and Hustler magazine published a
sexually explicit cartoon featuring Andrea Dworkin. She sued, but
lost, and found herself portrayed as a national hate figure. Playboy
appealed to the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming that her
attempt to censor porn ran counter to the constitutional right of
every American to a free press.
So thorough was her demonisation that the more sympathetic elements of
her campaign were overshadowed. The ordinance was eventually
overturned by a federal appeals court in 1985, but later upheld by the
US Supreme Court.
Yet even those who espoused her causes were somewhat perturbed by the
fierceness of her enthusiasm for vengeance. When it came to
punishment, Andrea Dworkin favoured that most phallic symbol of male
oppression, the gun.
"I have no problem with killing paedophiles," she once said; and stuck
above the desk in the study of her New York home was a picture of an
alleged rapist with a rifle at his head and the words: DEAD MEN DON'T
But while she was irritated by liberal feminists such as Naomi Wolf,
she accepted that her views were not palatable to everyone. "I have a
really strong belief that any movement needs both radicals and
liberals," she explained. "You always need women who can walk into the
room in the right way, talk in the right tone of voice, who have
access to power. But you also need a bottom line."
Andrea Dworkin was born into a Jewish family on September 26 1946 at
Camden, New Jersey, where she attended a progressive school. Her
father, a teacher and a committed socialist, inspired her political
leanings. "It would be hard to overstate," she wrote, "how much he
taught me about human rights and human dignity, how to talk and how to
She later said that her childhood was overshadowed by being raped in a
cinema when she was nine.
She won a place to read Literature at Bennington College, Vermont, but
while still a student there she was arrested outside the US mission to
the United Nations during a protest against the Vietnam war. Sent to
the Women's House of Detention at Greenwich, New York, she was
subjected to several brutal internal examinations.
Her graphic description of her ordeal was then reported in newspapers
across the world; the "downtown Bastille" was subsequently closed
Her parents, humiliated by the public scandal, turned against her and
in 1968, after graduating from Bennington, Andrea Dworkin moved to
Amsterdam and married a Dutch anarchist. Beaten and abused by her
husband, after five years she left him, to live, as she put it, "as a
fugitive, sleeping on people's floors and having to prostitute for
money to live."
In 1974, at the age of 27, she published Woman Hating: A Radical Look
at Sexuality. Uncompromising and furious, it set the tone for her
later work which included Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981).
In 2000 she described in the New Statesman how the previous year she
had been drugged and raped in a hotel room in Paris. Traumatised by
the experience (and by the suggestion by some that her account may not
have been true), she withdrew from public life.
Recently, however, she had returned to the public eye, announcing: "I
thought I was finished, but I feel a new vitality. I want to continue
to help women."
Andrea Dworkin published 13 books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
She suspected that her fiction was rejected by publishers who feared
the power of Playboy, but her novels were not popular even when
published; the Literary Review described one book about sex as
"grossly disgusting". Her memoir, Heartbreak: the Political Memoir of
a Feminist Militant, was published in 2002.
Surprisingly softly spoken, she would beguile interviewers with her
engaging smile. But she was contemptuous of reactions to her
appearance. "When women write about me," she said, "they always talk
about how they think I must feel about the way I look. I find all of
this close to absurd."
Nevertheless, her refusal to make any concessions to feminine beauty
was bound up in her philosophy, not least because while some women
regarded it as an act of bravery, others saw it as a symptom of her
problems. "Dworkin pretends to be a daring truth-teller," wrote the
feminist Camille Paglia, "but never mentions her most obvious problem,
Although regularly referred to as a man-hater, she was particularly
close to three men: her father, her brother - whose death in 1992
devastated her - and John Stoltenberg, the civil rights activist,
author of Refusing to Be a Man, and her companion for 30 years.
She once claimed to be a lesbian, but she described their relationship
as "very deep" and they were married in 1998. "I don't hate men," she
once said. "Not that they don't deserve it. It's just not in my
Andrea Dworkin, who died on April 9, was increasingly frail in recent
years. She had undergone several painful operations on her knees which
were worn down by years of obesity.
She is survived by her husband.
Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005
subject to debate by Katha Pollitt
Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005
[from the May 2, 2005 issue]
I first heard of Andrea Dworkin in 1968. She had been arrested in an
antiwar demonstration and jailed at the old Women's House of Detention
in Greenwich Village, where male doctors subjected her to brutal
internal exams. Her name was in the news because she had gone public
with her story. My good, kind, radical, civil libertarian parents
thought this was ridiculous. What did she expect, this privileged
white woman, this "Bennington girl"? It wasn't that they didn't
believe her, exactly. It was that they didn't see why she was making
such a big, princessy fuss. It was like getting arrested and
complaining about the food.
Andrea Dworkin died on April 9 at 58--she of the denim overalls and
the wild hair and wilder pronouncements. Although she denied ever
uttering the most famous soundbite attributed to her, that all
intercourse is rape, she came pretty close: "Fucking is the means by
which the male colonizes the female"; "in seduction, the rapist often
bothers to buy a bottle of wine." She argued that pornography was an
instruction manual for rape, that women had the right to "execute"
rapists and pedophiles; toward the end of her life she declared that
maybe women, like the Jews, should have their own country. The counsel
of despair, and crazy, too--but by then Dworkin was ill, not much in
demand as a speaker and several of her major books were out of print.
The 1980s were long over: On campus, the militant anti-rape marches
and speakouts of Take Back the Night had morphed into cheery V-Day,
which marries antiviolence activism to a celebration of women's
The antipornography feminism Dworkin did so much to promote seems
impossibly quaint today, when Paris Hilton can parlay an embarrassing
sex video into mainstream celebrity and the porn star Jenna Jameson
rides the New York Times bestseller list. But even in its heyday it
was a blind alley. Not just because porn, like pot, is here to stay,
not just because the Bible and the Koran--to say nothing of fashion,
advertising and Britney Spears--do far more harm to women, not even
because of the difficulty of defining such slippery terms as
"degrading to women," a phrase that surely did not mean the same thing
to Dworkin as it did to the Christian conservatives who helped make
the antiporn ordinance she wrote with Catharine MacKinnon briefly law
in Indianapolis. Like the temperance movement, antiporn activism
mistook a symptom of male dominance for the cause. Nor did it have
much to do with actually existing raped and abused women. "For God's
sake, take away his Nina Hartley videos" is not a cry often heard in
shelters or emergency rooms. If by magic pornography vanished from the
land, women would still be the second sex--underpaid, disrespected,
lacking in power over their own bodies. Rape, battery, torture, even
murder would still be hugely titillating to both sexes, just as in
Shakespeare's day, and women would still be blamed, by both sexes, for
the violence men inflict on them. What made Dworkin's obsession with
pornography so bizarre is that she herself should have known it for a
diversion. After all, she frequently pointed out that male dominance
is entwined with our very notion of what sex is, with what is
arousing, with what feels "right." Like Foucault (who, as Susan Bordo
pointed out, usually gets credit for this insight), Dworkin showed how
deeply and pervasively power relationships are encoded into our
concepts of sexuality and in how many complex ways everyday life
normalizes those relationships. "Standards of beauty," she wrote in
Woman-Hating (1974), "describe in precise terms the relationship that
an individual will have to her own body. They prescribe her motility,
spontaneity, posture, gait, the uses to which she can put her body.
They define precisely the dimensions of her physical freedom. And of
course, the relationship between physical freedom and psychological
development, intellectual possibility, and creative potential is an
umbilical one." Somewhere along the way, she lost interest in the
multiplicity and the complexity of the system she did much to lay
Dworkin was an oversimplifier and a demagogue. She wouldn't debate
feminists who opposed her stance on porn, just men like Alan
Dershowitz, thus reinforcing in the public mind the false impression
that hers was the only feminist position and that this was a
male-female debate. There is some truth to Laura Miller's quip in
Salon that "even when she was right, she made the public conversation
stupider." But, frankly, the public conversation is usually not very
illuminating, and on the subject of women has been notably dim for
some time. At least Dworkin put some important hidden bits of reality
out there on the table. There is a lot of coercion embedded in normal,
legal, everyday sexuality: Sometimes the seducer is a rapist with a
bottle of wine. A whole world of sexist assumptions lay behind my
parents' attitude back in 1968: This is what happens to women who take
chances, male brutality is a fact of life, talking about sexual
violence is shameful, "Bennington girls" should count their blessings.
Polite, liberal, reasonable feminists could never have exploded that
Andrea Dworkin was a living visual stereotype--the feminist as fat,
hairy, makeup-scorning, unkempt lesbian. Perhaps that was one reason
she was such a media icon--she "proved" that feminism was for women
who couldn't get a man. Women have wrestled with that charge for
decades, at considerable psychic cost. These days, feminism is all
sexy uplift, a cross between a workout and a makeover. Go for it,
girls--breast implants, botox, face-lifts, corsets, knitting, boxing,
prostitution. Whatever floats your self-esteem! Meanwhile, the public
face of organizational feminism is perched atop a power suit and
frozen in a deferential smile. Perhaps some childcare? Insurance
coverage for contraception? Legal abortion, tragic though it surely
is? Or maybe not so much legal abortion--when I ran into Naomi Wolf
the other day, she had just finished an article calling for the
banning of abortion after the first trimester. Cream and sugar with
that abortion ban, sir?
I never thought I would miss unfair, infuriating, over-the-top Andrea
Dworkin. But I do. And even more I miss the movement that had room for
Susie Bright's Journal : Andrea Dworkin Has Died
"Could Not Be Accused of Shutting Up." -- Rolling Stone
April 11, 2005
Andrea Dworkin Has Died
 Dworkin I received word Sunday morning-- from Doug Henwood,
Amber Hollibaugh, Carol Queen, and Rachel Kramer Bussel-- that Andrea
Dworkin has died. She was 59. Her partner John Stoltenberg found her
near death on Friday, and she passed away peacefully, according to his
report, in the evening.
There is nothing about Dworkin's death in the news yet but I am sure
we will hear a lot more details by the morning. I knew she had been
ill for some time, but she was notoriously private about her health
problems. I don't know how bad or incapacitating her condition was.
Most of us who've seen her in person in the past couple years saw her
move about in obvious pain and disability. It wasn't just physical,
either. After her father died seven years ago, she had what could only
be described as a nervous breakdown.
Andrea Dworkin was...
I can't do this alone.
Let's go to Googlism, that site of randomly-selected found
poetry, in which you can inject anyone's name in the "search" box and
come up with something like this:
Andrea Dworkin is hell
Andrea Dworkin is a hardcore
Andrea Dworkin is the author of "Scapegoat"
Andrea Dworkin is what I have committed my life to now
Andrea Dworkin is antisex
Andrea Dworkin is a hysterical and puritanical castrator
Andrea Dworkin is internationally renowned as a radical feminist
activist and author who
helped break the silence around violence against
Andrea Dworkin is probably the loudest self
Andrea Dworkin is just another Zionist
Andrea Dworkin is "angry"
Andrea Dworkin is known as a relentless scourge of men
Andrea Dworkin is the feminist whose supple mind gave birth to the
assertion that all sexual
intercourse between man and woman is rape
Andrea Dworkin is a former prostitute
Andrea Dworkin is making sense
Andrea Dworkin is one of them
Andrea Dworkin is most definitely a militant feminist and beautifully
Andrea Dworkin is quoted as saying
Andrea Dworkin is part of the feminist camp
Andrea Dworkin is a writer
Andrea Dworkin is a self
Andrea Dworkin is probably the best
Andrea Dworkin is a very outspoken individual
Andrea Dworkin is the greatest mind of all time
Andrea Dworkin is one who does
Andrea Dworkin is a lousy writer
Andrea Dworkin is a rapist
Andrea Dworkin is the Malcolm X of feminism
Andrea Dworkin is a saint
Andrea Dworkin is
Andrea Dworkin is a great pornographer
Andrea Dworkin is served a thick
Andrea Dworkin is famous for her uncompromising feminism
Andrea Dworkin is a maniac
Andrea Dworkin is in a committed
Andrea Dworkin is analyzing Pauline Reage's literary style in The
Story of O
Andrea Dworkin is such an "extremist"
Andrea Dworkin is one glaring example and there are several more
Andrea Dworkin is trying to say
Andrea Dworkin is funny
Andrea Dworkin is particularly vocal about the "male problem"
Andrea Dworkin is trying to ban lap dancing
Andrea Dworkin is a sexist pig
Andrea Dworkin is one of the weirdest femi-nazis since Solanas
Andrea Dworkin is typically held up as the most fanatical of the
Andrea Dworkin is perhaps the sex trade's most ferocious antagonist
Andrea Dworkin is? -- Should I know her, or have heard of her?
Andrea Dworkin is the reincarnation of the Marquis de Sade
Andrea Dworkin is hardly without direct resonance
Andrea Dworkin is one of the most dreadful things men do
Andrea Dworkin is someone who
Andrea Dworkin is hurting
You know what? I recognize my words in a couple of those lines. I was
the one who said Dworkin was a great pornographer, if what that means
is using explicit sex in her art to cause a tremendous sensation.
