[image, the Anti Feminist Bingo Card, is from here]
"Feminism is a much-hated political philosophy. This is true all along the male-defined, recognizable political spectrum from far Right to far Left. Feminism is hated because women are hated. Antifeminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of woman hating. This is because feminism is the liberation movement of women."
-- Andrea Dworkin, Right-wing Women, p. 195
There are several categories of anti-Dworkinites. I have met a couple, maybe, who were both familiar with Dworkin's work and who comprehended what she was and was not saying. (I was impressed with this, and they disagreed largely on libertarian grounds, which set in motion an active critique, in me, of libertarianism for apparently ignoring the harm of many forms of systemic abuse, and for ignoring the harm of Western Civilisation.) Mostly, though, what is on the internet that is critical of her shows no knowledge or understanding of her work. This ought to be dismissed as a very lazy form of anti-feminism. But laziness is a great value among the most privileged people, who have, after all, learned how to incorporate leisure time into their lives. White men who criticise her are mostly this bunch, and they are the P.R.I.C.K.s, the W.I.M.P.s, and the P.I.M.P.s. Larry Flynt, the 'liberal hero' and pornographer pimp; Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, liberal and Right-wing propagandists with plenty of airtime--both for the pimping of women, in one fashion or another; and many, many men on the Left and Right are in this group.
It is curious to me that one of the criticisms of Dworkin is that she worked with the Right on trying to get antipornography legislation passed, thereby betraying the Left. She didn't, but let's put that aside. The Het Male Left abandoned feminists and didn't care about any other kind of liberation for women than their liberation from control by their fathers, so these oh-so-socially conscious het boys could try and fuck them. But let's put that aside too. If that is your issue--someone who supposedly on the Het Male Supremacist Left getting real cozy with folks on the Het Male Supremacist Right, why don't you complain about all the lefty white boys who are in bed with Rush, Fox News, and the pimps who season the girls to be prostituted to Right-wing white het men? Why aren't you upset with President Obama for following G.W.Bush's pro-military industrial complex policies and practices? Why does women's sexual exploitation not register in your minds and hearts as a legitimate and central political issue to organise to end?
Another category of anti-Dworkinite are the women, often white, class privileged, reportedly unbattered, not raped many times, and never homeless or poor, who have been or are being educated in the Academy. These women identify as feminist and want to blame Andrea for doing all manner of awful things like trying to censor pimps, control sex, take away everyone's orgasms, and condemn people to living sad, lonely lives without their much needed "always available women" in one arena or many. Virtually all of the things she is alleged to have done she never did, but because the allegations flowed out of the mouths of enough people with enough media attention--more than she ever got--the lies about her seems more truthful than whatever it is that Andrea actually did and didn't do. Some anti-Dworkinites have had a lot of social currency. Two of those voices were Rush Limbaugh and Camille Paglia. Once again, the Right and Left are not so very different, but because they might disagree on other issues, we are supposed to believe they are not all promoting deadly systems like capitalism, white supremacy, and male supremacy. (But they are--both of 'em.)
Dworkin, the writer and lecturer has become, for some white women particularly, THE spokesperson for feminism. So, with her wrongly targeted as such, many forms of rage and ridicule follow. This is not the virulent antifeminism unleashed by men, all the damn time, who are too ignorant even to know what the hell they are talking about. No. These are women struggling with matters of liberation. The issue, often, is whether one assumes individuals can be free in oppressive societies, or whether liberation is a collectivist phenomenon. In the second we have a value such as "until everyone is free, no one is free". In the former, we have this ethic: fuck the people out of my view; it's about the individual, the privileged life, what privileged people like to do, and anyone who criticises the systems that manufacture my pleasure are to be silenced or, if possible, ignored. Because Dworkin spoke out, a lot, it has been difficult to ignore her. So her critics want her to shut up, or demand or wish she had said something else.
The radical feminist writer, no matter who she is, is always expected to do something that white het male writers are never, ever asked to do: accommodate the wishes of the readers. Feminists are asked, not usually politely, to change their minds and stop all this focus on the harmful things men do that actually do hurt women, a lot, often.
The intellectual work of women is always supposed to be open to man-ipulations. There are some women who practice various forms of accommodation, glorification, or ambivalent or resigned acceptance of male supremacists. These male supremacists wish only to be viewed as individuals. Some of them are seen to be brilliant, others not so much. Some are entertaining, others not so much. But if they are also rapists, or batterers of women, or procurers or pimps, "privately" or not, we are supposed to forgive them their sins and live with the pricks. We must admire the het men who make it a practice, one they take a lot of time to practice and get just right, to fuck over women habitually, privately, publicly, or both. How women survive or endure patriarchy is not the focus of this post, nor ought it be the focus of my work. How men behave is the focus of my work, usually.
But one thing I won't often ignore, for many reasons, especially when it is delivered to me directly, is a form of criticism of Dworkin's work and life that has little or no validity, that is largely or entirely made up, that is built either on lies about her or on media-produced distortions. Camille had a more favored influence academically and in some parts of society than Dworkin. This is partly because Camille liked capitalism and assumed that much about male supremacy was natural and inevitable, not socially constructed and destined to die. Her politics are not in much conflict with the deadly politics of the status quo. So she is allowed to live.
I'm going to present a few quotes from Camille Paglia, who I don't much like. I don't hate her as a person. I rather appreciate her energy and combative style. But her politics, her values, as noted above are so deeply rooted in a Western philosophical tradition that has no critique of itself as oppressive by design, anti-Indigenist, pro-patriarchal, white supremacist, unsustainable. She is fascinated with art and literature, but only that of Western Civilisation. She is intrigued with lots of philosophers and poets, most white and male ones, but not only. I get the sense the Third World has never occurred to her as being populated by human beings who think important thoughts and engage in important intellectual and social activities. I see no curiosity about the whole of Asia, Africa, South America, or Indigenous people anywhere.
