Feminist writer and anti-pornography activist Andrea Dworkin dies 2005

Andrea Dworkin, well-known feminist writer and anti-pornography activist, dies

Andrea Dworkin: September 26, 1946 - April 9, 2005

Andrea Dworkin is internationally renowned as a radical feminist activist
and author who has helped break the silence around violence against women.

In 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
pioneering Minneapolis and Indianapolis ordinances that define pornography a civil-rights violation against women. She has testified before the Attorney
General's Commission on Pornography and a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has appeared on national television shows including Donahue, MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, 60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, and 48 hours. She has been a focus of articles in The New York Times, Newsweek, The New Republic, and Time. And an hour-long documentary called Against Pornography: The Feminism of Andrea Dworkin, produced by the BBC, was watched by more viewers in England than any other program in the Omnibus series and has been syndicated throughout Europe and Australia. Filmed in New York City and Portland, Oregon, it included excerpts from Dworkin's impassioned public speaking and intimate conversations between Dworkin and women who had been used in prostitution and pornography, most since childhood.

The author of 13 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Dworkin is a political artist of unparalleled achievement.

"In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to
evolve," said Gloria Steinem; Andrea is one of them." Dworkin's first
novel, Ice and Fire, was published in 1986; Mercy followed in 1990 to wide
acclaim in the U.S. and abroad- "lyrical and passionate," said The New York Times; "one of the great postwar novels," said London's Sunday Telegraph; "a fantastically powerful book," said the Glasgow Herald. Her latest nonfiction book is Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against Women (The Free Press).

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.

Called "the eloquent feminist" by syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman,
Dworkin has been a featured speaker at universities, conferences, and Take Back the Night marches throughout North America and Europe, speaking out powerfully against crimes of violence against women, the new right, racism, and anti-Semitism. The New York Times described one of her lectures on pornography at New York University Law School as "highly passionate," and reported that the audience responded with a standing ovation. "She moved this audience to action," said a Stanford University spokesperson. A University of Washington spokesperson said, "She empowered the women and men present; in fact a coalition on violence against women came out of her lecture." Ms. magazine admires "the relentless courage of Dworkin's revolutionary demands. . . Her gift . . . is to make radical ideas seem clear and obvious."

The 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.

Life and Death, March 1997, The Free Press. Collected articles, lectures,
and essays.

Mercy, 1991, Four Walls Eight Windows, (U.S.A.); Secker & Warburg (1990, England). Novel.

Letters From a War Zone, 1989, Dutton, and 1993, Lawrence Hill Books
(U.S.A.); Secker & Warburg (1988, England). Collected essays.

Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality, 1988,
Organizing Against Pornography (coauthored with Catharine A. acKinnon).


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

Bitches 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 Mass Media
Studies, The Price We Pay, several legal casebooks, and others. Introduction to Sexual Harassment: A Speak-out (1992), Just Sex (2000), Marilyn Monroe.(2001).

Works translated
Books and articles have been translated into French, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Lithuanian, Flemish, Croatian, Galacian, and other languages; books are sold in English all over the world.

Contributions to periodicals
Articles have appeared in The American Voice, America Report, Berkeley Barb, The Body Politic, Broadside, Canadian Women's Studies, City Limits, Christopher Street, Chrysalis, Emma, Feminist Review, Feminist Studies, Gay
Community News, Harvard Women's Law Journal, Healthsharing, Heresies, Hot Wire, The (London) Guardian, The (London) Sunday Times, The (London) Times Educational Supplement, The Los Angeles Times, Maenad, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mother Jones, Ms., New Political Science, New York Native, New York Newsday, The New York Times Book Review, The New Women's Times, off our backs, On the Issues, San Francisco Review of Books, The Second Wave, Sinister Wisdom, Social Policy, Soho Weekly News, Sojourner, Trouble and Strife, La Vie En Rose, Village Voice, Win, Woman of Power, The Women's Review of Books, and others.

Winner: American Book Award 2001 for Scapegoat

Lectures, seminars, and workshops at University of Chicago Law School, Stanford University, Smith College, Stony Brook University, Queens College, Fordham University, Yale University Law School, New York University, New York University Law School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston College, Boston University, State University of New York at Old Westbury and at Albany, University of Michigan, Penn State University, Harvard College, University of Pennsylvania, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst College, Pratt Institute, Radcliffe College, Stanford University, San Francisco State College, University of California at Davis, University of Wisconsin at Madison and at Milwaukee, University of Illinois, Florida State University, Sullivan County Community College, Douglass College, University of Washington at Seattle, Washington State College, Evergreen College, Old Dominion University, Reed College, University of Minnesota at Minneapolis and at Duluth, University of Minnesota Law School, University of Tennessee, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Hamilton College, Dartmouth College, and others; Smithsonian Institution; National Organization for Women (New York; Washington, D.C.; Lincoln, Nebraska; Seattle; New Orleans), Women's Rights Park

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.

Media Coverage
Interviews in newspapers, magazines, journals, on radio, in the United States, Canada, Italy, England, Ireland, Holland, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Israel.

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.

B.A., Bennington College, 1968; literature major, philosophy minor.

Visiting Professor in Women's Studies and Law, University of Minnesota, fall 1983: taught class with Catharine A. MacKinnon sponsored by the Law School and the Women's Studies Department on pornography; taught class in literature sponsored by the Women's Studies Department; was on both the Law School faculty and the Liberal Arts faculty.

Coauthored (with Catharine A. MacKinnon) the first legislation recognizing pornography as a violation of women's civil rights; organized hearings on pornography for the City of Minneapolis to establish the harm of pornography to women and children; coauthored revised version of the civil-rights bill for the City of Indianapolis.

Professional Affiliations
The Authors Guild, PEN, Fellow of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press, American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. Member of The Southern Poverty Law Center (Klanwatch), National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Planned Parenthood, National Women's Political
Caucus, founding sponsor of The Abortion Fund (to provide abortions to poor women, now part of Planned Parenthood), Amnesty International, National Organization for Women. Former adviser to the National Council on Women and Family Law.

The bookshe waswriting at the time of her death
Writing America: How Novelists Invented and Gendered a Nation

The 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
literally made it up. In this book I will tell that story how the notion of "American" came to mean what it does today —through a completely fresh reading of writers who came of age around World War I, especially Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Wright, Cather, O'Connor, Welty, and Hurston. I will analyze the ways in which each claims to be an American, or claims qualities that are American, or frames what America is and who Americans are. For better or for worse, American national identity is like a self-generated, closed system of values and self-referential beliefs about itself-an ecology to which each of these writers has been a major contributor.

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.

Gender 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
Neale Hurston as it is for Ernest Hemingway. Then the gender that writers write becomes the crucible in which writers concoct the meaning of being American.

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.

Each 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
his sons to see his mother because she was "androgynous," this emerges as part of the internal masculinity he creates through his writing. Like Hemingway, the writers I will deal with are more complicated when it comes to gender than they seem. The same is true with respect to national identity. Hemingway, part of an exile community in Paris as a young writer, lived most of his adult life outside of the United States, spoke fluent Italian, French, and Spanish; and worked over the facts of his life in book after book.

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.

I 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
identity, or, following Virginia Woolf, two separate national identities, one for men, another for women, will be the central focus of Writing America.

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.


Back to Newsmakers index

Back to top