“I’m a radical feminist, not the fun kind.”
“In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.”
Gloria Steinem, speaking at Andrea Dworkin’s memorial.1
Born in Camden, New Jersey, on September 26, 1946, Andrea Dworkin devoted much of her life to liberating women from male violence.
A brave and determined activist from a young age, Andrea refused to sing Christmas carols at school because of her Jewish faith. For that, she was kicked out of the school choir. Her mother, a committed reproductive rights activist, taught Andrea the importance of women’s reproductive freedom when she was very young.
“My mother was one of the earliest members of Planned Parenthood. It was one of her first and greatest passions, a real crusade. By the time I was in the sixth grade I knew women died from illegal abortions and that it was wrong, even though I didn’t have the faintest idea what an abortion was.”
Andrea’s mother suffered from heart trouble, so Andrea was constantly shuffled from one relative’s home to another. Her father worked for the Post Office, and as a teacher and school guidance counselor. He was also a Socialist who http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-A-Ec/Dworkin-Andrea.html#ixzz4MMZ0BzZc had a profound influence on Andrea’s life.
“It would be hard to overstate how much he taught me about human rights and human dignity, how to talk and how to think,” Andrea once said. “My first role model was my father who is a very unusual man, being intellectual, honest and brave. One thing that amazes me is that people think that I think men are irredeemable. On the contrary, I think its incomprehensible that men behave the way they do, because my father was a very gentle, loving and nurturing parent. He served as both parents for my brother and myself and was also a person of extraordinary loyalty and kindness to my mother. So it was quite a shock to me when I went out into the world and found that other people didn’t treat women the same way.”
Andrea would find out long before adulthood that not all men were as kind as her father. At the age of only 9, Andrea was raped in a movie theater. Fighting male sexual violence against women and children would shape the course of Andrea’s life and work.
After graduating from Cherry Hill High School in 1964, Andrea went on to attend Bennington College in Vermont, hoping to become a Greenwich Village artist.
At the age of 18, while protesting the Vietnam War, Andrea was arrested and sent to New York Women’s House of Detention. While there, the facility’s doctors subjected her to a brutal and humiliating body cavity search. This left her scarred both physically and emotionally.
“It was a notorious and very brutal prison. Twelve floors of women who mostly had done nothing… You were body searched constantly and they claimed that they were looking for heroin. They looked for heroin in every orifice of your body. Also, they said they had to give you a medical examination for syphilis…two doctors gave me an internal examination that totally brutalized me. It was a rape. They were male doctors, very sadistic, having a good time laughing and joking. It’s been 20 years and I haven’t forgotten one detail of it. I started hemorrhaging shortly after”http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/1988vol9/vol9_1988_interview.php
When Andrea was released, writer and activist Grace Paley encouraged her to tell the newspapers about her abuse. Her story was published in the New York Times and other news outlets around the country. Her testimony led to a government investigation into the jail and it was eventually closed down. http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-A-Ec/Dworkin-Andrea.html#ixzz4MMaD0geB
After the story of her abuse was published, Andrea Dworkin’s parents disowned her. “They were furious with me for being arrested. My mother’s reactions were terrible and my father was more concerned for her health than mine. I was very badly hurt. That was the last time I was home. I never again was a child in my parents’ house.”
Following her graduation from college in 1968, Andrea moved to Amsterdam and married a Dutch activist. She and her husband worked together to help young men avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War.
But Andrea’s husband soon became extremely abusive. He beat Andrea and burned her with cigarettes.
In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Andrea wrote, “I was buried alive in silence. I didn’t know that such horror had ever happened to anyone else.”
After escaping her abuser, Andrea ended up “living as a fugitive, sleeping on people’s floors and having to prostitute for money to live.”
She hid from her husband until a female friend helped her return to the United States.http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-A-Ec/Dworkin-Andrea.html#ixzz4MMdb9VXV
Upon returning to the USA, Andrea divorced her husband and worked at a number of menial jobs. She eventually became an assistant for the poet Muriel Rukeyser, who encouraged Andrea to write.
Andrea wrote her first book of feminist theory Woman Hating in 1974, when she was only 27 years old.
“The nature of women’s oppression is unique: women are oppressed as women, regardless of class or race; some women have access to significant wealth, but that wealth does not signify power; women are to be found everywhere, but own or control no appreciable territory; women live with those who oppress them, sleep with them, have their children — we are tangled, hopelessly it seems, in the gut of the machinery and way of life which is ruinous to us.”
Woman Hating identified connections between foot binding in China, witch burning in Europe, and misogyny in fairy tales and pornography, highlighting the ways in which society promotes contempt for women.