What sort of understanding of the social world can you have when you tune out the majority of human beings who are challenging male supremacists and Western power brokers? What theory of culture are you discussing when the cultures of the world don't exist unless they are based in European society? Whose values and interests can be heard and respected? And, what does it mean that you don't criticise pimps but discuss sexual politics? That you embrace pornography and personal responsibility, but not social responsibility, not state responsibility to its citizens? When the only meaningful agents are individuals, systems of human destruction are easily invisibilised and those who speak against these harmful systems become targets of wrath or scorn or dismissal. There are a few oppressive systems which Paglia embraces wholeheartedly, capitalism chief among them. That capitalism is built on white and male supremacy seems to not concern her, at all. In this way she is a white male supremacist, as well as an active spokesperson for capitalism's tyrannies which she understands only as freedoms.
You have to be very privileged, certainly white, and enamored of male supremacists to have so adoring a perspective on something so horrid as and inhumane as capitalism. And you have to abide by a perspective in which ideas matter more than how the most oppressed among us experience systems of abundant abuse and gross exploitation. In case it isn't clear, you can't have corporate pimps and pornographers, misogynistic advertising and fashion industry heads, without capitalism. Capitalism breaths false value into white and male supremacy, a kind of social worth that is entirely anti-humane. One may discuss the value of women and men divvying up the tasks in any society. But manufacturing and selling racism and sexism as "useful", "necessary", and "for your own good" is just wrong. Society will be sustainable only when capitalism is dead and buried, hopefully well-composted.
These quotes by Camille Paglia were found *here*. They are from her books Vamps and Tramps (V&T); Sex, Art, and American Decadence (SA&AC); and written work and interviews, including in Playboy.
"Pornography and art are identical for me ... I think Michelangelo is a pornographer."
"TV is an art form, like Haiku." (Elle, December 1995)
"Feminism has betrayed women, alienated men and women, replaced dialogue with political correctness". (Playboy, May 1995)
"Feminism is 200 years old. It's had many phases. We can criticize the present phase without necessarily criticizing feminism, I want to save feminism from the feminists. What I identify with is the prewar feminism, ... that period of women where you had independence, self-reliance, personal responsibility, and not blaming other people for your problems." ... My feminist models are the boldly independent and childless Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn, who has been outspoken in her opposition to the delusion of "having it all"." (SA&AC)
"It is capitalist America that produced the modern independent woman. Never in history have women had more freedom of choice in regard to dress, behavior, career, and sexual orientation."
"Capitalism is an art form, an Apollonian fabrication to rival nature. It is hypocritical for feminists and intellectuals to enjoy the pleasures and conveniences of capitalism while sneering at it ... Everyone born into capitalism has incurred a debt to it. Give Caesar his due."
"I have intensely disliked the tendency of many feminists to want men to be remade in a kind of shy, sensitive form to become, in essence, new kinds of women, contemporary eunuchs which is less inconvenient to women. I think that this is not in the interests of the human race. We want masculine vigor, and I'm afraid that in order to get men macho again we may have to endure a certain amount of instability in sexual relations. That is, there may have to be a kind of honorable truce between enemy camps. So what would my advice be to the sexes at the end of the century? I would say to men: get it up! And to women I would say: deal with it." (Vamps & Tramps)
"We need a new kind of feminism, one that stresses personal responsibility and is open to art and sex in all their dark, unconsoling mysteries. The feminist of the fin de siècle will be bawdy, streetwise, and on-the-spot confrontational, in the prankish Sixties way."
"Madonna is the true feminist. She exposes the puritanism and suffocating ideology of American feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode. Madonna has taught young women to be fully female and sexual while still excerising control over their lives."
"Something went very wrong in feminism ... Every revolution eventually needs a new revolution. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to get rid of feminism. I'm trying to reform it, to save it, to bring it into the twenty-first century, in a way that allows the sexes to come together instead of being alienated from each other, that allows sex to be HOT and not have, like wet blankets of sermonizing thrown over it." (SA&AC p. 274)
"An enlightened feminism of the twenty-first century will embrace all sexuality and will turn away from the delusionalism, sanctimony, prudery, and male-bashing of the MacKinnon-Dworkin brigade. Women will never know who they are until they let men be men." (V&T p. 111)
"I reject feminist rant about the "male gaze", which supposedly renders passive and inert everything it touches. ... Sexual objectification is characteristically human and indistinguishable from the art impulse." (V&T p. 62)
"Feminism, in all fields, has yet to produce a single scholar of the intellectual rank of scores of [the] learned men in the German and British academic tradition." (SA&AC p. 204)
"[Catharine] "MacKinnon is a totalitarian. She wants a risk-free, state-controlled world. .... Literature, art, music, film, television - nothing intrudes on MacKinnon's consciousness unless it has been filtered through feminism. ... She is a Stalinist who believes that art must serve a political agenda and that all opposing voices are enemies of humanity who must be silenced. MacKinnon and [Andrea] Dworkin are victim-mongers, ambulance chasers, atrocity addicts... [they] are fanatics, zealots, fundamentalists of the new feminist religion. Their alliance with the reactionary, antiporn far right is no coincidence." (V&T p. 108, 110)
I wrote a fairly harsh critique of Ariel Levy's foreword to the twentieth anniversary edition of Dworin's book Intercourse. I wrote it with the full support of Nikki Craft, who published it online. (The link to it is at the bottom of this post.)
