12 April 2005

andrea dworkin, paleofeminist extraordinaire, is dead at 58.

if you read the obit, which is linked, you'll find that she opposed all pornography; that she viewed consensual heterosexual sex, in marriage and out, as rape; that she deemed herself "not afraid of arrogance." she is the sort of firebrand who shakes things up, puts things on the table, revitalizes debates...and is usually wrong.

dworkin's work stands as a cardinal example of the fallacy that what is, must ever be. the porn industry is currently dominated by men, staffed, by and large, by relatively powerless women, and indicative in many cases of the very worst gender relations this world has to offer. dworkin seemed to take this as evidence that porn could do no better, that women were essentially either unable or uninterested in entering management roles in the porn industry, in short that it was logically necessary that porn subjugate women -- and, by extension, that all real feminism is sex-negative to the extent that media representations are implicated in (assumedly heterosexual) sexual relationships.

the municipal ordinances that dworkin wrote with catherine mackinnon are the sorts of things that righties and lefties can all hate together, for rather mutually exclusive reasons. i hated them because they denied the possibility of women gaining any sort of agency in the sex industry. i hated them because they trampled all over the usual first amendment protections. the right hated them, usually, because they explicitly associated the outlaw of pornography (yay!) with radical feminism (boo!). in any case, the supreme court hated them too. down they came.

yet i think we (that big feminist collective we) are indebted to andrea dworkin, too. one can begin from the same starting point -- pornography and the sex industry are very bad for women as they stand -- and find oneself, rather than decrying the "rapism" of all heterosexual sex (oh dear, i think i stole that word from john irving, and i don't like him), browsing the aisles of feminist/progressive sex shops like the smitten kitten (go twin cities!), toys in babeland, or good vibrations. many of these shops will gladly point the customer toward porn by women directors, or porn with women-friendly plots, or porn with women who look like actual women look. it is a far cry from the logical necessity of subjugation, but in many respects it was born out of dworkin's empirical observations of that subjugation.

in any case: reports had it that she had been very ill, but i am sad to see her go.