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.

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."

1 comment:

MosBen said...

I like that bit and it does dovetail well with the conversation we had about the role of the left to be somewhat obnoxious in proponing the ideal. While I do respect what people like Dworkin on the left do for proponing issues and ideas, I still maintain that while they should certainly propone that ideal to a level that makes moderates and especially conservatives uncomfortable, I still think there should be a limit on the tone, especially the further left you go. Absolutely bash the conservatives, but taking the tone to the point where they "hate" the moderates that actually have to pass some realistic and workable solution for "now" just isn't productive. For starters, it just doesn't give much incentive to moderates to even try to help the lefties. Moderates should feel like lefties are their crazy and obnoxious cousins, not some asshole on the street that screams at them and dumps a Big Gulp on their head. And as we move left on the spectrum to, let's say, where I stand (definitely leftist, just with a willingness to compromise for now to actually get things to happen), the people so left that they refuse to compromise shouldn't attack me at all. They should present their arguments to me, forcefully even, because of all the people on the political spectrum I'm the most likely to have my opinion turned to their side.

That was my real problem with Dr. Bitch, and to a certain though lesser extent Amanda on Pandagon. I'm not the bad guy and I know it. It's not because I'm stupid, uninformed, or self-reflective enough, it's because I already know who the bad guy is. I can see them way out there in the distance on the right. It's the Pat Robertsons and the Sean Hannitys that deserve the ire, not me. Dr. Bitch made some valid points about women being silenced for so long that speaking out is extra important now, and that's fair, but anyone that screams at me, who should be as near to a friend as you can get in politics, from the left just isn't worth my time to listen to.