Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Andrea Dworkin Remembered: "in a museum, when male supremacy is dead"
An anti-war activist and anarchist in the late 1960s, Dworkin wrote 10 books on radical feminist theory and practice. During the late 1970s and the 1980s, she gained national fame as a spokeswoman for the feminist anti-pornography movement, and for her writing on pornography and sexuality, particularly in Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1979) and Intercourse (1987), which remain her two most widely known books.
In 1980, Linda Boreman (who had appeared in the pornographic film Deep Throat as "Linda Lovelace") made public statements that her ex-husband Chuck Traynor had beaten and raped her, and violently coerced her into making that and other pornographic films. Boreman made her charges public for the press corps at a press conference, with Dworkin, feminist lawyer Catharine MacKinnon, and members of Women Against Pornography. After the press conference, Dworkin, MacKinnon, Gloria Steinem, and Boreman began discussing the possibility of using federal civil rights law to seek damages from Traynor and the makers of Deep Throat. Boreman was interested, but backed off after Steinem discovered that the statute of limitations for a possible suit had passed.
Dworkin and MacKinnon, however, continued to discuss civil rights litigation as a possible approach to combating pornography. In the fall of 1983, MacKinnon secured a one-semester appointment for Dworkin at the University of Minnesota, to teach a course in literature for the Women's Studies program and co-teach (with MacKinnon) an interdepartmental course on pornography, where they hashed out details of a civil rights approach. With encouragement from community activists in south Minneapolis, the Minneapolis city government hired Dworkin and MacKinnon to draft an antipornography civil rights ordinance as an amendment to the Minneapolis city civil rights ordinance.
The amendment defined pornography as a civil rights violation against women, and allowed women who claimed harm from pornography to sue the producers and distributors in civil court for damages. The law was passed twice by the Minneapolis city council but vetoed by Mayor Don Fraser, who considered the wording of the ordinance to be too vague. Another version of the ordinance passed in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1984, but overturned as unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the case American Booksellers v. Hudnut. Dworkin continued to support the civil rights approach in her writing and activism, and supported anti-pornography feminists who organized later campaigns in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1985) and Bellingham, Washington (1988) to pass versions of the ordinance by voter initiative.
On January 22, 1986, Dworkin testified for half an hour before the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography—also known as the "Meese Commission") in New York City, and answered questions from commissioners after completing her testimony. Dworkin's testimony against pornography was praised and reprinted in the Commission's final report, and Dworkin and MacKinnon marked its release by holding a joint press conference. Meese Commission subsequently successfully demanded that convenience store chains remove from shelves men's magazines such as Playboy (Dworkin wrote that the magazine "in both text and pictures promotes both rape and child sexual abuse") and Penthouse. The demands spread nationally and intimidated some retailers into withdrawing photography magazines, among others. The Meese Commission's campaign was eventually quashed with a First Amendment admonishment against prior restraint by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Meese v. Playboy.
In 1987, Dworkin published Intercourse, in which she extended her analysis from pornography to sexual intercourse itself, and argued that the sort of sexual subordination depicted in pornography was central to men's and women's experiences of heterosexual intercourse in a male supremacist society. In the book, she argues that all heterosexual sex in our patriarchal society is coercive and degrading to women, and sexual penetration may by its very nature doom women to inferiority and submission, and "may be immune to reform".
Citing from both pornography and literature—including The Kreutzer Sonata, Madame Bovary, and Dracula—Dworkin argued that depictions of intercourse in mainstream art and culture consistently emphasized heterosexual intercourse as the only kind of "real" sex, portrayed intercourse in violent or invasive terms, portrayed the violence or invasiveness as central to its eroticism, and often united it with male contempt for, revulsion towards, or even murder of, the "carnal" woman. She argued that this kind of depiction enforced a male-centric and coercive view of sexuality, and that, when the cultural attitudes combine with the material conditions of women's lives in a sexist society, the experience of heterosexual intercourse itself becomes a central part of men's subordination of women, experienced as a form of "occupation" that is nevertheless expected to be pleasurable for women and to define their very status as women.
Such descriptions are often cited by Dworkin's critics, interpreting the book as claiming "all" heterosexual intercourse is rape, or more generally that the anatomical mechanics of sexual intercourse make it intrinsically harmful to women's equality. For instance, Cathy Young says that statements such as, "Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women," are reasonably summarized as "All sex is rape".
