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April 11, 2005

Comments

Amanda

I would add that in stanton's list of "feminists" who take on Dworkin, he neglected actual feminists who offered real opposition to her instead of attacking Dworkin in order to justify male dominance.

stanton

Amanda, I have not nor will I ask for your sympathy, so no worries there. Nor do I expect you or any Dworkin apologists to take any actions in order to please your perceived enemies. By the way - I am NOT your enemy, believe it or not. Just because I have the temerity to defend myself against those who wish to classify me as an oppressor does not mean I have bad intentions toward you. I honestly wish you the best - only with your boot removed from my neck. I, in turn vow to work against any boots on yours.

So, as Ms Dworkin has all of the "credits" necessary for full feminist credentials, might I ask for some honest feedback, absent the hand-wringing and equivocating, about the lady's hateful speech? The one quote (cited by FEMINAZIHATEMARTYR) that was neatly avoided above will do nicely:

"In everything men make, they hollow out a central place for death, let its rancid smell contaminate every dimension of whatever still survives. Men especially love murder. In art they celebrate it, and in life they commit it. They embrace murder as if life without it would be devoid of passion, meaning, and action, as if murder were solace, still their sobs as they mourn the empitness and alienation of their lives." - Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone, Page 214.

Question: Please explain how I would take this if I read it properly, in context.

Now, I know there is a very good reason why this kind of explanation/rationalization (the answer to the previous question) excuses such talk against men (or sometines caucasions) but does not excuse similar talk against other groups (Jews, women, Arabs, blacks, short people, etc.) but I forgot what it is. Would someone please refresh my memory?

(I chose the above quote for convenience, not having read the book, and I admit the mental laziness of this. I will replace it with a quote from "Intercourse" if anyone prefers.)

stanton

Amanda: About my choice of feminists to list in this thread. Mythago gave me the names of some feminists to check: Nadine Strossen, Susie Bright and Pat Califia. These three opposed Dworkin's stand on pornography. Are there examples of serious feminist opposition to Dworkin in other areas, by those whom you have admitted into the feminist body?

Redneck Feminist (drumgurl)

Sorry to say something off topic, but I think a lot of you would be surprised that McElroy and Young are both perfectly capable of a feminist rant.

Amanda

Mythago's list is a good place to start--but this isn't about "admitting" anyone. It's about accurate labels. Everyone wants to be a feminist, but it's not really feminism to advocate for sexism.

stanton

If it's not really feminism to advocate for sexism, then how can you possibly call Dworkin a feminist? Her anti-male sexism was prominently displayed. The only "accuracy" I see here is within a most blatant double standard. And by stating this, you imply that Young and MacElroy "advocate for sexism". Would you, by any chance, be able to provide me with a reference where either have done so? (I have asked for such things in the past from Mythago and others, to no avail, so I admit that I am not too hopeful here.)

So - I started with Mythago's list. I found only references to the porn debate - which are fine, I am not complaining. But are there more fundamental disagreements to be found with these three? If so, please let me know and I will seek them out. If not, then who are these other feminist opposers that you would like for me to see?

Caitriona

stanton, you referenced the following quote:

"In everything men make, they hollow out a central place for death, let its rancid smell contaminate every dimension of whatever still survives. Men especially love murder. In art they celebrate it, and in life they commit it. They embrace murder as if life without it would be devoid of passion, meaning, and action, as if murder were solace, still their sobs as they mourn the empitness and alienation of their lives."

I haven't read any of Dwarkin's works, so I will give you a different take on this passage, just as out of context as the interpretations I've seen here in the discussion. To me, where it says "men," it could just as easily (and very truthfully) say "mankind" or "humankind." Mankind loves violence. We see it every day. We say we wish for a reduction of violence, but on what do we spend our money? Violent games - Doom, Full Metal Alchemist, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, Mortal Combat, et al. Violent movies - Gothica, Freddie vs Jason, etc. News - show us all the bad news, forget the good.

I can see where Ms. Dwarkin could translate this to being something from men. Who, primarily, controls what is released through the different media? Who, as she was growing up, had the *visible* control of society? What was it she saw that needed to be changed? A societal change is needed, she saw men controlling that society, therefore the things needing change (in her view) were predominately men's responsibility.

