Andrea Dworkin, one of the most radical and polarizing figures of the feminist movement, died on this date in 2005 at age 58. Dworkin was the author of Woman Hating: A Radical Look at Sexuality (1974), Pornography—Men Possessing Women (1981) and Intercourse (1987), among other books. She became a leader of the “Take Back the Night” movement, which sought safety for women on city streets, and a spokeswoman for the anti-pornography wing of the feminist movement. Herself a victim of rape and battery, Dworkin critically charted the boundary between male heterosexuality and male domination of women’s bodies and found it to be very narrow. “She tried to create more understanding of what the dehumanization of women does to people,” says Marcia Cohn Spiegel, Dworkin’s aunt and herself an activist against domestic violence and the oppression of women. “Because she did this she made people very nervous and very uncomfortable.” While identifying as a lesbian, Dworkin lived with and married the gay feminist writer John Stoltenberg. She was a rip-roaring public speaker and a vigorous organizer; critics considered her censorious when her and Catherine MacKinnon’s anti-pornography analyses were incorporated into law in Canada. Dworkin also wrote three books of fiction as well as a book that compared the oppression of women to the oppression of Jews and argued for lesbian separatism — Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel and Women’s Liberation (2000).
“As long as there is rape… there is not going to be any peace or justice or equality or freedom. You are not going to become what you want to become or who you want to become. You are not going to live in the world you want to live in.” —Andrea Dworkin
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.