Here is a part of it:
Below are a half-dozen common antifeminist tactics routinely employed to discredit and demean feminist writers and activists:
1. Physically objectify or unduly focus on the body of the feminist:
Focus on the writer-activist's appearance. This is utilized against women who are considered "attractive things" by dominant white male supremacist standards, as well as for those women who are not. This tactic exists to take the focus off the author-activist's work, especially off the intellectual prowess and power of the work, in order to misogynistically retrain the eyes back on the woman as a patriarchally scrutinized body. This may be done through scornful description, objectifying photography, or both. As a test of sexism, ask yourself if a similarly well-known man's body, relative to his intellectual-political work (ideas, activism, etc)--think Karl Marx--is similarly scrutinized. Jerry Falwell just died recently: amidst the public contempt there was no preponderance of viscious disparaging comments about his weight; yet when Andrea died, "Finally, that fat b*tch is dead" was among the most frequently uttered remarks, online and off.
2. Psychologize and isolate the feminist:
Focus on the writer-activist's emotional state, internal world, and personal history as other than socially understandable and politically useful. This is what happens to raped women in courtrooms across the U.S. This tactic is used to get us to think more about what's happening in or has happened to the author-as-individual, than to examine with the author what's happening to women as a class.
3. Further portray the feminist as "a kind of woman" seen through patriarchy's distorting lens:
Turn a complex person back into the raced or gendered female Other, whether the mean mother, masochistic whore, wounded martyr, goddess-savior, or man-hating madwoman, by those who, through their writing, infer they have the ethical or political right to assess or reinscribe any woman in these misogynistic ways. She is thus more easily dehumanized, dismissed, or deified--someone who must be permanently pedestaled, knocked or otherwise taken down, or a combination thereof.
4. Undermine the feminist's work or reputation:
There are many ways to do this, and most of them employ techniques of back-handed compliments, quotations taken out of context, and subtle to blatant mischaracterizations of the work and its author.
5. Promulgate lies and distortions:
Especially recycle misstatements already circulating in the public domain. The repetition ofÂ these falsehoods helps keep them alive as "truth," maintaining an inaccurate or delusional understanding of the feminist under scrutiny.
6. Politically compromise and conceptually contain the feminist:
This tactic exists in many forms. Portray the feminist as ideologically rigid or physiologically frigid. Minimize or ignore real patriarchal forces. Keep the sexist spotlight on what those feminists do amongst themselves, as if not in response to living in and fighting a racist patriarchy. Employ conservative to liberal understandings of reality to text that is written from a radical point of view. Refuse to accept or comprehend the work on its own terms, instead collapsing its meaning back into a conservative to liberal worldview--which the radical feminist's text often exposes as part of the political problem.
Radical feminist writers' work is never supposed to be "met" on its own terms, by the reader; there is no imperative on privileged people to do their homework, so to speak, before approaching the radical woman's material--inside or outside the academy. However, whole college courses and books for Dummies exist to help us with the basic concepts and framework, the analysis, the terminology of the "great and influential ideas" of dead white men; I've read several of them. If I'm in the academy and I don't get it, I am advised to take the intro course again, or to please stop wasting everyone's time with my misunderstandings and inaccurate interpretations. I might be advised to speak with someone "in the know" before approaching the great white man's work again. And if I do, I will be asked to metaphorically remove my shoes before entering.
From Plato to Derrida, if you are not familiar with the framework or philosophy--and sometimes also the non-English language--the usually European man's great mind is operating out of or critiquing, the failure to comprehend the material belongs to you. With women writers, the failure to comprehend is placed back on the author. The dog-shit on the soles of anyone's shoes may be wiped on the feminist soul's work, and too often, no one will notice or care.
* * *What follows next is a statement by one person, and is from this website:
“My thinking tends to be libertarian. That is, I oppose intrusions of the state into the private realm – as in abortion, sodomy, prostitution, pornography, drug use, or suicide, all of which I would strongly defend as matters of free choice in a representative democracy.”
I personally find it quite refreshing that a lesbian feminist like Camille Paglia thinks in this manner. It is so much better than the likes of Andrea Dworkin with her comments that marriage is legalized rape and that society exists best under a socialist/communist structure. I think Dworkin was just an angry feminist who couldn’t get a date, straight or lesbian.I'm going to call out this person on being dishonest. They say they oppose intrusions of the state into the private realm, as in abortion, sodomy, prostitution, pornography, drug use, or suicide. She they go on to support unstated the views and values of Paglia.
Perhaps both Camille and this person value sexual libertarianism, whatever that is. I guess it means that if you're choosing the sex acts that require other people to die, but you don't die, and you have an orgasm, then they are deemed good because the people who died aren't talking about it.
We must note how and how often the public sphere intrudes into the private realm: much of what people do, sexually, in private, has been scripted, produced, directed, filmed, marketed, and distributed by pimps and their cronies. What many men like to do in bed has been sold to them, and is not at all asocial or acultural. If a society and a culture are white and male supremacist, to the ground, and deeper, then you can be sure those ideologies and the practices which make the ideologies politically effective and socially real are present, in your private life. The whole point of a period of feminist consciousness raising was to compare private experiences, and then realise how very publicly supported and maintained they all were, with law, religion, education, and media.
