Remembering Andrea Dworkin
Andrea Dworkin, the legendary (some would say infamous) feminist writer and activist has died at age 59. Though she died Friday, word seems only to be spreading today. She is survived by her friend and partner of more than a quarter century, gay activist John Stoltenberg. (He wrote the splendid Refusing to be a Man.)
Dworkin was a hell of a writer. Her prose was combative, daring, frequently over-the-top. Hers was an invariably lonely voice. I know of no other feminist figure more frequently quoted out-of-context. (The Men's Rights Advocates loved to pick out isolated sections of her work, though I doubt that many ever read most of her books cover-to-cover.) Her savage, vigorously polemical style in books like Intercourse, Letters from a War Zone, and above all, her brilliant Pornography: Men Possessing Women had a colossal impact on the feminist movement from the 1970s to the present day.
Rad Geek has a brief tribute to Dworkin, and happily, a list of links to some of her own posts about Dworkin that include extensive quotations. This particular post, which clears up the tired old myth that Dworkin thought all heterosexual intercourse was rape, is very valuable. The gulf between what she really said and what her critics heard was wider than it was for any other public figure of whom I can think.
In June 2000, in an article in the New Statesman, she came forward to say that the previous year, she had been raped in a European hotel room. Virtually no one believed her. Even erstwhile allies were troubled by Dworkin's vagueness with the facts. As Catherine Bennett wrote in the Guardian:
Offered like this, as evidence, the article contains so many opacities, begs so many questions, that it reads almost as if Dworkin wants to be doubted.
Stoltenberg was among those who doubted her as well, apparently:
John looked for any other explanation than rape," Dworkin wrote. "He abandoned me emotionally. Now a year has passed and sometimes he's with me in his heart and sometimes not"
He was with her to the end, I am happy to say. In today's obituary, rightly or wrongly, the Guardian describes Stoltenberg as "her husband."
She will be much missed. Though one always says of the dead that they were unique, it is safe to say that there was truly only one Andrea Dworkin. I didn't always agree with her, but cripes, I loved to read her stuff. She challenged me and pushed me and made me a better pro-feminist, even when I rolled my eyes at her purple prose. I'll give my students something of hers to read soon.
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Mercy Gonzalez - 4/21/2005
Hope you talk about Dworkin in your Women's Studies Class, she sounds fascinating. __ It's unfortunate that when people are combative, daring, and over-the-top they are frequently mis-quoted, put-down, or chastised. We admire daring, bold, creative individuals that don't hold back. Yet, we criticize them for being this way.__You know, I'm going to make it a point to read all of her books this summer!
Dworkin was spoiled and naive in many ways, she was used to having her way. Then along comes Stoltenberg who doesn't put up with her idiosyncrasies.__Frustration can lead people to peculiar behavior. Stoltenberg may have been frustrated with Dworkin, and this may have caused him to doubt her. But, it doesn't change the way he felt about her. You can be upset with a person, but that doesn't mean you stop loving them.__ Maybe that entire rape thing was her way of drawing attention to their communication problems. Maybe she made up the entire thing so that Stoltenberg would recognize her frustration and anger with him.
Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005
Since there is now unanimity that Dworkin was NOT raped, and rather created the "rape" for reasons unknown (publicity? psychosis?)--mightn't we want to consider the veracity of her other writings?
Ben W. Brumfield - 4/12/2005
It's here, and has some excellent responses.