Friday, August 10, 2012

Andrea Dworkin, Male Supremacy, and the Persistent Refusal of Men to Engage Intelligently with the work of Feminist Philosophers

cover of book is from here
Andrea analysed the sexual politics of The Story of O in her first feminist book, Woman Hating (1974).

What follows are a couple of responses I posted to a man; I read them on a discussion-based website dedicated to the life and work of a colleague of Andea Dworkin's named Michael Moorcock. The particular discussion thread is about Andrea's political writings and views, including about The Story of O. For those who don't know about the colleagial relationship between Andrea and Michael, *here* is a link to a conversation between them, with thanks to Nikki Craft. And *here* is a post from this blog that includes a piece of writing Michael did about Andrea, following her death in 2005. 

I have deleted the name of the person who posted the points I take issue with. I don't believe in "outing" people for their opinions and viewpoints expressed online*. And I don't know if he'd want me putting his name, as it appears at that site, on my blog. To his credit, the remarks are unusually civil--while also deeply woman-hating. Most men who critique Andrea Dworkin online do so using more openly and virulently misogynistic language. It is because the website doesn't seem to encourage snark and nastiness as predominant values that I felt comfortable to post my own comments there. Most men at that site seem to regard Andrea as an important political philosopher.

*An upcoming post will deal with this a bit more.

Each response I wrote I also gave a title, as that's the format there.

Dworkin didn't say its because of our genitals that women, through sex, are degraded

Originally Posted by ****
To be entirely honest, as much as I can sympathize that porn, especially in the production end of its business cycle, is powerfully exploitive of women and that most forms of commercial porn focus, indirectly or otherwise, on a very narrow, often ugly bandwidth of sexuality, I find a lot of Dworkin's pronouncements baffling. When she asserts that, because of the accidental structure of the male/female genitalia, violence and degradation are unalterably implicit in sex, it's seems more the wounded mysticism of a damaged child than any reasonable argument.
I don't see that as her analysis. I see her analysis directing us to radically alter the social and political arenas in which males and females live, wherein females are regarded socially as both inferior to and "for" males. Her analysis doesn't discuss what life might be like outside male supremacy: she is dealing with the structural and systemic political realities most, if not all, women and men live in. Her work is often misunderstood and assumed to be unreasoned by people who don't take the time to read what she wrote. 
On assuming self-hate as a condition of being oppressed

Originally Posted by ****
It's statements of her's like that about some presumed ubiquity of self-hate among oppressed or exploited peoples that lead me to dismiss most of her arguments. It reads, obnoxiously, as if she's projecting her own self-hate onto people who conduct themselves bravely, stoically in pretty brutal situations. The Story of O has nothing to say about the legitimate sufferings of people like those of Occupied Palestine or Darfur.....
I'm wondering if you hold a similarly dismissive view of the work of Frantz Fanon, and many other anti-racism activists who write about how self-hatred and/or self-negation is part and parcel of being systematically oppressed. And I'm curious about why you move so quickly into psychoanalysing her, rather than dealing with her arguments directly including by quoting her work.

Responding to the latter part of your comment, I think there is a connection between The Story of O and literature addressing the experiences of other occupied people, if we understand the The Story of O to be a book about how deep oppression goes. The sufferings of oppressed people who deeply internalise the views of ourselves held by our oppressors is not, in my view, illegitimate. The fact that some oppressed groups of people have more physical distance from their oppressors than do women across a lifetime doesn't mean we can't examine what oppressed people have in common. In my experience, the intricacies of male supremacy are generally and usually ignored by men who benefit structurally if not also interpersonally from it. And men often address as "serious" or "important" only the forms of oppression that include populations of men as "the oppressed". When the focus is on how men and boys intimately and institutionally oppress women and girls, it is often considered "not relevant" in one way or another, to discussions and activism addressing gross systemic violence.