The death of feminist activist Andrea Dworkin was announced today. While all of her eulogizers mention her “love of dungarees,” that’s about all they can agree upon. Here’s the range of responses we’ve encountered this morning:
1) She was a mystic (per her official website)! An “Old Testament prophet” (per Gloria Steinem)! There is something “quasi-religious about the divide between devoted followers and those who would brand her a heretic” (per Louise Armstrong). She was a Cassandra (per Naomi Wolf), whose predictions about the pornographizing of the culture have all come true. And from that cloud, she’s got her sainted eye on you, Ms. Jenna Jameson!
2) She was deeply misunderstood! All that crazy stuff you heard about her saying all sex being rape was made up by Larry Flynt! Really, she was very reasonable! And married — gay, but married, which just proves how rational and willing to embrace contradictions she was!
3) She was “pachydermlike,” the “uncrowned queen of Segregationist Feminism.” (per equally loony propagandist Adam Parfrey).
4) She was “unabashedly polemical” (per more tactful sources, like this New York Times obit).
Obviously, we don’t agree that pornography is evil or that marriage is a contract to rape or any of the other extremist stuff that’s been, rightly or wrongly, attributed to Dworkin. We also don’t believe that the “pornographizing of the culture” everyone’s so smugly asserting has really happened. A few books on the bestseller list and the advent of streaming video does not a Culture of Death — er, Porn — make.
But we also know that trying to commentate on Dworkin is like wading into quicksand. And maybe that’s her legacy — that Act III moment of an argument where you and the other person have each taken things a few steps past their logical conclusion, where you’re tired and confused and the whole world has become abstract. And then you just keep talking. — Ada Calhoun