Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Andrea Dworkin

Today's news brings the report of the death of the feminist author and activist Andrea Dworkin. Ms. Dworkin was the symbol of radical feminism to many people. Her work against pornography made her many enemies. Most people who criticized her, however, never took the time to read her work. They often resorted to simply making fun of how she looked.

Few people gave as much thought to the place of women in our patriarchal world as Andrea Dworkin did. She was a serious thinker who brought not only her powerful intellect but her life experience to bear on solving the problem of the oppression of women. It was her unfortunate fate to be belittled and mocked for questioning the status quo in gender relations.

As someone who likes to think of himself as pro-feminist, Ms. Dworkin's analysis of how pornography exploits women was unsettling. Like most straight men, I have consumed some pornography. The truth is, however, that pornography does exploit women. It does not necessarily follow that pornography should be outlawed, but it does follow that our society's reluctance to discuss pornography without giggling or sermonizing means that it will remain an industry that exploits people.

It is practically de rigueur for anyone writing about Andrea Dworkin to state that they don't agree with everything she stood for. Isn't that true of any other human being though? I do not agree with everything Andrea Dworkin stood for; she was nevertheless a necessary witness to many of the injustices of our world and time. How many people can we say that about?

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