Fat Steve's Blatherings

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Note Concerning Andrea Dworkin

      Andrea Dworkin died last week, and there were the usual obituaries that didn't speak ill of the dead.  Said obituaries, in turn, really cheesed off Cathy Young of Reason, who called it a "whitewash", and apparently wants to burn her in effigy posthumously

      The first thing to remember about Andrea Dworkin is that she wasn't that significant.  In the heyday of feminism she was well known, but soon most people forgot about her.

      I live in Minneapolis, and I moved here just about the time that Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon persuaded the city council to pass an anti-pornography ordinance that attracted nationwide attention.  I remember reading a magazine article, "In the City of Women," which made it sound like Dworkin was the most important thing happening in the city.  In fact, the only affect she had that I could see was that occasionally her name came up in casual conversation.  As for the pornography law, it was struck down as unconstitutional.

      The second thing to remember about Dworkin is that almost anybody can be made to sound like a lunatic by highly selective quotations of their work.  Years ago, for a college class, I read Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.  There were several notorious quotations, especially one that ran approximately "Rape is the conscious conspiracy by which all men keep all women in subjugation."  Yes, Brownmiller wrote that, but if you crossed out the half-dozen loony lines, what was left was a surprisingly good book on an unexplored subject.

      I never read any of Andrea Dworkin's books.  I don't expect to, either.  But the fact that some of the people who disagreed with her the most found her ideas interesting and provocative makes me suspect that she too might have had some interesting things to say.

      So, Rest in Peace, Andrea Dworkin.  You probably weren't as important as your admirers think, or as wrong as your critics say.  And Cathy Young, lighten up!



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