Camille Paglia's work, nor the oppressive work of pimps, nor the actions of procurers, nor the manufacturing of industry pornography, happens in the private realm. Nor does most drug use, which happens in hospitals, for example, and on streets, in alleys, in bars, clubs, and many other places away from home, none of which are private. Abortion is not well-argued on the grounds of it being a privacy right (see chapter 8 in Feminism Unmodified, by C. A. MacKinnon, titled: "Privacy v. Equality: Beyond Roe v. Wade", and chapter 10 in Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, also by C. A. MacKinnon, titled "Abortion: On Public and Private"), as women's bodies are not secured legally as private, and are not sexually understood to be, in any way, private. They are made quite public, in fact, by the pimps with cameras and the paparazzi making sure we know whether or not Paris Hilton was wearing underwear, publicly, but flash photographing her crotch in the very instant she got out of a vehicle. One could argue that her crotch, unlit by flashing cameras, might be a bit more private if only they weren't there making a buck off of their photographs, displayed on the internet. And, let's also keep in mind, that in societies where computers are in the home, images of naked women and men, or children being molested, or women being bound and gagged, or women being raped, are taken and made public.
All this white het male supremacist material is sold on the public market, and cannot be said to be part of the private realm. Girls and women are bought and sold internationally, not inside a home. Sexual slaves don't exist primarily in the private realm, even if some end up in homes. To be trafficked, by definition, means it's not a private activity, any more than "traffic" is a private phenomenon.
I'd argue that Dworkin's perspective literarily, but not literally, could and should be understood to be a threat to men with patriarchal power. Her work, if understood, along with the work of so many other feminists and womanists, could and should be seen as a full-frontal assault in literature, not as much literally, against male supremacy. The challenges that happen in society, the challenges to systemic practices, to systematic occurrences, is done with other means than the word on the page. Pornography is not paper at the point when it is a trafficked girl or woman being raped.
Finally, here is an exchange, of sorts, that exists only in cyper-print. One young white woman asked me to read something another white woman had written, that was critical of Andrea Dworkin, for my feedback and perspective on it. So this is that writing, a rant, against Andrea, and my ranting responses, in brackets and in bold. I don't know the person who wrote it. At all. So, like the anonymity of being in a car and cursing at someone for doing something perilous, one might not be so nasty to someone if one wasn't surrounded by steel and glass. I find the rant to be really irritating. And so I get increasingly irritated right back.
Andrea, this is for you. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't mind too much.
Readers, Andrea is family to me. So I don't just get intellectually bothered when I see people go after her in the ways that follow. But if any women reading this find my tone obnoxious, offensive, or oppressive,sexist, misogynistic, or anything else, in what follows, I welcome you to let me know. I didn't post this anywhere, until now. I did send it to the white woman who asked for feedback, but other than that, it's not been shared, except now, here. It touches on so many ways that I feel Andrea is wrongly accused of stuff. So that's why I took time to respond to it. It was, for me, an encapsulation of so much that I'd read over the years, blaming Andrea for destroying women's capacity to have good sex, or whatever the case may be. I changed the name of the person who wrote this to "R". (Her actual name doesn't begin with an R. I just picked a random letter to put in place of her name.)
Dear Andrea Dworkin,It's me, [name removed]. Yes! That's right! ME! One of the many women who has no doubt caused you to wish that you could rise, as a vengeful spirit, to haunt and torment your critics!
[Andrea was one of the most compassionate women to women I've ever met. She is known for listening to women, any woman, all women (except neo-Nazi women) with compassion. She knew all about the various ways women survive and collaborate and felt understanding for women who were often and usually in very difficult circumstances. She didn't shame women for "fucking men" or for "being prostitutes" or for "being heterosexual". Anyone that assumes she did is projecting their own stuff onto her, quite unfairly.]
Well, good news for you, Andrea: that is kind of exactly what happened to me this past weekend, when I tried to start a "conversation" (ha ha, yeah, um) about my feelings of alienation from radical feminism as such and also from the rhetorical and activist tactics of many radical feminists. With some radical feminists! Who - in a surprise twist that I could never possibly have predicted - kind of took exception to what I said! As they say, "you're nobody until you've engaged in some kind of drawn-out fight about schisms within the feminist movement dating back at least to the early '80s and which continue to be incredibly painful and divisive." Oh, no, wait: what they say is, "don't do that shit, ever."
Alas! I did it anyway! It was terrible! And here, in the aftermath, what I realize is this: I really, REALLY need to answer all of these e-mails. Oh, but wait! What I also realize is this: I've been taking it up with the wrong people. I should have been taking it up with you.
[Andrea Dworkin isn't/wasn't THE radical feminist spokesperson, and never made herself that. She did her work as other women did theirs. If someone turns her into THE radical feminist, that's their issue, not hers.]
This is hard to do, because people have been so shitty to you! (Also: YOU'RE DEAD? Yes, I know, but this is a rhetorical conceit: roll with it.) I'm not just talking about the anti-feminists and misogynists who slam you and paint you as Big Bad Feminazi #1; I'm not just talking about the many folks who abused you in various ways; I'm talking about us, self-described feminists, writers, folks who should know better. Like, when a woman publishes an account of being raped while drugged, and that account is hazy, messy, confused and seems to betray an extremely unhealthy mental state on the part of the writer (like, say, the account of a woman who'd been recently raped might), is it ever even remotely okay to be like, "well, perhaps she is just making it up for political or career reasons? Or BROUGHT IT UPON HERSELF, due to being such a bitch all the time?" I would argue that it is not! Yet that's what we did to you, when you published that article in the New Statesman.
[Yup. It surely was a low point in "a story about a radical feminist hitting the dominant cultural press".]
