Small objection

There are a couple of things I forgot to say a propos of Andrea Dworkin the other day, and the most important of them was the one referred to by Joan Smith in her column in the Independent yesterday. Essentially, Dworkin was inclined to believe absolutely everything alleged against Clinton and basked in the paranoia of what it meant to ‘have a rapist in the White House’, as does Smith.

What worries me about this is that there was and is no attempt to consider the possibility that the rape allegations, which were never tried let alone proved, came from the most rabid of sources for the most part. Dworkin and her followers endlessly diss radical women who made excuses for Clinton, but don’t face up to the fact that those women were actually demanding some standard of evidence for charges, rather than assuming him guilty a priori.

And there was and is no attempt to look at the motives of the people promulgating those charges, and at their attitudes to women. Even Hitchens has tended to regard feminism as personal politics, part of what went wrong with the Left in the Seventies.

My real objection to Dworkin was, I guess, that she had tremendous power to communicate and abused it by not applying rigour to what she believed.

Various of the obituaries referred to her habit of booking plane tickets under other names for fear of death threats from the porn industry. Is there any evidence, and I ask this in sincerity and not as a rhetorical question, that those threats were ever serious or that there was ever an attempt on her life?

I speak as someone on whom a real, if random, attempt was made after I wrote an article on trans rights in a London newspaper.

( I was waiting at a bus stop at King’s Cross and a minicab touted me for business and used my name – I went and got a black cab, because I smelled something iffy. As I walked into the courtyard of my flat, a car drove in at me and I dodged and rolled between parked cars. The car appeared to be the one that had pretended to be a minicab.)

And I know many of you have seen this story before. My point is, that was some sort of case for believing myself under attack, but I am uncertain enough about it not to have pursued it, or to have gone around saying death threats.

Let alone demand bodyguards at public meetings.

About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
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29 Responses to Small objection

  1. x_mass says:

    I never knew her at all but she certainly reminds me of Joy hibbert, somebody potential very eloquent but also someone who is deeply emotionally damaged

  2. paratti says:

    Meep. Every time I think I couldn’t be more boggled, she gets worse.

  3. spintrian says:

    Well, Dworkin was of course a hysterical loon, it’s lucky she never got more power than she did (which was bad enough). On the Clinton thing, she and her followers were taking up the understandable but naive assumption that a woman would never falsely accuse a man of rape.

  4. communicator says:

    I think there is a tendency for people to respond to important but difficult issues by becoming intransigent. They react as if all opponents disagreed on the value issues at stake rather than pragmatic issues (such as what happened or what are the best means to ends). Your Clinton example is a case in point.
    On the other hand, sometimes it does seem as if the issue of women’s safety and well-being is an easy sacrifice for some on the left to make, and we need to challenge that attitude every time. And thanks to intransigent people like Dworkin there are fewer left-wing men who take Hitchens’ attitude that women’s rights are not human rights. But she also shot herself in the foot on other occasions. Difficult.

  5. communicator says:

    I think there is a tendency for people to respond to important but difficult issues by becoming intransigent. They react as if all opponents disagreed on the value issues at stake rather than pragmatic issues (such as what happened or what are the best means to ends). Your Clinton example is a case in point.

    On the other hand, sometimes it does seem as if the issue of women’s safety and well-being is an easy sacrifice for some on the left to make, and we need to challenge that attitude every time. And thanks to intransigent people like Dworkin there are fewer left-wing men who take Hitchens’ attitude that women’s rights are not human rights. But she also shot herself in the foot on other occasions. Difficult.

  6. gonzo21 says:

    Did Dworkin recant her position on Clinton after it became a matter of record that the Republican Party sponsored and fabricated at least 95% of the claims thrown against Clinton while he was in power?

  7. biascut says:

    Oh my Lord, your icon!

