Goodbye Andrea Dworkin

Andrea DworkinThe drive of Ms Dworkin’s writing and activism was to break the silence around violence against women, but her wider career saw her become a figure of adulation and loathing in equal measure. To opponents she was an archetypal man-hater, killjoy and proponent of censorship, but supporters rallied to her impassioned lectures and books. Gloria Steinem, a fellow feminist, said she was one of a handful of writers each century “who help the human race to evolve”.

Ms Dworkin’s life as a political activist began early. In 1965, when she was 18, she was arrested at the US mission to the United Nations, protesting against the Vietnam war. She was sent to the New York City Women’s House of Detention, where she was given a brutal internal examination.

Her testimony about the experience was reported worldwide and helped to bring public pressure to bear to close the prison. An unmarked community garden now grows where it once stood.
(Source: The Guardian)

Andrea Dworkin died at the weekend. She was 59.

She’s on my heroes page and has been a hero of mine for around fifteen years.

Like most men, I approached her work with trepidation. The yellow media has always painted her as a loony, man-hating feminist and so I was nervous. Once I read her, I realised how mis-reported she was. The mass media never gave Dworkin her due as a scholar, writer, revolutionary or human being.

The first book I read by her was ‘Intercourse.’ Like everyone reading this, I’ve been brought up in a society with a narrow framework for gender, with an off-the-rail notion of freedom of choice. Dworkin’s writing opened my eyes to the underlying mechanisms of society just as Reich, Trotsky and Sartre had done before her. A lot of the ranting I did in the sleeve notes to my first album was my reaction to Dworkin, trying to step back and take a look at how much I was complicit in the war of men against women.

If you haven’t read anything by Dworkin, I urge you to at least read ‘Intercourse.’ Whether you’re male of female, it will be a revelation. She constructs an argument that takes in Tolstoy and Bram Stoker, penetration and legalised misogyny. It’s a dazzling analysis and condemnation of patriarchal society and how it consigns both sexes to an impoverished, hobbled existence.

I don’t believe for a second that Dworkin was a man-hater. She simply hated a lot of what men do to women.

But what rational human being would disagree with her?