Thursday, April 9, 2009

Andrea Dworkin: Four Years Gone and Four Years Missed

[I do not know the source of this photograph, but found it here]

Remembering Andrea Dworkin

Her work is far from gone. Here are a few places to visit in order to experience the power of her words, the brilliance of her mind, and the generosity of her heart. Click on any or all of the three links. Thank you, Nikki: without you, none of this would exist:

The Andrea Dworkin Online Library
The Andrea Dworkin Video and Audio Archive
The Andrea Dworkin Memorial

* * *

This is a letter primarily to radical feminists and womanists, but also to other profeminist men.

I was fortunate to have known Andrea Dworkin. We had sporadic correspondence. I heard and saw her speak several times. She knew of my uncompromising support of her work. We were acquaintances; we were not close friends. We also had close friends in common, people with whom I maintain strong connection.

Well before and since her death, I have made it a project to defend Andrea's work against various forms of white male supremacist stupidity, including anti-Semitism, ableism, and antifeminism.

Within days of Andrea's death, still in shock and untouched grief, Nikki Craft and I created the Andrea Dworkin Memorial website together. I have typed up some of Andrea's work for the online library. I hope to type up more, and get more of her work online, with Nikki's assistance and John Stoltenberg's approval.

I loved her very much, and she welcomed and deeply appreciated my support of her work. She expressed this appreciation to me on several occasions signing the notes, "Love, Andrea". I wish I had known her better. But I was and remain an admirer and a known defender of her politics and personhood.

While she was alive, I wanted her to know and experience that support because I knew how many people, especially men, didn't support her at all, and in fact were quite insulting and hostile to her based on their complete lack of knowledge or gross misunderstandings of what her work said. I didn't need her to "know there are some decent men out there". She lived with one, after all. And, as anyone who is paying attention notices, most men fall into one of two categories: those who struggle to embrace womanist and feminist principles into their lives, and those who won't.

Some of "those who won't" are male supremacist assholes who have understood at least this much: Andrea Dworkin wouldn't take care of men emotionally while saying what she had to say about men's oppressive behavior, attitudes, feelings, and institutions. And because we men feel entitled to be taken care of by women, what she did was heretical, emotionally heretical to those men, politically heretical socially. I say, to her, "Thank you. Thank you for not taking care of us men. Thank you for telling it exactly as you saw and theorised male supremacy, and how you knew countless women experienced it."

One of many things I learned from Andrea was to ground theory in known reality, not in hypotheticals, not in abstractions. What many hate about Andrea Dworkin is that she spoke truths few people want to acknowledge, let alone address. She tore down walls of denial. She ripped the paper smiling faces off of women who were suffering while posing in pornography, and listened to what they said when pimps weren't feeding them lines. She didn't "theorise" their suffering based on some fantasy. She knew what she knew because women spoke with her, at length, about their experiences, especially women who were very margninalised and very denigrated--women who did not write books or have radio shows. Women who lived and died mostly in silence.

I state all of this publicly on the fourth anniversary of her death, partly because I miss her so much. I write this also to partly explain the existence of a piece I wrote, in defense of her, being critical of another feminist's analysis of Andrea Dworkin's work and, in my view, of Andrea Dworkin as a person. I want womanist and feminist (and profeminist) readers to know that there was an in-life connection because it explains something that I'm not sure would be fully comprehensible without knowing that.

What I want to explain is that I take criticisms of Andrea Dworkin to heart; I often take them personally--in exactly the ways some people take criticisms of a beloved family member personally. But I take my defense of her to the computer keyboard. When I read the stupid shit people write about her, including the silly analyses that clearly demonstrate the critics have no significant understanding of what s/he was saying, I get aggravated. If it's from some dickwad MRA, I expect as much. No single group of men keeps my expectations lower, of how to be entitled bastards in the world, than MRAs. Well, maybe pimps and rapists, and neo-Nazis, and other mascu-Nazis. But when Andrea is criticised unfairly by feminist or profeminist liberals and academics, then my wish to defend her kicks in. And if those spaces are women's spaces, I do my best to shut up, out of respect for women's space. But it kicked in BIG TIME after reading Ariel Levy's foreword to Intercourse, in the twentieth anniversary edition. I was especially furious with John for letting that happen. I was disgusted with the publisher for thinking "This'll sell her book!"

And so I wrote a piece about it. I don't make it a common practice to criticise feminists' writings. Lorde knows, there's enough CRAP men write to be critical of for several lifetimes. But I think because Andrea, Ariel, and I were/are white and Jewish, and Andrea and I were/are not heterosexual and had at least a couple more things in common, I felt a special call to write what I did. I felt Ariel had so seriously misunderstood and betrayed a sister, Andrea, that someone needed to say something about it, and as no one else was writing anything (that I could find), I did, with Nikki's full political support and tireless editorial guidance. John proofread the piece, and did an excellent job. Nikki then posted the piece on one of her websites, linked to here. It is called "Over Her Dead Body: How Ariel Levy Smears the Ashes of Andrea Dworkin".

I'm not sure how different my feelings about Andrea would be if I had never met her, never heard and saw her speak in public, never had some sort of connection to her beyond reading her written work. I just know this:

Andrea, I miss you. I love you. I strive to have your commitment to women's liberation from male domination live in my heart and mind.

And I continue to hope that you are resting in peace.