The first line of Woman Hating states: “This book is an action, a political action where revolution is the goal.”
Woman Hating received praise as well as condemnation. Many thought Andrea’s views were insightful and brave, while others attacked her as a man-hater.
Because she viewed the sex trade as a vicious method of harming women, Andrea joined Barbara Deming, Jane Verlaine, and other radical feminists in organizing against pornography.
In 1978, Andrea delivered a rousing speech at San Francisco’s first “Take Back the Night” march, which brought the feminist anti-rape movement to national attention. Grassroots feminist groups dedicated to opposing pornography as a tool of the patriarchy sprang up all over the country.
In 1980, Andrea published a collection of short stories with feminist themes, The New Woman’s Broken Heart. T he following year she published Pornography: Men Possessing Women, which described and analyzed the way male violence against women is perpetuated by the sex trade.
“Capitalism is not wicked or cruel when the commodity is the whore; profit is not wicked or cruel when the alienated worker is a female piece of meat; corporate bloodsucking is not wicked or cruel when the corporations in question, sell cunt; racism is not wicked or cruel when the black cunt or yellow cunt or red cunt or Hispanic cunt or Jewish cunt has her legs splayed for any man’s pleasure; poverty is not wicked or cruel when it is the poverty of dispossessed women who have only themselves to sell; violence by the powerful against the powerless is not wicked or cruel when it is called sex; slavery is not wicked or cruel when it is sexual slavery; torture is not wicked or cruel when the tormented are women, whores, cunts. The new pornography is left-wing; and the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.”
Andrea went on to collaborate with prominent anti-pornography activists such as Susan Brownmiller, Laura Lederer, Lynn Campbell, and Catherine MacKinnon.
In 1980, the star of the porn film Deep Throat, Linda Marchiano (also known as Linda Lovelace), reached out to Andrea and other anti-pornography feminists to seek justice for having been forced into pornography by her ex-husband Chuck Traynor. She appeared on TV shows with feminist Gloria Steinem, stating that, “Everyone going to see Deep Throat is watching me being raped.”
To assist Ms. Marchiano in finding justice, Andrea Dworkin sought the help of fellow feminist Catherine MacKinnon, who was an attorney and Yale law professor.
The two could not find anything in the law to help Marchiano, so they drafted an ordinance that would allow people who had been harmed by pornography to sue those who profited from its sale.
The Minneapolis City Council passed the ordinance on two separate occasions, but the mayor vetoed it both times despite large street protests organized by feminists.
Andrea and Catherine MacKinnon went on to write and lobby for similar legislation in Indianapolis, Indiana; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Bellingham, Washington.
“It was an inventive use of civil law; rather than banning or censoring pornography, it would have enabled victims of the porn industry to claim damages and recognition for the harm it caused.”
Each one of the ordinances passed, but were struck down by the courts for being a potential threat to first amendment rights. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/other/ordinance/HillSilverOrd1.html
In 1986, Andrea filed a libel suit against Larry Flynn’s Hustler magazine for they publishing sexually explicit cartoons about her. But the case was later dismissed.
Following repeated losses in court, the anti-pornography movement was weakened by accusations of supporting censorship.
Andrea and Catherine MacKinnon later published a book together called Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality (1988).
“Pornography is central in creating and maintaining the civil inequality of the sexes. Pornography is a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on sex which differentially harms women. . . .The Ordinance does not take ‘rights’ away from anyone, . . . it takes the power to hurt women away from pornographers.”
—Andrea Dworkin, Pornography and Civil Rights
While fighting against pornography Andrea continued to write and publish books such Right-Wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females (1983), and a novel about prostitution, Ice and Fire (1986).
“Anti-feminism is also operating whenever any political group is ready to sacrifice one group of women, one faction, some women, some kinds of women, to any element of sex-class oppression: to pornography, to rape, to battery, to economic exploitation, to reproductive exploitation, to prostitution. There are women all along the male-defined political spectrum, including both extreme ends of it, ready to sacrifice some women, usually not themselves, to the brothels or the farms. The sacrifice is profoundly anti-feminist; it is also profoundly immoral…”
—Andrea Dworkin, Right Wing Women
In 1986 Andrea testified before the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (also known as the Meese Commission). Her testimony was included in the final report and excerpted in some conservative publications like Phyllis Schlafly’s Pornography’s Victims (1987).
This led some critics to accuse her of collaborating with the Christian Right, an accusation that hurt Andrea.
Not only was Andrea accused of collaborating with Conservatives, she was ridiculed for her physical appearance and demonized as a vicious man-hater.
But those who knew Andrea personally had a very different view of her:
“Andrea’s wicked, dry humour, unwavering integrity and shy vulnerability combined to make her utterly compelling. There was something intoxicating about getting to know a woman who had been vilified as a man-hating misery but who was, in fact, a warm, open-minded intellectual.”
