It is ten years since Andrea Dworkin left us, and ten years since feminist ally Robert Jenson reminded all men who stood against her, who this warrior for humanity really was – far from a man-hater:
“I am a man who has read all of Dworkin’s books, and here is how it looks to me: I don’t think she hated men. I think she loved us. I think Andrea Dworkin loved men because she loved people, and men are people — men are human beings — no matter how hard we sometimes seem to want to prove otherwise by our behavior.
Here is what Dworkin said when she addressed a men’s conference and asked them to work against rape:
“I don’t believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we [women] are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because theres a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.”
Dworkin wanted to help men claim our humanity, not just for our sake but because she wanted to stop men’s violence against women. She wanted an end to the harassment, rape, battery, child sexual assault. And she knew that required men to change, to save ourselves. In that same speech, she challenged men to take that responsibility:
“[Women] do not want to do the work of helping you to believe in your humanity. We cannot do it anymore. We have always tried. We have been repaid with systematic exploitation and systematic abuse. You are going to have to do this yourselves from now on and you know it.”
These words are as true today as ever. Our current paradigm of masculinity is hurting everyone. The rates of male violence/sexual violence and fatal male violence against women in this country is and should be visceral and sickening, especially to men. We need a new masculinity, and men, it is up to you.
There are no safe spaces for women from male violence and sexual entitlement in this country; not at home, not at work, not in parks, not walking our dog along a street path. There are no safe spaces for women even when we are not alone, If men want to attack, rape or kill women – being chaperoned doesn’t protect us.
In our records at #countingdeadwomen and #countingassaultedwomen adult children have also been seriously injured, a couple of friends of one woman were seriously injured, a man sexually assualted a woman on a street while she was accompanied by a male friend, who then got injured protecting her, and charged for it. A child was also murdered.
There are no safe spaces for women anywhere when media is everywhere, as Julie Bindel states; “Women walk around seeing images that tell them they are lesser than men on a regular basis. What is a safe-space for women? Our own bedroom with the door locked?”
“What’s involved in doing something about all of this? The men’s movement seems to stay stuck on two points. The first is that men don’t really feel very good about themselves. How could you? The second is that men come to me or to other feminists and say: “What you’re saying about men isn’t true. It isn’t true of me. I don’t feel that way. I’m opposed to all of this.”
And I say: don’t tell me. Tell the pornographers. Tell the pimps. Tell the warmakers. Tell the rape apologists and the rape celebrationists and the pro-rape ideologues. Tell the novelists who think that rape is wonderful. Tell Larry Flynt. Tell Hugh Hefner. There’s no point in telling me. I’m only a woman. There’s nothing I can do about it. These men presume to speak for you. They are in the public arena saying that they represent you. If they don’t, then you had better let them know.
Then there is the private world of misogyny: what you know about each other; what you say in private life; the exploitation that you see in the private sphere; the relationships called love, based on exploitation. It’s not enough to find some traveling feminist on the road and go up to her and say: “Gee, I hate it.”
Say it to your friends who are doing it. And there are streets out there on which you can say these things loud and dear, so as to affect the actual institutions that maintain these abuses. You don’t like pornography? I wish I could believe it’s true. I will believe it when I see you on the streets. I will believe it when I see an organized political opposition. I will believe it when pimps go out of business because there are no more male consumers.
You want to organize men. You don’t have to search for issues. The issues are part of the fabric of your everyday lives.”
Jenson also wrote that “Dworkin was called a man-hater not because she hated men but because so many men do not want to face that challenge, so many men will not come to terms with what it will take to end that violence”.
So I guess the question right now is this, who do you want to be as a man in this world?
Where do you want to stand? What do you want to stand for? And who do you want to stand with? – The everyday men of our culture who justify the exploitation of women as ”just the way things are” and “just a bit of fun”, or “mother (bloody) nature” (most recently said to me)? Are you going to stand with the men who say “hey not me” while partaking in a culture that exploits and degrades women. Are you that man?
Where do you stand? Who are you in regards to the mass exploitation and degradation, rape, assault and murder of women? what does your masculinity look like? What kind of a man do you want to be for the women in your life and the women, the female human beings of our world?
I know the men I would want to stand with if I were a man in this world, I would proudly and publicly be standing with the Robert Jensons, Jimmy Carters and Tom Meahers.
This may well sound condescending to you, to men, but to us, women, it is just reality. Our everyday lived reality in this world as females – So while you decide what type of man you are going to be, everyday, in this country, here is a snapshot of a day in the life of a woman, any woman, any girl: groping – catcalling – sexualisation – objectification – raping – beating – buying – selling – murder
One of the only solitary things I do outside of my house, where there are not other people around, or not many, is walk my dog in daylight, in a park and surrounding streets, and yes, I am hyper-vigilant while doing this. I am a survivor of male violence and as above, men murder, rape and assault women anywhere that is convenient for them.
There have been times in my life I have been too overpowered and couldn’t fight back. There have been times that I did fight back but it didn’t matter, it doesn’t when someone is twice your size and strength, and you really don’t know how to protect yourself.
From now on I will make sure I am ready. While we continue our work for women’s liberation we must maintain strength and learn self defense – not to ‘go up in armed combat against men’, but to protect ourselves from the male sexual assaults and violence we know so well. We have a right to protect our bodily autonomy, in fact we have to, while men decide what sort of men they are going to be from now on, we must become warriors for the sake of our lives.
Women don’t give up or lose hope (short video by Clare) -Last night around dusk I was attacked by an unknown male while walking my dog. He punched me in the face while yelling at me not to scream or I would die. I’m sporting cuts & bruises along with a broken nose & toe.I kneed him in the nuts & kicked him twice in the kidneys before running off – so I broke my toe kicking the asshole! I’m Fine, just a bit shaken up.The reason I’m sharing this story here is that without my time doing kickboxing I highly doubt I could have fought this guy off & who knows what the ending would have been. Ladies, I know it seems intimidating, but do a few kickboxing/boxing classes.You never know, it could save your life.
Posted by Clare Verrall on Thursday, April 9, 2015
Men, our lovers, our friends, our family, our colleagues, Have you decided yet?
“Dworkin is gone, but her challenge remains, and I would like to restate it for men…
It’s a cliché to say that a powerful writer changed my life, but no other phrase captures what Dworkin’s work has meant to me. I don’t know exactly who I would be today if I had never read — never felt —Dworkin’s passion for justice. I am not sure exactly what I would be doing if I had never come to understand — as she helped me understand— that feminism is not just a movement for the liberation of women but a gift to men.
I suppose I would be more of a man, but perhaps I would be less of a human being.” Robert Jenson
Men take your own pledge today, an everyday pledge.
Call the men of Australia to action here – White Ribbon Australia needs to raise the benchmark they have set for masculinity in our country. Sign this petition. open letter in full here. Related post on White Ribbon Australia ambassadors here.
The Complete Works of Andrea Dworkin HERE
Do you need help or want to report male violence? please contact:
- 1800 Respect 1800 737 732, 24 hour sexual assault and domestic violence support, or
- Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 010 120, 7:30am to midnight daily, or
If you are feeling unsafe right NOW, call 000