Womanhating Along with Kate Millet in Sexual Politics, Andrea
Dworkin used her considerable intellectual powers to analyze
pornography, which was something that no one had done before. No one.
The men who made porn didn't. Porn was like a low culture joke before
the feminist revolution kicked its ass. It was beneath discussion. Not
Here's the irony... every single woman who pioneered the sexual
erotic-feminist-bad-girl-and-proud-of-it-stiletto-shitkicker, was once
a fan of Andrea Dworkin. Until 1984, we all were. She was the one who
got us looking at porn with a critical eye, she made you feel like you
could just stomp into the adult bookstore and seize everything for
inspection and a bonfire.
The funny thing that happened on the way to the X-Rated Sex Palace was
that some of us came to different conclusions than Ms. Dworkin. We saw
the sexism of the porn business... but we also saw some intriguing
possibilities and amazing maverick spirit. We said, "What if we made
something that reflected our politics and values, but was just as
Andrea did not like this one little bit. Honestly, when I started On
Our Backs and Herotica , I thought all the girls were going to jump on
the bandwagon. I had no idea how bad the animosity would get. I mean,
I have tape recordings from colleges where I would go listen to Andrea
lecture in rapt attention and turn my little cassette over to capture
every word. I never dreamed that I would one day become one of the
people she vilified.
I wondered if she had any close girlfriends or women she considered
her intellectual peers. The people she admired most in life were her
father, her brother, and partner John Stoltenberg. She was a scholar
of great men, and the one she studied the most, the Marquis de Sade,
was someone she could quote up one side and down the other. I'm the
one who said she was his feminist reincarnation. She rewrote his
Juliette when she wrote her novel Ice and Fire. So much for
It was Andrea's take-no-prisoners attitude toward patriarchy that I
always liked the best. Bourgeois feminists were so BORING. They wanted
to keep their maiden name and have it listed in the white pages; they
wanted to get a nice corner office in the skyscraper. When I was a
teenager in the 70s I couldn't relate to those concerns. It was
Andrea presented herself as a street fighter intellectual, a bohemian
freedom fighter, and someone who wanted to get to the bottom of
things. That quote about Malcolm X is apt. Malcolm pointed out "The
problem is WHITE PEOPLE." Dworkin said, "The problem is MEN." And
for all the holes that can be poked in that cloth, there is something
about that grain that is absolutely true, when you are the short end
of the bolt.
I loved that she dared attack the very notion of intercourse. It was
the pie aimed right in the crotch of Mr. Big Stuff. It was an
impossible theory, but it wasn't absurd. There is something about
literally being fucked that colors your world, pretty or ugly, and it
was about time someone said so.
I know it's strange that I have such a tragic affection for her, when
she apparently only had loathing for my kind. I've had women come at
me with knives who felt they had to do me in, in Dworkin's name. Her
passion and activism was classic Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She was a
dangerous lady, with no class analysis, no psychological insight-- a
scary combination. Her loaded warped pistol was neatly picked up by
right wing creeps who took all the femme bullets out of it and never
Every time you hear some preacher/politician talk about "violence
against women" or how something is "degrading to women" tell them to
to send a royalty check to Andrea and ask them what they've done
lately to empower female sexual authority. I never understood why she
didn't attack them the way she attacked feminist pornographers.
I could feel the great loss in the messages I read this morning, from
the old guard of feminist activists. Her death is going to be a
horrible reminder to many that women's place in society today is a
cruel rebuttal to many of our dreams of women's liberation. The media
image of women today is pathetic; it's Barbie on Steroids. "I Am
Bimbo, Hear Me Roar! Tee-hee!"
I like the comparison to Valerie Solanas that came up in the Googlism
list. The brilliance of a woman who has "HAD IT" is a rock'n'roll
beauty to behold:
"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of
society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded,
responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government,
eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy
the male sex."
Maybe it's just My-My-My Generation, but those words still make the
hair on my arms stand on end.
I'm sorry Andrea Dworkin started a sexual revolution that she ended up
repudiating. She never got to see people like me, Carol, and the rest
of us little protégées who took her inspiration and flew to a new
dimension. She got stuck, and then she got sick, and when you're
famous for one thing, no one wants to see you change unless you reject
it all, like a pathetic sinner seeking redemption. She was too
stubborn and too old-fashioned for that. Andrea Dworkin never would
have admitted that she was a SuperStar. She was the animator of the
ultimate porno horror loop, where the Final Girl never gets a chance
to slay the monster, she only dies, dies, dies, with the cries of the
angry mourners to remember her.
April 11, 2005 in Sex & Politics | Permalink
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» Andrea Dworkin is dead from The Pagan Prattle Online
I have nothing nice to say, so will say nothing. Instead, read what
Susie Bright and Roz Kaveney have to say on the matter. You might be
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» Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005 from Amorous Propensities : sex is
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I have no patience with haters of porn. Oddly, I'm not a consumer of
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Tracked on April 11, 2005 02:14 PM
» Andrea Dworkin (1946 - 2005) from The Left Coaster
She made us think. A rare and under-appreciated quality in a world
where agreement and consensus are more highly valued. I want to go
wherever Andrea has now gone when my time comes. For one reason it
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Tracked on April 11, 2005 07:50 PM
» Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005 from Creek Running North
"In blaming and shaming the oppressed, the powerless, the left
colludes with the right. There's no reason to look to the left for
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The victory of the right... [Read More]
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» Dworkin dies from Harry's Place
Andrea Dworkin has died, at the terribly young age of 58. It is
difficult to overstate the importance of Dworkin in setting both the
agenda... [Read More]
Tracked on April 12, 2005 02:31 AM
» Andrea Dworkin, RIP from Copyfight
Seen first in Susie Bright's blog and today there's a nice AP obit
(here on WIRED). Copyfighters may remember her best as the woman who
tried (and lost) a case to prevent Hustler from using her name in
association with... [Read More]
Tracked on April 12, 2005 09:15 AM
» on Andrea Dworkin from anti:freeze by karrie higgins
From Susie Bright: the most textured, nuanced, and interesting
reflection on the death of Andrea Dworkin I have seen yet....
Tracked on April 12, 2005 12:49 PM
» Susie Bright on Andrea Dworkin from I cite
Feminist Andrea Dworkin died yesterday. I disagreed with nearly
everything she thought. But her thinking was powerful and innovative.
It also is part of a time of feminist action and energy, a feminism
that had not yet been remade for [Read More]
Tracked on April 12, 2005 05:51 PM
» Andrea Dworkin gestorben from Sex, Drugs, Compiler Construction
Die bekannte und kontroverse Feministin Andrea Dworkin ist vor wenigen
Tagen im Alter von 59 Jahren gestorben. In einem sehr lesenswerten
Nachruf legt Susie Bright das gespaltene Verhältnis der modernen
Feministinnen zu Frau Dworkin dar. Einerseits wa... [Read More]
Tracked on April 13, 2005 02:59 AM
» Andrea Dworkin, R.I.P. from scribblingwoman
Andrea Dworkin was part of the coming-of-age of many women of my
generation. With her death, much else has... [Read More]
Tracked on April 13, 2005 05:21 PM
» Susie Bright eulogizes Andrea Dworkin from Telegraph
First of all, I'm glad to have discovered Bright's journal. I've been
a fan of her work for over a decade now, and she's never been one to
shy away from the entire range of feelings evoked by and with...
Tracked on April 14, 2005 12:48 PM
» Andrea Dworkin links from Sappho's Breathing
I'm collecting these links on my site for myself as well as my
readers. I'm indebted to many linkers who came before me, most notably
Rad Geek. The Andrea Dworkin website. The on-line memorial. Tributes
and quotes. Obituaries in the... [Read More]
Tracked on April 16, 2005 10:18 AM
» This New Thing from Disembodied Thoughts
I've been meaning to start a blog for the past year at least - I
finally felt inspired to do so today. Susie Bright's blog has been a
big inspiration. I'm still not good enough with html to fix the rather
generic-looking backdrop, unfortunately. I tr... [Read More]
Tracked on April 16, 2005 10:55 PM
» About Andrea from el tercer ojo
[because a week later, the net really needs another obit.] Sorry
friends, I've been away... surgery and recovery requiring the watching
of a full season of 24 to bring me back to health. [Read More]
Tracked on April 17, 2005 07:49 PM
This was interesting for me to read because I think you did a good job
of giving a balanced perspective on her role in the feminist
movement...I think for feminists born in the eighties the role models
were sex radicals like you and Carol so there's a kind of knee-jerk
resistance to Dworkin, but then I realize I've never even read her...
hmmm. The porno-horror analogy is very fitting, though.
Posted by: Bianca | April 10, 2005 11:40 PM
Well said. Thank you for saying it. I hadn't heard that she had died.
Posted by: Jesurgislac | April 11, 2005 12:11 AM
I'm glad I got to read your eulogy of Andrea Dworkin first, before I
read anyone else's. I didn't know she'd been ill; that would explain
why I hadn't heard much about her lately. I came to this entry by
chance, after following a link about Spain Rodriguez (what an amazing
story!). Thank you for conveying so much of Dworkin's incisive
passion, and your long, fraught relationship with her.
For what it's worth, I've assumed for years that the cause of the porn
culture wars was that so much needed to be spoken about sex,
especially the intensely good and the intensely bad, that it's been
nearly impossible for people who've focused their efforts on one end
of that long spectrum to really hear anyone toiling on the other end.
The banquet table stretches too far. Everyone's pistol is warped.
And it's not everyone's job to play both sides. For instance, I'm
recalling the documentary Live Nude Girls Unite, where Julia Query is
doing one kind of feminist work as a stripper union-organizer
documentarist, and her mother Joyce Wallace is doing another kind of
feminist work as a physician who works with street prostitutes.
Query's work stems partly from Wallace's efforts; Wallace's efforts
aren't diminished by Query.
I personally wouldn't expect anyone whose purpose is radical scrutiny
of how sexuality has been turned against women at bone level to see
eye to eye with someone whose life work revolves around radical
reclaiming of and enumerating varieties of sexual pleasure, or vice
versa. Not until we learn to partition our brains like hard drives.
Misunderstandings and dislike are unavoidable on both sides. Maybe
they're even required: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
Your comments that she lacked psychological insight or class analysis
puzzle me, since throughout this piece you're kinda describing how she
had both of those (in Right-Wing Women alone).
My own Dworkin experience: The first time I really began thinking
about the class analysis of porn was at a panel discussion at SF State
on the Minneapolis porn ordinance, with Dworkin and the local ACLU
chair as two of the speakers. That was quite an evening. I'd come as a
reporter, and this was my first experience at an event where the
tensions ran so high. Nearly everyone in the audience had brought a
baggage cart, and audience members frequently stood up to shout at the
stage. What particularly impressed me were two things -- the clutches
of middle-aged men in suits scattered throughout the crowd who'd
loudly mutter, or outright yell, that nobody was going to take their
porn away, and the following exchange: during a discussion about
censorship, one of the panelists (possibly the ACLU chair, this was
maybe 20 years ago, so bear with me) began explaining that censorship
was too dull-edged a tool to be used on "questionable content," when
other solutions would usually suffice. Why, she said, when she heard
about a textbook with some particularly misogynistic passages, she
just called up her mother, who knew the publisher, and they were able
to work something out so that future editions weren't so offensive. At
this point, other audience members (mostly young women with cropped
hair, shockingly enough) leapt up to yell in disgust, "Yeah, me too!"
and "Sure, just like *my* momma!" Dworkin, way ahead of the hecklers,
then gently reminded the speaker that those class privileges probably
weren't available to most women. That evening definitely put me on the
road to pondering porn consumers, porn producers, sex, and class.
...And now I'm looking for an ending for what's turned from a comment
into a novella. How's this: thanks for all the work *you've* done. I
consider both you and Dworkin pioneers.
Posted by: L.A. | April 11, 2005 05:10 AM
Thank you so much for this piece.
Posted by: Jennifer B | April 11, 2005 07:44 AM
Thank you. Last night, thinking about her death and struggling with
how I feel about her, and feeling so annoyed at how the only news I
could google on her were the obnoxious quotes of the irrelevant Ms.
Paglia, I realized that I most wanted to know what you would have to
say about her. Thank you.
Posted by: Mandy | April 11, 2005 07:53 AM
While I certainly feel something when anyone dies, and I do think that
Andrea played a big part in the history of feminism, I also feel as if
she's done damage to so many people along the way that may have been
Hey, thats a good way of putting it "different"... trans-women, women
who were assigned the sex "male" at birth, due to whatever combination
of chemicals, were born with a brain and thought patterns of women,
and the bodies of men. That in and of itself, with today's societal
binary gender system, being hell. While yes, we may have been born
with male privilege, we've given it up and then some, time and time
again. Men would seek to kill us, and so would the militant
separatists, such as Andrea Dworkin was.
I know its not polite to speak ill of the dead, but as a transwoman
who is also extremely feminist, and speaks on trans issues and
feminism pretty often at conferences, group meetings, etc. Andrea
Dworkin was the equivalent of Satan to transwomen, and while I don't
take that side of the issue, as I support separatist space, I do
believe she had so much hate to spread around, that it may have
finally eaten her alive.