Anyway, Andrea: I am not one of those people. That whole spectacle made me sick. I can even tell you that you were the very first feminist whose work I ever read! It blew me away, and made me the tireless yammerer-on about gender and sex that I am today. I can respect much of what you were about: analyzing literary and pop-culture narratives from a feminist perspective, examining how sex (or, rather, heterosexual sex, in your work) is warped by misogyny and a culture of male domination, and refusing to back down from the fact that the rape and abuse of women, by men, happens, and happens often, and says something about the status of women in society, and needs to stop. All of that stuff matters to me. But, I have to tell you: you are just about the worst role model for a young feminist that I can imagine.
[Andrea Dworkin didn't offer herself up or down or across to anyone as a role model. She was a writer, a political philosopher, an activist: she was one human being. She wasn't a movement, she wasn't writing Bibles from which people should study and recite every evening. If someone wants to make her into the person they need or needed her to be that she wasn't, that's not her fault. She doesn't deserve anger or disappointment or criticism directed at her for not being what someone wanted or needed her to be, or for not saying what someone needed her to say. She said a lot of important things. She, nor anyone, is under any obligation to say what they don't say, to answer every question their writings raise. She is not obligated to tell you things you need to know that she hasn't addressed. Take from her writing what is useful to you and leave the rest. If she didn't address something that concerns you, there are other writers, other activists, other political philosophers you can consult.]
Let's talk about that! Let's, specifically, talk about sex! Or, in your preferred parlance, "fucking!" (Andrea, one of the many reasons I sneakily love you sometimes is that you dropped more f-bombs per page than any other Serious Theorist I know.) The "all heterosexual sex is rape" thing is a myth; you never said that. What you did seem to be arguing, and what many of your followers and colleagues have seemed to argue, is that in patriarchy, women are defined as existing for the use of men in sex, and that no woman can really, freely choose to have sex with a man, due to the number of societal pressures and power structures that make "having sex with men" the default and the other options untenable, stigmatized, and dangerous. The problem is that, as a young feminist, the "all sex is rape" thing and the other, less t-shirt-worthy theory seemed to be recommending the very same course of action, which was: don't have sex with dudes.
[Andrea Dworkin is not responsible for people coming away from reading her with ideas about what she might have said, that she never said. She never told anyone "don't have sex with men". Find the passage of the speech, the part of the essay, the section of the chapter from one of her books where she says that. She wasn't talking "to you" about "your sex life". She wasn't judging "you" in any way about "what you do in bed". She didn't know you. She wrote to people about the issues that were important to write about, that she cared about, that she noticed all around her.]
That's not going to work for me, Andrea! I have some vague idea as to how you worked it out in your own life: I know you identified as a lesbian, and your life partner was a man who identified as gay, and then later it came out that you were actually married to him, but your official position was that in your own life you did not have "intercourse." I don't hold it against any woman if she decides never to have sex again. That's not my business. What I know is that I can't be willfully celibate, and that I consider reclaiming and enjoying my sexuality both a vital way to heal from my rape (wherein my sexuality was used to degrade and subjugate me) and from the Madonna/whore split that keeps women from being whole people. I also know that I enjoy having sex with men, and that therefore what I need to work out is a way to do that while resisting old gender roles and subjugation to a male partner. You didn't help me there, Andrea. You never gave me a way to resist. You told me all the bad stuff that might happen to me, but not how to create anything good.
[Andrea Dworkin was not married to John Stoltenberg for most of their thirty years together. They got married in the last years. They had good reason to do so which really aren't anyone's business. She didn't owe people her private life. She had a lot taken from her; she was entitled to a private life. The personal is political, but that doesn't mean people don't get to have privacy. Her choices for living weren't an indication of what she felt any other woman should do or not do. She wasn't offering up her life choices as the "how to be a radical feminist" manifesto. She didn't judge women for not being celibate. She didn't think non-celibate or non-lesbian women were "bad" or "fucking up" or "not doing 'radical feminism' the right way". She didn't ascribe moral value to women enjoying forms of sex that involved contact with penises. She wasn't a judge or a rabbi. She wasn't a priest or the grade school principal. She wasn't the head of the police station in town. She had no such authority. That some people handed that power to her, which she never accepted, by the way, is their issue, not hers. She didn't have to tell women every way to resist because she understood that resistance isn't a template. There isn't "a way" to resist. Every woman finds their own ways, and has their own systems of emotional/psychological/political triage. It wasn't her job to hand you a book telling you to "first do this, then do that, and a week later, do these three things. Oh, and do them perfectly or you fail." She wasn't your professor. She didn't grade you on your life choices and keep the file in a cabinet. She wasn't the feminist version of the F.B.I. or the C.I.A. She wrote, she spoke, and she lived her life. A person can address social horrors, atrocities, oppressive conditions, and political systems of harm and not ALSO have to write books about "how to have an enjoyable life".]
Then, there was the whole porn thing. Yep: porn is pretty sexist, all right. At least, most of the mainstream heterosexual porn that I've seen is sexist. I, like you, oppose that sexism, as well as human trafficking and the abuse, rape, and coercion of women who perform in porn. But, curious fact: did you know that most films and narratives produced within a sexist society are sexist? And have an adverse affect on society by normalizing sexism, just like porn does? Also, that abuse, rape, and coercion of women happen even outside of the context of porn? Actually, I'm almost 100% certain that you do know about that last thing!
