Thursday, April 21, 2005


Oh God, It's Another Serious Post . . . .

This time about Andrea Dworkin. Yes, yes, I know, she died ages ago, but I was busy, and, given how vastly important I'm sure people will find my comments on the subject, I decided to give them here.

The first and most important thing to say is that I'm starting from a very biased standpoint. You see, I'm male, and thus am complicit in all the many horrible things that she believed men, as a whole, were guilty of. Now, I know men are, at times, complete bastards. I am myself. But, we're not as horrible as Dworkin believed.

I'm not going to attempt too much on this topic, mostly because several of her views make my blood boil, so I'm going to leave it to the always excellent Cathy Young to point out all the many problems with her views here and here. And, for a humourous take, Blame Bush is always helpful.

However, I'm not going to stop there. You see, the most baffling of opinions expressed after Dworkin's death was that of Susie Bright, expressed here. I don't begin to understand how a feminist pornographer can have so much time for a woman who believed pornography to be absolutely horrific, and had all but issued a death sentence on said pornographer. Let's have a look at some of the things she wrote in her eulogy to Dworkin:

"Along with Kate Millet in Sexual Politics, Andrea Dworkin used her considerable intellectual powers to analyze pornography, which was something that no one had done before. No one. The men who made porn didn’t. Porn was like a low culture joke before the feminist revolution kicked its ass. It was beneath discussion."

It's always good to dismiss a whole ouevre of work as irrelevant, isn't it? Apart from anything else, this summary of 'porn before women got behind the pen/camera lens' does it little or no justice. Is there no redeeming literary quality in, for example, DH Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover?' See, I think there is.

"She was a scholar of great men, and the one she studied the most, the Marquis de Sade, was someone she could quote up one side and down the other. I'm the one who said she was his feminist reincarnation. She rewrote his Juliette when she wrote her novel Ice and Fire. So much for man-hating."

I'm sure this is such an obvious point it barely needs making, but the Marquis de Sade is hardly typical of standard male fantsies, is he? I tried to watch 'Salo,' but I found it extremely difficult. Taking the most extreme example as some kind of standard is an academic flaw, and should hardly be encouraged. And was de Sade really a 'great man?'

"It was Andrea’s take-no-prisoners attitude toward patriarchy that I always liked the best. Bourgeois feminists were so BORING. They wanted to keep their maiden name and have it listed in the white pages; they wanted to get a nice corner office in the skyscraper. When I was a teenager in the 70s I couldn't relate to those concerns."

I'm sure they were boring. Hoping to become a corner-office schlub is hardly the greatest ambition in life. However, it seems to me that it's these women, with their modest aims and aspirations, who have done much more for women generally, and at much less of a cost to the feminist movement as a whole, than a million Dworkins could have done, no matter how exciting they might have seemed.

"I loved that she dared attack the very notion of intercourse. It was the pie aimed right in the crotch of Mr. Big Stuff. It was an impossible theory, but it wasn’t absurd. There is something about literally being fucked that colors your world, pretty or ugly, and it was about time someone said so."

I'm not going to pretend that I understand this. Just what is 'Mr. Big Stuff?' is it pornography? Capitalism? The male gender? What? And I don't get the 'pretty or ugly' bit, either. Under what circumstances was Dworkin tolerant of intercourse? I can't think of any off the top of my head, and if there were any, they weren't very numerous. So she never said any such thing. Dworkin would have said it made your world, and the world, uglier.

I try to be fair. There is something online called the 'Andrea Dworkin Lie Detector' which attempts to answer some of the more pernicious myths surrounding her life. Fair enough. I was all set to praise this, however, when I clicked on the link at the bottom of the page, to a group called 'Always Causing Legal Unrest.' This appears to be a website of, to put it bluntly, feminist extremists. It contains, approvingly, a photograph of arson, for example. It also contains a rather bizarre fantasy of castration (the weak-of-stomach: beware) here. Now look, I'm not a fan of Bret Easton Ellis. I found 'American Psycho' to be disgusting and boring by turns. That passage, however, is exactly what happens when you follow the teaching of the most extreme feminists to their logical conclusions.

Unlike many men, I didn't hate Andrea Dworkin. She was clearly a very sad individual, and I shall not cheer her death. The death of several of her ideas, however, would be more than welcome.

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