Andrea Dworkin Additional Biography

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Andrea Dworkin became known as one of the most outspoken leaders of the feminist movement. Although she is an author of fiction about victimized women, Dworkin is best known for her controversial nonfiction. Dworkin has declared that her writing is intended to expose the nastier side of male/female relationships: pornography, spouse abuse, and rape. Born in 1946 to Harry Dworkin, a guidance counselor, and Sylvia Spiegel, a secretary, she grew up aware that there were issues in life that needed to be addressed: She describes herself as the kind of person who, at eight or nine, would refuse to sing “Silent Night” in public school because to do so would deny her Jewish faith. Even as a child she believed that writing could change minds.

At the age of eighteen Dworkin was awakened to women’s powerlessness. Arrested during an antiwar protest, she was confined for four days to the Women’s House of Detention, where she was brutalized as part of the standard inmate routine. After her release, she suffered from a vaginal hemorrhage for two weeks. Careless internal examination, authoritarian disrespect, and bullying left her emotionally scarred as well, but Dworkin insisted on publicly confronting the system that allowed a woman to be humiliated in so sexual a fashion. Her growing awareness of the role polarity of sex in American culture led her to write Woman Hating. The book graphically depicts the sexual abuse of women, examines the historical and psychological position of the woman within society, and presents such issues as female masochism, rape, “white slavery,” and the execution of witches during the Middle Ages. To Dworkin, women are victims of their gender and desperately need to separate themselves from traditional sex roles.

Married for three years to a Dutch anarchist who beat her, Dworkin knows about the victimization of women. Because the only people who helped her to escape this abuse were feminists, Dworkin became increasingly concerned about the silent majority of women who simply allow victimization to occur. In Right-Wing Women she theorizes that it is the fear of male violence, more than...

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Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Allen, Amy. “Pornography and Power.” Journal of Social Philosophy 32 (Winter, 2001): 512-531. Claims that Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon’s conceptualization of power is inadequate.

Blakely, Mary Kay. “Is One Woman’s Sexuality Another Woman’s Pornography?” Ms. 13 (April, 1985): 37-38.

Dworkin, Andrea. Letter to The New York Times Book Review, May 3, 1992, 15-16.

Eberly, Rosa A. Citizen Critics: Literary Public Spheres. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000. Contains a chapter on Dworkin’s novel Mercy.

Green, Karen. “De Sade, de Beauvoir, and Dworkin.” Australian Feminist Studies 15 (March, 2000): 69-81. Contrasts Simone de Beauvoir and Dworkin in an attempt to identify constructive feminism.

Jenefsky, Cindy. Without Apology: Andrea Dworkin’s Art and Politics. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1998. The first book-length study of Dworkin’s works as both writer and social critic.

O’Driscoll, Sally. “Andrea Dworkin: Guilt Without Sex.” The Village Voice, July 15-21, 1981. An objective essay. Presents the most radical side of Dworkin’s writings: her views on pornography and sexual politics.

Pagnaterro, Marisa Anne. “The Importance of Andrea Dworkin’s Mercy: Mitigating Circumstances and Narrative Jurisprudence.” Frontiers 19, no. 1 (1998): 147-166. Extensive review of Dworkin’s novel, providing much contextual information.

Palczewski, Catherine Helen. “Contesting Pornography: Terministic Catharsis and Definitional Argument.” Argumentation and Advocacy 38 (Summer, 2001): 1-16. Critique of Dworkin and MacKinnon’s views on pornography.