Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Revisiting the Radical Feminist Theories of Andrea Dworkin

NYT, Andrea Dworkin, A Startling and Ruthless Feminist Whose Work is Back in the Spotlight

*** “Last Days at Hot Slit,” a new anthology of Dworkin’s work, shows that the caricature of her as a simplistic man-hater, a termagant in overalls, could only be sustained by not reading what she actually wrote

 

The editors, Johanna Fateman and Amy Scholder, present a chronological selection from Dworkin’s books, essays, novels and unpublished fragments, making it clear that her “restless output,” as Fateman puts it in her excellent introduction, amounted to much more than saying that all sex is rape. Dworkin herself never wrote that, though she did deem a common sex act tantamount to colonialism: “The woman in intercourse is a space inhabited, a literal territory occupied literally.” Her verdict on pornography was even more extreme, equating fantasies of domination and submission with a fascist wish-fulfillment — “Dachau brought into the bedroom and celebrated.”

 

Such categorical edicts were what Dworkin became known (and lampooned) for, though they also happened to be the least interesting aspect of her work. A new generation of feminists have reclaimed her, seeing in Dworkin’s incandescent rage a source of illumination, even as they bristle at some of her specific views. As Moira Donegan states it succinctly in a recent essay for Bookforum, Dworkin’s “inflexible opinions” on pornography and sex work have “fallen dramatically out of fashion;” Rebecca Traister, who cites Dworkin as an inspiration in her book “Good and Mad,” says the same. The Times columnist Michelle Goldberg suggests that Dworkin’s adamant refusal to seek approval from men expands the terms of a circumscribed discussion: “To treat her writing with curiosity and respect is itself a way of demonstrating indifference to male opinion.”

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2019/03/revisiting-the-feminist-theories-of-andrea-dworkin.html

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