Andrea Dworkin, well-known feminist writer and anti-pornography activist, dies
|Andrea Dworkin, well-known feminist writer and anti-pornography activist, dies|
Andrea Dworkin: September 26, 1946 - April 9, 2005
her determination to articulate the experiences
of poor, lower-class, marginal, and prostituted
women, Dworkin has deepened public awareness of
rape, battery, pornography, and prostitution.
She is co-author of the
The author of 13 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Dworkin is a political artist of unparalleled achievement.
every century, there are a handful of writers
who help the human race to
Dworkin's activist political life began early. In 1965, when she was 18 and a student at Bennington College, she was arrested at the United States Mission to the United Nations, protesting against the Vietnam War. She was sent to the Women's House of Detention, where she was given a brutal internal examination. Her brave testimony about the sadism of that experience reported in newspapers around the world-helped bring public pressure on the New York City government to close the Women's House of Detention down. An unmarked community garden nw grows in Greenwich Village where that prison once stood.
Dorkin's radical-feminist critique of pornography and violence against women began with her first book, Woman Hating, published in 1974 when she was 27. She went on to speak often about the harms to women of pornography and addressed the historic rally in 1978 when 3,000 women attending the first feminist conference on pornography held the first Take Back the Night March and shut down San Francisco's pornography district for one night.
In 1980 Dworkin asked Yale law professor Catharine A. MacKinnon for help in bringing a civil-rights suit for Linda Marchiano, who as "Linda Lovelace" had been coerced into pornography, including Deep Throat. Under current law, Dworkin and MacKinnon discovered, there was no way to help her. Later, in 1983, while co-teaching a course on pornography at the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983, they were commissioned by the Minneapolis City Council to draft a local ordinance that would embody the legal principle, first proposed by Dworkin in Linda Marchiano's behalf, that pornography violates the civil rights of women. Dworkin, MacKinnon, and others organized public hearings on the ordinance-the first time in history that victims of pornography testified directly before a governmental body.
Dworkin has been a uniquely influential inspiration both to legal thinkers and to grass-roots feminist organizers. Her original legal theory-that harm done to women ought not be legally protected just because it is done through speech," and that sexual abuse denies women's speech rights-has not only fomented a rift between advocates of civil rights and civil liberties but has also generated a Constitutional crisis, a fundamental conflict between existing interpretations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. A tireless fighter against the pornography industry and those who collaborate with it, Dworkin has herself been stigmatized professionally for her efforts to help women harmed by pornography in part because U.S. media conglomerates side with pornographers' right to turn women into "speech." Since the American Booksellers Association and the American Publishers Association became plaintiffs in a 1984 lawsuit against the Indianapolis ordinance, Dworkin's options for publishing in the U.S. have dropped off dramatically. Her last three books have had to be published in England first. Attempts to get the BBC documentary broadcast in the U.S. have so far been unsuccessful. Yet in 1992 the BBC invited Dworkin to return, to participate in a nationally televised debate on "political correctness" at the prestigious Cambridge Union.
"the eloquent feminist" by syndicated
columnist Ellen Goodman,
Andrea Dworkin Online Library
Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, 2002, Basic Books.Memoir
Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation, July 2000, The Free Press (U.S.A.), Virago (June 2000, Great Britain). Nonfiction.
and Death, March 1997, The Free Press. Collected
Mercy, 1991, Four Walls Eight Windows, (U.S.A.); Secker & Warburg (1990, England). Novel.
From a War Zone, 1989, Dutton, and 1993, Lawrence
and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality,
Intercourse, 1987, 1997 [tenth-anniversary edition] The Free Press (U.S.A.); Secker & Warburg (1987, England). Nonfiction.
Ice and Fire, 1987, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (U.S.A.); Secker & Warburg (1986, England). Novel.
Right-wing Women, 1983, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan/Perigee. Nonfiction.
Pornography: Men Possessing Women, 1981, Putnam's/Perigee; 1989, E. P.Dutton. Nonfiction.
