Day By Day

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Andrea Dworkin is Still Dead

In an earlier post I expressed the opinion that the recently deceased Andrea Dworkin had been an almost entirely negative influence in contemporary western culture. Simply put, she was a hater. A couple of my correspondents thought me unkind to say so. Now Cathy Young, writing in the Boston Globe, expands the indictment. She writes:
To put it plainly: Dworkin was a preacher of hate. Her books are full of such declarations as, ''Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman."
In Dworkin's world view, the Marquis de Sade and Jack the Ripper seem to be representative of all men (though she made an exemption for some men in her own life). Meanwhile, women who defend their right to enjoy heterosexual sex are branded ''collaborators, more base than other collaborators have ever been: experiencing pleasure in their own inferiority."
Her melodramatic assertion that the everyday life of women in our culture is an ''atrocity" could only trivialize real atrocities. Her depiction of all women as perpetual victims -- ''Being female in this world is having been robbed of the potential for human choice by men who love to hate us" -- is profoundly demeaning.
Critics of radical feminism have been often accused of exaggerating the importance of a handful of male-haters in the movement. Yet Dworkin was never relegated to the lunatic fringe where she belonged: Her texts have been widely assigned in women's studies courses, and prominent feminists from activist Gloria Steinem to philosopher Martha Nussbaum have offered their praise, treating her hatemongering as extremism in defense of the oppressed. (I prefer the view that hate is hate.)
Andrea Dworkin is dead. Maybe feminism won't live again until it has exorcised her sad ghost.
"Hate is hate." Well said! Read the whole thing here.

Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate, remembers her more fondly. He writes:

Andrea Dworkin, who was pelted and ridiculed for decades of her life, was another of those rare people who feel other people's pain as if it were their own. When she first sent me one of her books, I was all ready to snigger. But she could write, and think, and argue, and it was often a pleasure to disagree violently with her, which is more than I can say for some of her detractors. Like many clever and tormented people, she had the gift of getting the gist of supposedly complex questions. It wasn't OK with her that President Clinton had a special staff of private dicks to "handle" and to slander truth-telling women; it wasn't OK with her that Serbia used rape as a weapon of ethnic cleansing; and she wasn't neutral against a jihadist threat that wanted, and wants, to enslave and torture females. That she could be denounced as a "conservative" for holding any of those position says much about the left to which she used to belong. If she was indeed crazy, I wish she had bitten more of her twisted sisters.
So, if I understand..., she was a loon, but Clinton's defenders on the left were even more mad. OK, I'll buy that.

Read Hitchens' column here


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