Dworkin rejected that interpretation of her argument, stating in a later interview that "I think both intercourse and sexual pleasure can and will survive equality" and suggesting that the misunderstanding came about because of the very sexual ideology she was criticizing: "Since the paradigm for sex has been one of conquest, possession, and violation, I think many men believe they need an unfair advantage, which at its extreme would be called rape. I do not think they need it.
In the same year, the New York Times Book Review published a lengthy letter of hers in which she describes the origins of her deeply felt hatred of prostitution and pornography ("mass-produced, technologized prostitution") as her history of being violently inspected by prison doctors, battered by her first husband and numerous other men.
Dworkin "was demonised not only by pornographers but by many liberals, whom she held in almost equal contempt", and "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.'"
In June 2000, Dworkin published controversial articles in the New Statesman and in the Guardian, stating that one or more men had raped her in her hotel room in Paris the previous year, putting GHB in her drink to disable her. Her articles ignited public controversy when writers such as Catherine Bennett and Julia Gracen published doubts about her account, polarizing opinion between skeptics and supporters such as Catharine MacKinnon, Katharine Viner, and Gloria Steinem. Her reference to the incident was later described by Charlotte Raven as a "widely disbelieved claim", better seen as "a kind of artistic housekeeping". Emotionally fragile and in failing health, Dworkin mostly withdrew from public life for two years following the articles.
In 2002, Dworkin published her autobiography, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant. She soon began to speak and write again, and in an interview with Julie Bindel in 2004 said, "I thought I was finished, but I feel a new vitality. I want to continue to help women." She published three more articles in the Guardian and began work on a new book, Writing America: How Novelists Invented and Gendered a Nation, on the role of novelists such as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner in the development of American political and cultural identity, which was left unfinished when she died.
During her final years, Dworkin suffered fragile health, and she revealed in her last column for the Guardian that she had been weakened and nearly crippled for the past several years by severe osteoarthritis in the knees. Shortly after returning from Paris in 1999, she had been hospitalized with a high fever and blood clots in her legs. A few months after being released from the hospital, she became increasingly unable to bend her knees, and underwent surgery to replace her knees with titanium and plastic prosthetics. She wrote, "The doctor who knows me best says that osteoarthritis begins long before it cripples – in my case, possibly from homelessness, or sexual abuse, or beatings on my legs, or my weight. John, my partner, blames Scapegoat, a study of Jewish identity and women's liberation that took me nine years to write; it is, he says, the book that stole my health. I blame the drug-rape that I experienced in 1999 in Paris."
When a newspaper interviewer asked her how she would like to be remembered, she said, "In a museum, when male supremacy is dead. I'd like my work to be an anthropological artifact from an extinct, primitive society". She died in her sleep on the morning of April 9, 2005, at her home in Washington, D.C. The cause of death was later determined to be acute myocarditis.She was 58 years old."
Excerpts from wikipedia.org
Andrea Dworkin Quotes:
"Pain is an essential part of the grooming process, and that is not accidental. Plucking the eyebrows, shaving under the arms, wearing a girdle, learning to walk in high-heeled shoes, having one's nose fixed, straightening or curling one's hair-these things hurt. The pain, of course, teaches an important lesson: no price is too great, no process too repulsive, no operation too painful for the woman who would be beautiful. The tolerance of pain and the romanticization of that tolerance begins here. in preadolescence, in socialization, and serves to prepare women for lives of childbearing, self-abnegation, and husband pleasing. The adolescent experience of the "pain of being a woman" casts the feminine psyche into a masochistic mold and forces the adolescent to conform to a self-image which bases itself on mutilation of the body, pain happily suffered, and restricted physical mobility. It creates the masochistic personalities generally found in adult women: subservient, materialistic (since all value is placed on the body and its ornamentation), intellectually restricted, creatively impoverished. It forces women to be a sex of lesser accomplishment, weaker, as underdeveloped as any backward nation.
