Andrea Dworkin: The Feminist as Revolutionary
Doing biographical justice to writer and self-described radical feminist Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005) required someone with the bona fides of historian Martin Duberman (Hold Tight Gently; The Rest of It). In Andrea Dworkin: The Feminist as Revolutionary, Duberman patiently debunks the numbingly persistent misconceptions about her (no, she didn't hate men, and no, coauthoring an anti-pornography ordinance didn't mean that she condoned censorship). Duberman, who knew Dworkin "personally, if briefly," presents the bighearted person behind the bluster and unrepentant rage.
Readers familiar with her public persona will be unsurprised to learn that Dworkin, who grew up in a Jewish household in Camden, N.J., was the type of kid who refused to sing "Silent Night" with the rest of her public-school classmates at Christmastime. Sexual molestation during her youth and physical abuse during her first marriage combined with her leftist politics and fighting spirit to produce a feminist force that even some of her fellow second wavers thought was a bit much. But Duberman shows that Dworkin was ahead of her time in several ways: she promoted intersectionality by working to make the feminist movement socially and racially inclusive; her social constructionist view of masculinity and femininity presaged the acceptance of gender fluidity; and her belief in harnessing the power of anger anticipated the #MeToo movement.
Given unprecedented access to Dworkin's archive, Duberman read "again and again in letters and interviews the often expressed astonishment at how... people found her 'open,' 'quietly receptive,' and 'generous.' " So will readers of the excellent Andrea Dworkin. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer