I received word Sunday morning— from Doug Henwood, Amber Hollibaugh, Carol Queen, and Rachel Kramer Bussel— that Andrea Dworkin has died. She was 59. Her partner John Stoltenberg found her near death on Friday, and she passed away peacefully, according to his report, in the evening.
There is nothing about Dworkin's death in the news yet but I am sure we will hear a lot more details by the morning. I knew she had been ill for some time, but she was notoriously private about her health problems. I don't know how bad or incapacitating her condition was. Most of us who’ve seen her in person in the past couple years saw her move about in obvious pain and disability. It wasn’t just physical, either. After her father died seven years ago, she had what could only be described as a nervous breakdown.
Andrea Dworkin was...
I can’t do this alone.
Let’s go to Googlism, that site of randomly-selected found poetry, in which you can inject anyone’s name in the “search” box and come up with something like this:
Andrea Dworkin is hell
Andrea Dworkin is a hardcore
Andrea Dworkin is the author of "Scapegoat”
Andrea Dworkin is what I have committed my life to now
Andrea Dworkin is antisex
Andrea Dworkin is a hysterical and puritanical castrator
Andrea Dworkin is internationally renowned as a radical feminist activist and author who
helped break the silence around violence against
Andrea Dworkin is probably the loudest self
Andrea Dworkin is just another Zionist
Andrea Dworkin is "angry”
Andrea Dworkin is known as a relentless scourge of men
Andrea Dworkin is the feminist whose supple mind gave birth to the assertion that all sexual
intercourse between man and woman is rape
Andrea Dworkin is a former prostitute
Andrea Dworkin is making sense
Andrea Dworkin is one of them
Andrea Dworkin is most definitely a militant feminist and beautifully
Andrea Dworkin is quoted as saying
Andrea Dworkin is part of the feminist camp
Andrea Dworkin is a writer
Andrea Dworkin is a self
Andrea Dworkin is probably the best
Andrea Dworkin is a very outspoken individual
Andrea Dworkin is the greatest mind of all time
Andrea Dworkin is one who does
Andrea Dworkin is a lousy writer
Andrea Dworkin is a rapist
Andrea Dworkin is the Malcolm X of feminism
Andrea Dworkin is a saint
Andrea Dworkin is
Andrea Dworkin is a great pornographer
Andrea Dworkin is served a thick
Andrea Dworkin is famous for her uncompromising feminism
Andrea Dworkin is a maniac
Andrea Dworkin is in a committed
Andrea Dworkin is analyzing Pauline Reage's literary style in The Story of O
Andrea Dworkin is such an "extremist”
Andrea Dworkin is one glaring example and there are several more
Andrea Dworkin is trying to say
Andrea Dworkin is funny
Andrea Dworkin is particularly vocal about the "male problem”
Andrea Dworkin is trying to ban lap dancing
Andrea Dworkin is a sexist pig
Andrea Dworkin is one of the weirdest femi-nazis since Solanas
Andrea Dworkin is typically held up as the most fanatical of the fanatics
Andrea Dworkin is perhaps the sex trade's most ferocious antagonist
Andrea Dworkin is? — Should I know her, or have heard of her?
Andrea Dworkin is the reincarnation of the Marquis de Sade
Andrea Dworkin is hardly without direct resonance
Andrea Dworkin is one of the most dreadful things men do
Andrea Dworkin is someone who
Andrea Dworkin is hurting
You know what? I recognize my words in a couple of those lines. I was the one who said Dworkin was a great pornographer, if what that means is using explicit sex in her art to cause a tremendous sensation.
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. Not so anymore!
Here’s the irony... every single woman who pioneered the sexual revolution, every erotic-feminist-bad-girl-and-proud-of-it-stiletto-shitkicker, was once a fan of Andrea Dworkin. Until 1984, we all were. She was the one who got us looking at porn with a critical eye, she made you feel like you could just stomp into the adult bookstore and seize everything for inspection and a bonfire.
The funny thing that happened on the way to the X-Rated Sex Palace was that some of us came to different conclusions than Ms. Dworkin. We saw the sexism of the porn business... but we also saw some intriguing possibilities and amazing maverick spirit. We said, “What if we made something that reflected our politics and values, but was just as sexually bold?”
Andrea did not like this one little bit. Honestly, when I started On Our Backs and Herotica , I thought all the girls were going to jump on the bandwagon. I had no idea how bad the animosity would get. I mean, I have tape recordings from colleges where I would go listen to Andrea lecture in rapt attention and turn my little cassette over to capture every word. I never dreamed that I would one day become one of the people she vilified.
I wondered if she had any close girlfriends or women she considered her intellectual peers. The people she admired most in life were her father, her brother, and partner John Stoltenberg. 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.
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. It was Dworkin's heyday.
Andrea presented herself as a street fighter intellectual, a bohemian freedom fighter, and someone who wanted to get to the bottom of things. That quote about Malcolm X is apt. Malcolm pointed out “The problem is WHITE PEOPLE.” Dworkin said, “The problem is MEN.” And for all the holes that can be poked in that cloth, there is something about that grain that is absolutely true, when you are the short end of the bolt.
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 know it’s strange that I have such a tragic affection for her, when she apparently only had loathing for my kind. I’ve had women come at me with knives who felt they had to do me in, in Dworkin’s name. Her passion and activism was classic Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She was a dangerous lady, with no class analysis, no psychological insight-- a scary combination. Her loaded warped pistol was neatly picked up by right wing creeps who took all the femme bullets out of it and never looked back..
Every time you hear some preacher/politician talk about “violence against women” or how something is “degrading to women” tell them to to send a royalty check to Andrea and ask them what they’ve done lately to empower female sexual authority. I never understood why she didn’t attack them the way she attacked feminist pornographers.
I could feel the great loss in the messages I read this morning, from the old guard of feminist activists. Her death is going to be a horrible reminder to many that women’s place in society today is a cruel rebuttal to many of our dreams of women’s liberation. The media image of women today is pathetic; it’s Barbie on Steroids. “I Am Bimbo, Hear Me Roar! Tee-hee!”
I like the comparison to Valerie Solanas that came up in the Googlism list. The brilliance of a woman who has "HAD IT" is a rock'n'roll beauty to behold:
“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.”
Maybe it’s just My-My-My Generation, but those words still make the hair on my arms stand on end.
I’m sorry Andrea Dworkin started a sexual revolution that she ended up repudiating. She never got to see people like me, Carol, and the rest of us little protégées who took her inspiration and flew to a new dimension. She got stuck, and then she got sick, and when you’re famous for one thing, no one wants to see you change unless you reject it all, like a pathetic sinner seeking redemption. She was too stubborn and too old-fashioned for that. Andrea Dworkin never would have admitted that she was a SuperStar. She was the animator of the ultimate porno horror loop, where the Final Girl never gets a chance to slay the monster, she only dies, dies, dies, with the cries of the angry mourners to remember her.
I've published a PDF book of all the stories/essays I ever wrote on Dworkin.
I call it "Inspired by Andrea: Essays on Lust, Aggression, Porn, & The Female Gaze That I Might Not Have Written If Not for Her.
Click on link for more info— and thanks to all of you who've written me about this essay; I really appreciate your thoughts.