Rest In Peace, Andrea Dworkin, and may the gods have mercy on you in
Posted by: Trish Lynch | April 11, 2005 07:54 AM
Why is everyone dying right now?? Pope, HST, Dworkin, Derrida...
Posted by: Paul Gowder | April 11, 2005 08:32 AM
Glorious obit, Susie.
May I reprint, or link, your obit to Nina Hartley's board?
Posted by: boxster | April 11, 2005 09:09 AM
And Paul, we've forgotten other giants in art and criticism, such as
Johnny, Philip Johnson, Susan Sontag, and Saul Bellow.
An era is just leaving us, and I am afraid that no one can replace any
of those persons.
Posted by: Boxster | April 11, 2005 09:47 AM
Even though I am on the absolute opposite ideological pole of Andrea
Dworkin on so many subjects concerning sex and feminism, I do find
myself deeply saddened at the news of her passing. For all of her
antisex myopia, and her complete and total lack of empathy towards men
and their suffering, she still was and remains an icon and a
significant figure in the name of feminism.
After all that she has suffered, I do hope that she is now finally at
peace with herself.
Otherwise, Susie, that was a wonderful and totally objective tribute
to her legacy..both positive and negative.
Posted by: Anthony Kennerson | April 11, 2005 09:54 AM
Good morning, everyone... I just had the weirdest dream ever. I
dreamed that if I didn't write my name down on a piece of paper I
would find myself without an identity in the morning, not knowing who
I was, or having the slightest clue where I belonged.
My lucky piece of paper with my signature on it was lying on my
nightstand when I woke up this morning.
I do think that I am in for a prolonged period of mourning, as all my
legends come up to the last plate. It's so odd that my mother should
die, and ever since, it seems like I've lived in the obituary pages. I
never dreamed I'd be spending so much time on my blog talking about
the ones that got away.
Thanks for fixing my link! It's a link to a story I wrote called "The
Baffling Case of Andrea Dworkin," after her very strange rape
accusation and postscript appeared in a London newspaper a few years
When I say that Dworkin eschewed class analysis or psychological
insight, I don't mean that she didn't toy with those things for
effect. You're right, she was always zinging people with the
politically correct method: "Oh, you're middle class so you're an
What I mean is that she saw the world fundamentally divided by gender,
and it was as she'd be some happy capitalist camper if only women
ruled the world-- i.e., the elite p.c. women who know how everyone
She couldn't discuss eroticism, desire, fantasy, or human sexuality
with any clarity because she firmly rejected the notion of the
unconscious, and she didn't think that therapy or personal insights
were worth a damn. In her view, the world is fucked, and everyone's
difficulties with it are because of THAT-- all craziness and pathology
can be understood in terms of patriarchal crimes against humanity.
It's almost refreshing to hear now, when everyone's problems with the
world are supposed to be vanquished with a pill, but she took the
polar opposite position.
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 10:22 AM
I'd appreciate it if you want to show others my thoughts, just excerpt
a little bit, with a link, or link to it here, but don't reprint the
whole thing. That's my policy about everything I write here. Fair use!
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 10:35 AM
Susie, you are an exemplar of so many proper ways to live, and my
favorite is your ability to so respectfully disagree, especially
disagree with other women.
Thank you for turning to googlism to remind us of all who Dworkin was.
I, too, am sorry she "started a sexual revolution that she ended up
repudiating" but I hadn't realized that that was why I stopped
following her work. Another great memorial. Now, I hope you can stop
writing them for a while.
Posted by: rosewood | April 11, 2005 10:50 AM
Wonderful piece. I think you very eloquently expressed the
contradictions so many of us feel when thinking about Dworkin. May she
now be able to rest in peace.
Posted by: Marie B | April 11, 2005 11:01 AM
I was going to write up a bit myself, but now I don't think I can.
I'll never top this.
Excellent piece of work, thanks.
Posted by: Cherie Priest | April 11, 2005 11:19 AM
I too am glad that yours was my first reading of Ms. Dworkin's death;
even though you have a really hard history with her, and disagree
intensely with some of her hypotheses, you have been kind to her in
death, as well as life... and that's a helluva generous thing to
do/way to be.
If only she could have been a little kinder to herself...
Posted by: Q | April 11, 2005 11:29 AM
Thanks for writing this, Susie. I also have a lot of respect for
Dworkin and her incredibly challenging thought-provoking writing and
What did she actually say about transmen/transwomen? And where did she
say it? Can anyone let me know? I don't have all her books.
Posted by: badgerbag | April 11, 2005 11:47 AM
I know how you must grieve for your mom. I didn't allow myself the
time because of personal circumstances, and now I can see how it set
me back. And I have an ill dad and wife to take care of, plus
employment and other family situations.
I think one thing we are all groping for here is the following: our
cultural touchstones in the arts and letters are dying. Who will
replace them? Helmut Jahn? Dave Letterman and Jon Stewart? Camille
Paglia (okay, I like her in a weird way)? Andrew Sullivan? Barry Bonds
and Sammy Sosa? MoDo (compared with Mike Royko and Jack Newberg)? MLK
or the Jesse Jackson family?
Dare I say we are losing our youth. Or are we beginning to see where
we lived in an era of giants and we see them replaced by manufactured
celebrities and scholars?
Posted by: Boxster | April 11, 2005 11:53 AM
>Every time you hear some preacher/politician talk about "violence
against women" or how something is "degrading to women" tell them to
to send a royalty check to Andrea and ask them where they've done
lately to empower female sexual authority. I never understood why she
didn't attack them the way she attacked feminist pornographers.
Because they elevated her into the popular culture, or at least THEIR
popular culture. She hated the people they hated and that was all
either of them really cared about.
They formed a non-aggression pact with each other like the communists
and fascists of old. As long as sex-positive people were between them
as a buffer, they never shared a border.
Posted by: Roy Kay | April 11, 2005 12:03 PM
Wow. What a year this has been. I just returned from Amsterdam where I
traveled with my oldest son to eulogize his godfather, David Weiss who
passed away last week. David played a pivotal role in my growth as a
person and as a producer of erotica. David was Bill Higgins'partner in
Drake's Bookstore(s) in L.A. as well as in Amsterdam and Prague... the
point being that it seems so many people are departing, or I'm just
getting old (44!).
As for the oft-villified, sometimes justifiably, Ms. Dworkin: her
belief in the anti-female, sexist slant of most men was validated by
my assumption that she was anti-sex because she was so physically
unattractive. Even I, a man who professes to be an enlightened
thinker, have that base prejudice hard-wired to the degree that no
amount of surface cognizance can erase it. I can see why Ms. D
believed there was something askew in the male psyche. On that point,
she was correct.
The problem with Andrea's desire to "free" women is the same as all of
history's would-be liberators: they merely propose a change of
incarceration, not a real liberation. Andrea wanted women to be
released from societally imposed demands of female sexual self-image,
so that they could now don her bondage wear, i.e. her imposition that
the only alternative to casting off the former was to adhere to her
asexual or antisexual vision. Andrea was as much a liberator in the
long run as Castro, Stalin, Khomeini or Bush. "Meet the new boss, same
as the old boss... we won't get fooled again!"
I will be eternally grateful to Ms. D. Absent her insane lightning rod
antics, who will the pro-sex movement have to hold up and demonize?
Andrea made it easy to point to the other side as fanatic, crazy and
repressive. She was our unwitting ally. It's the silent enemies we
must truly fear, the pragmatic agendaists.
Wherever Andrea goes next, I hope she's wearing a sexy teddy with lace
ruffles, fishnet stockings, garter belt, and lotsa makeup. In my
vision of her new gig, she has a 36D-24-36 figure, the boobs are fake
and she's being dominated by five well endowed studs.
The question is this: in the scenario we just created, is she in
heaven or hell?
Farewell, Ms. Dworkin. My genuine wish for you is that you may be
happy at last.
P.S. Susie: thanks for a great eulogy.
Posted by: Christian Mann | April 11, 2005 12:03 PM
This line has been thrown around by you. Palac and crew since the
early nineties. I don't buy it for one second:
" every single woman who pioneered the sexual revolution, every
erotic-feminist-bad-girl-and-proud-of-it-stiletto-shitkicker, was once
a freakin' crazed fan of Andrea Dworkin. We all were."
The truth as I know it is much closer to what Bianca had to say up
" I think for feminists born in the eighties the role models were sex
radicals like you and Carol so there's a kind of knee-jerk resistance
to Dworkin, but then I realize I've never even read her... hmmm. The
porno-horror analogy is very fitting, though."
Yes, yes, I know the first crew wasn't born in the 80s, but I meet
soooo many women who are anywhere from teenagers to 40ish now (teens
in the 70s and 80s) who tell me they were taken in by the media-push
of pro-exploitation "sex-positive" stuff and then were blown away by
reading the work of feminists like Dworkin, and they mean it. That bit
about staunch radical feminists later finding their Happy Hooker side,
on the other hand, strikes me as PR fluff.
Posted by: Claire | April 11, 2005 12:06 PM
I am expecting many a "ding dong the witch is dead" type responses to
the death of Andrea Dworkin. And I am sure that many of the folks who
make them would say some things I'd even agree with since I really
didn't like her staunchly anti-porn/anti-sex stance. But your entry
was amazing. Honest, balanced and compassiononate.
It reminds of me of my graduation ceremony from Sarah Lawrence College
in 1997. All of us had been quite upset when our departing school
President completely ignored our voting and requests for a speaker at
the ceremony (something that had never been done in the past when
people selected such amazing speakers as Toni Morrisson, Cornel West,
etc.) and gave the honor of speaking to the man who was going to be
her boss at her next job. We formally protested days before the
ceremony and, the day of, all wore blue ribbons to signify free speech
and feeling that ours was being violated. We were also protesting a
recent long range plan presented by the faculty that included nothing
about diversity as they had promised. When our class president got up
and spoke she addressed the faculty and staff members who were angered
by our protests and told them that they were the ones who always
taught us to speak our minds and stand up for what we believed in.
This was their doing as much as it was ours.
Your statements about what people like you and Carol Queen took from
Dworkin's work were really beautiful to me. It showed me that by
seeing her work as totally negative I had never seen the opportunity
for it to inspire people to new ideas and frames to work in. The idea
that something so awesome could come out of work that seemed so
conservative and upsetting rocks my world. Thank you for pointing that
out to all of us.
Posted by: chriso | April 11, 2005 12:11 PM
Thank you, Susie.
Posted by: Nalo Hopkinson | April 11, 2005 12:21 PM
I'm surprised to find myself listed first in such distinguished
company in the lead of this very fine piece.
What an odd and amazing character she was - clearly lots of
brainpower, but so twisted up about lust and aggression. I guess
that's what made her so compelling to read. Somehow all the bottled up
lust & aggression came out, despite the best efforts of her ideology
to contain it.
Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 11, 2005 12:31 PM
I think you are on to something. I went to a prominent liberal arts
college (a secondary Ivy, if you will), so I rather have an idea about
the philosophical points to which you are alluding.
A glorious radio comedian in Chicago once said that that the true
radical is the one who takes the arrows in his or her back to advance
society. I think Ms Dworikin did. On some issues she was quite
correct, especially in those issues expressed in the bedroom with
one's SO. My extended family has had problems with spousal rape and
beatings and unwanted pregnancies and jerk husbands. I should also say
I am of an age where we were all entranced with the late Ms Dworkin
Gloria Steinem, Dick Cavett, Alan Alda and Phil and Marlo for
advancing knowledge of these sorts of issues.
As Susie mentioned in her obit (and I in my cloddish posts above), the
times left the woman by. She never understood what the second wave of
feminism meant. Whether Susie, Nina. Carol, Susan Block, or Ducky,
Andrea took the arrows for the second wave of feminism. Here, think of
progressive conservatives such as Ike, JFK and RFK allowing a more
progressive society to emerge. Not to mention Eleanor and Franklin and
Even in my prosperous community, I can see female intellectuals who
are true feminists explore motherhood and a senior management
Imagine! A story kept from the wires getting this much response. I
think we all recognize a cultural shift going on and, dare I say, it,
folks like us know we are all like the Chicago White Sox....soon to be
on the dust heap of history.
Let me wax my sports car and listen to Sinatra.
Posted by: Boxster | April 11, 2005 01:04 PM
I just got off the phone from the obits editor at the New York Sun. He
referred me to an excellent interview with Andrea Dworkin, by Will
Self, that was published in The Independent in London, but is sadly
not available in their web archives. Never fear! I got the NEXUS copy
of it, and I've posted it here:
It's an interesting story about what Andrea was thinking about in
recent years (1999) and how she felt about her legacy. Most
interesting thing I've read about her-- aside from her autobiography--
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 03:09 PM
I can't believe I didn't know about your blog till now!
I really appreciate this piece. I have long held you and Dworkin in
equal esteem for contributions you make/made to feminism. And while
that may seem impossible to do for some people - to hold two such
disparate views in the same hand - I find it has worked quite well.
Dworkin helped pave the way for people to take seriously the violence
in the porn industry, but you continue to pave the way for more and
more openness about sex and sexuality and porn that doesn't violate
people's civil rights to make or demean people.
