Honoring Andrea Dworkin: A Radical Feminist Leader in Truth-Speaking, Action and Hope

Feminist Rag Award NEW_Andrew Dworkin

“I live in a country where women are tortured as a form of public entertainment and for profit, and that torture is upheld as a state-protected right [i.e. “free speech”].  That is unbearable.  I am asking the simplest thing:  People need remedies, not platitudes, not laws that you know already don’t work.  I am asking you to help the exploited, not the exploiters.”

Andrea Dworkin was a fiercely radical feminist warrior because she dared to demand that ALL females be seen, heard and treated like whole human beings worthy of dignity and respect.  Her written and spoken words breathed Fire and Life into the brain-dead, heart-dead and Spirit-eaten colonist patriarchal culture.  She wrote and spoke from her guts about the male violence that is behind the terror of child sexual abuse, porn, prostitution and abusive relationships, all hells she personally endured and survived.  Check out one of her riveting speeches:

Collaboration across classes doesn’t happen a whole lot, but it did between Andrea Dworkin and lawyer-activist Catharine MacKinnon (see Catharine in action here and here) in writing a book together, as well as advancing a civil rights, equality approach to pornography through an ordinance allowing civil suits for sex discrimination for those who can prove harm through pornography.  Check out this 4-part testimony on pornography given by Andrea before the Attorney General:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

On being heard & believed, Andrea said:

I’d like to take what I know and just hand it over.  But there is always a problem, for a woman: being believed.  How can I think I know something?  How can I think that what I know might matter?  Why would I think that anything I think might make a difference, to anyone, anywhere?  My only chance to be believed is to find a way of writing bolder and stronger than woman hating itself–smarter, deeper, colder.  This might mean that I would have to write a prose more terrifying than rape, more abject than torture, more insistent and destabilizing than battery, more desolate than prostitution, more invasive than incest, more filled with threat and aggression than pornography.

How would the innocent bystander be able to distinguish it, tell it apart from the tales of the rapists themselves if it were so nightmarish and impolite?  There are no innocent bystanders.  It would have to stand up for women–stand against the rapist and the pimp–by changing women’s silence to speech.  It would have to say all the unsaid words during rape and after; while prostituting and after; all the words not said. It would have to change women’s apparent submission–the consent read into the silence by the wicked and the complacent–into articulate resistance.

I myself would have to give up my own cloying sentimentality toward men. I’d have to be militant; sober and austere.  I would have to commit treason: against the men who rule.  I would have to betray the noble, apparently humanistic premises of civilization and civilized writing by conceptualizing each book as if it were a formidable weapon in a war.  I would have to think strategically, with a militarist heart: as if my books were complex explosives, minefields set down in the culture to blow open the status quo.  (from here.)

About her writing process, Andrea said (in an unpublished letter to her First Love):

I began to think of writing as a powerful way of changing the human condition instead of as a beautiful way of lamenting it or as an enriching or moving way of describing it.

I did not know that one never stops knowing anything, that time continues to pass relentlessly, though without any particular vengeance, taking each of us with it.

I did not understand then that there is no choice, that one always writes for the living, that there is no other way to create the future or to redeem the past. I also did not know that each human life is precious, brief, an agony, filled with pain and struggle, sorrow and loss.

I was a person who did not know that there was real malice in the world, or that people were driven–to cruelty, to vengeance, to rage. I had no notion at all of the damage that people sustain and how that damage drives them to do harm to others.  I was a person who was very much a woman, who had internalized certain ways of being and of feeling, ways given to her through books, movies, the full force of media and culture–and through the real demands of real men. [..]  I did not experience myself or my body as my own.

I have one choice to make in life, to make and to keep making–will I seek freedom, or will I dress myself in chains? I am on a journey long forbidden to women.  I want the freedom to become. I want that freedom more than I want any other thing life has to offer. I no longer believe that yr freedom is more important than mine, that yr pleasure or pain is more important than mine. I no longer believe that the torture of a man in prison is worse than the torture of a woman in bed. (source)

Innocent, stupid courageousness:

I had been through a lot in life, but in writing I was innocent, a kind of ecstatic idiot.  For me, writing was pure, magic, the essence of both integrity and power, uncorrupted by anything mean or mundane. [..] On one level, I suffer terribly from the disdain that much of my work has met.  On another, deeper level, I don’t give a fuck.  It is this indifference to pain – which is real – that enables one to keep going.  One develops a warrior’s discipline, or one stops.  Pain becomes irrelevant.

