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This is in two parts – or even longer!! Let’s just see how this develops.
I am tackling this in sections so that the information can be put over as clearly as I can. The first part is going to deal with Andrea Dworkin and possibly a little on Catharine Mackinnon and their brand of feminism. The second or other parts I am going to look at are the ongoing influence of this “ideology” on the present day policy makers and how the MacDworkin combination is reflected, and reverberations of their “culture” and ideology within our political and social framework is felt.
I came across the term MacDworkonite some months ago and I didn’t have a clue what it referred to, so I looked it up, and of course did some reading around it all, and was thoroughly amazed at what I read, but it did answer some questions that I had and some observations that I had during my own feminist development.
I went to a lot of women conferences in my teens and early twenties and I read a lot of work by female writers, and my shelves contained many paperbacks with The Womens Press iron logo and other writers, such as Anne Dickinson, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, and many important classics. I read what I could get my hands on, not all feminist ideology, but certainly of female writers.
But I was aware that not all was right with the feminist movement at that time. There was a lot of anti-male sentiment and “victim” culture of the women, and not enough work centred on actual equality issues or looking at the “positive” culture of women and moving forward, being progressive.
I was unaware of Andrea Dworkin or Catharine MacKinnon, I had not came across them or read their material until now. This is probably due to the fact that I distanced myself from the womens groups at that time, simply due to the fact I had my life to get on with and I couldn’t be doing with “victim” culture. I never understood the need to construct women into “victims” and I often wondered where it came from, it certainly did not help women that had been through trauma, it kept them in that position of trauma. It kept those women down and they were never free of it. Yet, I always thought that feminism was about developing a world where women benefit from an equal share of the rights and power in a progressive approach and not in a repressive/regressive way.
So, now I have gone back to reading some literature and have read Dworkins work, such as, “Intercourse” and her speech on “Prostitution and Male Supremacy” (at the symposium “Prostitution: From Academia to Activism,” 1992) and “Pornography: Men Possessing Women” (warning – please read with care, not for the faint hearted), along with some of her other works.
As I said, I read a lot of her work and a lot of that writing was on porn and more porn and even more porn and reflecting her anti- male mind-set. I seriously found her anger, hate, use of vile language and imagery totally offensive.
She has a massive distaste for heterosexual sex, and a distrust of men, and yet she has immense pride for lesbian sex ”…… and that pride shines as bright as the summer sun at noon.” (Lesbian Pride, 1975). Fair enough, its great that she feels so much pride about her sexuality, and that is as it should be. But she put so much energy into her anti-male, anti-heterosexual beliefs; it’s quite clear that her beliefs consisted of a full blown passion of hate.
In her writings the heterosexual woman is ridiculed and we are informed that our choices are wrong and we are infantilized by her. That we cannot get any pleasure from the intercourse with man, as all intercourse is with man as the user, the occupier, and for women who enjoy heterosexual sex are labelled ”collaborators, more base than other collaborators have ever been: experiencing pleasure in their own inferiority.” For Dworkin the heterosexual woman was inferior as we are the “occupied” and “occupied” by men. “Physically, the woman in intercourse is a space inhabited, a literal territory occupied literally: occupied even if there has been no resistance, no force; even if the occupied person said yes…” (Intercourse, 1987)
I got extremely tired and totally gob smacked at her continuous abuse of the heterosexual act. I have never met any man that fits her description or of any woman in such extreme oppressed servitude and how she truly believes that (as cited on the inside cover of “Intercourse”) “the essence of female oppression is rooted in nothing less than the act of sexual intercourse itself”. In “Intercourse” she examines five writers (Tolstoy, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Kobo Abe and Isaac Bashevis Singer) and uses their work to reflect and demonstrate “the deepest veins of male obsession and revulsion with this most basic act” her writing is disturbing and full of hyperbole and rhetoric, and she focuses a lot on incest within her writings and also in her speech on Prostitution at a Trafficking Conference in 1989.