Posted by: Eve | April 11, 2005 03:19 PM
Eve, it isn't holding disparate ideas; rather, it is understanding the
progression of thought along the left that, sadly, is lacking today.
Damn, why am I disturbed by Ms Dworkin's death?
Posted by: Boxster | April 11, 2005 03:32 PM
I suppose I have commenter "Imbralio" to thank for an example of what
Dworkin-Spin looks like at its worst.
The method is to start off by accusing your opponent of something that
makes them look like an inhuman piece of shit who doesn't deserve to
To wit, Imbralio begins by saying: "considering you [Susie] once
bragged about masterbating yourself to the testimony of rape victims
(Carol Queen's 1997 book), I find your comments on Andrea Dworkin...
Yeah, and I eat little children's fingers for dessert-- Come off it!
Why make up preposterous stories like that?
Since I haven't bragged OR masturbated about other people's grief, let
alone "rape testimonies," I always have to wonder about how that kind
of rumor gets started. I'm sure Carol Queen isn't slandering me, and I
don't recognize what title or passage Imbralio is quoting from her
Here's where I think the origin of the accusation comes from. In 1984,
Ronald Reagan's Attorney General released a widely criticized and
spoofed "report on pornography." It was highly puritanical and
prejudiced; much of it was inadvertently hilarious. "The Meese Report"
included, among other things, files from FBI agents who were sent into
adult theaters to watch porn movies and then describe the synopses.
They're like G-man porn reviews, and as you can imagine, they are
salacious and hysterical. Pure J.Edgar Hoover with a little dash of
At the time, I was editing ON OUR BACKS, a lesbian-made radical sex
zine, and I wrote, "I masturbated to the Meese Report until I nearly
I was widely quoted, as part of the ongoing public satire of the Meese
Commission. In Los Angeles, some fan even put my quote up on a marquee
on Santa Monica Blvd. I have a picture of it in my office that I'm
looking at right now.
Here's the thing... as someone who spent my earliest years as a young
woman organizing Take Back the Night marches, self-defense classes on
high school campuses, rape crisis hotlines and domestic violence
speak-ins --- I could go on and on --- who the hell do you think
you're talking to? I'm a woman, I'm a lifelong feminist, I'm an
activist, and if you even spent a few minutes getting to know me you
would already know this. I'm someone who knows about sexual assault
and vicious sexism first-hand, because, as Sojourner Truth said,
"Ain't I a Woman?"
I can see why people get mad at the Anita Bryant and Phyllis
Schlafly's of the world, because they have really been living such a
lie, and their hypocrisy hurt so many people. But to bash women like
me, or contine to ignore what activist sex workers have to say about
their lives and work? It's inexcuseable.
If you ever read "Herotica" or any of my other books, you would find a
lot of fearless women who presented a much-needed voice. If you read
my work about rape, or Pat Califia, or Gayle Rubin, Carole Vance, Nan
Hunter, Lisa Duggan, Carol Queen, Amber Hollibaugh, Annie Sprinkle,
Gail Pheterson, Dorothy Allison, -- OH I COULD GO ON AND ON--- you
would have a complete revelation. Sexual liberation and women's
liberation, gender revolution, are soulmates; you can't pull us apart.
I know I always end up sounding so earnest as I beg the Dworkinites to
stop Satanizing every feminist they don't understand. I can't respond
logically to statements like, "most men still really, really hate most
women." Right! I really really hate boiled spinach! It's so childish.
Men and women OBVIOUSLY have a much more complicated relationship of
loving and hating and interdependency and gender roles that get in the
way, and family ties and, AND, AND!
I think these kind of views get in the way of understanding how our
culture has woken up to the spectre of sexual violence, incest, rape,
domestic abuse, and all matters of sexual exploitation and cruelty. We
really do live in a different world where consciousness has been
transformed, and the dark ages can't easily claim a triumph.
I am wearing Birkenstocks today, by the way, and I plan on putting my
overalls in a few minutes.
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 03:47 PM
Ah, Susie, I worn a nice pair of jeans, a nice sweat shirt, Cole-Hahn
loafers and a BMW baseball cap, as my wonderful wife came home from
her business trip.
To your larger point: I was always a feminist, both of my wives were
(are0 feminists, and I shall not have it any other way. I became an
Episcopalian because they respect the proper place of women in
"I think these kind of views get in the way of understanding how our
culture has woken up to the spectre of sexual violence, incest, rape,
domestic abuse, and all matters of sexual exploitation and cruelty. We
really do live in a different world where consciousness has been
transformed, and the dark ages can't easily claim a triumph."
Cannot agree more.
Posted by: | April 11, 2005 04:13 PM
Thanks for writing this, Susie. I'm one of the new generation of
feminists who looks up to women like you and Carol and when I have
tried to read Andrea Dworkin, I've just gotten angry, frustrated, and
put it down. There were some things that really resonated with me, but
the militant anti-porn (even feminist porn!) and anti-sex messages
were overwhelming. Thanks for giving me a new perspective.
Posted by: Rory | April 11, 2005 05:15 PM
Another Sheldon siting! "Boxster" huh? Where do I go to get my reward?
Posted by: Real Feminist, Not the Fun Kind | April 11, 2005 05:16 PM
Rory, would you mind telling me what that "new" perspective is in a
sentence or two?
Is there some strange world I don't know about in which it's both
reprehensible and perfectly okey-dokey that men all over the world
masturebate to picture of women being ejacualted upon and anally
raped? How DOES that work exactly?
Posted by: Mia | April 11, 2005 05:19 PM
Before anyone else starts replying to Mia, I just want to wave my
editorial warning: No ad hominem attacks. No sinking to the worse
argument. I almost feel like deleting Mia's, but we'll see if we can
have a civil discussion.
Mia's charge makes a few assumptions:
Masturbation is disgusting
Masturbation to fantasies and pictures is appalling
Ejaculating is grotesque
Ejaculating upon fantasy is an outrage
Men are masturbating (see above) to pictures of women who are being
forced to perform for someone's sadistic kicks
Women models in such work are universally ejaculated upon, and
universally anally penetrated, and this is the typical picture of
Women don't masturbate
Women don't masturbate to fantasies or pictures
Women don't like sex
Women are not exhibitionisitic
Women do not like semen
Women do not like anal sex and would never consent to it
Men are not anally raped
Men are not anally penetrated
Pornography is all one thing, as described, with the same people in
each position as producer, actor, voyeur, etc.
I dont agree with any of those assumptions.
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 05:36 PM
Ionce called myself a feminist, but now I just call myself a women's
libber. I'm more concerned with advancing liberty than staging a
I would identify Dworkin on the left. She has definite collectivist
inclinations as were noted in the fawning interview Susie quoted:
"[Freedom of speech is] a brilliant way for people to not have to take
responsibility for what's out there."
Ahhh, legal intimidation=responsibility. We have a collective mandate
to intimidate perspectives we disagree with - or wish to ascribe
"I have come to believe that it's very hard for people to even think
that their sexual feelings could ever exist in a context of equality."
Actually a free people will recognize that the other person will have
autonomous aspirations that may or may not reflect theirs. Some like
to lead, some to be led, and some to partner equally. She seems to
desire dragooning society to fit only one model of engagement - one of
totally calibrated equality in all things.
Posted by: Roy Kay | April 11, 2005 06:29 PM
BTW..to Ron Kay's comments on Dworkin's ideology: she may be a
putative "leftist" because she uses "collectivist" and feminist
rhetoric; but she's definitely no genuine humanistic Leftist in my
book. In fact, her views on sex and porn alone denote her as nothing
less than an authoritarian and a conservative in feminist cloaking.
But then again, that's only my cracked, liberationist Leftist view of
things..your mileage may vary.
Posted by: Anthony Kennerson | April 11, 2005 06:48 PM
Crossposted from my own journal, with a few removals of personal
My first thought reading this post -- and I don't know if this is good
or bad -- was surprise that you thought of Dworkin as paving the way
for people like you. So much of the snippets of Dworkin I've read
mention that the sexual revolution was a lie that I'm surprised you
figured other big fans of Dworkin would have been thrilled with
feminist pornography, feminist sexworkers, etc.
But I also am impressed with what you say about the way Dworkin even
inspired the women she seems to me to hate. The way that feminist
discussions of sex and sexuality led people like you to question
sexuality, to try to refigure it in ways that were exciting and
liberating and not made by men. I think that she may well right there,
and if she is then even I have my own debts to Dworkin. I could
probably never even assert my own lack of interest in certain standard
figurations of heterosex without denying my desire for men if someone
like Dworkin hadn't said "Look, this kind of interaction is what
sexuality is to all these people, and this is what that means." To say
nothing of desire for women, though I do wonder if others would have
made the room for that just as well.
I'm very hurt by some of her remarks about BDSM, the ways she equates
it almost exactly with rape and violence in some of her work. But in a
funny way I wonder if maybe her influence allowed some of us to go
there in the first place. BDSM to me is as much about exploring new
ways to eroticize the body that aren't genitally focused (or focused
on breasts or any of the other Standard Sexy Body Parts in
heterosexist culture) as it is about eroticizing control. Sensation,
too -- it's not just "Pain is Fun Because Our Wires Are Crossed
Woohoo" (though it is that). It's also an attempt to seek the
eroticism in all kinds of experience. (I'm basically quoting Foucault
here. Because he's right.)
And I think if Dworkin could see it that way, which she probably
couldn't because she was always talking about Sade and probably
assumed we really are his direct descendants, I wonder if she'd get
behind some of the idea. After all, if something like hetero PIV
intercourse is problematic, there's the idea that we need new ways of
exploring sexuality. Women's ways of doing that.
And that's what I find in BDSM culture, in a culture that allows me to
be a top, in a culture with a rich history of women, in a culture that
allows me to penetrate (or not), that allows me to do the touching and
the guiding. I get to know who I am, at least when things go well. And
before I found this, I just used to toss and turn waiting for my
sexuality to coalesce around BEING TAKEN BY MEN because... I liked men
too much to not be ordinary, right?
So I suppose even in my own way, though 3/4 of her words that I read
sting because they seem aimed at me (or at least, aimed so poorly that
they hit me and other women as well as men and patriarchy) I'm
indebted to her as well.
Posted by: Trinity | April 11, 2005 07:36 PM
It's okey-dokey with me that men masturbate to pictures of women being
ejaculated upon, just as it's okey-dokey with me that women masturbate
to pictures of men being ejaculated upon, men masturbate to pictures
of men being ejaculated upon, and women masturbate to pictures of
women being ejaculated upon. Heck, I don't care if people of any
gender masturbate to pictures of vegetables being ejaculated upon.
Now, it's absolutely not okey-dokey with me that anyone masturbate to
a picture of anyone of any gender **actually** being raped. If anyone,
on the other hand, wants to masturbate to a picture of a staged rape
"scene" featuring any combination of adult humans and orifices, I say
"de gustibus non disputandum est." As for myself, I'll take vanilla.
Having disposed of that particular straw man, I will say that Susie, I
find your piece quite thoughtful and actually pretty different from
what you wrote in the RE/Search volume. I, too, did not know that Ms.
Dworkin had died, and was glad to read your appreciation of her life
and work before the anodyne blatherings of the professional
Dworkin was never a great favorite of mine, but I admired the passion
she brought to her work. I think your essay sums up why even those of
us who are as far as possible from her in our appreciation of sex,
intercourse, erotica, pornography, and even the female body itself
nonetheless mourn the passage of an honest and innovative adversary.
Posted by: JupiterPluvius | April 11, 2005 08:27 PM
As a sex-radical feminist, and the daughter of a radical feminist, I
have always had an interesting relationship to Andrea Dworkin and her
work. My mother, Mary Atkins, has been, for me, a role model who has
tirelessly worked against violence against women for over thirty
years. Andrea Dworkin has always been and continues to be one of her
My friends and colleagues have included Carol Queen, Patrick Califia,
and Wendy Chapkis as well as Anne Simonton & John Stoltenberg.
As a 40-something feminist, I grew up among the "sex wars" and somehow
found myself in the position of being able to listen to and learn from
amazing people on both sides of the often painfully personal debates.
I lived the debates in my own home and family as well.
My mother, now lives with me and my sex-radical partners. We have a
found a way to respect each others good intentions even when we
disagree on our choices. Our discussions often expand as well as
sharpen our own ideas.
This is a very personal way of saying thank you to both you Susie
Bright and to Andrea Dworkin (my mother and many others) for providing
a world where I could critically think about sex as well as embrace my
(author - "Looking Queer" and "Lesbian Sex Scandals")
Posted by: Dawn Atkins | April 11, 2005 09:44 PM
Here's a lively discussion on Andrea, with the famous letters that she
and John Irving exchanged in the Times a few years ago:
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 10:03 PM
Dawn, I appreciate your post so much... I think there a lot of women
like you and your mom out there. The "sex wars" led us to think it was
all so cut and dried, like we were two alien races, but it really
never was like that.
Mia, who IS honoring Dworkin's legacy today in the manner you respect?
Where are the memorials you appreciate? Have you written something?
Have any of the feminist activists you mentioned posted something?
