Friday, 6 March 2009

Friday Feminist - Andrea Dworkin (6)

Cross posted

Right-wing women have surveyed the world: they find it a dangerous place. They see that work subjects them to more danger from more men; it increases the risk of sexual exploitation. They see that creativity and originality in their kind are ridiculed; they see women thrown out of the circle of male civilization for having ideas, plans, visions, ambitions. They see that traditional marriage means selling to one man, not hundreds; the better deal. They see that the streets are cold and that the women on them are tired, sick and bruised. They see that the money they can earn will not make them independent of men and that they will still have to play the sex games of their kind: at home and at work too. They see no way to make their bodies authentically their own and to survive in the world of men. They know too that the Left has nothing better to offer: leftist men also want wives and whores; leftist men value whores too much and wives too little. Right wing women are not wrong. They fear that the Left, in stressing impersonal sex and promiscuity as values, will make them more vulnerable to male sexual aggression, and that they will be despised for not liking it. They are not wrong. Right-wing women see that within the system in which they live they cannot make their bodies their own, but they can agree to privatized male ownership: keep it one-on-one, as it were. They know that they are valued for their sex - their sex organs and their reproductive capacity - and so they try to up their value: through co-operation, manipulation, conformity; through displays of affection or attempts at friendship; through submission and obedience; and especially through the use of euphemism - 'femininity', 'total woman', 'good', 'maternal instinct', 'motherly love'. Their desperation is quiet; they hide their bruises of body and heart; they dress carefully and have good manners; they suffer, they love God, they follow the rules. They see that intelligence displayed in a woman is a flaw, that intelligence realized in a woman is a crime. They see the world they live in, and they are not blind. They use sex and babies to stay valuable because they need a home, food, clothing. They use the traditional intelligence of the female - animal, not human; they do what they have to do to survive.

Andrea Dworkin, Right Wing Women, 1983


Anonymous said...

This was posted here as a warning to feminists about the dangers of adopting the fantasies and delusions often suffered by the members of the extremist lunatic fringe of many causes?

Andrew W

Anna said...

Andrew, feminism is a pretty huge phenomenon, with a lot of variation over time and across countries. You might want to look into it further before implying we're all fringe lunatics...

Anonymous said...

I thought in my comment I made it clear that I think the author is a member of the lunatic fringe of the feminist movement, not that feminists are all of the lunatic fringe.

I asked my partner Amber what her opinion on is was, "bloody stupid" and the author is "weak and pathetic" sums up her view.

So Anna, how does it relate to your own life? Do you see yourself as Andrea Dworkin sees women, or do you think being a lefty gives you special insight into the lives of righty women?

Do you think that they're really just whores to their men and are all to stupid to recognise their own plight??

All in all I think Dworkin's view is an arrogant insult to women of the political right, incredibly arrogant considering her status as a self appointed spokesperson for that group, (I'll assume she's of the political left).

Andrew W

Anna said...

Calm down, Andrew. 'Friday Feminists' are posted to encourage discussion and debate, not because they represent some party line everyone's supposed to agree to.

You'll note that this passage is also critical of the left. It seems to be suggesting that women's interests aren't represented too well by either end of the political spectrum.

Deborah said...

Anna's right. I post these extracts because they are fascinating, and interesting, and provocative, not because I agree with them (or don't agree with them for that matter). Mind you, I think Dworkin's onto something here. NB - that means I find something of value in her thinking, not that I endorse every single bit of it.

Anonymous said...

But, you mention that she did write this in 1983. Right Wing women have surely changed since then? I'm not saying for the better, but look at all the NZ National Party female MPs, what do they represent?


Anna said...

I guess Dworkin was writing about the US context of 26 years ago. In the US, neoliberalism is way more bound up with morally conservative stuff (ie opposition to gay rights, reproductive rights, etc) than it is in NZ. The culture of stay-at-home mums is, I think, a lot stronger in the US - so to look at marriage as a career in that context makes more sense.

I think right wing women in NZ have quite a different history, particular since much of the National party's heartland support has traditionally been rural. Rural women in NZ are often equal partners in running farms, as well as being mums, running volunteer organisations, being on schools' Boards of Trustees, etc. Jenny Shipley is an interesting case in point - she cut her teeth in the Playcentre movement, which is in a sense 'typically female' work, but was also a really quite political and innovative initiative.

I'm sympathetic to quite a bit of what Dworkin says, but I think it's the lack of agency she seems to be attributing to women that rubs contemporary readers the wrong way.

Deborah said...

student-still, I always try to put the date in, or if I can't find an exact date, to at least say around about when the piece was written. It's interesting to think about what still holds true about Dworkin's analysis, and what has changed since it was written.

I find various movements within the US quite creepy, like the total subordination of women within some evangelical / fundamentalist sects. It would be interesting to hear what Dworkin would have said about them.

Mary-Lou said...

Totally out of touch with reality was the response from my female work colleagues when I showed them this.