Originally published: 01.09.15
Andrea Dworkin was, and remains, a Feminist legend. It is too bad that what most people know about her is nothing more than anti-feminist myth.
I first met Andrea in Brighton in 1996, at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women’s Citizenship. I was then lucky enough to meet her on two other occasions, including several conversations that I will treasure. I will never forget listening to her keynote speech in that hall in Brighton, amongst rows and rows of over one thousand women, all mesmerised by the honesty and strength of Andrea’s testimony. I will never forget the passion with which she spoke and the clear, steely determination behind her low, slow, measured and husky tones. She did not mince those words; a lot of her speeches are visceral, they reference the physical suffering of abused women and children, they reference the legacy that scars the bodies of those in prostitution and pornography.
Andrea was no stranger to violence herself of course, and nor do her words shy away from naming men’s violence against women or falter in mapping such crimes. A scholar, literary critic, political theorist, poet, novelist and activist she put male violence on the map, and she spent her adult life putting herself on the line for victimised peoples. Although we all know her for the tireless work she did for women, it is lesser known that she had also long been active in anti-racism and anti-war movements. In fact it was following an arrest at a demonstration against the war on Vietnam in the early 1960s that Andrea was detained by the state and subjected to a brutal sexual assault under the guise of standard medical examination; a violation she spoke out about bravely, with the result that the brutal House of Detention and its bloody practices were eventually closed down. This is just one of many examples of how Andrea always turned her experiences into action, and into positive change.
This article was originally written for The Heroine Collective. You can find the full text here.
Dr. Finn Mackay: My area of research is contemporary British feminism and feminist activism. I am particularly interested in changes in this social movement from the Second Wave of the 1970s and 1980s to the present day. I have been involved in feminist activism for twenty years, founding the London Feminist Network and revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Prior to returning to academia, my professional background was in education and youth work, where I worked on domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying. I am still proudly involved with the women’s sector, conducting work and research for organisations such as Women’s Aid. I am passionate about all social justice issues and equalities. Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBT community. @Finn_Mackay