Bronze-level articleAndrea Dworkin

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Photograph of Dworkin taken on the set of the British discussion show After Dark.

Andrea Dworkin (September 26, 1946 – April 9, 2005) was an influential American radical feminist and moonbat. She is primarily known for her crusade against pornography, which added fuel to the anti-feminist fire by helping to provoke a split between pro- and anti-sex feminists,[1] and alienating liberals who were opposed to anti-pornography laws.[2] Her later radicalism and sensationalism further alienated potential allies, but this did not prevent some of Dworkin's supporters from lionising her in their eulogies.[3]


[edit] Views and beliefs

[edit] Anti-pornography activism

In her book Pornography: Men Possessing Women,[4] she argued that pornography is a misogynistic, dehumanizing industry. She also analyzed pornography as a form of sexual assault on women.[5] These analyses have been extensively criticized by, inter alia, former ACLU president and feminist Nadine Strossen[6] and Feminists for Free Expression, a group co-founded by Strossen.[7] Feminists for Free Expression says that since different women "interpret pornography in different ways," there is no "feminist code about which words and images are dangerous or sexist," and any attempt to write such terms into the law impugns the free choice of men and women. However, given that the pornography industry is a major source of funds for the ACLU and even gives them office space, RW readers can take Strossen with at least one grain of salt.

Her anti-pornography rhetoric, as translated into legalese by her fellow radical feminist and lawyer Catharine MacKinnon, was hijacked by wingnuts who,[8] while caring little for women's rights, thought they could use it to justify laws against pornography.

[edit] U.S. ordinance

Dworkin and MacKinnon's attempts to pass an ordinance based on their original model — which involved making pornography a civil rights violation rather than something criminal, and allowing people harmed by pornography to seek damages[9] — failed in Minneapolis (passed by the City Council, vetoed by the mayor), but succeeded on the second try in Indianapolis in 1984.

One large factor in the ordinance's later undoing was Dworkin and MacKinnon's unorthodox definition of "pornography." Pornography is generally recognized as being material that has been made with the sole intention of exciting the viewer sexually; one of the qualifications for restricting freedom of the press under the Miller test[10] is that the work under dispute must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. But the ordinance contained no exceptions for works with such value; in response to concerns that these sort of works (examples cited were Ulysses and Iliad), could fall under the scope of the law, MacKinnon wrote:

If a woman is subjected, why should it matter that the work has other value?[11]

In the case American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ordinance unconstitutional on the grounds that it constituted ideology-based censorship:

The ordinance discriminates on the grounds of the speech ... The State may not ordain preferred viewpoints in this way. The Constitution forbids the State to declare one perspective right and silence opponents.[11]

The Supreme Court affirmed with no further comment.

[edit] Canadian Supreme Court ruling

Her work got a broader audience in Canada, where in the case R v. Butler, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled, partly based on her work, that Canada's obscenity law was constitutional based on guarantees of gender equality. When the laws started to be used disproportionately against gay and lesbian materials, Dworkin was embarrassed and rapidly condemned this interpretation of her work.[12]

It should be noted that Dworkin did not support the ruling from the start on the grounds that it affirmed an obscenity law, as she was strongly opposed to obscenity-based censorship; however, she did support the idea that free speech is a lesser concern than gender equality, and approved of the ruling insofar as it brought this idea into Canadian law. As she said in her statement:

In our neighbor nation to the north, Canada's Supreme Court has determined ... that society's interest in sex equality outweighs pornographers' speech rights ... We wish that U.S. constitutional consciousness were so far along.[12]

[edit] Satires

Her opposition to pornography caused the pornography industry to swing into gear with a bevy of satire directed against her, including claims that she was anti-sex and misandristic. In an attempt to stop this, she sued everyone in sight, but her efforts ultimately failed; Catharine MacKinnon blamed this on the patriarchy in her eulogy to Dworkin, and called the satire libel.[13]

[edit] Views on marriage

She had very contested, sensational views on marriage. She was a self-declared lesbian, but was married twice to men and swore herself to celibacy.[14] Her first marriage to a Dutch anarchist did not go very well, as he clubbed her with blunt instruments and put cigarettes out on her, and she had to turn tricks for a time to get up the money to return to the U.S. from Holland. Later, she married a gay man named John Stoltenberg, author of a book entitled Refusing to Be a Man; this marriage lasted until her death in 2005.