I've been looking on the web, because I'm sure they must all be
holding her in their thoughts very closely right now.
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 10:17 PM
Well written, as always, Susie, and far more charitable than Dworkin
would have been to you had, god forbid, the situation been reversed.
If she had made any note of your passing at all, it would surely have
I like your observation that Dworkin rejected the notion of the
unconscious. I knew there had to be other areas where she and I
disagreed as profoundly as we did about sex and porn. I suppose the
rejection of all our unrecognized individual motivations made it
easier for her to deny her own.
I didn't know Ms. Dworkin had been ill, as I followed her career no
more closely than she followed mine. I strive for compassion in the
face of suffering wherever I encounter it, but there's no getting past
the fact that she despised you, me and everyone like us. I, too, found
that some of her observations had resonance, including those regarding
porn. However, I got fed up with her one-note approach to the
complicated subject of gender relations long, long before the symphony
Her ranting hatred of all things male and masculine was the source of
more misery and confusion for heterosexual men and women over the past
twenty years than all the sins she attributed to porn during that
time, by and large wrongly. Her thinking turned the bedroom, which
should be a place where people go to be loving and kind to each other
and to share pleasure, into a politicized battleground.
I knew right away that she didn't speak for me. My sexuality that
didn't fit in her box and she had no use for any story that didn't
conform to her vision of woman-as-eternal-victim. Indeed, among the
many insults she hurled at women like myself, none was more hurtful
than her loud insistence that we were incapable of asserting our
individual sexual identities because they had been stolen from us by
the vast, evil conspiracy of patriarchal domination and that we were
just too dumb and brainwashed to know it.
And then there was the matter of her undisguised contempt for my
friends, yourself included (though she always claimed it wasn't
personal, of course). In her skewed universe, we were either cynical
pimps who had thrown in with The Enemy or defeated rape victims in the
grip of Stockholm Syndrome. She berated us all from the safety of
lecture halls packed with supporters and dismissed every challenge to
openly debate women who disagreed with her.
She hated me and what I stand for as surely as any fundamentalist
hates me for what I do and who I am. She hated me and my kind so much
that she willingly jumped into bed with those whose number one
priority is the eradication of reproductive choice for women, simply
because dirty pictures made her that angry.
I acknowledge Dworkin's intellect, and the fact that she broke a spade
or two of new ground, even as I reject her analysis, root and branch.
This is far more validation than any of us would ever have received
from her. I take no satisfaction in her passing, but it would be
hypocritical to say the least for me to mourn it.
Dworkin didn't need therapy, She inflicted her pain and suffering on
the rest of us. It was a decades-long tantrum, and I was over it
fifteen years ago. Now, at last, so is she. The haunting question that
remains: when will the rest of this culture be able to say the same?
Posted by: Nina Hartley | April 11, 2005 11:30 PM
I've found one answer to my question to Mia: Nikki Craft, who I met in
Santa Cruz in 1978 when we organized the first TBTN march here, has
set up a sympathetic memorial site for AD:
And this blog has a zillion sympathetic references and international
If you want to follow this the memorializing from a fan's point of
view, or just want to see the AD-fellow-traveler side of the story,
keep checking the RadGeek thread. They seem committed to doing regular
And now that I've done my little research project, I see Nina slipped
in with a post that is just the tonic I needed.
Posted by: Susie | April 11, 2005 11:37 PM
I'm so glad Nina Hartley wrote a response here, because she addresses
one of the weirdest and most excruciating parts of Dworkin's legacy:
she was, by her own account, a former prostitute, who despised and
vilified every other prostitute/sex worker who ever spoke out on her
Dworkin's constant allegiance with beleaguered sex workers only worked
as long as the other girls kept their mouth shut, (or had their words
ghostwritten, like LInda Lovelace). There has been a MILITANT,
international, sex workers' movement for decades now, and Dworkin only
ignored them or excoriated them.
She was so extreme in her anti-whore rhetoric, that it reminded me of
how the Ku Klux Klan go nuts over a "nigger-lover" more than any black
person they could think of. Dworkin was more vicious to women she
considered traitors to her cause than she was to any individual man.
Just as a teensy belive-or-not example, let me tell you the story of
how I found out that Andrea Dworkin knew I existed.
First of all you have to know a little history... Dworkin and her ally
Catherine MacKinnon lobbied, somewhat successfully, for legislation to
criminalize "pornography" as an actionable hate crime... i.e., if you
felt like your life had been hurt by a particular porn magazine or
video, you could sue the makers.
Their efforts made a big showing in Minneapolis and Indianapolis,
(though ultimately defeated), but where they really scored was in
The Canadian Customs Board adopted their rhetoric as the criteria by
which all imported art and media should be judged by. That is why to
this day you cannot send anything into Canada that MIGHT by
"considered degrading to women." You would not believe the
embarrassing list of descriptions that has boiled down to... another
yarn! I have to get back to my original encounter.
In the mid-eighties, I was publishing ON OUR BACKS and I wrote a
regular column, called "Toys For Us"-- which was cheeky but
educational sex advice.
One issue I wrote a story about how to successfully enjoy vaginal
fisting. It was wildly popular in our little milieu, because no one
had written about such a thing before... "Fisting" was considered a
The next thing I know, the feminist newspaper "off our backs," which
was toting the Dworkin line, had an outraged editorial against my
fisting story. The author said that if ANY lesbian tried the barbaric
antics I described and suffered injuries or death ( !!! ) they should
sue my ass off.
They got Andrea on the horn and asked her if she thought my crime
against women should be avenged. I wish I could tell you EXACTLY what
she replied, but the yellowed copy of this issue is buried in my attic
somewhere. I remember that she passionately agreed that I should be
prosecuted, that it was another example of female genocide, and
something to the effect that I was better off dead.
I remember my shock, both at her words and also at the notion that she
had read anything of mine at all.
For those of you who have tried vaginal fisting, or even four fingers,
you have to admit, this is a real LAFF. If she thought fisting was
bad, wait `til she found out about childbirth!
Of course, it also makes you want to cry. I did both. It was so
insane, so ignorant, and yet it scared me because I knew these people
were "in charge" of the lesbian feminist party line at the time.
You shuddered to imagine them all running the world... and yet a few
years later, there was Andrea, working with "The Man," in the form of
the rightwing fundamentalists she allied with in the Midwest and
Canada. For me, that was the final straw. She was in bed with people
who live by the Old Testament-- it was such a corrupt alliance.
I really need to go to bed, but I drank all this iced tea at exactly
the wrong moment...
Posted by: susie | April 12, 2005 01:23 AM
Holy crap. I have a newfound respect for Andrea Dworkin. I'm sorry
it's come after her death, I'm sorry I've compartmentalized her for so
long in the "oh, she's that crazy intellectual who said 'sex is rape'"
box in my mind.
Thanks, susie, seriously.
In honor of her memory, I vow not to jack off to porn for a week ... a
day ... an hour ... oh, fuck it, see ya
Posted by: Demogenes Aristophanes | April 12, 2005 05:30 AM
While Andrea and I diverged wildly on the issue of pornography, as a
young feminist, I was energized by the molotov cocktails she was
hurling over the wall. "Sex is rape" was a great, hyperbolic soundbite
that shook people up, and maybe made them think about issues like
consent and personhood, and that's all to the good. We need radical
voices to draw the eye to the truths the mainstream is too polite to
mention in mixed company. It doesn't mean they're right, but they're
Thanks for a lyric, thought-provoking obit that made me remember what
it was like to be young and angry and excited. Good on ya, Susie, and
you too Andrea, wherever you are . . .
Posted by: Angelle | April 12, 2005 05:44 AM
Angelle, your comment reminds me of a situation in Thailand that came
to my attention a number of years ago (forgive me for sounding like a
pedantic buffoon for a moment), the crux of which was that a number of
environmental NGO's were raising an enormous stink over the filming of
'The Beach' on an island in the Andaman Sea. Apparently the filmmakers
had shipped in an enormous amount of sand and non-indigenous fauna to
make the eponymous 'beach' more 'authentically tropical'.
A series of letters to The Nation and Bangkok Post ensued, full of
outrage over these environmentalists' kicking up a lot of, well, sand
over what was probably a fairly minor environmental indiscretion by
And, as some letter-writers pointed out, there was a far more
important environmental destruction going on at the very same time
(which also had serious human rights components as well), which was
the building of the Yadana natural gas pipeline from Burma through
Ratchaburi province in Thailand (to make a boring story short, it
involved wild elephant habitat from the environmental side, and slave
labor from the human rights side).
Why couldn't the NGO's focus laser-like on that issue, wrote the more
palatable letter-writers, instead of making a circus out of 'The
To which view I wrote a letter to the editor of the Post (I worked for
the Nation, so couldn't write them), saying that the opponents of the
Yadana pipeline could only wish they had an elephant named Leonardo
DiCaprio to be the poster boy for their cause.
The point being, that tactics are important, and seizing opportunities
as they appear is crucial.
Your statement that '"Sex is rape" was a great, hyperbolic soundbite
that shook people up, and maybe made them think about issues like
consent and personhood, and that's all to the good.We need radical
voices to draw the eye to the truths the mainstream is too polite to
mention in mixed company ...' reminds me of this again.
Posted by: Demongenes Aristophanes | April 12, 2005 06:10 AM
A great response that recalled the contradictory feelings incided by
Andrea Dworkin. In an attempt to draw something positive out of this
sad event I hope that the divisiveness and in-fighting that Dworkin
helped to spearhead will pass alongside her, while her fighting
spirit, no-holds-barred approach, and cutting intelligence continues
to inspire activism and scholarship. May the phoenix of a truly
inclusive liberation movement rise roaring from her ashes.
Posted by: Linda Wayne | April 12, 2005 07:16 AM
Of course tactics matter. That's where change is actually fought for
and occaisionally won. But so do Big Ideas. That's often where change
I don't know why Andrea eventually went so far off the rails, and I
think it would be irresponsible to speculate, but some of what she
said was absolutely critical for society to hear. Much of it was being
said out loud for the first time.
My point is not that she was right, but that her voice was needed.
Radical voices keep the tacticians honest.
And really, without the screaming about Leo, would the larger
discussion have made it out of the echo chamber that time at all?
Posted by: Angelle | April 12, 2005 07:19 AM
Wow. Susie, again, you are a mensch among mensches.
Dworkin's death feels personal to me, thought it's been years since
I've read her or seen her. I first read Dworkin's work in manuscript
in the late 1970s, when I was part of the Motheroot collaborative. I
didn't like it, but I couldn't put it down. Boy, did we fight about
that one. My hazy memory was that half of us loathed it, half of us
wanted to rush it into print immediately. There were no mild feelings.
But as Susie and so many others have pointed out, Dworkin's work--even
as I disagreed with it--helped define my beliefs more clearly.
Then I moved to Brooklyn, and I would see her (and John) on the
street. Never spoke to her, but I knew she was there. Sort of scared
of her, actually. One of my friends, a bookstore owner, described
her...listen to this--as "motherly." He said, "She even offered me her
sweater one day, when it was cold in the store."
I will probably disagree with most of what Dworkin had to say--and
fight its effects, when necessary. But she also loaned people
sweaters. RIP, Andrea.
Posted by: Martha Garvey | April 12, 2005 07:36 AM
Interesting personal observation by someone who saw her in action with
>I used to see her in Park Slope quite often in the late 1980s; she
was so huge. She was very rude to shop clerks in front of me several
My feeling is that Dworkin was an abusive manipulator who accused
others of abuse to make herself bullet proof on being called on her
shit. She constantly had to manufacter new abuses, because it kept her
in the limelight as a victim.
I am not surprised that she gets a favorable hearing in Europe. Europe
is generally more inclined to authoritarianism. Further, Europe is
usually willing to believe the worst about the US, particularly if
that is cast in a leftist slant.
Posted by: Roy Kay | April 12, 2005 08:27 AM
I recall Andrea Dworkin's writings from my university days in the late
80s and early 90s.
Then she was just a voice to me - and not one I particularly liked. It
was shrill, but not that much shriller than many others in academia.
There were so many messages in the university books back then, about
the myriad ways in which Western Society Sucked.
And when I read an ultra-violent quote from her own novel, I thought:
What a hypocrite. Condemning violence against women with one hand,
wallowing in degradation of women with the other.
Only when I read the obituaries did I actually see a photo of Dworkin.
No, I didn't gloat. But, may God forgive me, my first thought upon
seeing her photo (do you want honesty or piety?) was "Boy, was she
ugly." There, I said it.
Please don't get this wrong, but I have a question: would Dworkin's
impact on culture have been different if she had been beautiful, but
peddled the exact same message?
Picture that, if you can: a really gorgeous woman, perhaps with slim
long legs, saying the things Dworkin said with the same absolute
Is that even possible? Would a beautiful Andrea Dworkin be taken more
or less seriously? By other women? By men? I'm asking because I don't
know the answer, and it's maddening.
Dworkin wasn't a "lone voice in a wilderness." She was as much part of
her period in history as Camille Paglia or Nina Hartley or Phyllis
Schlafly. (Perhaps Ms. Hartley had the greatest impact of them all.)