Despite her often brutal treatment by the press, Andrea was a powerful and popular speaker on the lecture circuit. She also continued to write books, and offered her support to feminist anti-pornography organizations in the United Kingdom. She contributed her writing to the U.K. book, Pornography: Women Violence and Civil Liberties.
Because American publishing houses found Andrea’s ideas too radical to promote, many of Andrea’s books were published in the U.K.
Andrea gained wider notoriety and criticism following the publication of her nonfiction work, Intercourse, in 1987. The book is often misinterpreted as claiming all sexual intercourse is rape. But Andrea’s intention was to analyze the act of sexual intercourse within the context of a patriarchal society, in which penetrative sex was often used as a tool for controlling and degrading women.
“A woman has a body that is penetrated in intercourse: permeable, its corporeal solidness a lie. The discourse of male truth—literature, science, philosophy, pornography—calls that penetration violation. This it does with some consistency and some confidence. Violation is a synonym for intercourse. At the same time, the penetration is taken to be a use, not an abuse; a normal use; it is appropriate to enter her, to push into (“violate”) the boundaries of her body. She is human, of course, but by a standard that does not include physical privacy.”
“Men often react to women’s words—speaking and writing—as if they were acts of violence; sometimes men react to women’s words with violence. So we lower our voices. Women whisper. Women apologize. Women shut up. Women trivialize what we know. Women shrink. Women pull back. Most women have experienced enough dominance from men—control, violence, insult, contempt—that no threat seems empty.”
In 1990 Andrea published her second novel, Mercy. Andrea’s two novels had admirers around the globe, but she was such a controversial figure in America she once remarked that her fictional books were “easier to find in English in Nigeria than in the U.S.”
“This Linda girl, with the throat, who tormented her? In the end, it’s always simple. I paid the dollars to go; to the film; to see it; if it was true; what they did to her throat; I figured the boy who did it to me must of got it from there; because, frankly, I know the world A to Z; and no one banged a woman’s throat before these current dark days. …”
—Andrea Dworkin, Mercy
An incredibly prolific writer, Andrea also published a collection of articles and autobiographical essays entitled Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War against Women, during the 1990’s.
She once again collaborated with Catharine MacKinnon and published In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings in 1997. The book contained testimony and transcripts of hearings during the fight for passage of anti-pornography ordinances.
By 1998, with the U.S. publication of Letters from a War Zone: Writings, 1976–1987 (a British edition had appeared ten years earlier), Andrea had become a leading intellectual within the feminist movement.
“Feminists do fight for free speech when it is a real fight for real freedom of real speech…One of the awful consequences of free speech/First Amendment Fundamentalism is that political people, including feminists, have entirely forgotten that access to media is not a democratically distributed right, but something gotten by birth or money.”
—Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone
Andrea’s writing often involved commentary on the Holocaust and hwow it compared to the oppression of women. In her book, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation (2000) Andrea argued that the “everyday violence” women suffered under patriarchy was comparable to what the Jews suffered under the Nazis. She concluded that women should have a country of their own, just as the Jews had the state of Israel.
“Do women need sovereignty—not only over their own bodies as currently understood in the United States …; but control of a boundary further away from their bodies, a defended boundary? Do women need land and an army …; or a feminist government in exile …? Or is it simpler: the bed belongs to the woman; the house belongs to the woman; any land belongs to the woman; if a male intimate is violent he is removed from the place where she has the superior and inviolate claim, arrested, denied parole, and prosecuted. …. Could women “set a high price on our blood”? Could women set any price on our blood? Could women manage self-defense if not retaliation? Would self-defense be enough? Could women execute men who raped or beat or tortured women?…. Could the acts of women in behalf of women … have a code of honor woman-to-woman that weakens the male-dominant demands of nationalism or race-pride or ethnic pride? Could women commit treason to the men of their own group: put women first, even the putative enemy women? Do women have enough militancy and self-respect to see themselves as the central makers of legal codes, ethics, honor codes, and culture?”
–Andrea Dworkin, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation
The last book Andrea published was Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant (2002).
“Do no harm” is the counterpoint to apathy, indifference and passive aggression; it is the fundamental moral imperative. “Do no harm” is the opposite of immoral. One must do something and at the same time do no harm. “Do no harm” remains the hardest ethic.”
—Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
In the mid-1970s Andrea met a gay writer named John Stoltenberg at an antiwar poetry reading. Even though Andrea was a lesbian and Stoltenberg was gay, they fell in love and became life partners. They supported their feminist activism through Andrea’s writing and speaking fees, and Stoltenberg’s income from magazine publishing.