Also she states that “The men as a body politic have power over women and decide how women will suffer: which sadistic acts against the bodies of women will be construed to be normal. In the United states incest is increasingly the sadism of choice”. So is this true? Do men sit around and organise themselves in such a way that they decide how women will suffer and by which sadistic acts? And apparently in the US it is incest??? Again she focuses on this in her delivery in 1989 stating that many of the women are victims of incest and many are prostituted by their fathers (see link above). Again an over exaggeration of the truth, where are the facts in this?
Dworkin also states that “f…..g is inherently sadistic” and that “Pregnancy is the confirmation that woman has been f….d” and is “ ………..punishment for her participation in sex” For her, even pregnancy is filled with hate and is “pornographic”.
She discusses sexual freedom and states “Freedom is the mass-marketing of woman as whore. Free sexuality for the woman is in being massively consumed, denied an individual nature, denied any sexual sensibility other than that which serves the male.” (“Whores” Pornography: Men Possessing Women, 1981). There is relentless and continuous use of offensive language and imagery within all of her text.
Dworkin has demeaned women in her language and in her imagery and her continuous declarations that women are victims and that “Being female in this world is having been robbed of the potential for human choice by men who love to hate us” (Intercourse 1987).
Dworkin, along with Mackinnon engendered or highlighted a radical feminist approach to women’s oppression. For the radical feminist the sex worker does not act out of free choice but is a “victim” of coercion.
The radical feminist position is both emotionally and politically focused in its use of language. The radical feminists tend not to separate their campaigns from their philosophy.
They are unable to, as their focus is on widespread cultural or social change rather than on academic debate and they focus on men as the oppressors.
These radical feminists do not regard sex work as a harmless personal transaction. The opposite is true as they believe that it reinforces and continues “the objectification, subordination, and exploitation of women.” Everything is framed as “degradation” and “oppression” of women, maintaining women as “victims”.
Unfortunately this excessive use of the same descriptive language and generalisations are all too frequently used as stereotypical concepts of what a sex worker is and it has framed a lot of political theory and policy making in sex work legislation.
Policy makers that have this radical feminist outlook/philosophy have continuously illustrated a fragile understanding of the nature of sex work and of that of the sex workers themselves.
The sex worker-client relationship can be more complex than initially thought by either the radical feminists, or society itself, who only know the typical extreme media produced image, such as the glamorous high class escort or the street worker.
Clients do find sex workers company soothing and beneficial. Many times a client can be looking for the simple things, such as, tenderness, human contact and communication, even though sex is the initial definer in the meeting, it is not always the main thing that is required.
The majority of sex work is very different from the extreme media portrayals and it’s important that its diversity is honestly observed.
The sex worker-client relationship is not always a perfunctory process as portrayed by the radical feminists, it can be a meeting where concern and humanity are revealed and respect developed.
But thankfully not all is lost in this sea of hate packed feminism as there are feminists such as Daphne Patai who describes herself “a “still-avowed feminist” who rejects the presupposition of a rigidly patriarchal world in which men are innately predatory while women are inherently virtuous and potential victims.”
Patai singles out Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin (along with Mary Daly) as “notorious heterophobes,” condemning their “pathological aversion to men…and antipathy to heterosexuality.” She effectively points out the fundamental argument that women are not protected by such views (or legislation arising from it) but infantilized by such fanaticism and that we should never attempt to erase sexuality from the structure of existence.
So, although there are many such feminists such as Patai out there, they don’t seem to make that same impact on policy as those such as Dworkin and MacKinnon, and why is that? I am not too sure, but it’s something I will definitely think upon.
Meanwhile, this topic is being re-visited and discussed very soon in part two, coming up!!
Some links I read when researching MacDworkinism, along with the text mentioned in the blog.
By Sady at Tigerbeatdown
Plus many more, I have a list if anyone wants a few days reading material 🙂