If anyone wants to speak out against violence to women today, they
should do so. For instance, against forced female circumcision in the
Or against "honor killings" in other cultures, or the systematic
murdering and mutilation of women for dowry money in India.
These are examples of violent oppression as part of a whole culture,
supported by political and economical interests...
...but of course those victims are poor, non-WASP and foreigners, so
why should WE care?
Do we care?
Posted by: Shy Person | April 12, 2005 08:59 AM
For years I've thought of porn as a no-good-guys kind of situation -
whom do you back, the power-hungry politicians for whom an anti-smut
crusade is a cheap source of votes, the televangelists who watch the
money roll in every time they rail against smut (if not sex itself),
or the mainstream pornographers who degrade women (and men) and who
regularly insult the intelligence of their clientele? I'll tell you,
the worst part of being lonely and celibate back in the day was having
no sexual outlet but this Atlantic-sized cesspool of brainless,
passionless literary and pictorial sludge. Praise "Bob" for people
like R. Crumb, Roberta Gregory, Reed Waller and the late Kate Worley,
Candida Royalle, Betty Dodson, Susie Bright (why does that name ring a
bell?) and all the others who lifted sexual dialogue and media out of
As for :"The media image of women today is pathetic; it''s Barbie on
Steroids", I don't have much contact with mainstream media these days.
It's all propaganda anyway. I'm not talking about the outrightly
political stuff like on Fox News and such. I mean the subtle and
not-very-subtle cultural stuff that the "entertainment" industry slips
to ya under the radar of your consciousness, day in and day out, like
it's been doing ever since the first TV sets went on sale half a
century ago. Those scumbags have been telling us how to think for
longer than I care to recount. What they continue to do to our
children's minds is downright criminal. How can we call ourselves a
free society when a particularly odious kind of conformity is
constantly being high-pressure-marketed to young, impressionable
people? For more information check out http://www.adbusters.org.
As for Ms. Dworkin, what I remember most vividly about her is her
testimony before the Canadian Parliament which resulted in one of the
most restrictive censorship laws on this continent. For years, you
could not bring sexual literature across the Canadian border without
it being seized by customs. Gay and lesbian bookstores were endlessly
harassed by authorities while big-box chain bookstores who sold the
same kinds of things were basically left alone (I called this law "The
Independent Bookstore Extinction Act").
And as for Ms. Solanas' points, I agree with every one of them, except
of course the elimination of the male sex!
Posted by: C.S. Lewiston | April 12, 2005 09:11 AM
Trinity, meet my husband. He has some medical issues that would make
it impossible for you to be taken by him, and he would refuse to take
or be taken by you.
I appreciated reading the post on this fine day. This is a good,
Posted by: leah | April 12, 2005 09:15 AM
Not only was Andrea Dworkin not a lone voice in the wilderness, she
left thousands of us behind more determined than ever to carry on the
work she began.
The radical feminist community can be found here:
posting tributes, favorite quotes, and our own memories. This might be
a good place to go for anyone unfamiliar with her life and work.
Posted by: Heart | April 12, 2005 11:03 AM
Andrew Sullivan posted this comment today:
FRUM AND DWORKIN: They agreed on one important thing: the need to roll
back sexual freedom:
"And in one respect at least, she shared a deep and true perception
with the political and cultural right: She understood that the sexual
revolution had inflicted serious harm on the interests of women and
children - and (ultimately) of men as well. She understood that
all-pervasive pornography was not a harmless amusement, but a powerful
teaching device that changed the way men thought about women. She
rejected the idea that sex was just another commodity to be exchanged
in a marketplace, that strippers and prostitutes should be thought of
as just another form of service worker: She recognized and dared to
name the reality of brutality and exploitation where many liberals
insisted on perceiving personal liberation."
And she shared with Frum a deep suspicion of people who believe they
are free and act accordingly.
The Frum mentioned is David Frum of the National Review Online. He, as
you may know, wrote the "Axis of Evil" speech.
Posted by: Boxster | April 12, 2005 11:31 AM
Well, that memorial looks for real, thank God.
All of this catty disengenuous stuff from the mainstream media
sex-capitalist crowd is driving me nuts.
Posted by: Markie | April 12, 2005 11:53 AM
Thank you, Susie, for initiating this valuable debate, in which at
least one side, with its sneering, dismissive and intellectually
dishonest flame-throwing, certainly reveals itself once again in all
its virulence to those of us who are generally successful in avoiding
its splenetic spewing.
Particularly nauseating is the attempt to portray Dworkin as a victim
of a vast patriarchal conspiracy to suppress her opinions. That, of
course, would explain why she enjoyed a well-funded career as a public
intellectual for two decades, sold hundreds of thousands of copies of
her books, appeared regularly on the op-ed pages of mainstream
newspapers and rated a lead obit in the NYT. So effectively were her
views stifled and silenced that we're not even discussing them here,
As a reader of Dworkin's work who found some genuine insights into the
hidden links between sex and violence in the better-reasoned of her
tracts, I believe that, at the end of her day, she was what she had
always been: a hate-monger who advocated violence against men in
general and women whose opinions differed from hers.
The bigotry that she preached, had it been directed at any minority
group other then men, would have been instantly recognizable as
belonging to the extreme right, where she always enjoyed far more
support and admiration than she ever inspired among leftists, liberals
or the vast majority of women and men who identify as feminists. The
inability of left-wing ideologues to recognize and reject a
cross-dressing reactionary is an enduring weakness that leads to
continuing embarrassments of the kind I've been reading all morning.
Kinda like when Kate Millet praised the mullahs of post-revolutionary
Iran for "freeing women from the tyranny of the male gaze" through the
imposition of the chador, even as hundreds of Iranian women were being
executed for prostitution and other "immoral" behavior.
But then, Dworkin would probably have been an eager trigger-puller for
that kind of revolution, had she been able to take time off from the
The ugly truth is that Dworkin, no different from Lou Sheldon or
Randall Terry, built a comfortable livelilhood for herself by
denouncing those without whom she would have had to figure out some
other means of paying the rent. Would that she had.
Posted by: Ernest Greene | April 12, 2005 12:29 PM
I went on to make a film you would have hated (did you see it?) but
you were one of my first loves. At 17 years old I was 20 years your
junior but your books were so seductive that I didn't have a chance.
You were a passion I hadn't known, the passion of Outrage and Fury and
Fierce Ethics, of Revolution. You made me see the Truth about the
world (a Truth that faded later, but oh, at the time...). You
unraveled everything. Gloria Steinem's feminism, my best friend before
you, was nothing but a school girl friendship, a couple of book
reports and holding hands.
Andrea, you spoke so negatively of (het) sex, but you wrote to me like
the best top's have fucked me. I wanted your next word, to be knocked
to the ground with your next idea, the sweet ways you picked me up and
cuddled me and reassured me that I could become like you, that I could
fight the patriarchy.
I have fought patriarchy, but I didn't become like you. I left you,
betrayed you, and you didn't age well.
Perhaps all lions do not age well.
I love you and will always love you Andrea.
Live Nude Girls UNITE!
Posted by: Julia Query | April 12, 2005 12:44 PM
I love underground comix and AVN is really neato!
I'd prefer to marry well though.
Posted by: Girly Chick | April 12, 2005 12:46 PM
Original obit from Washington Post:
Posted by: Rudy | April 12, 2005 01:45 PM
>Roy, I really do stand corrected.
Well, we could have a brawl just to prove how violent we, as men, are
- on general principles. Of course we should limber up by lifting a
few chocolate martinis first. (And thanks to Susie for turning me in
Posted by: | April 12, 2005 02:54 PM
thank you susie. i have been walking around all day feeling the loss.
andrea and I shared a birthday and a feeling about how anti-semitism
and misogyny come from the same place
i have the same love/anger towards her
as people today ask me who she was, I can direct them here
thank you for your perfect, beautiful portrait of what she meant to us
Posted by: jill soloway | April 12, 2005 03:02 PM
Jill, I didn't know you were a... Libra? I think your and Dworkin's
birthdate is the end of September, is that right?
Thanks for posting.
And on the other side of the gracious divide, I'm afraid I've waved
"Buh-Bye" to one of our commenters who wrote a personal attack on
someone else who'd been writing here. It was cruel, and very
I've deleted that entry and I don't want that poster coming back here
again; you're not welcome.
It pains me to turn away anyone, because I want my blog to be
welcoming to people who might be timid or shy elsewhere.
But a big part of what makes a place hospitable is to not tolerate
personal, "ad hominem" insults. I won't put up with Troll syndrome
developing, where someone snarky is just lying in wait, trying to pick
a fight that is designed to go nowhere but insult.
I might also add that it is never a good idea to attack someone's
mother, which was the final straw in this troll's case.
If you post here more than once, I'd appreciate it if you gave your
name and your email or personal URL address. It helps create a sense
of openess and accountability.
Thanks for listening to this message from the Etiquette Lady, and now
we return to our normal discussion...
Posted by: Susie Bright | April 12, 2005 03:42 PM
Gah, that slander from Mia [now deleted] about Julia Query and SEIU is
too personal, it's like you're talking about some imaginary union
stereotype. The leadership of SEIU local 790 is kind of my idea of
what the revolution would be about: 75% female, mostly people of
color, 100% badass. I'd encourage you to contact transmen field rep
Robert Haaland or sister Exec. President Josie Mooney and tell them
what you think they're doing with the Lusty Lady membership... I'm
sure listening to their responses to you would be an enjoyable
I go back and forth on Dworkin, who I guess I tend to lump in with
women more directly focused on opposing lesbian SM or transmen than
One one hand, we desperately need the correction to the prevailing sex
positivity that an updated Dworkin would represent. We're now at the
point where it's very difficult to articulate, say, what's icky about
Hooters or what's suspicious (from an SM-positive and feminist
position) about images of convention that have dommes dressed in latex
and high heels. We need ways of addressing the ickiness, and they need
to be no compromise in expression, without apologies to men.
On the other hand, there are scores of women from Dworkin's golden
days who had the responsibility to sit down for an herbal tea with any
number of SM dykes and trannies and all sort of people that didn't fit
theory and look them in the eyes and understand the personal truths
they were saying. Instead they believed in the precise accuracy of
their rhetoric more than real people, and in so doing set back
feminism as a movement back, I honestly think, decades.
Posted by: Greg Shaw | April 12, 2005 03:48 PM
Thanks, Susie, for this post (which I linked to in my post today), and
everyone for your comments - I am unaccountably sad about her passing;
I honestly hadn't given her much thought in ages, but she woke me up
to a lot of truth, one way or another, back in the day.
Posted by: alphabitch | April 12, 2005 05:24 PM
"And really, without the screaming about Leo, would the larger
discussion have made it out of the echo chamber that time at all?"
Yeah, Angelle, exactly. That is, no, it wouldn't have. Also the same
people talking about Leo were also working on the pipelne issue, and
they knew precisely what they were doing.
Posted by: Demogenes Aristophanes | April 12, 2005 05:49 PM
Laura Miller, mentioned above as the woman who reviewed Dworkin's
autobiography for the Times (beautifully, I thought) has written a
memorial piece for Salon:
Interesting that the critic above who spoke of Laura imagined that she
was "assigned" to cover Dworkin as some kind of hit job. Rather, it's
because Laura gave a damn, and it wouldn't have been noticed
otherwise. Oh, I guess I shouldn't try to rise to the bait...
Posted by: Susie Bright | April 12, 2005 08:50 PM
You write some great obits, Susie.
I'm no fan of most of her work, but AD always made me a little sad. So
many of the demons she saw were so much in her own head. She was a
smart, talented woman who would have been much more help to the world
if she had just conquered herself first. But instead, she ended up
lost in a hell of fear, misandrony and weird rape delusions.
"The problem is MEN."
The problem is US. And there isn't really anybody except US. All else
I hope she finds some peace.
Posted by: Gavagirl | April 12, 2005 09:05 PM
You know, I really thought I would never feel for Andrea Dworkin, but
Susie, you managed to humanize her in this moving testimony. She was
the embodiment of feminist rage, and as you said she got stuck in
that, which is a pity.
That you could speak so well of her despite her venom against you, and
that you could do so with such honesty, is a reminder to us all that
we never know the fullness of another human being, and so should be
careful in our judgments.
I'll never agree with Andrea's opinions on pornography or a lot of
other things, and I do think she let her rage get the better of her,
but now I know more than this, and will therefore judge less.
Thank you so much for that.
Posted by: Karen Anne Mitchell | April 12, 2005 09:10 PM
Thank you, Susie. I sent my lover (a younger man who may or may not
have ever heard of Andrea Dworkin) the New York Times obit and later a
link to your blog. What you wrote validated so many of the feelings
and assertions I included in my introduction to the NYC obit for him
this morning, which I would like to share here:
"...this world of both men and women needed Andrea Dworkin, for what
she did that was right and maybe even for what she did that wasn't.
This is ultimately a most respectful obituary for someone who
steadfastly held to her own views, however extreme.
I still own "Pornography: Men Possessing Women" and while I don't know
where it is, know that I was once given "Heartbreak" as a gift from a
friend. By that time, I wasn't so tolerant of Dworkin's stances, but
considered pondering them nevertheless.