The body must be freed, liberated, quite literally: from paint and girdles and all varieties of crap. Women must stop mutilating their bodies and .start living in them. Perhaps the notion of beauty which will then organically emerge will be truly democratic and demonstrate a respect for human life in its infinite, and most honorable, variety.” ~ANDREA DWORKIN, from Woman Hating
"There is a tyranny that determines who cannot say anything, a tyranny in which people are kept from being able to say the most important things about what life is like for them." ~Andrea Dworkin, Life and Death
"I'd like to take what I know and just hand it over. But there is always a problem for a woman: being believed. How can I think I know something? How can I think that what I know might matter? Why would I think that anything I think might make a difference, to anyone, anywhere? My only chance to be believed is to find a way of writing bolder and stronger than woman hating itself - smarter, deeper, colder. This might mean that I would have to write a prose more terrifying than rape, more abject than torture, more insistent and destabilizing than battery, more desolate than prostitution, more invasive than incest, more filled with threat and aggression than pornography. How would the innocent bystander be able to distinguish it, tell it apart from the tales of the rapists themselves it if were so nightmarish and impolite? There are no innocent bystanders. It would have to stand up for women - stand against the rapist and the pimp - by changing women's silence to speech. It would have to say all the unsaid words during rape and after; while prostituting and after; all the words not said. It would have to change women's apparent submission - the consent read into the silence by the wicked and the complacent - into articulate resistance. I myself would have to give up my own cloying sentimentality toward men. I'd have to be militant; sober and austere. I would have to commit treason; against the men who rule. I would have to betray the noble, apparently humanistic premises of civilization and civilized writing by conceptualizing each book as if it were a formidable weapon in a war. I would have to think strategically, with a militarist's heart; as if my books were complex explosives, mine fields set down in the culture to blow open the status quo." ~Andrea Dworkin
"Men use women's bodies in prostitution and in gang rape to communicate with each other, to express what they have in common. And what they have in common is that they are not her." ~Andrea Dworkin
"I want to see this men's movement make a commitment to ending rape because that is the only meaningful commitment to equality. It is astonishing that in all our worlds of feminism and anti-sexism we never talk seriously about ending rape. Ending it. Stopping it. No more. No more rape. In the back of our minds, are we holding on to its inevitability as the last preserve of the biological? Do we think that it is always going to exist no matter what we do? All of our political actions are lies if we don't make a commitment to ending the practice of rape. This commitment has to be political. It has to be serious. It has to be systematic. It has to be public. It can't be self- indulgent." ~Andrea Dworkin, I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape
"Why are we still making deals with men one by one, instead of collectively demanding what we need?" ~Andrea Dworkin
"I want you to remember the ones who have been hurt for the entertainment, the so called speech of others." ~Andrea Dworkin
“By the time we are women, fear is as familiar to us as air. It is our element. We live in it, we inhale it, we exhale it and most of the time we do not even notice it. Instead of "I am afraid," we say, "I don't want to," or "I don't know how," or I can't." ~Andrea Dworkin
"We all expected the world to be different than it is, didn't we? No matter what material or emotional deprivation we have experienced as children or as adults, no matter what we understood from history or from the testimonies of living persons about how people suffer & why, we all believed, however privately, in human possibility. Some of us believed in art, or literature, or music, or religion, or revolution, or in children, or in the redeeming potential of eroticism or affection. No matter what we knew of cruelty, we all believed in kindness; no matter what we knew of hatred, we all believed in friendship or love." ~Andrea Dworkin, Pornography & Grief
"Feminism exists so that no woman ever has to face her oppressor in a vacuum, alone. It exists to breakdown the privacy in which men rape, beat, and kill women. What I am saying is that every one of us has the responsibility to be the woman March Lepine wanted to murder. We need to live with that honor, that courage. We need to put fear aside. We need to endure. We need to create. We need to resist, and we need to stop dedicating the other 364 days of the year to forgetting everything we know. We need to remember every day, not only on December 6. We need to consecrate our lives to what we know and to our resistance to the male power used against us." ~Andrea Dworkin From Life and Death, regarding the mass murder in Montreal where 14 female students were murdered by anti-feminist Marc Lepine on Dec. 6, 1989.
"In a system valuing men over women, girls with piss and vinegar carried a heavier burden than girls brimming over with sugar and spice; the stronger were punished more, and still are." ~Andrea Dworkin
"A world where all are equal ceases to be a place worth inhabiting. I am not for equality. Men and women are different and attempts to make men more womanly or women more manly are not just doomed, they are insulting to humanity. Freedom is what I want, the dawn of a day when each of us can be who we are rather than conform to this or that standard of what is politically correct. That place must come from within us, rather than without." ~Andrea Dworkin