Monday, April 11, 2005

Feminist, Philosopher, Anti-Porn Activist Andrea Dworkin Dies

Just in case y'all haven't found out yet, Andrea Dworkin died over the weekend at hew Washington D.C. home which she shared with partner John Stoltenberg. She was 59.

An official obit appears here in The Guardian, and there is an interesting essay about her at Susie Bright's Journal(this is interesting as much for the comments as for Bright's essay).

I have never been a true fan of Dworkin's philosophy--felt the writing far too polemic and high strung to be of any use in a solid intellectual debate (although alot would disagree with me.)

I also felt that, deep down, there were many things plaguing Dworkin that should have been dealt with in ways other than the public forum.

Perhaps, though, someone needed to raise the negative-aspect issues of sex the way Dworkin did. Up to that point, the voices who had raised some doubts were pooh-pooed by the higher minds cloistered in the Ivory Tower. Dworkin's polemics were often like someone yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater--and while you can have an idea what the consequences of that act will be, you can never fully realize its full effect or if there was that much of a fire in the first place.

Yet one of her more egrigious claims--that all heterosexual sex is rape--has had a far reaching and, I believe, stultifying effect on how we perceive female sexual freedom and sexual expression. By claiming this, Dworkin not only philosophically doomed most of us straight women to the gaols of victimhood and made our mates and lovers into criminals, but also, insidiously, set up a backlash that has worked hand-in-hand with the sex industry in convincing women that they are both feminist and empowered when they are selling sex (see my own polemic on the sex industryhere).

If the type and kind of sex you prefer to participate in is considered a crime (as in Dworkin) or when "sexual expression" is reduced to a commodity, where your power to refuse it is eventually taken away (as it often ends up in sex work) do you then have *any* true sexual expression or freedom?

Andrea Dworkin took her personal suffering and turned it into philosphy and politics When I heard of her death, I was glad to hear that she did not suffer. Death, knowing no philosophy nor politics, is often far kinder than life ever could be.

--Tish G.

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