[Yes, Andrea knew that. And what you don't appear to understand is WHY she focused on pornography WHEN she did. There were specific historical reasons for doing so. There are culturally and historically specific reasons why many writers do what they do and write what they write. Pornography was taken on as an issue at the time when many Western white male supremacist societies was declaring feminism to be "winning" and "achieving women's liberation" and "uprooting patriarchy". Some declared that feminism had won, past tense. Andrea pointed out that, well, actually, there's this multi-billion dollar industry over here that is mass producing material that states, visually, "all women are wh*res". Pornography, the word, means "the graphic depiction of women as wh*res", so when she spoke about pornography, she wasn't speaking about you and your friend taking pics of each other naked and masturbating to them. Andrea pointed out that it is white men profiting from that industry, not women of any color. She pointed out how rich pimps were using poor women's bodies to create pimp-speech they declared "theirs" as if the women exploited to make this 'speech that belonged to men' were tabla rasas, not human beings who have their own things to say. She made the point that what pimps say about women isn't the deepest truth about women, nor, even, the most superficial truth about women. She noted that even while other forms of media are misogynistic and racist too, they aren't designed to bring men to orgasm, to make hatred of women, violence against women, the sexual subordination of women of all races an orgasmic experience in the way pornography was specifically. She was one person who wrote about many issues. Pornography is one she took on in a major way. Someone had to do it and she was the unlucky one who did it. It took a lot out of her to immerse herself in that much hate speech and analyse it and speak out against it. And for doing that, you want to criticise her? You want to express anger at her? Disappointment? Frustration? Since when does a writer and a political philosopher have to attend to the subject matter most of interest to someone she never met?]
Yet, with you, it was nothing but porn, porn, porn, all the damn time. [That's not accurate, and you know it.] You were like Captain Ahab of the USS Jesus Christ, I Guess Captain Ahab Really Hates Porn. Porn caused violence, porn caused rape, seeing porn in and of itself was a form of abuse [You might try quoting her, rather than misinterpreting her and misstating her position on issues like pornography. She wrote a lot about it, yes. And she wrote so much that you're not likely to be able to summarise it in one sentence.] (like, if you were "forced" to see it [some women were forced to see it, yes. It has been used by men as sexual harassment. Men have been known to put it on or in women's lockers where they work. Men bring it to women and say "let's do this, baby, because I think it'd be hot!". Yes, many women have been forced to look at it, and many women have been forced to be in it] by walking into a bodega where it was on sale or something) and you went after it with these laws [what "laws" would those be? The one ordinance that she co-wrote with Catharine MacKinnon? That's not "laws" and that's not even "one law". It was a proposed ordinance that never found its way to being law in the U.S.] that (a) gave governments increased power to persecute and marginalize the queer community, [I assume you're speaking about one government, Canada's. And what they did with the Dworkin-MacKinnon ordinance is THEIR work, not Andrea's. Please be clear about that. She didn't hold a gun to the Canadian lawmakers' heads and make them rewrite it they way they wanted to, to do the things she never intended for it to do, that it couldn't have done the way she wrote it. Your anger or annoyance or whatever it is, is seriously misplaced here.] because obviously they were affected first and disproportionately by any obscenity laws or laws policing sexual expression, [which is why Dworkin DIDN'T craft an anti-obscenity law and explicitly spoke out against obscenity laws. Why don't you mention that, if you're so familiar with her work?] and (b) gave women the right to sue for damages "caused by porn," thus making it seem as if porn itself had abused or assaulted them, instead of working to place the blame - and increased, more severe convictions - on their actual rapists. [The material wasn't sued in court. Men who used the material were sued. An injunction against the material, the hate speech, the stuff that directed a man or many men to harm a woman in the ways the material did, exactly, could be removed if she won her case. How many people have won their cases against pornographers, compared, say, to the number of pornographers who have won their cases to use women's bodies to speak their lies about women?] You took the blame off abusers, [No, she never did. Ever.] and put the blame on porn. [She put the responsibility on those who used pornography to harm women, and called the material used "harmful". Like it a man shoots someone to death, the man is responsible and the gun is involved in the death happening.] And aided in the institutional oppression of queer folks in the process. Um, whoops? [You're wrong. But you get to be wrong. Join the club. Again, you're holding her responsible for doing things SHE DIDN'T DO. If you're angry with Canadian legislators, take your anger to them, please. Misdirected anger AGAIN? Whoops!]
Oh, and also? In your speeches about porn, such as "Pornography: The New Terrorism" (Jesus CHRIST) you described images from BDSM pornography as if they were representative of all pornography, when you had reason to know (because people were yelling at you about it) that this was not what all pornography was like, and was also a specific fetish which needed to be understood within its own context. Which was intellectually dishonest, and gave people a really easy way to discredit your arguments. Whoops, again! [Andrea wrote about all forms of pornography, including Playboy magazine and Hustler magazine, and many of the "genres" of pornography. She made various political arguments, and she was an activist and a revolutionary and she used what she knew to motivate people to resist the harm of white male supremacy, and to speak out against the materials that specified how to harm women intimately. That includes BDSM pornography. She was well within her rights and responsibilities to write about that. If you don't like the speech, don't read it again. "It" can't harm you, right? Are you saying her "pages of writing" harmed you? I thought you just said printed paper can't do that? Whoops, again!]
Oh, and THEN, also! The BDSM folks got mad at you about it, and the ladies who were already kind of frustrated by the "don't fuck dudes" stuff got mad at you about it, and feminism basically CAUGHT FIRE AND EXPLODED and you did NO work to understand what those people were saying, and in fact attacked some of them really, really harshly! WHOOPS! [The quotes, please. You don't get to make allegations without backing up what you're saying. You've read her, yes? So where and when and in what book did she do any of what you're talking about here? I'll wait while you come up with the material that was harmful, the paper that did queer folks all this harm and caused them all this pain and suffering that paper can't do.]