  8. shewhomust says:

    Back in the 1980s, when I was involved in debates within NCCL about feminism and censorship, there was a feeling around that this sort of rationalism was essentially masculine. You couldn’t discuss the applicability of any woman’s narrative, because to do so was to belittle her experience.
    Some of the people I was talking to genuinely believed this: they couldn’t follow a logical argument, and thought that their emotional reaction should carry the same or greater weight. Others, I suspect, were on a crusade, and didn’t care that their arguments were false or their allies were dubious, if it was going to win them the next battle.

  9. shewhomust says:

    Back in the 1980s, when I was involved in debates within NCCL about feminism and censorship, there was a feeling around that this sort of rationalism was essentially masculine. You couldn’t discuss the applicability of any woman’s narrative, because to do so was to belittle her experience.

    Some of the people I was talking to genuinely believed this: they couldn’t follow a logical argument, and thought that their emotional reaction should carry the same or greater weight. Others, I suspect, were on a crusade, and didn’t care that their arguments were false or their allies were dubious, if it was going to win them the next battle.

  10. dmsherwood53 says:

    Well No
    Not as far as know.

  11. dmsherwood53 says:

    Well No

    Not as far as know.

  12. fjm says:

    I would also suggest caution re the whole “Clinton was accused of rape” meme. I teach “sex and the USA” so followed this one carefully. As far as I am aware he was accused of asking for sex in contexts which were co-ercive. Some of his accusers felt unable to say “no”. But some of his accusers declined and walked away, and it is very unclear–because these cases didn’t go to court–whether there were any repercussions. There certainly weren’t any physical ones, and it isn’t even clear that there were career repercussions.
    This isn’t to say that Clinton did not engage in co-ercive sex, just that the picture is very cloudy. He was certainly guilty of very crass behaviour.

  13. fjm says:

    I would also suggest caution re the whole “Clinton was accused of rape” meme. I teach “sex and the USA” so followed this one carefully. As far as I am aware he was accused of asking for sex in contexts which were co-ercive. Some of his accusers felt unable to say “no”. But some of his accusers declined and walked away, and it is very unclear–because these cases didn’t go to court–whether there were any repercussions. There certainly weren’t any physical ones, and it isn’t even clear that there were career repercussions.

    This isn’t to say that Clinton did not engage in co-ercive sex, just that the picture is very cloudy. He was certainly guilty of very crass behaviour.

  14. gonzo21 says:

    Re: Well No
    That’s unfortunate.

  15. gonzo21 says:

    Re: Well No

    That’s unfortunate.

  16. papersky says:

    I’ve run into this as well.
    I was once told in an argument that I wasn’t a real woman because I believed in logical argument and evidence.
    It took me a long time to figure out what the correct response to that would have been — in fact I stood there staring at her with my mouth flapping like a goldfish, because it requires backing up three steps before it’s possible to say anything other than “I know you are but what am I?”
    However, the correct immediately logical and inarguable refutation, in case anyone ever says that to anyone out there, would be to burst into tears.

  17. papersky says:

    I’ve run into this as well.

    I was once told in an argument that I wasn’t a real woman because I believed in logical argument and evidence.

    It took me a long time to figure out what the correct response to that would have been — in fact I stood there staring at her with my mouth flapping like a goldfish, because it requires backing up three steps before it’s possible to say anything other than “I know you are but what am I?”

    However, the correct immediately logical and inarguable refutation, in case anyone ever says that to anyone out there, would be to burst into tears.

  18. calimac says:

    Very crass behavior, absolutely. And if Clinton’s critics had chosen to limit themselves to thundering moral denunciations of it, I would have endorsed them.
    Instead, they – the same people who had shrugged off Ronald Reagan’s policy of supporting terrorists – proposed to throw the entire weight of the impeachment process against him for a testimonial offense that would never have resulted in a perjury charge in any ordinary court.
    It was so out of proportion that they alienated their potential supporters and wondered why.
    But you probably already know all of this …

  19. calimac says:

    Very crass behavior, absolutely. And if Clinton’s critics had chosen to limit themselves to thundering moral denunciations of it, I would have endorsed them.

