Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dolan's offbeat obituary for Andrea Dworkin and my thoughts on feminism

The Exile's cranky prof. John Dolan "eulogizes" Andrea Dworkin and explains why everyone else hated her in this article. For those of you for whom Dworkin's name doesn't ring the bell, she was the author of that infamous book "Intercourse" wherein she advanced 'heterosexual intercourse as rape' theory.
As to the article I wouldn't say that Dolan 'eulogizes" Dworkin but rather explains that she was in fact a misguided and naive fighter for the cause who couldn't get that all that 'radical feminism' was nothing but self-serving posturing.
Incidentally, Dolan provides a neat explanation why Russian women have failed to embrace feminism (it's absolutely true I must tell ya):

The reason is fairly simple: Russians haven't quite learned the Western art of sloganeering for radical philosophy without meaning a word of what they say. A Russian woman would assume that if you're a feminist, you'd actually have to live out the philosophy.

As to Dolan's argument, I can't help but cringe at phrases such as
"feminist intellectual history" - if anything feminist, and more broadly post-modernist philosophy is profoundly anti-intellectual as it defies reason as the main epistemological tool of academic inquiry. But that's entirely another matter and overall I found his article entertaining, if not plausible (I don't know really).

Dolan explains that was finally made Dworkin an outcast within 'the movement' was not when she was talking about 'male oppression' or advocating lesbianism but when she concluded, quite logically, that sleeping with men were akin to 'sleeping with the enemy'

That was where she went too far in the views of her more flexible colleagues. They didn't like having their options reduced. That, in the view of an American striver, was the worst thing you could do to anybody.

It sounds true to me. In the hedonistic, consumerist culture of ours the worst thing you can ever commit is to limit one's choices. That's the mortal sin.

The most intriguing part of feminism to me is the way it appropriated, I would even say stole, the Marxist notion of 'opression'. Of course, feminists themselves don't deny their intellectual roots in Marxism but they argue that feminism merely extents the definition of oppression from class to other categories such as gender, race, age etc. Marion Young's "five forms of oppression' in her Justice and the Politics of Difference serves as a good example of this. (some reviews can be found here). I find it baffling to say the least.
Marx's radical break with the previous religious, Judeo-Christian, tradition that argued that the source of human misery and 'oppression' lie in sins and human vices, was manifested in his central thesis that it's economic relations between people that determine how's to suffer and who's to benefit from suffering. Nothing personal, and thus even the most 'socially conscious' capitalist is still 'objectively' an oppressor. This is of course his argument in a nutshell and Marx wrote thw two volume "Das Kapital" to demostrate how private property on the means of production is the sourse of all evil. But to use his notion of 'objective oppression' having discarded the economic basis of it is a blatant theft of his intellectual idea. I'm sure Marx would have died a second time from a heart attack if he had found about the feminist exploitation of his theory.


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