Part of what she speaks of is a world that sadly still exists. Let's
not fool ourselves into thinking it doesn't; a world where sex slave
trade still subjugates and destroys, where pain and torture of real
live female human beings is but the lubricant for some sick men's
so-called sexual release.
Should it shape our world with negativity and hostility? Our paradigm?
How we live our everyday? No, I would hope not. She of course saw
threads of such things interwoven into everyday society. But to
diminish her thoughts to that of mere rantings would be wrong as well,
She was willing to speak up about things that on some level really
were hurting women at a time when no one else did--or at least cause
people to think about things they hadn't considered. For that, I am
And I'm thankful to you, Susie, for what I feel is a brilliant and
relevant contribution to the memory of Andrea Dworkin.
Posted by: CJG | April 12, 2005 09:56 PM
This post and discussion have had me brooding all day long. "Brooding"
isn't perhaps a strong enough word--several times I've been close to
I cannot doubt that many of Dworkin's essential insights were
essentially true. There is every reason to believe that if anything in
ours and other human societies is deeply steeped in the politics of
dominance and oppression, sexuality must be one of those things. And
one need only barely look at much pornography or observe men in a
strip joint to see the soul-sucking, dehumanizing male gaze.
And yet, and yet...human sexuality is inherent, it's joyous, and it's
delightfully carnal; it should be no more tainted by the politics of
oppression than is the carnal joy and vigor of a delicious meal. Suzie
and fellow travelers battle the dehumanization and champion the joy
while Dworkin et al unwittingly (one hopes) reify the dehumanization
and effectively deny the joy. So terribly sad.
A close friend just wrote extensively on the incarnation of the divine
as represented in "The Bacchae". That her ideas should be churning
away in my subconscious as I read of Andrea Dworkin's death seems, to
me, to be apt.
Posted by: Keith M Ellis | April 12, 2005 10:22 PM
I felt bad when my husband told me she'd died this morning, and
grateful when I read your
piece, Susie. I wanted to mourn her and I'm glad you took the lead.
But why, really? She did some damage, after all. Other respondants
have talked about the
harm she helped cause for small publishers and bookstores; she had no
business trucking with
the Meese commission. I want to add that while small presses and
bookstores were savaged,
Kathleen Woodiwiss's rape-fantasy bodice rippers were flying off the
shelves (the Flame and
the Flower had a first print run of 600,000). Of course the Meese
Commission didn't notice.
Or maybe they did notice but hey, business is business.
But Andrea Dworkin should have noticed -- 600,000+ breathless readers
of a rape fantasy
should have caught her eye, should have added some breadth and sweep
and energy of thought
to her unholy alliance with the anti-pornography cause.
Of course I don't think Woodiwiss should have been savaged either; you
did a good job of
understanding the bodice-rippers, Susie, back then. If Andrea Dworkin
paid attention to
this, I'm sorry I missed it. But I don't think she did.
Still, I suppose it was the beauty of her writing, sentence by
sentence. that made me mourn
her death. She hasn't been quoted enough in what I've read today.
Here's a passage I love,
from "Pornography: Men Possessing Women" -- "In epics, dramas,
tragedies, great books,
slight books, television, films, history both documented and invented,
men are giants who
soak the earth in blood." There's depth and irony here, and perfect
pitch and cadence to
burn; somehow she could sneer while she was chanting; she was great at
self-importance --she reserved some splendidly-turned "sez who's" for
certain a kind of
I'd love to hear more from other people who found her writing as
extraordinary as I did. Yes, she was a great pornographer, and I think
that's a key to what she was doing, but it also makes it such a
mystery. I think she made up some of the things she said really
happened, probably because she refused to believe there was such a
thing as a pornographic imagination -- but how can a pornographer deny
his or her imagination? I hope someone out there has a deeper
understanding of this.
I don't know how to end this, except to say that her gifts were
awesome and the uses she put
them to were sometimes pretty awful. But still to mourn, to sit shiva
in cyberspace. Thanks for opening this up, Susie.
Posted by: Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield | April 13, 2005
Even though I often feel older than the hills, at 36 I think I missed
the true era of radical feminism. Oh, it was certainly in full force
around me in my childhood and teens, but girls my age were already
reaping the rewards.
We were like the spoiled rich kids whose parents couldn't begin to
explain to them what poverty was like, and how fortunate we were to
have so much.
I was so young when Roe Vs Wade and the feminist movement swung into
gear that, for all intents and purposes, I never lived in a world
without woman's liberation being a huge part of public discourse.
I read Secret Garden in my teens and didn't understand the appeal.
Already I couldn't relate to the fantasies of women the generation
before. I like the book on men's fantasies more - their fantasies
seemed hotter, more vital. The women might as well have been seperated
from my by two generations rather than just one.
When I first saw Dworkin I was a teen trying to be Madonna. I could
see no common ground. I couldn't understand why someone would go on
Donahue looking like that!
As time went on I realized that being Madonna is only liberating if it
is YOUR fantasy, and not a requirement in order to female enough. When
I got beyond looks being the sum of what I offered the world, I began
to have compassion for Dworkin. I began to feel compassion for all
women who commit the crime of not being thin enough or young enough.
And now I see the next generation and they don't get it any more than
I did when I was them. Looks and flirtations are commodities that come
all too easy and you cannot convince them that it's a double-edged
sword. And you cannot tell them, the girls who have inherited the
riches from the generations before - that there was once a time of
Posted by: Nicolette | April 13, 2005 01:39 AM
Thank you for your even-handed take on Dworkin. I only was aware of
her 2000 rape incident through your blog and, like you, sense that she
had "lost it" in some way.
She seemed rather forgotten in US, but had a more sympathetic
following in UK --including Michael Moorcock and John Berger as
supporters. Sadly, much of feminism went from the streets onto an MLA
panel a while back and this made Dworkin's hand-to-hand combat style
of activism easy to dismiss.
She was a complex person, and maybe, someday, a biography might reveal
some of the things in her life that created the public persona.
Also, every obit I've read hits upon the "manhater" angle. Not true--
maybe ambivalence, but even if she was, no body ever seems to ever
label the non-stop parade of violenece gainst women as the product of
"women hating." Or, in the case of people in the public sphere like
the late Saul Bellow, it's maybe labeled misogyny.
Posted by: Joel Lewis | April 13, 2005 07:02 AM
Obituary in the UK Guardian by Julie Bindel (a fan):
; tribute by Katherine Viner (another fan):
With Susie's generous tribute as one key exception, the reports on her
death, and the follow-up, have conformed to what I suspected, if not
feared. Anti-porn feminists seem to have learnt nothing and forgotten
nothing since the 1980s: I really ought not to rise to the bait. I did
my 'mea culpa' phase about porn/being a man years ago, and I'm still
not sure I'm any the better for it, compared to reading, say,
'Pleasure and Danger', 'Caught Looking' or Susie's 'The Prime of Miss
Kitty MacKinnon'. When Susie had the old 'Forum' I nominated
'Pornography: Men Possessing Women' as one of the top ten feminist
books of all time - as much for it's role in the 'sex wars' as for its
impact - but it's not a place I want to revisit in a hurry.
Posted by: DC (in UK) | April 13, 2005 07:27 AM
Susie! Hi! Whoa, it's like I fell into a time tunnel reading all these
comments. Very easy to imagine myself back in my old office in NYC
editing something about the Meese Commission.
Beautiful eulogy. I linked it in my mundane little livejournal. (I
didn't know you even had a blog until today.)
Bookmarking you and planning many future visits.
Posted by: Liz McKenna | April 13, 2005 08:02 AM
Susie, Thank you for such a lovely obit on Andrea. Like many who
posted here, I was awed by her prose, her power and passion (sorry for
that alliteration). I am a long-time feminist, anti-violence activist,
and a lesbian, and yet I disagreed with her on a number of issues. As
a civil-libertarian, I was disheartened that she allowed herself to be
used by filth like Ed Meese, whose only purpose is to oppress anyone
who wasn't of the majority group.
And yet, she was inspirational in many respects. She broke new ground,
spoke much truth about violence against women when few were willing to
do so. And who could not be moved when she exhorted the masses with
tears streaming down her face? I was. Even when I disagreed with her.
In my mind, she was the bible-thumper of the women's movement, if you
can excuse the metaphor. Her speeches took on the character of a
revival meeting. Few feminists, or folks on the left (except perhap
some great union activists like Cesar Chavez or Richard Trumka) are
able to rouse up the masses like she could.
It was that gut-level emotion, coupled with her intellectual acuity
that boggled me. She was a brilliant writer who broke open the world
for women. This was her weakness as well, for she failed to see how
she opened new doors for new voices, new ways of being in the world
(evidenced by postings here), and consequently she also failed to
embrace the kind of change exemplified by women such as you, Susie.
It is a difficult dance, I believe, between sexual empowerment and
capitulation. I haven't resolved for myself whether or not some women
pornographers are not simply repeating the methods of their male
predecessors. But I do know that not all are. I also feel that until
we have achieved the kind of equality that Andrea hoped for
(politically), joined with other forms of racial, class, gender
equality, the fundamental question as to whether true choice is
possible for women remains unanswered.
I would like to add that those who dump on Andrea for not being
attractive--that's exactly the kind of petty sexism that feeds the
woman-hating legions of the right. We don't need to stoop to that. Not
all of us are blessed with the kind of looks that Madison Ave.
created. How she appeared did not diminish the power of her work, her
words, or her struggle.
Posted by: Clairsky | April 13, 2005 08:05 AM
Pam, your comments about Dworkin, vis a vis her poetic style, and also
comparing her work in the 70s to the heydey of bodice-rippers, is
really spot-on. I wish you'd write a whole story about those parallel
I think the romanticism of Dworkin's writing and ideals, are both
things that got under people's skin, certainly my own included. It's a
quality you don't see around much today, replaced by irony in choking
DC, I'm glad you brought up Caught Looking, Pleasure and Danger-- I
immediately went to add them to my book lists that appear on the side
column of this blog. I was surprised to see them both out of print...
good grief. But of course, used copies are available.
Posted by: Susie | April 13, 2005 08:09 AM
My epiphany came the day in 1983 or so that I accepted that my
strong-willed girlfriend really, *really* wanted to be spanked and
liked reading porn. I graduated in 1978 with a degree in women's
studies, reading Robin Morgan, etc. and later Dworkin's books on
pornography. I even had a "pornography is violence against women"
bumper sticker on my car. Of course I hadn't seen much porn. And I'd
done the equivalent of listening to the student Maoists talk about
freeing the oppressed working classes without ever talking to a
construction worker. When I paid attention to what the sexually
assertive women I knew were actually saying, they saw Dworkin as a
threat; her agenda an attack on their freedom.
Then I wondered how I could ever have thought that telling women their
sexual fantasies and consensual practices were evil and indicative of
internalized oppression could be empowering. (And I went to a porn
shop and saw that WAP had grossly misrepresented the contents). My
friend with the liberal arts degree didn't see going pro as a domme
(in spandex and heels -- she started newbies out with lots of foot
worship to weed out the cops) as being exploited for her sexuality;
she saw it as using her strength of character to get the hell out of
working at burger joints.
The flip was complete: I no longer saw feminists like Dworkin as
having the answers that would free women from oppression. Instead,
after asking some useful questions, they had joined forces with Meese
and his ilk in an attempt to repress and shame women whose libidos
didn't fit their prescription; Dworkin, like Meese, was a dangerous
person trying to degrade and (in some cases literally) imprison the
strong women I cared about.
Posted by: Russell Williams | April 13, 2005 09:40 AM
I am moved by Nina Hartley's remarks. A smart brave and beautiful
woman who is life-affirming too!
My heart bleeds for any victim of sexual abuse and violence, of
course. But Dworkin's politicalization of the bedroom and hatred of
things male helps no one and only adds to the multifaceted confusion
between the sexes.
Posted by: james | April 13, 2005 09:57 AM
Thanks for yr comments abt/eulogy for Andrea. You cut a refreshing
path through pastures of "journalistic" b.s. (The only other comment
that I vaguely agreed w/ was Miller's Salon piece, but only vaguely.
-- Laying all the failures of feminism at Andrea Dworkin's door was a
bit much.) I wasn't at all surprised by Andrea's death, very saddened
yes, but surprised, no. She was always off to see a doctor, & when I
asked what was wrong she sort of changed the subject -- more out of
pride, I suspect. And one of my finest and proudest moments as
magazine editor was when (after backing & forthing, to-ing & fro-ing)
Andrea sent us a short story for our first issue, A DAY AT THE LAKE (a
very Sadeian piece twas too)-- & twas fun to get her in the same issue
as Alexander Theroux & Paul Krassner -- one reader commented that it
was a wonder the issue did not spontaneously combust, & we reprinted
it in our first anniversary double issue. And periodically I got a
phone call from Brooklyn, asking how things were going or informing me
of her pending move to DC, or giving me her new DC address, & from
time to time she sent in an essay, which unfortunately I'd pass on (I
somehow felt that attacking the Vargas girls pinups was not the best
application of her polemical brilliance, & we had some words abt
that). But after she moved to DC I didn't hear from her more than once
or twice. And now I guess I'll never get that Diamanda Galas interview
with Andrea. But I always found Andrea straightforward & never less
than professional. (I cld name some names of the less than
professional, but why bother, that sort of nyah-nyah-nyah doesn't
solve anything.) & the evolution of feminism that you charted in yr
essay was spot-on. As Matthew Brady said, A TREE IS BEST MEASURED WHEN
IT IS DOWN.
yr obdt svt, rvb
Posted by: R. V. Branham | April 13, 2005 10:21 AM
Suzie: thank you for your thoughtful comments on Andrea Dworkin (and
every other wonderful thing you do!). I was particularly struck by
your observation that she repudiated the very idea of the unconscious.