Being a writer isn’t easy or even very civilized.  It is not a bourgeois indulgence. It is not a natural outcome of good manners mixed with intelligence and filtered through language.  It is primitive and it is passionate.  Writers get underneath the agreed-on amenities, the lies a society depends on to maintain the status quo, by becoming ruthless, pursuing the truth in the face of intimidation, not by being compliant or solicitous.  No society likes it and no society says thank you.  The society will mobilize to destroy the writer who opposes or threatens its favorite cruelties, in this case, the dominance of men over women.

Often, I think that courage is a kind of stupidity, an incapacity, a terrifying insensitivity to pain and fear.  Writers need this kind of courage.

I believe that women must wage a war against silence: against socially coerced silence; against politically preordained silence; against economically choreographed silence; against the silence created by the pain and despair of sexual abuse and second-class status. [..] I believe in people: that we can disavow cruelty and embrace the simple compassion of social equality.  I don’t know why I believe these things; only that I do believe them and act on them.

I think we will last a long time, at great cost.  In a time of political resistance, endurance is everything.  (From her 1993 book, Letters From A War Zone.)

“I dream that love without tyranny is possible”

Me too.  I have great Respect for Andrea for the way she clearly and deeply cared about and advocated for all females.  I love how she talked Real Talk, deep from the heart and guts.  She is remembered by many as we carry on her torch in demanding an end to cruelty against women and children.  Thank you Andrea for being who you were and not backing down to the assholes who tried to silence you.  Your heart and words always spoke, and will forever speak for themselves.  Thank you for leaving them with us.  Your words and fierce spirit behind them are the wind beneath many feminist wings.

This website has the free, downloadable and complete collection of Andrea’s written works — a huge thank you to whoever made this possible!:

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10 thoughts on “Honoring Andrea Dworkin: A Radical Feminist Leader in Truth-Speaking, Action and Hope

  1. Awesome choices. So much of her thinking and writing is relevant to the current conundrums. The possibilities forward seem endless.
    Thanks for doing this work.

    Martin Dufresne, one of Andrea’s French translators.

    • Feminist Rag says:

      Thanks Martin, completely agree, her work is as relevant if not more so, these days, now that porn & prostitution are worse and more normalized. Awesome @ you translating Andrea’s work, thank you for doing that! How great that so many can access the work of this brilliant freedom fighter.

      • More and more of her writings will be accessible in French as Les éditions du remue-ménage” (in Montreal, Quyebec) have just published Michele Briand’s and my translation of “Right-Wing Women” (with a positively kick-ass foreword by French materialist feminist Christine Delphy).
        We are already pitching a French version of “Intercourse” to them and to Delphy’s publishing house since “Les femmes de droite” sold out quite fast for such a strong full-length radfem essay. It is already in reprint and goes on doing well in bookstores.
        In France, younger feminists and pro-feminists have formed early this year an informal collective that has just translated “I Want a 24-hour Truce During Which There Is no Rape” and is already working on a number of other essays that remain just as cutting-edge as when Dworkin wrote these pieces.
        Another inspirational project is CROWD-SOURCING among the Dworkinites community a book of inspirational quotes from Andrea for a new book that will come out in English, French and Spanish. Readers, please feel free to pass this on and e-mail your own favourite quotes to martin@laurentides.net

  2. […] Honoring Andrea Dworkin: A Radical Feminist Leader in Truth-Speaking, Action and Hope. […]

  3. silkyvelvet says:

    Thank you so much for publishing this; it’s very inspiring to read such powerful and timely writing. I have re-posted this entry to my blog here on WordPress.

  4. Carla says:

    She “cared deeply for all females.” Well, not all females – if I remember correctly she had little time for trans* women.

    • Feminist Rag says:

      Hi Carla. I haven’t yet read all of Dworkin’s work so am not familiar with her trans* views, or if she had any (publicly). Do you know if she’d written or spoke on this topic? She may have had little time for trans* women because she focused all her energy on fighting against cruelties inflicted on biological women, but it doesn’t necessarily mean she didn’t care about trans* women’s struggles.

      • rancom says:

        No one knows how she felt. In part four of Woman Hating, she addresses the topic directly writing that transsexuals were in crisis and should be helped. Years later her anti-pornography ordinance included transsexuals explicitly. On the other hand, she was thanked by Janice Raymond for helping with a chapter about male-to-female ‘lesbians’ in Raymond’s book.

        Either way, dismissing her work entirely because of something she might have thought is both lazy and disingenuous.

  5. Woot woot, 24 hours on-line and already a troll! (I guess this means we’ve made it to the Usual Suspects list.) Do you have an actual quote to supply in support of that drive-by smear, “Carla”, or are you just zinging it?
    P.S. If I remember correctly so-called “trans* women” are not females. They aspire to the status of women – and some will grant them that – but are biologically male (also experentially, for quite along while after transitioning).

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