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April 11, 2005

Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005

"In blaming and shaming the oppressed, the powerless, the left colludes with the right. There's no reason to look to the left for justice, so people look to the right for order. It's pretty simple. The victory of the right also expresses the rage of white men against women and people of colour who are seen to be eroding the white man's authority. The pain of destroying male rule won't be worse than the pain of living with it."

Of all the radical thinkers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (so far), few have been more wilfully and consistently misrepresented than Andrea Dworkin. She's one of those writers, like Chomsky, who are roundly and repeatedly criticized by people who've never read her work.

I've read her work. I read Woman Hating at age 16 or so, Intercourse in 1987, the year it came out. Nowhere in those books, nor in the numerous Dworkin essays and interviews I've read throughout the years, can one find the man-hating feminist monster of the stereotypes. There's a reason: Dworkin wasn't that monster.

[Afterthought:] I disagreed with much of what she had to say. I found her alliance of convenience with certain people on the right disquieting, and her advocacy of limitations on free speech troubling.

But her criticism of male sexism - in the pornography industry, the institution of marriage, and in society at large - was devastating, accurate, and (so far as I can tell) largely unheeded, even by many feminists. Perhaps that should read "especially by many feminists."

Susie Bright, who for many years fought fierce ideological wars with Dworkin, has a heartrendingly loving eulogy on her site. It's one of those Karol Wojtyla/Mehmet Ali Agca moments. You should go read. [Comments contain discussion of pornography.]

A bit more: Via Roy Edroso, the Rad Geek has the definitive smackdown of much of the uninformed criticism Dworkin received. Which isn't to say that the informed criticism is off-base, mind you.

Posted by Chris Clarke at April 11, 2005 09:06 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
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Comments

Those with new ideas and revelations tend to be demonized by those who wish to maintain the status quo

Posted by: Ole Blue at April 11, 2005 10:33 PM
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Have you considered the possibility that the reason that Dworkin's work is so often misconstrued, and that she's had to "explain" it again and again, is that she was a crap writer? Even in the excerpts published on nostatusquo.com, she's given to sweeping generalizations about men, women, pornography, and so on, and in her interview with Moorcock, she unleashed this little gem to explain why her books are out of print:

"In the US the pornography industry and the publishing industry see themselves as twin entities engaged in exercising and protecting the same rights in the same way. I stand against the pornography industry; the publishing industry sees me as an enemy. "

Indeed.

Posted by: Nick at April 12, 2005 02:53 PM
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Have you considered the possibility that the reason that Dworkin's work is so often misconstrued, and that she's had to "explain" it again and again, is that she was a crap writer

That's always a possibility for any writer, Nick, and it's a charge that has been leveled against Dworkin with some justification.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at April 12, 2005 03:38 PM
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"....her advocacy of limitations on free speech troubling."

Chris, I am glad you got that in because while I never read her I was quite concerned about this tactic. Personally I want my 'enemies' babbling away so I can keep track of them. As others have implied she did seem to work the victimization meme a bit much.

Posted by: Desert Donkey at April 12, 2005 03:41 PM
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