Sunday, May 22, 2005

Andrea Dworkin & Me

I didn't say much here when, in early April, Andrea Dworkin died. A feminist of the old school, her stance against pornography was viewed even by fellow feminists as harsh and extreme. But I personally encountered her writings at a time (around 1979 or 80) when I was largely unawakened to feminist issues; her influence upon me was lasting. Below are some reflections I offered back in April on another blog, Creep and Blink, regarding her. Doubtless I'm giving those who think I'm one of those folks Limbaugh would call "feminazis" more ammunition. Oh, well.

As a very unlikely contributor to this discussion (a white male evangelical Christian), I can only speak of my own encounter with Dworkin's work to explain how sad I was to hear she'd died. Twenty some years ago, writing a magazine article on pornography, I rather randomly picked up her book "Pornography: Men Possessing Women." It disturbed me, confused me, and broke my heart. I've never looked at maleness -- or my own body -- quite the same since reading her. No, I don't agree with some of the things she wrote. Many of them, in fact. But what a mind! And her writing itself is so sparse, clear, and riveting. Ultimately, I suppose, I have had a strange sadness for her as a person, one I felt again when just a fe months back I re-read "Pornography" and also some of her writings available online. Her personal life, she made clear, was off limits to the public. Her past is shrouded in controversy -- a self-confessed one time prostitute, a victim of male violence including rape, and only a few years ago, her puzzling claim that she was drugged and raped (a claim even her closest friends were ambivalent about)... none of it explains her. And of course it cannot. She was an enigma, filled with pain and sorrow and rage and fire, and gifted with the voice to spill all of it out onto paper and from a podium. Maybe someone is wondering what I think happened to her after death, since I am a Christian... well, I did vote for Kerry, so maybe I'm not a good one. I don't presume to know what God, who is Love, does with brilliant, wounded human beings such as Andrea Dworkin. (She called him, of course, "The God Who Is Not There," an act which I doubt hurt his feelings very much.) I always hope, believing that someone in such pain may be met with chances I don't know about. Sometimes, God is private, too. For Andrea Dworkin, I mourn. Her writings in my life personally were almost violent in their effect. They delivered truth, if not love. For that, I had to go elsewhere.
And one addition to the above... an article, actully a book review of Mysogyny: The Male Malady, does a nice job of illustrating just why Dworkin's vision was (is) more realistic than men or many women are comfortable admitting. If you get ticked off reading the link above, read it again. Then pray about it if you're a Christian. Especially if you're a Christian with a penis....

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