FEMINAZIHATEMARTYR

Stanton youve got it all wrong. So-called "feminism" is sexism. There really arent varying degrees of this term since nobody can agree upon how so-called "feminism" is actually defined. Its proponents (mostly authoritarians and marxists) demand to define it as a form of egalitarianism but obviously this is blatently incorrect and misleading. Mythago or the other radicals wont give you a straight answer when attempting to define whos who or whats where with that subject matter. Typical twofaced dodge of a radicals evasive subterfuge.

stanton

Caitrona, since you haven't read Dworkin, I will put it to "the audience": Are Dworkin's references to the wickedness of men all simply intended to address the human-constructed aspects of mankind as a whole, and men in particular only in that they have been the primary shapers of society?

FEMINAZIHATEMARTYR: I believe that you and I are responding to the same things, however I have consciously decided to work from the assumption that the individuals involved are decent, well-meaning persons. This even applies to those who, like Dworkin, consider me to be an oppressor of women, their enemy, the embodiment of evil. I believe that progress can only come from respectful interaction, and not from attacks and vilification. My belief is that the enduring victories are won in the manner of Gandhi, not Atilla.

Yes, there is sexism in the feminist movement, just as there are also gender injustices against women that need correcting. I believe that these injustices must be acknowledged by me as a starting place, before they will be willing to hear anything I say about the injustices against men. In other words, if you wish to be heard, first you must listen.

yami

I think Dworkin was trying to tie the rise of pornography in the 70s to the experiences of young soldiers in Viet Nam, intergenerational conflict phallic myth something something. I can't explain, excuse, or condemn the quote in context, because while the essay may be quite lyrical I don't think it makes any sense. Letters from a War Zone is searchable on Amazon, for anyone who'd like to read for themselves. You can only go two pages at a time, but you can search as many times as you need and get through the whole thing that way.

On the broader issue of guarding the gates to feminism, my rule of thumb for a long time has been that any feminist should agree to two things: 1) that contemporary society deals with gender in ways that, on balance, harm and do injustice to women; and 2) this is a problem that must be solved. You can't oust Dworkin on that! She may have been a loon, but she was unquestionably also a feminist. By contrast, some libertarian-wing "equity" feminists believe that we've "won" - laws are gender-neutral now, any remaining differences can be explained by individual choice and are therefore not a problem. I don't know enough about McElroy or Young to specifically boot them from the movement (if only I had such power!), but those are the grounds on which I would subject them to greater scrutiny than Dworkin.

I haven't read that much of Dworkin's work, but from what I've seen there's a lot of nonsense and misandry. There's also a baby in the bathwater. If some feminists are defensive about her mixed legacy, it's probably because we know what happens with babies and baths.

stanton

Yami: Your feminist criteria appeal to me, because they do not preclude the possibility that society also deals with gender in ways that, on balance, harm and do in justice to men. Thus, by your criteria, I am a feminist. And I also find acceptable your closing paragraph, in that it acknowledges Dworkin's nonsense and misandry. The tendency of some feminists to deny the presence of serious misandry among their leading lights is a major barrier to honest communication. It makes it appear that many do not understand sexism and are unable to recognize it when they see it.

This definition does lead me to a question: In a truly egalitarian society, is feminism then impossible? Or might someone still agree to those criteria (erroneously) and be a feminist in such a society?

You may not claim "booting power,' but others here are not so modest.

yami

Stanton, I would be surprised if you started to self-identify as a feminist - but you're right, I wouldn't try to deny you the label. Despite my modest demeanor I do attempt to blackball others from the feminist conspiracy, I've just never had much success.

I do find it troubling that you're asking us to repudiate and shun Andrea Dworkin as a whole person/thinker, and not simply the misandrist or otherwise disagreeable elements in her work. What I really love about reading Dworkin is the tension between the "yes" and the "no" (to steal some terminology from a few posts up). She'll argue that things I experience as strong yesses and noes are inextricably linked, and because I have so much respect for her elucidation of the yesses, I end up breaking down and rebuilding my own ideas on a level less radical writers don't reach. Even though the force of her writing depends partly on her objectionable claims, it's not a force from which I can distance myself!