That wellspring that fuels our dreams and nightmares--ignored and
unexplored it creates its own mischief in an attempt to come to light.
Dworkin's legacy hit my little world in Tucson when I was in my
mid-twenties. Because of the dialogue in the feminist air, my lover
and I marched into the seedy male realm of the local porn shop to
claim our share of the space. She also began to talk about doing some
activist actions, such as defacing the porn sold in the local
bookstores. I balked--that sounded uncomfortably like censorship to me
(and wasn't Penthouse forum somehow hotter that Secret Garden?).
Later, I discovered Good Vibrations, Toys in Babeland, and much more
on the ongoing journey to reclaim my own desire. I love that my
cousin, ten years younger, isn't worried about what pronoun is used to
define her. Consciousness continues to expand and Dworkin was a part
Posted by: Jennifer | April 13, 2005 10:27 AM
At the height of the anti-porn movement in the mid-eighties, I
discovered a hidden stash of porn magazines in a warehouse where I was
working. It was all mainstream porn: Penthouse, Hustler, etc. One of
the Penthouse pictorials had a goofy Star Wars theme, featuring lasers
and Pan Benatar-like women in silver lame outfits. I recognized it as
one of the bits of porn Dworkin analyzes in Pornography: Men
Possessing Women. Her description of the pictorial invoked the
Holocaust, pointing out lasers can be used to burn things and that one
of the women looked Jewish. The vast gulf that separated these silly
pictures from her analysis of them as an atrocity proved something
that I had suspected when reading her work; she felt no obligation to
truth, and nothing she said could be trusted.
Posted by: tsackett | April 13, 2005 10:38 AM
Is anyone here familiar with the work of Norma Hotaling? She's another
dynamo who puts prostituted women before pimps and tricks. I wish San
Francisco had a clinic in her name.
Nope tsackett, Dworkin was speaking of Israeli pornography in that
essay she wrote for Ms. in the early nineties. You can find it online,
along with the Vargas essay, and if I may say so R.V. Branham, you
passed up a good one.
Posted by: csha | April 13, 2005 10:48 AM
Reading your beautiful tribute to Andrea Dworkin, and some of the
rather hyperbolic commentary attached, it reinforces my sense that
compassion really does seem to be a lost art form these days.
So thank you, Susie, for a compassionate and thoughtful remembrance of
a confrontational but important thinker. I always had a rather
difficult time with some of Andrea Dworkin's inflammatory statements
and her views on the role of sex in the market place (whether sex work
or pornography). And her affiliation with Meese and some of the less
than appealing right wing censorship brigade riled me up on more than
one occasion. But she clearly, directly and forcefully articulated a
lot of the issues in the lives of women that my gender were
responsible for. I don't think that all heterosexual sex is rape, but
her pointed statements made me examine why i believe it isn't, and why
some would feel it is, and what behaviour I exhibit that might blur
the lines between those two states. Her prodding led me to work on
changing those aspects of my behaviour that would encourage people to
look at sex (or my gender) with such hostility.
I have been blessed in my pursuit of growth. I am surrounded by
excellent, feminist, sex-positive folks. Some make porn, some write,
all are activist to some extent. But I suspect that none of us would
have come this far this fast without prodding from the difficult and
demanding voices among us. So thank you Andrea for being tough,
demanding, unapologetic and an eternal crusader for equality. I still
disagree with you on many things, but my world is a better place
because of you.
Posted by: steve | April 13, 2005 11:38 AM
[A friend forwarded this quote from almost exactly 10 years ago.
Thought others might be interested.]
New Statesman & Society - April 21, 1995
[British novelist] Michael Moorcock talks to feminist activist,
theorist and author Andrea Dworkin, and finds her keen to sort out a
few false rumours.
...Andrea Dworkin: "Both my parents were horrified by US racism,
certainly by de jure segregation, but also by all aspects of
discrimination-- black poverty, urban ghettos, menial labour, bad
education, the lack of respect whites had for blacks. My father was
pro-labour; he wanted teachers to be unionised. He refused a
management job at the post office. My mother was committed to planned
parenthood, to legal birth control (it was criminal then) and to legal
abortion. We had immigrant family members who were survivors of the
Holocaust, though most of my mother's and father's families had been
killed. So I grew up taking hate and extermination seriously. I read
all the time, as much as I could. My mother often had to write me
notes so that I could have certain books from the library. After the
high school board purged the library of all "socialist" and "indecent"
books, I found this cute little book they'd missed called Guerilla
Warfare by Che Guevara. I read it a million times. I'd plan attacks on
the local shopping mall. I got a lot of practice in strategising real
rebellion. It may be why I refuse to think that rebellion against the
oppressors of women should be less real, less material, less serious."
Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 13, 2005 11:41 AM
Wow. I LOVED whatyou wrote, Susie. I remember that 1984 moment when I,
too, loved her... remember when we voted at Auckland University that
"all sex is rape" - a crazy Dworkin-esque idea, but one that oddly
passed... anyway, with her passing I revsist those times.
Posted by: lulu | April 13, 2005 12:37 PM
A few passing comments:
Dworkin's parents' past as Leftists doesn't forgive AD's corrosive and
repressive ideology one bit in my view...whatever snippets of Leftist
thought she appropriated into her beliefs, her ultimate deeds and
words make her out to be a brutal, decisive, and damaging reactionary.
And let us not forget that she was more than willing to forge
alliances with the most reactionary figures when it suited her goals.
(Remember Judith Bat-Ada..aka Judith Reisman??)
I still find it quite fascinating that those on the pro-sex feminist
side who attempt to show a degree of compassion and dignity towards
Ms. Dworkin even in opposition to her base philosophy are continuously
trashed and smeared by those who simply can't get off the antiporn
microcode. It makes me wonder whether they would be capable of being
as compassionate if it was the other way around.
Attacking Andrea Dworkin for her appearance and her disabilities
certainly is scummy and out of line....but even that pales to the
scurrilous abuse that she and her followers have dumped on people
(especially women) who dared to call them out correctly on her base
bigotries about men and sex. I would say that to label women who
disagree with her beliefs "traitors" and who openly calls for her
critics to be killed (as Susie has documented over the "On Our Backs"
fisting story and the Meese Commision Report) is a bit different than
mere bad jokes about her looks.
I may give Dworkin her due as an intellectual and an icon, and may
acknowledge her brutal upbringing that forged her hatred...but that
doesn't absolve her of her basic bigotry or the grave damage that she
has done to both genuine feminism or progressive politics. I do hope
that she finally finds the peace she never had in real life..for she
certainly gave the rest of us no peace or love.
The only really good impact that Dworkin had in my life is that she
moved me in anger and reaction to discover such wonderful sex-radical
and progressive women like Nina Hartley, Carol Queen, and Susie Bright
who actually did give a damn about men and women as human beings.
Compared to these authentic feminist women, Andrea Dworkin was merely
a neo-Puritan crank who bastardized progressive thought with her own
Just my own personal opinion, as always.
Posted by: Anthony Kennerson | April 13, 2005 12:46 PM
"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of
society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded,
responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government,
eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy
the male sex."
... To me, that is not "radical", that is just dumb. Why not propose
something a little more feasible, like since this planet is so boring,
why don't we all move to Saturn?
I mean what the heck can we use something like this for?
Posted by: Eolake | April 13, 2005 01:17 PM
Wow, again! No shortage of proselytizing and polemic. If nothing else,
I'm now grateful to her for giving me something to think about.
As a producer of commercial pornography, I suspect that she, and many
of the people posting here, would look at me and my work as
contributory to the societal problem she dedicated her work to
eradicating. While it's true that many of my peers produce material
that is blatantly misogynistic, and that my products may be even worse
because of their more subtle sexual imagery (if one subscribes to Ms.
D's thesis), I still maintain that the potential damage caused by sex
imagery is, on the whole, the lesser of evils compared to the stifling
repression of sexuality that would have to occur in order to achieve
that end... in other words, an end not justified by the means.
I also believe that Andrea's idyllic world, free of pornography, in
fact free of all images she would proscribe, would still be a world
filled with rape, anti-woman violence, male dominance, gender
discrimination and all the stuff that she was legitimately worried
about. By the way, I, the pornographer, am also worried about these
Even though I disagree with so much of what she stood for, I respect
that she stood for something.
I'm grateful to all the people whose opinions posted here enlarge my
perspective beyond my somewhat limited world.
P.S. After discussing the idea that Ms. D. seemingly espoused, namely
that all male-female intercourse is rape (did she really say that?),
my fiancee suggested that it's just semantics. She furher requested
that I continue to rape her, or fuck her or make love to her or
whatever we want to call it. She noted correctly that contrary to what
is being theorized here, this act empowers her beyond measure. I have
to agree with her: she's a very powerful woman indeed. Viva l'egalite!
Posted by: Christian Mann | April 13, 2005 03:59 PM
I have my disagreements with some of Susie's statements in her
obituary, but I have to say I found the Googlism touchingly inspired,
and I appreciate those who can disagree sharply with Andrea Dworkin
without feeling the need to engage in wildly hyberbolic attacks.
Whether you agree with her or not, a little perspective, please.
On another note,
Christian: "After discussing the idea that Ms. D. seemingly espoused,
namely that all male-female intercourse is rape (did she really say
No, she did not say that. There's a reason why this soundbite is being
bandied around freely without a citation to any of her work; it's
because you can't find it there. (It's commonly presumed to be the
thesis of her book Intercourse, but it's nowhere to be found in there
and she's explicitly rejected that interpretation when asked about it
She says a lot of radical and profoundly challenging things that throw
the gauntlet down at the feet of "normal" heterosexual sexuality as it
is commonly practiced, but this is not among them.)
Posted by: Rad Geek | April 13, 2005 07:17 PM
I hear that Elizabeth Wurtzel was just signed to do Dwokin's bio!
Posted by: rblue | April 13, 2005 08:29 PM
Obviously, anyone who is concerned about violence and rape as
significant and urgent problems is going to recognize that Andrea
Dworking was an influential thinker who, just like the early
philosophers in every field, made her mistakes first and most
significantly so that the rest of us might see them and avoid them.
Posted by: Jim Marcus | April 13, 2005 08:39 PM
Thanks for your thoughtful and generous obituary.
I have to say, from Nina Hartley's comments, this disturbed me:
"Her thinking turned the bedroom, which should be a place where people
go to be loving and kind to each other and to share pleasure, into a
Really? it was Andrea Dworkin who made the bedroom a politicized
So before her, bedrooms all over the world were free of politics and
power imbalances? And they are free of them now?
Perhaps that was just a poor choice of phrase - it was Dworkin's
thinking that helped us be critical about what happens in the bedroom,
which is a prerequisite to bringing it closer to a place to be loving
and kind to each other.
Posted by: ripley | April 13, 2005 10:47 PM
I 'm sorry you found my comments disturbing. That certainly wasn't my
intention. They reflect my own distress at what I see as the
destructive legacy of Dworkin's relentless emphasis on hostility and
violence in sexual relations.
If there's one thing I could never be, it's naive about what goes on
in the bedroom or any other room where sex takes place. Power, like it
or not, is a permanent component of the complex mechanisms of sexual
arousal. It's built into the process, and will inevitably result in
imbalances and struggles to correct them.
Where I vehemently part company with Dworkin and even her more
reserved admirers is over the political interpretation of this
undeniable reality. While asserting that the personal is political
makes another one of those terrific sound-bites, the truth about sex
defies such simplistic reduction.
While we all bring our baggage - including our political baggage - to
the bedroom, once we're there, the experience is quintessentially
personal, and no progress toward enlightenment can be made there until
this is recognized and respected.
The application of abstract ideologies to individual, human
experiences has not brought liberation. It has merely added another
layer of conflict and guilt to the inherent risks of physical and
We did not need Andrea Dworkin's help to be critical about what
happens in the bedroom. That's the kind of message we get from the
society in which we live, from our history and from the deficits of
our own upbringings. What we need in the bedroom is affirmation and
Posted by: Nina Hartley | April 14, 2005 01:17 AM
As first-commenter Bianca said, I'd only read what others said about
Andrea Dworkin without ever reading what she wrote.
Maybe that says something about her impact, as well as why that impact
Posted by: Chris Q | April 14, 2005 03:21 AM
Thank you so much for all your thoughts and memories of AD; this was a
I'm closing this thread for now, but I'm sure we'll be talking about
many of these same issues on postings to come!
Posted by: Susie | April 14, 2005 06:04 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.
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