Andrea Dworkin died 10 years ago today, and her legacy lives on with many of my feminist sisters, despite massive efforts to rip her to shreds while she isn’t here to defend herself.
She been accused of so many things, mostly rooted in anti-feminist stereotypes, yet oddly reinforced by many who call themselves “feminist,” albeit of the third wave, liberal, or queer studies variety.
Dworkin, like most of us who criticize misogynistic, violent, oppressive depictions of sex and sexuality, is called “anti-sex” by men and women alike, misquoted as saying “all heterosexual sex is rape,” and labelled as “transphobic,” despite there being no evidence to support any of this. Like most of us, she is accused of hating men, of believing that women are biologically superior to men, and of being essentialist in (supposedly) thinking that all men are innately violent rapists.
In fact, the truth, also applicable to most feminists, is that she believed deeply in men’s humanity and in their ability to change, saying in her famous speech, “I want a 24 hour truce during which there is no rape,”
I don’t believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is… Have you ever wondered why we [women] are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.
It never ceases to amaze me that people think feminism is about vilifying men as violent rapists. Feminism would not exist if not for women’s belief that things can be different — that men can be different. We know that masculinity is not innate and we know that men need not rape and abuse. Men choose it. They choose to force themselves on women, they choose to buy sex from desperate women and girls, they choose to treat those women and girls in inhumane ways, they choose to ogle and intimidate us in public places, they choose to call us names and beat us. They also choose to bully other men — their friends, their classmates, their sons — into perpetuating and replicating this behaviour — masculinity, it’s called.
The way in which Andrea has been maligned in death is rooted in one thing and one thing only: misogyny. In woman-hating. “Feminism is hated because women are hated,” she said. “Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.” And I don’t care if it is women who are doing it — even women who claim to be feminist. It is still a manifestation of anti-feminism and, therefore, of misogyny. Hating Andrea Dworkin equates to hating women. And you cannot defend your mistreatment of her and your consequent misrepresentations and attacks on feminism unless you are also prepared to defend misogyny.
The truth about Andrea and her work is everywhere. Choose to find it or remain part of the system that keeps women from escaping the violent grip of patriarchy.
RIP sister. We remember.