Tthe new womans broken heart, 1980, Frog In The Well. Short stories.
Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, 1976, Harper & Row. Collected lectures.
Woman Hating, 1974, Dutton. Nonfiction.
Morning Hair, 1968, designed, printed, and published by the author, handset type, handbound. Poems and fiction.
Child, 1966, poems published on Crete.
Contributions to anthologies
and Sad Ladies, Lavender Culture, Take Back the
Night, The Woman Who Lost Her Names, Feminist
Frontiers, A Mensch Among Men, Transforming a
Rape Culture, Pornography: Women, Violence and
Civil Liberties, The Sexual Liberals and the Attack
on Feminism, Making Violence Sexy: Feminist Views
on Pornography, Feminist Jurisprudence, Violence
Against Women: The Bloody Footprints, The Female
Body, Feminism in Our Time, Feminist Frontiers
II, The Gay & Lesbian Literary Companion,
Wild Women, Issues in Feminism: An Introduction
to Women's Studies (3rd ed.), Race and Class in
Winner: American Book Award 2001 for Scapegoat
Take Back the Night speeches at rallies in New Haven, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Los Angeles, New Brunswick, Norfolk, Portland (Maine), San Francisco, Calgary (Canada), Edmonton (Canada), New Orleans, and others.
Readings of published and unpublished works at colleges, women's centers, bookstores, and benefits for feminist groups and theater groups.
Lectures in London, Leeds, Dublin, York, Norwich, East Anglia, Toronto, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oslo, Stockholm, Bergen, and others.
Television appearances on Donahue, 60 Minutes, Nightwatch, CBS Evening News, MacNeil-Lehrer Report, BBC Omnibus (hour-long documentary: "Against Pornography: The Feminism of Andrea Dworkin," fall 1991), 48 Hours, and others.
bookshe waswriting at the time of her death
nationalism that fueled the Iraq war-as well as
the anti-nationalism that opposes it-has a unique
and identifiable origin story that has never been
told. It is the dynamic process by which writers
at the beginning of the twentieth century articulated
a new American national identity they
This will also be a reading of American national identity that takes account of gender in a way that has never been done before. I will show how these writers use writing to create and maintain gender and then how gender is used to formulate the self-concept American.
in American national identity is not, and never
has been, like the popular conception of gender
as something that is formed in childhood and then
remains constant. In fact writers write gender,
constantly creating and recreating it, constantly
giving it new content. This is as true for Zora
I am proposing that there is direct causal relation between gender-the internal sense of self-identity with social expression-and national identity, which is the communal expression of dominance and submission. The desire in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries has been for dominance. The character of American national identity has become a desire for greater and greater influence on foreign cultures. Hemingway's contribution to a normative masculinity suffuses pop culture and American military policy post nine/eleven, as surely as Richard Wright's sociopath Bigger Thomas foreshadows the pathology of the urban ghetto as well as the basic ethos of hip-hop. Zora Neale Hurston is the real exile, inside the boundaries of the United States. Her work has been ignored because of her race and its power: de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He hand it to his women-folks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as I can see.
Hurston's national identity challenged Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner: But one thing is definite. The iron has entered my soul. Since my god of tolerance has forsaken me, I am ready for anything to overthrow Anglo-Saxon supremacy, however desperate. I have become what I never wished to be, a good hater. I no longer even value my life if by losing it, I can do something to destroy this Anglo-Saxon monstrosity.
writer I have selected has a political dimension
or a sexual theme not often remarked on. For instance,
Hemingway, even in For Whom the Bell Tolls, returns
to the sexual theme of androgyny or sameness in
sex ultimately to repudiate it; but it haunts
his work. Given that he forbade
Writing is essential because writers are conscious of choices made through language and have a set of ethics based on their aspirations as writers. The source of being for each writer is that they identify the purpose of their lives as writers; all experience goes through that metaphysical praxis. Not to take on writing as such as the first element of building a self and a country or nationalism would be a form of willful blindness. In the same way, the deep impulses of gender have been invisible, the connection, that is, between writing and gender. I am saying that each of these writers defined or redefined gender and the American soul in ways that continue to move and motivate us as Americans. Nine/eleven might have pushed us too close to Hemingway and too far from Eudora Welty.
