Andrea Dworkin

individual

Overview

  • Radical feminist author
  • Died in April 2005
  • “Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture.” 

Radical feminist and author Andrea Dworkin was born September 26, 1946 in Camden, New Jersey. A longtime member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), she was lauded by fellow feminists such as Gloria Steinem, who once said: “In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.”

Dworkin’s Jewish father was a schoolteacher and a socialist. As told by Andrea, a pivotal experience in her life occurred at age nine, when she was molested by a man in a dark movie theater. This event contributed heavily to the hatred of men which would define her worldview for the rest of her life.

While Dworkin was attending Bennington College (in Vermont), she became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. In 1965 she was arrested during a protest at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and was sent to the New York Women’s House of Detention, where, according to Dworkin, she was given a brutal internal examination by two male doctors. Her testimony about the experience was widely reported and led to the prison’s closure.

After Dworkin graduated from college, she moved to Amsterdam and married a Dutch anarchist who abused her, causing Dworkin to leave the marriage and become a prostitute.

Dworkin’s history of physical and sexual abuse led her to write her first book, Woman Hating, when she was 27. This was the first of fourteen books Dworkin would write, mostly dealing with feminist issues. She also wrote many articles and papers on a wide array of topics. She claimed, among other things, that battered women have the right to kill their abusers; that Israel mistreats its own women much as it mistreats the Palestinian people; and that Hillary Clinton should end her marriage to Bill Clinton.

Believing that rape and the subjugation of women formed the basis for most human cultures, Dworkin urged women not only to fight back against their male oppressors, but actually to form their own, gender-exclusive nation-state. Characterizing all heterosexual sex as the equivalent of rape, she wished to “destroy patriarchal power at its source, the family, [and] in its most hideous form, the national state.”

Dworkin worked with radical feminist attorney Catharine MacKinnon in drafting legislative language that defined pornography as a civil rights violation against women. The law was passed in Indianapolis in 1983 but was declared unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals two years later, a decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in American Booksellers Association, Inc. v. Hudnut.

In 1998 Dworkin, who was now openly lesbian, married the openly gay John Stoltenberg — founder of “Men Against Pornography,” author of Refusing to be a Man, and managing editor of AARP The Magazine.

Dworkin was known to criticize both Republicans and Democrats, though the latter were clearly more to her liking than the former. In a November 2004 essay, she wrote that she would vote for John Kerry rather than George W. Bush in that year’s presidential election because Kerry was “the lesser of two evils.”

Over the years, Dworkin made many statements expressing her contempt for men, who she viewed as oppressors and exploiters of women. Among the more notable of these statements were the following:

  • “One of the differences between marriage and prostitution is that in marriage you only have to make a deal with one man.” (Letters From a War Zone)
  • “Marriage . . . is a legal license to rape.” (Letters From a War Zone)
  • “The hurting of women is . . . basic to the sexual pleasure of men.”
  • “In everything men make, they hollow out a central place for death, let its rancid smell contaminate every dimension of whatever still survives. Men especially love murder. In art they celebrate it, and in life they commit it.” (Letters From a War Zone)
  • “Under patriarchy, every woman is a victim, past, present and future. Under patriarchy, every woman’s daughter is a victim, past, present and future. Under patriarchy, every woman’s son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman.” (Our Blood: Prophecies And Discourses On Sexual Politics)

To view additional quotes in which Dworkin excoriates men, click here.

On April 9, 2005, Dworkin died of natural causes in her Washington, DC home at the age of 58.

For more information on Dworkin, click here.

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