    Instead, they – the same people who had shrugged off Ronald Reagan’s policy of supporting terrorists – proposed to throw the entire weight of the impeachment process against him for a testimonial offense that would never have resulted in a perjury charge in any ordinary court.

    It was so out of proportion that they alienated their potential supporters and wondered why.

    But you probably already know all of this …

  20. fjm says:

    As I explained to my students “effectively, they are complaining that Clinton managed to keep his marriage together, to a population with the highest divorce rate in the world, brought up on soap style trauma.’

  21. nancylebov says:

    It would at least be entertaining. Do I gather that you haven’t had the opportunity to try it out?

  22. headgardener says:

    No — that’s completely the wrong response. If I believe in logical argument and evidence, and I am a woman, that proves that substituting emotional silliness for thought is not in fact a feminine trait.

  23. ffutures says:

    Re: Well No
    Wonder what she would have done if someone had accused her of rape…

  24. ffutures says:

    Re: Well No

    Wonder what she would have done if someone had accused her of rape…

  25. aristophains says:

    A few years ago, an ‘attempt’ was made on me too, when the occupants of a van, after shouting at me in relation to hair colour, drove at me as I tried to cross the road to the Student Union. I felt more embarrassed than scared. Granted, the incident was ambiguous, and I didn’t get a registration number until a later occasion, but I was disappointed at the unhelpfulness of the Student Union when I tried to report the incident to them.

  26. kellanethics says:

    wellwell well – ros kaveney
    fancy finding you here
    and how nice too
    actually its quite off how Ms Dworkin’s demise is on our minds. I have been recieving hate mail from feminists of the dworkinite sort for my somewhat unedifying reflections on the life and death of Our Andrea.
    mainly of course, that merely looking askance at Andrea and friends is the equivalent of attacking thole of 2nd wave feminism, the women’s liberation movement and in (most recent email, trash malcolm x as well)
    so nice to find a few good leftie feminist individuals also putting out lnon-orshipping commentries of our lady of dworkin
    and, how are you?
    i dont think ive had a proper conversation with you since some spanner days
    i’m friending you. 🙂
    no reciprocation is required

  27. kellanethics says:

    wellwell well – ros kaveney
    fancy finding you here

    and how nice too
    actually its quite off how Ms Dworkin’s demise is on our minds. I have been recieving hate mail from feminists of the dworkinite sort for my somewhat unedifying reflections on the life and death of Our Andrea.

    mainly of course, that merely looking askance at Andrea and friends is the equivalent of attacking thole of 2nd wave feminism, the women’s liberation movement and in (most recent email, trash malcolm x as well)

    so nice to find a few good leftie feminist individuals also putting out lnon-orshipping commentries of our lady of dworkin

    and, how are you?
    i dont think ive had a proper conversation with you since some spanner days

    i’m friending you. 🙂
    no reciprocation is required

  28. One thing I have seen leads me to infer that some aspects of life in the USA may be different.
    It may also be that the reported miasma of female fear is an illusion or an exaggeration. I’ve been in places where I’ve felt anxious about my safety; where I’ve wondered how my behaviour might be interpreted. But bad places don’t make the whole country that some report. And I read accounts by other people in the USA, women in the big city, who don’t reveal any signs of fear.
    But, justified or not, the fear exists for some. And how might one deal with it?
    I think that’s a big part of the problem with Dworkin’s idea.

  29. One thing I have seen leads me to infer that some aspects of life in the USA may be different.

    It may also be that the reported miasma of female fear is an illusion or an exaggeration. I’ve been in places where I’ve felt anxious about my safety; where I’ve wondered how my behaviour might be interpreted. But bad places don’t make the whole country that some report. And I read accounts by other people in the USA, women in the big city, who don’t reveal any signs of fear.

    But, justified or not, the fear exists for some. And how might one deal with it?

    I think that’s a big part of the problem with Dworkin’s idea.

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