The chapters will be interrelated, not separate essays. The model is my book Intercourse, in which I use literature to explicate the paradigm of dominance and submission involved in sexual intercourse. I want to know what one can learn about the masculine from Hemingway, who after all created a castrated hero; or the feminine from Fitzgerald, who was arguably parasitic in relation to real women and whose gorgeous writing style affirms a dimension of the feminine; or the meaning of a modern consciousness in Faulkner, who in As I Lay Dying conflates the living and the dead; or the brutal and subversive rage of the oppressed in Wright, who himself set the benchmark for Ellison and Baldwin; or the love in O'Connor's dark Catholic faith; or the imagination in the immigrant novels of Cather, with their wide, rural landscapes; or the ethical choices made as a writer by Welty; or Zora Neale Hurston's long exile from the world of white -controlled literature and the making of an American culture.
I intend to focus on the creative work, the books or a book of each author to locate the gender strategies that account for the creation of an American identity. While the biographical information on each author will inform my vision, my plan is not to write mini-biographies or to mine familiar clichés about their work. Instead what I will bring to this is my deep commitment to literature and my love of writing. I also value the political in writing; I value it too much to fall back on stereotypes about these writers. Rather, using their books more than their lives will allow me to bring a new eye to the work. From The Sun Also Rises to Native Son to Their Eyes Were Watching God, my analysis of gender and national identity will provide new readings as well as a new theory of the founding of the contemporary American consciousness and conscience.
want to articulate the meaning of national identity.
Conceptually this approach follows on the political
explication of the nation of Israel that I did
in Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation,
which won the American Book Award. The ways in
which gender suffuses national
The writing style of each writer will be integrated into the analysis by showing how the formal use of language exposes or hides the purposes of each writer.
For instance, with Hemingway his early work suggests a flexible, even gender-bending, view of male-female sex and sex roles. In two books published posthumously, he posits a sameness in men and women and explicates role reversal in sex. Perhaps the through-a-Freudian-glass analyses of The Sun Also Rises are wrong and the castrated hero and female heroine are gender inverted? Perhaps one is not reading a story about the submerged male fear of women's sexuality but instead the woman lives a male life and the male a female life. Perhaps she's the boy and he's the girl, which suggests that women are castrated and live limited lives because of it. The more I read (or reread in most cases) Hemingway, the more I believe that at least his early work has a feminist subtext. One begins to see in The Sun Also Rises the beginnings of Hemingway's nationalist chauvinism, expressed paradoxically in the exile of these two characters. The question of how Hemingway changed into someone who wrote about men as an advocate of hypermasculinity while at the same time his American chauvinism grew is what I propose to follow.
The influence U.S. writing has had on world literature is no less explosive than the influence of pop culture. I intend to explore in each writer the American identity with its dynamism and, in some cases, the appearance of an optimism, the dark side of which is not extinguished. This American identity as these writers forged it is the beginning of what is called "the American Century." Some of it runs counter to the nationalist rhetoric surrounding both Normandy and the post-nine/eleven war. The regionalism of Welty and Faulkner, for instance, constitutes a deep critique of the American nation as such, a kind of literary federalism. Hemingway and Fitzgerald, with their differing pro-American stances, lived much of their adult lives outside the U.S. With all the writing on Hemingway and Fitzgerald, there is nothing that expresses a complex view of how gender actually creates their nationalism. I have also been thinking a great deal about writing and would like to explore what it is and what it means using the writers I have identified. Finally, then, this is an homage to writers who articulated the early modern principles of a late twentieth-century American identity.
Writing America will be both original and accessible. I intend to use simple prose without a surfeit of quotes from secondary sources. I can write Writing America in three years.