Oh, and in a truly egalitarian society, I'd substitute "if we're not careful, society could" for "society does". I suppose those who work to maintain the status quo, recognizing that it isn't necessarily stable, would be feminism's true heirs. But honestly, I've spent very little time thinking about ideological divisions in end-stage utopias...

stanton

Yami: I guess I have not been clear in my postings. I am not asking anyone to shun Dworkin. I would like to see a bit of intellectual honesty here, and you are one of the few who have stepped up to offer it. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge misandry? Perhaps it is painful to see eye-rollong and a "tsk tsk" in response to misandry, but utter outrage in response to misogyny. Has the "old double standard," the target of 70s feminism, crept into the movement itself? I understand that this requires some serious self-reflection, but this is a good thing.

As for the "shunning" part, I was addressing those who claim that feminists opposed Dworkin. My point was that they had some disagreements with her, but she and her misandry were still welcome in the fold, and I used Young and MacElroy as examples of what it looks like when someone's brand of feminism is itself rejected. Dworkin does not get the treatment that these two receive, and I propose that this is because her misandry is not so far out of tune with the spirit of feminism today. If this suggestion invokes a knee-jerk response of anger, then it may well touched an unexamined truth.

Notice how the responses have withered away, once we got down to talking specifics in this thread? Notice how drumgirl was ignored when she suggested Young and MacElroy may not be the turncoats some seem to think they are? I have experienced this type of thing over and over in such discussions. I commend you for engaging in a consideration rather than a hit and run. And you have given me things to think about as well. Thanks.

davejones

Stanton,

I'm afraid you will not get a suitable response to the questions you posed earlier in this discussion, as it would be folly to do so. You see, by condoning hateful rhetoric towards a group the feminists are showing us their hand.

It's quite interesting to watch and hear feminists defend hate from within because "I end up breaking down and rebuilding my own ideas" as yami says above. Many commenters here have acknowledged the misandry and hate in much of Dworkin's work but refuse "to throw out the baby with the bathwater". Oh, really? Paging Dr. Summers, paging Dr. Summers. I realize you have a wife and three children but bye, bye sucker. How dare you try to be provocative in a universisty setting that is supposed to be provocative. He couldn't have been more careful in crafting his question, hemming and hawing to phrase it not as a statement of truth or an absolute, but as something to stir debate and study. What a pig!

Here's the truth...The powerful (men, and white ones in particular) are subject to all slings and arrows from all comers because their guilt is embedded in their gender and skin pigment. To respond in kind, to question, to disagree, is to cement your doom.

Lucy

I haven't read any of Dworkin's work. She sounds fascinating! Looks like something else I need to add to my mounting pile of things I need to read...I'm looking forward to it.

Redneck Feminist (drumgurl)

I was once debating with a male feminist on a discussion board, and I said that anyone who thinks women are better than men is not a feminist by definition (as in a dictionary definition).

This is what he told me: Gender is a social construct. "Radical feminists" (his words, not mine) believe that women are taught to be better people than men, and men are taught to be violent. Therefore, women are better than men because of socialization, not because of any innate superiority.

I haven't read much Dworkin, so I don't know if that's what she thought. But that's what this guy told me she thought. Is that attitude misandrist? I think so. But to him, it wasn't because he believed he was hating "the system" that socializes men, and not men themselves.

I think his argument is flawed. I can certainly understand hating "the system" but I can't understand applying it to an entire group of people. We would certainly still have war and violence if women ran the world. Women commit violent crimes now, even though a lot of us are taught to be all sugar-and-spice.

I also told him that women are socialized to be gold-diggers, which is not exactly a nice trait either. He didn't address that, though. And I'm getting off-topic, I know.

craichead

I just finished a really good book about philo-tyrants like Dworkin, called "The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics" by Mark Lilla. The book profiles several European intellectuals who at one time or another supported fascism and communism, Nazis and the USSR. Derrida, Foucolt, Heidegger and others are profiled.

But the best part of the book is the last chapter where Lilla goes into a handfull of different theories as to why people like Andrea Dworkin eventually value their own ideas over actual human beings, making abstractions of the people in order to support an idea (THe sabbath was made for man, not man for he sabbath as I stated earlier).

Lilla takes a Platonic analysis of these sorts of intellectuals and makes the case that an Eros of ideas consumes them, making moderation impossible. I'm not explaining well -- I think I need to read that chapter again.

