Andrea Dworkin: The Fem­i­nist as Revolutionary

Mar­tin Duberman

January 13, 2020

From one of Amer­i­ca’s lead­ing biog­ra­phers, the defin­i­tive sto­ry of the rad­i­cal fem­i­nist and anti-pornog­ra­phy activist, based on exclu­sive access to her archives

Fif­teen years after her death, Andrea Dworkin remains one of the most impor­tant and chal­leng­ing fig­ures in sec­ond-wave fem­i­nism. Although fre­quent­ly rel­e­gat­ed to its more rad­i­cal fringes, Dworkin was with­out doubt a for­mi­da­ble and influ­en­tial writer, a philoso­pher, and an activist―a bril­liant fig­ure who inspired and infu­ri­at­ed in equal mea­sure. Her many detrac­tors were eager to reduce her to the car­i­ca­ture of the angry, man-hat­ing fem­i­nist who believed that all sex was rape, and as a result, her work has long been mis­un­der­stood. It is in recent years, espe­cial­ly with the rise of the #MeToo move­ment, that there has been a resur­gence of inter­est in her ideas.

This biog­ra­phy is the per­fect com­ple­ment to the wide­ly reviewed anthol­o­gy of her writ­ing, Last Days at Hot Slit, pub­lished in 2019, pro­vid­ing much-need­ed con­text to her work. Giv­en exclu­sive access to nev­er-before-pub­lished pho­tographs and archives, includ­ing her let­ters to many of the major fig­ures of sec­ond-wave fem­i­nism, award-win­ning biog­ra­ph­er Mar­tin Duber­man traces Dwork­in’s life, from her abu­sive first mar­riage through her cen­tral role in the sex and pornog­ra­phy wars of the fol­low­ing decades. This is a vital, com­plex, and long over­due reassess­ment of the life and work of one of the tow­er­ing fig­ures of sec­ond-wave feminism.

Discussion Questions

Andrea Dworkin: The Fem­i­nist as Rev­o­lu­tion­ary is the sto­ry of a rad­i­cal fem­i­nist who devot­ed her body and soul to fight­ing the world on the way it saw and sees women. Duber­man traces Dworkin’s rela­tion­ship to the fem­i­nist cause from her child­hood. He cap­tures the inten­si­ty, whole­heart­ed­ness, and depth with which she approached unfair­ness towards women and mar­gin­al­ized iden­ti­ties. He also dives deeply into the way that Dworkin was shaped by her Jew­ish fam­i­ly and iden­ti­ty, weav­ing into her sto­ry the way in which her world­view was influ­enced by the Holo­caust and her family’s Judaism. He explores the ways in which she applied her immense curios­i­ty and abil­i­ty to ques­tion to the Israeli – Pales­tin­ian con­flict. By record­ing the sto­ry of Andrea Dworkin with so much thought and detail, Duber­man hon­ors the lega­cy of a rad­i­cal, deeply car­ing Jew­ish fem­i­nist, who ded­i­cat­ed her life to fight­ing for her belief that women should be able to live sex­u­al­ly self-deter­mined lives.”