Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Andrea Dworkin

This is off-the-cuff. I've not read Andrea Dworkin's work in many, many years.

I've been thinking of her death for a couple days now. Andrea Dworkin's work has always given me pause, as much of a student of feminism as I am. I believe Alice Jardine said something like, "after all, the aim of feminism is partly to change men," or somesuch, but Dworkin is having none of that. Her every work seems to be about getting rid of the need for men.

But was she wrong in her crusade against rape? No, she just went too far for me in defining marriage as legalized rape. Was she wrong in her crusade against pornography? Not when she railed against violent pornography, and I even consider her crusade against airbrushed soft-core to be on the money. Playboy and the like work to make all men desire that which they cannot possibly get in any woman, bodily perfection, thus trapping men in a boy-like quest for fantasy. But surely Dworking went too far in equating viewing porn with rape, or in crusading against mere nudity.

Dworkin perhaps reached her peak in her work with Catharine MacKinnon, "Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality," where they helped the city of St. Paul, MN write an anti-porn law that allowed for lawsuits against purveyors, creating a causal relationship between porn and rape similar to a bartender supplying too many drinks to a customer and thereby being liable for potential drunk driving incidents. The law never passed constitutional muster, but pornography and the place of nudity took center stage in feminist discussions throughout the 80's and 90's as a result of their work.

Perhaps Dworkin should be remembered as the center of what most Americans don't recognize, that feminism is not a monolithic ideology, but one that covers a wide spectrum and in which there are many arguments.

As I sit here, Dworkin's Intercourse sits on the shelf. I think it is time for a rereading.