ANDREA DWORKIN Biography - Writers


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Andrea Dworkin is internationally renowned as a radical feminist activist                     
and author who has helped break the silence around violence against women.                     
In her determination to articulate the experiences of poor, lower-class,                       
marginal, and prostituted women, Dworkin has deepened public awareness of rape,               
battery, pornography, and prostitution. She is co-author of the                               
pioneering Minneapolis and Indianapolis ordinances that define pornography a                   
civil-rights violation against women. She has testified before the Attorney                   
General's Commission on Pornography and a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary                 
Committee. She has appeared on national television shows including Donahue,                   
MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, 60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, and 48 hours. She has                   
been a focus of articles in The New York Times, Newsweek, The New Republic, and               
Time. And an hour-long documentary called Against Pornography: The Feminism of                 
Andrea Dworkin, produced by the BBC, was watched by more viewers in England than               
any other program in the Omnibus series and has been syndicated throughout                     
Europe and Australia. Filmed in New York City and Portland, Oregon, it included               
excerpts from Dworkin's impassioned public speaking and intimate conversations                 
between Dworkin and women who had been used in prostitution and pornography,                   
most since childhood.                                                                         
The author of 13 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Dworkin is a                       
political artist of unparalleled achievement.                                                 
"In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to                   
evolve," said Gloria Steinem; Andrea is one of them." Dworkin's first                         
novel, Ice and Fire, was published in 1986; Mercy followed in 1990 to wide                     
acclaim in the U.S. and abroad- "lyrical and passionate," said The New York                   
Times; "one of the great postwar novels," said London's Sunday Telegraph; "a                   
fantastically powerful book," said the Glasgow Herald. Her latest nonfiction                   
book is Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against                   
Women (The Free Press).                                                                       
Dworkin's activist political life began early. In 1965, when she was 18 and a                 
student at Bennington College, she was arrested at the United States Mission to               
the United Nations, protesting against the Vietnam War. She was sent to the                   
Women's House of Detention, where she was given a brutal internal examination.                 
Her brave testimony about the sadism of that experience ? reported in newspapers               
around the world-helped bring public pressure on the New York City government to               
close the Women's House of Detention down. An unmarked community garden nw grows               
in Greenwich Village where that prison once stood.                                             
Dorkin's radical-feminist critique of pornography and violence against women                   
began with her first book, Woman Hating, published in 1974 when she was 27. She               
went on to speak often about the harms to women of pornography and addressed the               
historic rally in 1978 when 3,000 women attending the first feminist conference               
on pornography held the first Take Back the Night March and shut down San                     
Francisco's pornography district for one night.                                               
In 1980 Dworkin asked Yale law professor Catharine A. MacKinnon for help in                   
bringing a civil-rights suit for Linda Marchiano, who as "Linda Lovelace" had                 
been coerced into pornography, including Deep Throat. Under current law, Dworkin               
and MacKinnon discovered, there was no way to help her. Later, in 1983, while co-teaching     
a course on pornography at the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983, they               
were commissioned by the Minneapolis City Council to draft a local ordinance                   
that would embody the legal principle, first proposed by Dworkin in Linda                     
Marchiano's behalf, that pornography violates the civil rights of women. Dworkin,             
MacKinnon, and others organized public hearings on the ordinance-the first time               
in history that victims of pornography testified directly before a governmental               
Dworkin has been a uniquely influential inspiration both to legal thinkers and                 
to grass-roots feminist organizers. Her original legal theory-that harm done to               
women ought not be legally protected just because it is done through speech,"                 
and that sexual abuse denies women's speech rights-has not only fomented a rift               
between advocates of civil rights and civil liberties but has also generated a                 
Constitutional crisis, a fundamental conflict between existing interpretations                 
of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. A tireless fighter against the                         
pornography industry and those who collaborate with it, Dworkin has herself been               
stigmatized professionally for her efforts to help women harmed by pornography ?               
in part because U.S. media conglomerates side with pornographers' right to turn               
women into "speech." Since the American Booksellers Association and the American               
Publishers Association became plaintiffs in a 1984 lawsuit against the                         
Indianapolis ordinance, Dworkin's options for publishing in the U.S. have                     
dropped off dramatically. Her last three books have had to be published in                     
England first. Attempts to get the BBC documentary broadcast in the U.S. have so               
far been unsuccessful. Yet in 1992 the BBC invited Dworkin to return, to                       
participate in a nationally televised debate on "political correctness" at the                 
prestigious Cambridge Union.                                                                   
Called "the eloquent feminist" by syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman,                         
Dworkin has been a featured speaker at universities, conferences, and Take Back               
the Night marches throughout North America and Europe, speaking out powerfully                 
against crimes of violence against women, the new right, racism, and anti-Semitism.           
The New York Times described one of her lectures on pornography at New York                   
University Law School as "highly passionate," and reported that the audience                   
responded with a standing ovation. "She moved this audience to action," said a                 
Stanford University spokesperson. A University of Washington spokesperson said,               
"She empowered the women and men present; in fact a coalition on violence                     
against women came out of her lecture." Ms. magazine admires "the relentless                   
courage of Dworkin's revolutionary demands. . . Her gift . . . is to make                     
radical ideas seem clear and obvious."