Oh, and also? Remember all those women of color and working-class women who protested both sides, and were like, "making porn the central issue of the feminist movement takes emphasis away from the very real issues that affect our lives?" Ha ha, yeah, they had a solid point there! On my own behalf, if not yours, I would like to say: whoops. [And she wasn't "feminism" or "womanism" and she got to write about what SHE WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT, AND SPEAK ABOUT WHAT SHE WANTED TO SPEAK ABOUT. That you are making that into "having control of the direction of feminist movement" shows me you weren't there, for one thing, because A LOT of different things were going on, in various feminist and womanist movements, just in North America alone. So, once again, your anger and snide comments are misplaced and misdirected rather misogynistically at one woman who did her work. As did Audre Lorde. As did June Jordan. As did every other writer who only wrote about what they wrote about, and who only focused on what they focused on. And legislators do queer folks harm. Andrea Dworkin didn't ever have the power to do queer folks harm. So let's be clear about who has the power to do what. Because you're giving Andrea powers and capacities that SHE NEVER HAD. WHOOPS AGAIN!]
But seriously, Andrea: let's talk about sex, some more. Let's talk, specifically, about how you minimized and glossed over women's sexual agency and pleasure, and gave fuel to cultural conservatives by developing a rhetoric wherein women were giant babies who couldn't make their own sexual choices and were, in fact, threatened by sex itself: an image of women as passive, helpless victims terrorized by men's bestial desires that dates right on back to the Cult of True Womanhood, and gave preachers and right-wing pundits the opportunity to paint basically any sexual expression, regardless of content or intent, as "demeaning to women." Even if women were actively and enthusiastically taking part in the "demeaning." You painted us all as victims, focused almost solely on the most extreme forms of misogynist abuse (which, as basically anyone who knows me is aware, I abhor), used extreme, hyperbolic rhetoric irresponsibly, and didn't really address more subtle forms of sexism in society or - as previously referenced - give us workable, practical ways to resist. [You seem intent on doing this thing of giving her these superpowers to control the moral and social universe. May I ask you: why do you do that?] Don't believe me? Check this business out:
Bill Clinton's fixation on oral sex -- non-reciprocal oral sex -- consistently puts women in states of submission to him. It's the most fetishistic, heartless, cold sexual exchange that one could imagine.
Um, really? A blow job? [No. Not "a blow job". You are very clever, if not terrifically original, in taking her quotes out of context, and then railing against them as being absurd. You did that well here. Congratulations.] The MOST HEARTLESS COLD FETISHISTIC AWFUL TERRIBLE NO-GOOD VERY BAD ACT YOU CAN IMAGINE? Seriously, lady: I can imagine worse. And I probably haven't seen as much porn as you have. [She is talking about the form of sex Bill Clinton requested and required of the women who he had tremendous power over to misuse to get women to be lower than him, physically, sucking his cock. That's pretty disgusting of him, to do to anyone. You don't have to agree with her. And she gets to have her point of view, no? And she didn't just write about "the most extreme sex". Remember "Intercourse": the book about normal, non-extreme, non-BDSM sex? She wrote a whole book on it. But that fact kind of gets in the way of your rant. Sorry about that.]
Of course, this is the essay that leads up to "I think Hillary should shoot Bill and then President Gore should pardon her," so this is an odd line with which to take offense. For the record, I do think Clinton was, pretty much, a misogynist! Yet it's precisely this construction that makes me so mad sometimes: refusing to acknowledge that maybe, sometimes, you give a dude head because you like him, or because you like doing that, and instead portraying a consensual BJ as an act of unspeakable violation. [Um, sucking off a married president of the United States was what she was talking about, right? She wasn't talking about sucking men off. She was talking about the specifics of Bill Clinton arranging to get head when he wanted it. So please stop misstating her points and rearranging them to suit your misplaced rage against her.]
And, of course, in that very essay, you get around to calling Hillary "pathetic" and not a real feminist any more because she hasn't denounced or left her husband, AS IF THAT WERE ANY OF YOUR BUSINESS, [Hillary Clinton was and is a VERY public figure and, as First Lady, a definite role model- Hillary Clinton knew that. Before Bill was elected she knew full well exactly how much other women hung en thousand times more visible and powerful than Andrea Dworkin. And Andrea, a relatively powerless woman, who hears from women who are orally raped and raped in every other way, by men who use the power they have to get women to do what they want, gets to attempt to hold a very powerful woman and her misogynist husband accountable. Yes, she does. Whether you like it or not.] and as if that didn't give more fuel to the by-then-already-popular pastime of openly misogynist or concern-trollish Hillary-bashing. Andrea Dworkin: I THINK YOU ARE KIND OF A CONCERN TROLL, is what I think. [And I think you're the kind of troll who is misdirecting your anger at someone who was a relatively powerless person. And I think it's both despicable and cowardly to write this so soon after she died., and to put it out in a public forum. I'm all for you processing your feelings and thoughts about Andrea Dworkin, but to do it publicly is to add to the Dworkin-bashing that already existed and men love to find feminists doing to her. They LOVE it and they get off on it. So congratulations for adding to that. Or should I say, WHOOPS!, you've done yet another misogynistic thing in this rant.] In your version of feminism, what concerns us is passing judgment on the choices of other women, [Not so fast. In her version of feminism, which is to say, in her work, she didn't pass judgment on women. She passed judgment on men. She passed judgment on one woman named Hillary Clinton. And if you're saying "she ought not do that", pray tell, why are you passing judgment on a recently dead woman?"] while we assume that we know what is going through their heads at all times, which is, of course, "I am oh so very victimized by men" or "oh, how I love to assist men in victimizing women." [Please quote her. You've only shown one quote, and it is about a specific man doing specific things to women. And she was critical of Hillary for not speaking out against her husband fucking her over. She gets to call out Hillary for that. And, does she get to be human, R? Does she get to, you know, have human feelings, and be pissed off and disappointed in people and express herself when feeling that way? What exactly IS she supposed to BE for YOU? Because I hope you understand that no matter what she wrote, someone, and some group of people, would be really pissed off at her. Why YOU are pissed off at her remains VERY unclear to me. She named forms of violence that were never so carefully named and analysed, so that YOU could have more consciousness about materials and social conditions that are designed to subordinate and silence you. And you're ANGRY at her? Has it occurred to you to be grateful for all the work she did for women? And to thank her for being human, alive, a survivor, a keen political theorist and activist, who did a lot that cost her a lot, that most women would never, ever do?]