But that's how I see Dworkin -- and many other feminists, masculists and political advocates: they eventually come to the point where they seek to coerce the people to serve the ideas rather than using the ideas to serve the people.

stanton

craichead: That sounds like an interesting book. I will check it out. The premise makes sense.

drumgirl: Whatever the mental gymnastics involved, hate was an integral aspect of the beliefs of this fellow. Saying "I hate what you are" is close enough to "I hate you" that it amounts to the same thing. It still forms the basis for justifying whatever measures are necessary to correct the perceived flaws. Especially pernicious is unacknowledged hate. A test to determine whether or not a particular statement or attitude is misadrist: Apply the same statement or attitude toward women, and see how it sounds then. We are "socialized" in the west to identify misogyny far more readily than misandry. So much so, in fact, that some feminists try to rationalize away the validity of the test itself, once they see the results.

stanton

I see that there is a new thread of Dworkin apologia started now. This one was getting too cluttered with reality to be of any further use, I guess.

yami

Stanton, I'd like to respond to a number of points, but unfortunately don't have time today. Perhaps this weekend. Anyway, one quick point re:

"Dworkin does not get the treatment that these two receive, and I propose that this is because her misandry is not so far out of tune with the spirit of feminism today. If this suggestion invokes a knee-jerk response of anger, then it may well touched an unexamined truth."

I gave my reasons for not treating Dworkin as I treat McElroy's ilk. Other intellectually honest reasons we might have for passing over her flaws, just off the top of my head: because we have compassion for the trauma she suffered at the hands of men, because we think it should be obvious that we can admire her work on marital rape without partaking of her vitriol, because we don't think discussing the ways male socialization creates violent men is inexcusably misandrist*. Or, I suppose, because we unthinkingly snuggle with misandry. You've made an exceptionally uncharitable assumption here, which invokes anger because it's insulting.

*Is it mysoginist to say that women have been socialized to be bad at mentally rotating abstract 3D objects? I don't think so. Another interesting tangent to pick up when I'm fed and done with work...

Redneck Feminist (drumgurl)

"A test to determine whether or not a particular statement or attitude is misadrist: Apply the same statement or attitude toward women, and see how it sounds then."

Yep, that's exactly why I brought up that women are socialized to be gold-diggers. But socialization doesn't completely determine the outcome of a person. In other words, many women turn out to NOT be gold-diggers, despite socialization. And while I dislike gold-diggers, I don't hate women.

I think the same is true for men. In some ways, I do think men are pressured to do things like catcall or whatever. When I get catcalled, it's usually by a group of guys trying to show off to each other rather than one guy by himself. But LOTS of men don't catcall. There is a difference between "respectfully appreciating" and catcalling, and I don't think there's anything wrong with the former. Or put another way, I don't think there's something wrong with male heterosexual desire.

I also think it's wrong to say that either "masculine" or "feminine" traits are bad. Is that what you mean by the "I hate what you are" attitude?

I think misogyny and misandry often go hand-in-hand. I wonder if one could even exist without the other.

Gayle

Is it too late to call "Bullshit!" on 3/4s of this thread?

Because it is Bullshit. Trollish bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless. Andrea was never about hatred, she was about changing a misogynistic society. She was about stopping hatred. So she didn't white-wash her words or apologize as she wrote. Good for her!

She was a reader who looked to the academically authorized pantheon (as all literary critics do) to inform her work. You don't think death is a major theme among male writers? Death is defined as a major theme! Go to school for Godsakes and then come back and try to criticize her!

My God, the ignorance in this thread is mind-boggling. If you don't know what your writing about, don't write it!


Gayle

"I think misogyny and misandry often go hand-in-hand. I wonder if one could even exist without the other."

And yet another "bullshit" for this bullshit comment. Misandry is taboo in this culture. Misogyny is all but normal. They do not go together, not even a little, tiny bit.

Camille Paglia and Ann Coulter have made entire careers by feeding off our society's misogyny. The very worst thing you can call a woman is "man-hater." A man-hater is automatically ostracized, a woman-hater gets a pat on the back for being one of the guys (even if you're a girl) and a multi-million dollar contract.

bmmg39

"And yet another "bullshit" for this bullshit comment. Misandry is taboo in this culture. Misogyny is all but normal."

Wow, talk about trollish comments. I'm afraid you have it perfectly backwards, especially since most don't even know what "misandry" means, since hatred of males isn't seen as a problem. Why, the word "sexism" is considered by many to be a synonym for "misogyny." You say you really refer to sexism against men and people throw their heads back and look at you quizzingly...

Gayle

Misandry isn't seen as a problem because it is not a problem. That's the point.

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