Letters

Readers respond to Laura Miller's essay on Andrea Dworkin.


Salon Staff
April 14, 2005 9:09PM (UTC)

[Read "The Passion of Andrea Dworkin," by Laura Miller.]

What a hateful, hurtful piece to run about someone who just passed away. It seems to me that Laura Miller has a personal ax to grind with Andrea Dworkin. Love her or hate her, she certainly garnered some great attention for a number of feminist causes. She did a good job of rustling people out of their comfort zone and making them think -- even if they did not agree with her. She got under the skin of many people including, apparently, Laura Miller.

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-- Carmen Mitchell

Laura Miller's article on Andrea Dworkin was exceptionally adroit and gave me an aggrieved sort of satisfaction to read. Dworkin's recklessness, I always felt, was one and the same with her gifts. That made her a tragic figure. Her attempts at a sort of intellectual propaganda seemed only to undercut the things she wrote and cared about.

However, in criticizing Dworkin's irresponsible instincts and tactics, Miller doesn't make an obvious comparison: our right wing has co-opted her methods, and with far more success.

Dworkin's faked-up evidence and stats only vitiated her arguments, marginalizing both her and less self-aggrandizing people on her side of the cultural barricades she wanted to erect. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, famously threw out any number of ludicrous anecdotes ripe with statistical disinformation, and as long as he'd calculated the emotional tug of those falsities well they just plain worked. Reagan's intellectual heirs include Newt Gingrich -- who invented lavish, spa-style, publicly funded drug treatment centers that didn't exist -- and of course the shrewd duo of Karl Rove and George W. Bush. Rove concocts a load of hooey calculated to drive emotional wedges into any given issue, W. Bush steadfastly remains "on message" despite the ridiculousness of his collection of talking points -- and the terms of the public debate inexorably change, framed by the Dworkin-style, polarizing, irresponsible, emotionally divisive Republican message.

The question is, do we become more of the same -- a left composed of Michael Moores, playing fast and loose with the specific truth as long as our message touches on the right emotional notes? If we don't want that, then we need to ask ourselves how the current crop of proto-fascists can be, like Dworkin, tripped up in the tangle of their own tragic natures.

-- Ian Westray

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Several days ago you offered us a fawning five-page interview with Camille Paglia, and this bitter eulogy is the best one of your writers could vomit up for one of the most influential feminists of our times?

For reasons I cannot quite fathom, Laura Miller saw fit to link to an article about the Weather Underground (of which Dworkin was not a part), as well as several other articles to which Dworkin has either no relation, or in which she appears only passively. Dworkin's own words appear once, in a completely decontextualized 10-word quote that quite neatly serves Miller's purpose (to utterly trash Dworkin). The source is an ambiguous "British journalist."

Let the irony of the line, "She made the public conversation stupider," not be lost on us. I know I feel "stupider" for having read Ms. Miller's work. She managed not to quote or even name a single book in the eulogy of someone who is famous in part for her prolific writing. Was Ms. Miller simply too busy perusing the Salon archives to research and read one of these books, even if just to lend legitimacy to this venomous tripe by quoting a word or two of Dworkin's own? Did she really mean to demonize feminists the way Jerry Falwell has done -- linking them to terrorist organizations?

Love her or hate her, Andrea Dworkin deserved better than this half-assed backstabbing, and so do your readers. More than anything else, this is supremely lazy, manipulative reporting, full of the same attack-dog-style bias of which Miller accuses Dworkin. Shame on you.

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-- Leslie Fenton

I enjoyed this article immensely and wish Salon would educate me more about its subject matter.

I mean, after all, can someone who didn't live the '60s know what they were truly all about?

With the Beatles lyrics coming to me via advertisement after advertisement ... aren't I bound to miss the point?

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I didn't know anything about Ms. Dworkin, even though I'm a pretty educated guy. And even though she probably wouldn't have liked me -- I am unabashed about my enjoyment of heterosexual sex -- I liked what I just read about her.

Interesting to note Ms. Pagila appeared in an article last week. Her brand of feminism is popular but has more than a few issues attached to it if you ask me. So much so that it lacks an edge.

Ms. Paglia is trying to sell edge, actually, and I think that's an important point since this article faults Ms. Dworkin for hers.

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So even though Ms. Dworkin may have possessed hubris that could have been done without, please keep in mind moving forward that aggressive change that really addresses issues isn't easy.

Anyway, again thanks for news I can use. This story was certainly better than reading about that dickhead of a congressman Tom DeLay!

-- Lloyd Little

Laura Miller's lengthy rant about Andrea Dworkin is very disappointing. I am no big fan of Dworkin, and like Miller I sometimes wonder if Dworkin drowns important truths in too much rhetoric and ghoulish Sadean language. However, Dworkin had a profound effect on feminism, one that can't be ignored, downplayed or avoided. Dworkin ripped back the curtains covering domestic violence, marital rape, all the things violent men did to women and called sex. (Miller's snarky remarks about rape statistics appear to be a cheap way of trying to deny this. While I agree with Miller that whether one in four women is raped or one in 400 doesn't change the fact that any rape is too much, Miller also should at least acknowledge that the numbers are far higher than anyone sitting around musing about it would think.)

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Dworkin made us look at and think about the reality that most of us are trained to think of sex itself as something men do to women, something centered around men's bodies and pleasure, something disconnected from women's desires and needs. While I disagree with some of her opinions on pornography, I don't think the basic point -- that mainstream porn is centered on what men do and how men get pleasure -- can be denied. Nor do I think it's a trivial or silly concern. In a world where women are taught that men's pleasure matters most, many women do find themselves in uncomfortable sexual situations. And that matters.

Miller's mention that some of Dworkin's critics think she called all heterosexual sex rape is problematic as well. Sure, Miller can mention that that's the bogeyman that haunted her message. But Miller then must be fair to Dworkin's response. Perhaps Miller has problems with the extreme way Dworkin talks about heterosexual intercourse; I have some as well. But at the very least it is Miller's duty to briefly mention Dworkin's real point: that she saw something problematic in how the culture looked and often still looks at intercourse, as something Big Strong Men do to passive, receptive women. The potential for sex to easily slip into violation when people see themselves as fulfilling these roles is real, and Dworkin's saying so is hardly nonsensical rhetoric. As I've said, I myself have many problems with Dworkin's work. However, you have a duty to provide a fair eulogy, one that mentions these conflicts in a respectful way and not an ugly one. I don't think Laura Miller has come close to fulfilling it.

-- Alexa Mavroidis


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