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Dworkin Departed

So, the barely-reported news is that Andrea Dworkin died this past weekend at age 58. Love her or hate her (and those were almost your only choices), Dworkin was important. She was important because she refused to back down and she refused to talk about nice things. She’s perhaps best known for her opinions on pornography (and, with the help of Catharine MacKinnon, a certain anti-porn ordinance in Indianapolis) and the subjugation of women. She decried not only the traditional porn industry but also the newer feminist porn industry. She once came dangerously close to saying that all heterosexual sex is rape (some say that’s exactly what she said – although she denied it). She married a man – but both she and he were openly gay. She was sort of the Jack Kevorkian of the anti-porn movement – critically right about some things, painfully wrong about others, and too polarizing a figure to lead any kind of effective movement.

She lit spot fires in the national conversation about gender inequality and pornography. She described terrible things that had been done to women – but she described them in a style some said was dangerously close to pornography itself. She didn’t play nice. She spat venom and she tried your patience. But she probably deserved more respect than she ever received. If she had tempered her message it might have gotten through. If she had thought more about political consequences she might have figured out a way to make her point without inadvertently giving tools to the religious right. If she had tried to be more attractive by mainstream standards (like MacKinnon) she might have been given more of a chance to speak. Andrea Dworkin didn’t care about any of that crap. Firestarters never do.

Other links:

Margalit Fox on Dworkin
Susie Bright on Dworkin
Dworkin website

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