|image of Andrea's book covers is from here|
Ten years ago Nikki Craft got the news and delivered it to me, so sadly.
There was shock. Disbelief. Questions. Grief.
It was not only hard to believe, it also raised a new fear about the future: losing such a pivotal feminist figure in the fight against sexual violence, giving voice to her and other women's past and present, she refused to call male supremacist violence anything other than that. Who would continue to name it and speak against it with such literary passion?
What has happened in the last ten years is the continued proliferation of pornography and other systems of sexual exploitation and abuse: pimping, brothel-keeping, and trafficking, for example. Hand-held devices mean people of many ages have visual access to raped children and adults, literally at one's fingertips.
Genocides continue against Indigenous people around the world.
There is more slavery than ever.
Corporate greed continues to destroy the Earth, increasingly swiftly.
The Global North and West continues to colonise, exploit, and pillage the Global South and East.
50 years after Bloody Sunday, white male supremacist atrocities against Black and Brown people is still endemic and normal in the U.S.; the only difference may be some level of recognition and disgust by fellow whites to the ritual harassment and mass murder of Black people by well-organized racist white police forces.
* * *
April 10th, 2005, Nikki and I got to work immediately--it helped with the grief--to create a website with a memorial page, where people could share their grief, memories, and how their lives were affected constructively by Andrea and her writing: http://www.andreadworkin.net/messages/
I got to know her writing starting in my early twenties, like many of my generation. I consumed her essays, books, wanting to read anything and everything she ever wrote. She shifted my perspective on so many issues or gave political meaning to experiences I hadn't understood.
She affected the trajectory of my activism.
I want to focus, today, on one effect, one not necessarily highlighted when people talk about her.
What I most learned from Andrea is the necessity of facing painful truths denied by the status quo. And challenging the status quo to stop reinforcing and fueling horror. Of course for that to happen, my society would have to radically change: all white and male supremacist institutions would have to be transformed; violent hierarchies dissolved; systemic exploitation, including from sex and work, deconstructed.
What I learned was to make a perspective into something flexible. never absolute; to always challenge myself to stay open to voices of people more marginalised, more silenced. And to use what I know to inform activism in all spheres of my life.
The purpose of theory is to clarify the world in which we live, how it works, why things happen as they do. The purpose of theory is understanding. Understanding is energizing. It energizes to action. When theory becomes an impediment to action, it is time to discard the theory and return naked, that is, without theory, to the world of reality. People become slaves to theory because people are used to meeting expectations they have not originated—to doing what they are told, to having everything mapped out, to having reality prepackaged. People can have an antiauthoritarian intention and yet function in a way totally consonant with the demands of authority. The deepest struggle is to root out of us and the institutions in which we participate the requirement that we slavishly conform. But an adherence to ideology, to any ideology, can give us the grand illusion of freedom when in fact we are being manipulated and used by those whom the theory serves. The struggle for freedom has to be a struggle toward integrity defined in every possible sphere of reality—sexual integrity, economic integrity, psychological integrity, integrity of expression, integrity of faith and loyalty and heart. Anything that shortcuts us away from viewing integrity as an essential goal or anything that diverts our attention from integrity as a revolutionary value serves only to reinforce the authoritarian values of the world in which we live. — Andrea Dworkin, Letters from a War Zone, U.S. edition, pages 127-128 [Quote added 1/8/2016]What I have done in the last ten years is decenter whiteness from my political perspective and from how I comprehend and emotionally experience the world. What I have found is that any effort to do this is met with aggressive resistance just as any challenge to male supremacy is met with hostility.
What I have continued to examine is the relationship and degree of overlap between white and male supremacy. And to see intersectionality as having to do with multiple positions of marginalisation and powerlessness, beyond identity.
I believe the only way through the atrocities--to end them--is to center the lives and voices of people who virtually never make it into corporate media. To center the forms of resistance and social/economic/political transformation invisibilised people have been employing for decades and centuries. To not assume any expression of whiteness or maleness is universal, transcultural, or ahistorical, even while some forms of oppression have existed for millennia; whenever I have seen this done, it both recenters and redenies the ways whiteness permeates everything as male power permeates everything: differently, similarly, and in ways that shift and transmute.
To honor her, I will continue to listen, learn, remember, and do my work in collaboration with people who don't have the unearned privileges I too often take for granted.
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