Dworkin, Andrea

In Alan Soble (ed.), Sex from Plato to Paglia: a philosophical encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 241-248 (2006)
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Abstract

Born to secular Jewish parents and raised in Camden, New Jersey, Andrea Dworkin became a radical second-wave feminist. By Dworkin’s own account, her work is informed by a series of negative personal experiences, including sexual assault at age nine, again by doctors at the Women's House of Detention in New York in 1965, work as a prostitute, and marriage to a battering husband whom she left in 1971. While Dworkin self-identified as a lesbian, since 1974 she lived with a gay male partner, writer John Stoltenberg, whom she married in 1998. Understandably, the main theme of Dworkin's work is male violence against women. This violence is a defining feature of our male-supremacist culture, in which rape, prostitution, and pornography are inevitable expressions of gender norms. Dworkin's writings are primarily aimed at social change rather than intellectualizing. She describes her first book as "a political action where revolution is the goal". What one finds in her writings is not so much philosophical theorizing as calls to action. Thus it is difficult to summarize the abstract theory to which she is committed and from which she draws arguments against the sexism she finds in our culture. What is clear is her desire to eliminate binary concepts of gender and their oppressive effects. In particular, Dworkin urges the destruction of a female gender role that involves masochism, self-hatred, and passivity. She sees male supremacy constructed and reinforced in our culture through the sexist structuring of public institutions and private interactions, locating three crucial foci of male supremacy in action: pornography, sexual intercourse, and rape. These are her central concerns. Her work includes seven monographs, three collections of essays and speeches, a memoir, two novels, and a book of short stories, all of which explore these themes

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Sarah Hoffman
University of Saskatchewan

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