She likened marriage to rape of women by men, arguing that in both cases the man claimed to "own" the woman and took the initiative, while the woman had to go along with him in every way:

Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.[15]

[edit] Views on domestic abuse of women

She believed that "battered women have the right to kill their batterer".[16]

[edit] Alleged misandry

On manhood, she said:

Only when manhood is dead — and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it — only then will we know what it is to be free.[17]

And on men, she said:

Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman.[18]

Most of her rhetoric follows the radical feminist line that gender is a social construct that when taken away will leave us all the same as each other except for the dirty bits. Dworkin also went one step further and expressed opposition to men's privilege within the hierarchical structure of patriarchy.

Her writing has been interpreted as being anti-male; this is because, under the patriarchy as Dworkin perceived it, it is difficult to disentangle men from the privilege they all enjoy (whether or not they want to), which is oppressive to all women (whether or not men intend to oppress them).

Just to confuse things, Susie Bright called Dworkin a "scholar of great men."[8]

[edit] Views on sex

In a discussion of how men in a patriarchal society view sex, she stated that "Violation is a synonym for intercourse".[19] Due to this, she was widely reported as having said explicitly that all sex is rape. Even though she never actually said those words, as Cathy Young remarked with regard to Dworkin:

If a male writer had written book after book arguing that women were evil creatures whose sole purpose in life is to sexually manipulate and destroy men, would we spend a lot of time quibbling over whether he actually used the phrase, "All women are whores"?[3]

This makes one wonder what she meant by "violation" and "synonym".

[edit] Views on childbirth

She had no children, as is made very obvious by her views on childbearing, viz.:

Childbearing is glorified in part because women die from it.[17]

She was also strongly opposed to Cesarean sections, which fit in nicely with her opposition to childbearing, compounding her view that it is oppressive:

They cut directly into the uterus with a knife — a surgical fuck ... the uterus of the whore entered directly by the new rapist, the surgeon, the vagina saved to serve the husband.[4]

Though women may undergo Caesarean sections to alleviate the pain or risk of vaginal childbirth, Caesareans are a very physically demanding option, add a great deal of risk to childbirth, and are often performed unnecessarily.[20] On the other hand, they are also sometimes performed because natural birth has ceased to be a viable option for any number of reasons. Either way, one can assume that the idea was not to rape the woman's uterus for the fun of it.

[edit] Effects of her work on society and feminist theory

Encyclopædia Britannica placed her in their list of 300 Women who Changed the World.[5]

[edit] Footnotes

  2. Honigsbaum, Mark. "Andrea Dworkin, embattled feminist, dies at 58". The Guardian. April 12, 2005.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Young, Cathy. "The Dworkin Whitewash". April 17, 2005. Hit & Run. Reason Magazine.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dworkin, Andrea. Pornography: Men Possessing Women. 1989. The Andrea Dworkin Online Library.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Dworkin, Andrea". 300 Women Who Changed the World. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  6. Strossen, Nadine. Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights.
  7. Position statements of Feminists for Free Expression.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Andrea Dworkin Has Died". Susie Bright's Journal. April 11, 2005.
  10. See the Wikipedia article on Miller test.
  11. 11.0 11.1 American Booksellers Association, Inc. et al. v. William H. Hudnut, et al.. United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit. 1985.
  12. 12.0 12.1 MacKinnon, Catherine A. and Andrea Dworkin. "Statement by Catharine A. Mackinnon and Andrea Dworkin Regarding Canadian Customs and Legal Approaches to Pornography". August 26, 1994. The Andrea Dworkin Online Library.
  13. MacKinnon, Catherine A. "Who Was Afraid of Andrea Dworkin?". New York Times. April 16, 2005.
  14. Dworkin, Andrea. "'They took my body from me and used it'". The Guardian. June 2, 2000.
  15. Dworkin, Andrea quote. QuotationsBook.
  16. "The Lie Detector". The Andrea Dworkin Online Library. The Andrea Dworkin Web Site.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Andrea Dworkin Quotes. BrainyQuote.
  18. Weisburg, D. Kelly. Applications of Feminist Legal Theory to Women's Lives. 1996. Google Books.,+every+woman's+son+is+her+potential+betrayer+and+also+the+inevitable+rapist+or+exploiter+of+another+woman.
  19. Dworkin, Andrea. Intercourse: Occupation/Collaberation. 1987. The Andrea Dworkin Online Library.
  20. "The Cesarean Section FAQ". 1999.
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