Andrea Dworkin has died

Unlike a lot of feminists who’ve taken a hard stand on Andrea Dworkin, I refuse to; I neither adore nor revile her. I prefer this even-handed account of her life, as reported by the UK Guardian, over the dogmatic proclamations that she was either a messiah, or a hopeless man-hater. She was neither. She was, however, an important and trail-blazing feminist writer–love or loathe her. Or, as I do, appreciate her sharp perceptions for all their considerable worth, but don’t take her extremes too much to heart. She certainly deserved all the recognition she got and then some, because she got us talking about the ways sex is used and abused in the oppression of women. Give her credit for that much, even if, like me, you’re not too thrilled with the final direction her work took.

BTW, Susie Bright has a surprisingly warm obit for her on her blog. She may well be the last person you’d expect to feel that way about Andrea Dworkin. But read the piece, and you’ll get some inkling as to why she can’t really disparage her old mentor/nemesis too much. Who could, if they had anything even vaguely resembling a heart? Dworkin’s life, her activism, even her excesses, all stand as cautionary tales of where the collective lack of heart in our society can lead a person awry. In the end, she deserves empathy. It certainly sounds like she could have used it.

As for me, unlike Susie Bright, I can’t give Dworkin credit with interesting me in the erotic; that honor goes to Cosmopolitan (in the grand old days of Helen Gurley Brown) and Nancy Friday. But I will give her credit for alerting me to the ways, subtle and not-so-, that the erotic can and will be used against unwary women. And surely that is a salutory lesson even for the most avid pro-sex feminist.

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