While on vacation in Cape Coral, Florida, in early 1998, Andrea and John formally married. They had no children.
In early 2004, a year before her death, Andrea and Stoltenberg moved to Washington, D.C.
At this time, Andrea’s health was rapidly declining and she was in constant pain from arthritis. She had surgery to help her weakening knees, but she suffered a series of falls after her surgery.
At her memorial Andrea was eulogized as a courageous leader of the modern feminist movement. Gloria Steinem and Catherine MacKinnon were among the many who honored her.
http://www.biography.com/people/andrea-dworkin-38425#early-life Despite her public image as an attention-seeking man-hater, Andrea inspired deep admiration and affection in her friends and political allies.
A year after her death, Andrea’s ashes were scattered on the island of
Quotes by Andrea Dworkin :
“I don’t believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we [women] are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.”
“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.”
“Many women, I think, resist feminism because it is an agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society, and all personal relationships.”
“The genius of any slave system is found in the dynamics which isolate slaves from each other, obscure the reality of a common condition, and make united rebellion against the oppressor inconceivable.”
“Being female in this world means having been robbed of the potential for human choice by men who love to hate us. One does does not make choices in freedom. Instead, one conforms in body type and behavior and values to become an object of male sexual desire, which requires an abandonment of a wide-ranging capacity for choice…
Men too make choices. When will they choose not to despise us?”
“Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men; this is the essential truth of pornography.”
“All feminist arguments, however radical in intent or consequence, are with or against assertions or premises implicit in the male system, which is made credible or authentic by the power of men to name. No transcendence of the male system is possible as long as men have the power of naming… As Prometheus stole fire from the gods, so feminists will have to steal the power of naming from men, hopefully to better effect.”
“Men have constructed female sexuality and in so doing have annihilated the chance for sexual intelligence in women. Sexual intelligence cannot live in the shallow, predestined sexuality men have counterfeited for women.”
“Surely the freedom of women must mean more to us than the freedom of pimps.”
“Women, it is said, have a bad attitude toward sex. Women, it not said often enough, have a long-lived resentment against forced-sex and a longing for freedom.”
“Women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture out, we will fall off the edge.”
“The intelligence of women is not out in the world, acting on its own behalf; it is kept small, inside the home, acting on behalf of another. This is true even when the woman works outside the home, because she is segregated into women’s work, and her intelligence does not have the same importance as the lay of her ass.”
“I didn’t believe any words were dirty until I heard the white boys say cunt.”
“Does the sun ask itself, “Am I good? Am I worthwhile? Is there enough of me?” No, it burns and it shines. Does the sun ask itself, “What does the moon think of me? How does Mars feel about me today?” No it burns, it shines. Does the sun ask itself, “Am I as big as other suns in other galaxies?” No, it burns, it shines.”
“Feminism is a political practice of fighting male supremacy in behalf of women as a class, including all the women you don’t like, including all the women you don’t want to be around, including all the women who used to be your best friends whom you don’t want anything to do with anymore. It doesn’t matter who the individual women are. They all have the same vulnerability to rape, to battery, as children to incest. Poorer women have more vulnerability to prostitution, which is basically a form of sexual exploitation that is intolerable in an egalitarian society, which is the society we are fighting for.”
“A political resistance goes on day and night, under cover and over ground, where people can see it and where people can’t. It is passed from generation to generation. It is taught. It is encouraged. It is celebrated. It is smart. It is savvy. It is committed. And someday it will win. It will win.”
The Complete Works Of Andrea Dworkin are now available in pdf, epub and kindle formats.
- Woman Hating
- Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
- Letters From a War Zone
- Life & Death: Unapologetic Writing on the Continuing War Against Women
- Pornography: Men Possessing Women
- Right-wing Women
- Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation
- Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics
- Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality (with Catharine A. MacKinnon)
- In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings (with Catharine A. MacKinnon)
- Mercy: A Novel
- Ice And Fire
- The New Womans Broken Heart
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1974; 1991 Plume
Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses On Sexual Politics
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1976; 1982
The New Womans Broken Heart: Short Stories
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1980 by Frog in the Well Press
Pornography: Men Possessing Women
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1981; 1991 Plume
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1983 Perigee
Ice and Fire
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1986; 1987
by Andrea Dworkin (Foreword by Ariel Levy)
Published 1987; 2006
Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality
by Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin
Letters from a War Zone
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1989; 1993 Lawrence Hill Books
Mercy: A Novel
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1990; 1993
Life and Death
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1997; 2002
In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings
by Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin
Published 1998 Harvard University Press
Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 2000 Free Press
Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 2002; 2007