And it's that, really, that led me away from radical feminism, [Not as I hear it. What I'm hearing led you away from radical feminism was you having unrealistic expectations of one of the many, many women who wrote as radical feminists, and finding so much fault with one human being who you chose to put on some pedestal for naming things you hadn't seen that were right in front of you, and who didn't tell you how to have good sex and who wrote an ordinance that would have empowered very marginalised women, women with less privileges than you enjoy, sister.] and specifically away from your work. [She never asked you to embrace her work. You embraced it and now wish to be angry at HER for YOU embracing it. That's pretty damned politically irresponsible and antifeminist of you to do. Why it appears you've done most of the things you're accusing her of doing. Funny that.] It's the lavish, intricately detailed, lovingly rendered [what the fuck does that mean? "Lovingly rendered" You think she LOVED describing the horrors of male supremacy? She's the one that WASN'T into BDSM, remember?] descriptions of hate-sex, rape, and bodily harm to women. It's the endless parade of martyrs in your work. [Who? What ARE you talking about?] It's the "Andrea Dworkin suffers for your sins" [She was a Jew, not a Christian, and even as a Jew she didn't die for you. She did her work because she was politically compelled to do it. So either accept it, read it, reject it, or do whatever the hell you want to do with her work, but shitting on her for doing it is fucked up, to me.] shit you pulled so often. [You're pulling a fair amount of shit yourself, in just one piece of writing!] It's saying stuff like, "I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind." (Ha ha, yeah, fun sucks! Joy couldn't possibly be a way to resist patriarchal oppression!) [Yet again, taking what she says OUT OF CONTEXT so you can shit on her some more. There was a specific cultural time period in which feminists were bashing radical feminists, claiming "they're the bringers of such bad news!" And there was a social effort to kill the messengers, figuratively if not literally. And WHOOPS!, you're doing it right here!] It's naming books stuff like Woman Hating [you mean the book about misogyny? Naming a book about misogyny "Woman Hating" is a problem for you? Huh? Should she have titled it "Woman Loving"? How does that title work for you? Jesus CHRIST, R!] and Heartbreak [a book about her heartbreak over so many things that she witnessed and endured. Sorry you're not happy with her titles. Why, that must be as oppressive as, what?, male supremacy?] and Our Blood, [A damn good title, imo. You don't like it. Oh, well.] I think you'll live. It IS out of print, you know. Aren't you HAPPY to hear that? Why her death must have been such an occasion for you to feel that joy she never seemed to express to you.] the fetishization of suffering as feminist purity, [You can be really callous, you know? She suffered a lot, and she wrote about the tough stuff. Someone had to, and she and a handful of other women did it, then, at that time when it wasn't being done by anyone else. So sucks to be you for having to live with her work existing while you're on Earth. Why, just think of how joyful and easy your life would have been had you lived before she was a writer!?] and the refusal to really address the fact that sexism can be subtle, subliminal, non-violent, [she wrote about all of that, R. You might try reading ALL her work again, because you clearly are remembering only the stuff that makes your points sound legitimate. And you're leaving out MOST of what she wrote that undermines your arguments. How "WHOOPS!" of you to do that, eh?] and just as if not more damaging and difficult to analyze and resist due to that fact. [She wrote about that, R. You might want to get to that rereading soon.] Here is another quote of yours I came across:
"He is the conjurer who takes the smoking ash of real death and turns it into stories, poems, pictures, which celebrate degradation as life's central truth. He is the illusionist who paints mutilated bodies in chains on the interior canvas of the imagination so that, asleep or awake, we can only hallucinate indignity and outrage. He is the manipulator of psychological reality."The thing is, Andrea, you were talking about The Oppressor. I read this, and the only person I think of is Y-O-U. [Well, that's YOUR problem, not HERS. Own it.] Asleep or awake, we can only hallucinate indignity and outrage, if we buy into your theory of gender relations. We accept, if we accept your work, degradation as life's central truth. [This is such bullshit, it's difficult to know what to say, other than calling it bullshit. You're doing the classic "kill the messenger" stuff. How utterly redundant. It's been done, against Andrea, in case you've missed reading all the shit that's out there stating pretty much what you're saying. Ariel Levy has done a fine job of it, in a very misogynistic way. You're in not-so-feminist company. Here's something to maybe make it clearer how antifeminist you are being. A quote from MacKinnon...] '[T]hose who point out that women are being victimized are said to victimize women. Those who resist the reduction of women to sex are said to reduce women to sex. Subordinating women harms no one when pornographers do it, but when feminists see women being subordinated in pornography and say so, they are harming women. Words do nothing except when feminists use them. Go figure.' -- Catharine A. MacKinnon, Women's Lives, Men's Laws, page 350.
See also these two pieces by me. http://radicalprofeminist.