At least Dworkin put some important hidden bits of reality out there on the table. There is a lot of coercion embedded in normal, legal, everyday sexuality: Sometimes the seducer is a rapist with a bottle of wine. A whole world of sexist assumptions lay behind my parents' attitude back in 1968: This is what happens to women who take chances, male brutality is a fact of life, talking about sexual violence is shameful, 'Bennington girls' should count their blessings. Polite, liberal, reasonable feminists could never have exploded that belief system.
Andrea Dworkin was a living visual stereotype--the feminist as fat, hairy, makeup-scorning, unkempt lesbian. Perhaps that was one reason she was such a media icon--she 'proved' that feminism was for women who couldn't get a man. Women have wrestled with that charge for decades, at considerable psychic cost. These days, feminism is all sexy uplift, a cross between a workout and a makeover. Go for it, girls--breast implants, botox, face-lifts, corsets, knitting, boxing, prostitution. Whatever floats your self-esteem! Meanwhile, the public face of organizational feminism is perched atop a power suit and frozen in a deferential smile. Perhaps some childcare? Insurance coverage for contraception? Legal abortion, tragic though it surely is? Or maybe not so much legal abortion--when I ran into Naomi Wolf the other day, she had just finished an article calling for the banning of abortion after the first trimester. Cream and sugar with that abortion ban, sir?
I never thought I would miss unfair, infuriating, over-the-top Andrea Dworkin. But I do. And even more I miss the movement that had room for her."
April 18, 2005
Katha Pollitt on Andrea Dworkin
The following is from Katha Pollitt's column, reflecting on Andrea Dworkin after her recent death. Reading it reminded me of some recent conversations with MosBen. Pollitt also mentions the Naomi Wolf article that, indirectly, started the hullaballoo we've had here over the past couple days.