Life and Deathby Andrea Dworkin
A collection of her most incisive essays and unpublished speeches, Life and Death makes it clear why Dworkin has found her place in the canon of modern political thought. She begins here with a poignant autobiographical piece, in which she recounts with rare tenderness her childhood in Camden, New Jersey, her political odyssey, and the crushing pain of her brother's… See more details below
A collection of her most incisive essays and unpublished speeches, Life and Death makes it clear why Dworkin has found her place in the canon of modern political thought. She begins here with a poignant autobiographical piece, in which she recounts with rare tenderness her childhood in Camden, New Jersey, her political odyssey, and the crushing pain of her brother's death. Lending her hand to tragic current events, or what she calls "emergencies," like the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, the Hedda Nussbaum child abuse case, and the mass murder of female students at a college in Montreal, Dworkin makes clear in her inimitable way the obvious things we stubbornly fail to notice. Finally, she guides us back to the core issues at stake in women's lives - pornography, domestic violence, rape, and prostitution - and reminds us that even after decades of feminist so-called progress, gender is an ongoing war.
Dworkin is one of the primary intellectual and literary voices of the feminist antipornography movement. In this collection, as in much of her work, she unflinchingly describes male violence against women. Her testimonials to her own experiences as a battered wife are especially well rendered. These essays also take on the O.J. Simpson case, rape in Serbian death camps, and (as always, for Dworkin), pornography, which she continues to strangely fixate on as the root cause of rape. Oddly, she is quick to bring up historical examples of rape, which appear to immediately complicate the question of causality; Thomas Jefferson, for instance, who Dworkin claims raped Sally Hemings, his slave and mistress, didn't have access to anything like the brutal and graphic pornography that men have today. Certainly, Dworkin makes a convincing case for porn's role in men's violence, but it can't possibly be as central as she claims. At other points, the author undermines her reliability as a narrator by being melodramatic about the attacks on her work, which have indeed been virulent, but that is because she makes controversial points; any writer suggesting that heterosexual penetration is equivalent to oppressionas Dworkin did in her 1987 book, Intercoursewould be questioned. She claims that she has been censored, which seems astounding, given that her work is well known and widely discussed. It is even widely availablesome of the essays in this collection were published first in the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, and the New York Times Book Review.
Those already converted to Dworkin's strain of feminism will find much to admire here; those who disagree with her will likely remain unconvinced. But political specifics aside, her critique of our culture's vicious and persistent woman-hating is powerful and painful.
- Free Press
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