American Friends Service Committee
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Editorial material in Peacework is published under a Creative Commons
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Honoring a Sister
Sara Burke is Co-Editor of Peacework Magazine.
"Women in pornography and prostitution talked to me, and I became responsible for what I heard. I listened; I wrote; I learned. I do not know why so many women trusted me enough to speak to me, but underneath anything I write one can hear the percussive sound of their heartbeats. If one has to pick one kind of pedagogy over all others, I pick listening." -- Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant (Basic Books, 2002)
Andrea Dworkin, writer, activist, and survivor of rape and battering, died on April 10, 2005, at the age of 58. Although she was not a pacifist, Andrea Dworkin lived and died fighting for a real peace for women, and I believe it is important to honor her work in these pages.
Andrea Dworkin's writing is passionate, brilliant, honest, and fearless. I urge you to read it for yourself, both because it is worth reading and because most of her detractors misrepresent it. Two collections, Letters from a War Zone: Writings 1979-1989 and Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War against Women, offer a terrific range of her work, from speeches to literary criticism. Woman Hating and Intercourse both offer alternative analyses of highly regarded texts that celebrate men's sexual domination of women (the chapters on Leo Tolstoy and Paul Tillich in Intercourse might be of special interest to Peacework readers). Many individual speeches and essays are accessible at the excellent website <www.andreadworkin.net>, maintained by activist Nikki Craft.
Andrea Dworkin began her adult activism opposing the US war against Vietnam. Like many other women, she was radicalized as a feminist by the disparagement and sexual exploitation she experienced in every facet of that political movement. She was expected to do only typing, not planning, in the groups she joined; she was sexually assaulted by prison medical examiners when she served time for a political demonstration. On her release, and throughout her campaign to change prison policies, her male fellow activists were unable even to recognize that assault as a violation.
Like even more women -- indeed, every woman in the world has experienced either the threat or the reality of one of these -- Dworkin was so poor that she was homeless, turned tricks for food and shelter, survived rape, and eventually married a man who beat her savagely.
Andrea Dworkin's profound contribution to feminist political analysis was to draw all of these experiences together and expose their unifying core: that in a male-dominated society, women exist to be used. Where she departed from much of the organized women's liberation movement and from virtually all of the organized peace movement was in her decision to stand, physically and politically, with the women who are used hardest: rape victims, prostitutes, battered women, and sexually exploited children. She said that people should not be used, and she pointed out every place where she saw that men's use of women was the guiding principle, including pornography. For this heresy she was vilified throughout her life.
Throughout her career Dworkin attacked the intertwined industries of pornography and prostitution, demanding that the humiliation, danger, and pain of the women (and men and children) used for the profit of others become the focus of every discussion about change. She insisted that the abstract totem to which "free speech" had been reduced was not more valuable than the lives of real human beings. Her argument has often been mischaracterized as stopping there; in fact, with law professor Catherine Mackinnon, she went much further, making a clear and convincing case for restricting many aspects of pornography as violations of civil rights without state censorship. (See the Dworkin website mentioned above to learn about the anti-pornography civil rights ordinance drafted by Dworkin and Mackinnon).
Andrea Dworkin's own experiences, and those of the many hundreds of women who shared their stories with her, eventually eroded her initial pacifism. She was unable to reconcile a total commitment to safety and restitution for victims of rape and battering with a commitment to nonviolence. "I hate prisons, but becoming a feminist made me face the fact that I thought some people should be in jail. Years later, after watching rapists and batterers go free almost all the time, my pacifism would collapse like a glass tower, leaving me with jagged cuts everywhere inside and out and half-buried as well." (Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant) In the same passage, she said that rape victims should have the right to execute their rapists themselves, and in a 2004 article in The Guardian she sided with the jury that recommended the death penalty for Scott Peterson, a man convicted of murdering his wife and their unborn child.
As a pacifist and a feminist, I lament this inconsistency in Dworkin's thinking on violence and criminal justice. To me it is clearer now than ever before that our criminal justice system is self-perpetuating, continually in need of more human fodder and guided by our society's deeply institutionalized misogyny and racism. Too many people are both victims and perpetrators for us to accept any solution that seeks to root out the evil among us by rooting out the evildoers.
But as a woman -- that is, as a human target in the biggest, longest-running terrorism campaign in history -- I have to thank Andrea Dworkin for putting the victims and survivors first. There is no act more spiritually or politically radical. To me, the fact that she could not do this within the traditional peace movement points out a failure in that movement's priorities, not in hers. Far too few who work for peace are ready even to acknowledge, much less to fight, the male violence that pervades the lives of women.
With thanks to my sister, Andrea Dworkin,
I say that if there is no peace for women, there is no peace.
The world has lost a brilliant and beautiful spirit, but we will
not forget her. And in her honor, sisters, we must recommit ourselves
not to forget each other.