I love Andrea Dworkin

I love this woman’s writing so much. I wish I could have gone to see her speak. I get chills when I read her. The next few posts are going to be random quotes from Right Wing Women, in random order!

If an idea is stupid, presumably it is stupid whether the one who articulates it is male or female. But that is not the case. Women, undereducated as a class, do not have to read Aeschylus to know that a man plants the sperm, the child, the son; women are the soil; she brings forth the human he created; he is the originator, the father of life. Women can have their own provincial, moralistic sources for this knowledge: clergy, movies, gym teachers. The knowledge is common knowledge: respected in the male writers because the male writers are respected; stupid in women because women are stupid as a condition of birth. Women articulate received knowledge and are laughed at for doing so. But male writers with the same received ideas are acclaimed as new, brilliant, interesting, even rebellious, brave, facing the world of sin and sex forthrightly. Women have ignorant, moralistic prejudices; men have ideas. To call this a double standard is to indulge in cruel euphemism. This gender system of evaluating ideas is a sledgehammer that bangs female intelligence to a pulp, annihilating it. Mailer and Lawrence have taken on the world always; they knew they had a right to it; their prose takes that right for granted; it is the gravitational field in which they move. Marabel Morgan and Anita Bryant come to the world as middle-aged women and try to acti in it; of course they are juvenile and imprecise in style, ridiculous even. Both Mailer and Lawrence have written volumes that are as ridiculous, juvenile, despite what they can take for granted as men, despite their sometimes mastery of the language, despite their genuine accomplishments, despite the beauty of the story or novel. But they are not called stupid even when they are ridiculous. When the ideas of Lawrence cannot be distinguished from the ideas of Morgan, either both are smart or both are stupid; and similarly with Mailer and Bryant. Only the women, however, deserve and get our contempt. Are Anita Bryant’s ideas pernicious? Then so are Norman Mailer’s. Are Marabel Morgan’s ideas side-slappingly funny? Then so are D. H. Lawrence’s.

A woman must keep her intelligence small and timid to survive. Or she must hide it altogether or hide it through style. Or she must go mad like clockwork to pay for it. She will try to find the nice way to exercise intelligence. But intelligence is not ladylike. Intelligence is full of excesses. Rigorous intelligence abhors sentimentality, and women must be sentimental to value the dreadful silliness of the men around them. Morbid intelligence abhors the cheery sunlight of positive thinking and eternal sweetness; and women must be sunlight and cheery and sweet, or the woman could not  bribe her way with smiles through a day. Wild intelligence abhors any narrow world; and the world of women must stay narrow, or the woman is an outlaw. No woman could be Nietzche or Rimbaud without ending up in a whorehouse or lobotomized. Any vital intelligence has passionate questions, aggressive answers: but women cannot be explorers; there can be no Lewis and Clark of the female mind. Even restrained intelligence is restrained not because it is timid, as women must be, but because it is cautiously weighing impressions and facts that come to it from an outside that the timid dare not face. A woman must please, and restrained intelligence does not seek to please; it seeks to know through discernment. Intelligence is also ambitious: it always wants more: not more of being fucked, not more pregnancy; but more of a bigger world. A woman cannot be ambitious in her own right without also being damned. (page 47)



3 thoughts on “I love Andrea Dworkin

  1. That is a dynamite quote! I love her boldness. To be safe women are taught to hide, they must figure out what is expected of them and produce that, part of the hiding. But the intellect is damaged when this happens.

    When I think of boldness, I think of the RadFem Hub. It was amazing to read many of the bold ideas there, like the ones on PIV. From women like Dworkin and Daly. When I even briefly mentioned some of these ideas, like “just say no to PIV” to women who were my friends at work they were shocked, and I think frightened. By a powerful idea. Yet for me this was a refreshing idea for women everywhere. Just like femonade portrayed it, refreshing. I know that some of these women who didn’t like this idea don’t even like PIV personally. I think they had a far off romantic ideal that shuts down thinking.

    Despite the bold and amazing idea that women began to share on the hub so many people were against women and their intellect.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • You are so right that women are supposed to figure out what is expected of them. This never became so obvious to me than after I moved to Japan, as a WIFE!, and realized I hadn’t a fucking clue what was expected of me in that role and was horrified when I realized. I believed naively that all patriarchies were equally oppressive. That might be true but British women learn how to navigate British patriarchy. Japanese women learn how to navigate Japanese patriarchy. I wasn’t schooled in how to behave “as a Japanese woman.” Realizing what was expected of me, for being a woman, literally drove me insane. Women have to act stupid here even more than they do in the UK. They have to convince men they’re stupid so that men can feel comfortable. But men are always slightly suspicious that women might not be stupid, so then a woman will do something extremely stupid (like speaking in a random high-pitched, highly deferential voice on a topic of no consequence– pointing out something cute, for example) just to reassure him that she is, indeed, stupid, and he then keeps his anger in check for a little while longer.

      [Edited to add: British women are oppressed in ways Japanese women are not. Japanese women are refusing to have children, which I take to be an expression of anger. The birthrate is the lowest in the world. So in some ways they’re less colonized. But when it comes to intelligence, women in Japan have to try hard to hide it).

      • Interesting insights about what it is like for Japanese women. Having the lowest birthrate is important in so many ways. Do you know the ratio of female to male births?

        Having children makes it very hard for women to separate from men, so that sounds like a good thing. But it would be jarring to see that kind of “acting stupid” to placate men in a whole culture. I don’t tend to act stupid to placate men, but I’ve learned to keep my ideas to myself around them. So I act silent instead. Even this can be threatening to them because they may perceive that you see through their nonsense. One of the wonderful things about these blogs is seeing women spinning and spiraling together, freeing our intellects.

        I tend to like blogs even that I disagree with somewhat, if some bold intellect is there. Not all of us are bold in the way Dworkin was. But we can aspire and help other women and ourselves. Seeing the depth of another woman’s intellect, a different perspective, is an awe-inspiring experience.

        In her recent post, Witchwind talks about having empathy for women who seem extremely colonized rather than putting them down, etc. This post made me think about how we may not know what is going on underneath what they are saying. For instance, the evolution of some women from fun-fem to rad-fem thinking. Perhaps they don’t have the ideas yet to express them well. Listening to them with empathy, not harshly, not argumentatively, while not supporting the internalized misogeny might be one way to help free their thoughts, their observations, overcome the gaslighting that produces banal or colonized intellect.

        Thanks for this post. I think intellect is really important. So much of the internet is mindless.

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