Tuesday April 12, 2005
Andrea Dworkin, the radical feminist activist and writer best known for her campaigns against pornography and her love of outsized dungarees, has died at her home in Washington DC.
The author of more than 13 works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, Dworkin died peacefully in her sleep early on Saturday morning after a long battle with illness, said her partner and collaborator, John Stoltenberg. She was 58.
Famous for her outspoken positions on a range of issues from male-on-female violence, to rape and sexual intercourse, Dworkin's uncompromising stance brought fierce criticism not only from liberals, concerned at her attempts to pass laws against pornography, but from feminists.
Dworkin was particularly upset by the disbelief that greeted her claims in 2000 that she'd been raped and drugged by two men in a Paris hotel room in 1999. Seizing upon inconsistencies in her two essays about the incident, which were published in the Guardian and the New Statesman, and her failure to contact hotel security or police, many feminist critics suggested the rape did not happen.
"Andrea was deeply hurt by the comments, as all women are," said her friend and colleague Catharine MacKinnon, professor of law at the University of Michigan. "But she had an indomitable spirit and deserves to be remembered as a woman with a rage for resistance and struggle."
"Andrea was like an old testament prophet," agreed Gloria Steinhem, the feminist writer and co-founder of Ms magazine who has been a close friend of Dworkin's for more than 30 years.
"She was always warning about what was about to happen and because of that she was frequently misunderstood. But she also had a breadth and depth of intelligence that was refreshing.'
Steinhem said that it was untrue, as Dworkin's critics frequently claimed, that she wished to ban pornography outright or that she considered sexual intercourse rape.
"She was talking about relationships not sex per se," said Steinhem. "But she did call attention in an uncompromising way to the unequal power between men and women and what that meant in the lives of both."
She added that although Dworkin was a self-confessed lesbian who eschewed sexual intercourse, her relationship with John Stoltenberg, who she first met at poetry reading in Greenwich Village in 1974, was proof that she was no "man-hating" stereotype.
Born to a Jewish family in Camden, New Jersey, Dworkin was embroiled in controversy from an early age. Arrested during an anti-Vietnam protest as a student, she was sent to a women's detention centre where she was subjected to a body cavity search. She later became a prostitute in New York and Greece.
Michael Moorcock, the novelist, said that in person Dworkin was not the firebrand she was portrayed as in public but a shy woman with an "incredibly sharp mind".
In her own words
Let him die: Dworkin on conviction of murderer Scott Lee Peterson
My gamble: Andrea Dworkin on why she's voting for Kerry
'They took my body from me and used it'
Interviews, profiles and comment
Julie Bindel talks to Dworkin about her drug-rape experience
Love her or hate her, she's a feminist icon, by Louise Armstrong
Catherine Bennett: Doubts about Dworkin
The Andrea Dworkin Lie Detector
Wikipedia: More about Dworkin
'Dworkin in agony' :Salon.com essay on Dworkin's drug rape, Julia Gracen
'Oh, Andrea Dworkin': London Review of Books essay by Jenny Diski, sept 01