I love Andrea Dworkin. I know she is a contentious feminist scholar and there have been a lot of fair criticisms of her work (and plenty of unfair ones). But I find her work to be endlessly useful to me. When I first read Pornography: Men Possessing Women, it made me very angry. It awoke something in me that I had no idea was there. It cemented my slow transition from fun, liberal, pro-sex feminism to radical, militant feminism. Whether I like what Dworkin is saying or not, in most cases, I know it is true and that can be really, really hard to swallow. This lengthy quote has been a favorite of mine for a long while. Enjoy.
“It is the naming by decree that is power over and against those who are forbidden to name their own experience; it is the decree backed up by violence that writes the name indelibly in blood in male-dominated culture. The male does not merely name women evil; he exterminates nine million women as witches because he has named women evil. He does not merely name women weak; he mutilates the female body, binds it up so that it cannot move freely, uses it as a toy or ornament, keeps it caged and stunted because he has named women weak. He says that the female wants to be raped; he rapes. She resists rape; he must beat her, threaten her with death, forcibly carry her off, attack her in the night, use knife or fist; and still he says she wants it. She says no; he claims it meant yes. He names her ignorant, then forbids her education. He does not allow her to use her mind or body rigorously, then names her intuitive and emotional. He defines femininity and when she does not conform he names her deviant, sick, beats her up, slices off her clitoris (repository of pathological masculinity), tears out her womb, lobotomizes or narcotizes her (perverse recognition that she can think, though thinking in a woman is named deviant). He names antagonism and violence, mixed in varying degrees, ‘sex’; he beats her and names it variously ‘proof of love’ (if she is wife) or “eroticism” (if she is mistress). If she wants him sexually he names her slut; if she does not want him he rapes her and says she does; if she would rather study or paint he names her repressed and brags he can cure her pathological interests with the apocryphal ‘good fuck.’ He names her housewife, fit only for the house, keeps her poor and utterly dependent, only to buy her with his money should she leave his house and then he calls her whore. He names her whatever suits him. He does what he wants and calls it what he likes. He actively maintains the power of naming through force and he justifies force through the power of naming. The world is his because he has named everything in it, including her. She uses this language against herself because it cannot be used any other way… Men, because they are intellectually and creatively existent, name things authentically. Whatever contradicts or subverts male naming is defamed out of existence; the power of naming itself, in this system, is a form of force. (17-18)"