Last night I accidentally got dragged into some right-wing anti-feminist thing on Twitter about how there is a war on men because their good reputations are all besmirched when someone is accused of rape. (Oh no, if only there was some kind of system to help men defend themselves!) After I got done muting everyone involved, I decided to re-read Andrea Dworkin’s Right-Wing Women, much of which consists of her account, published in 1983, of the National Women’s Conference in Houston in 1977. (Chaired by Bella Abzug, the conference produced a National Plan of Action which… well, it didn’t go well. RIP, ERA.)
Right-Wing Women, in one MAN’S opinion, should be regarded as a foundational intersectional text; the entire argument of the book is about the relations of anti-Semitism, racism, age, poverty, sex work, welfare and hatred of gay people, all as related to hatred of women. Yet somehow it’s often not regarded as intersectional “enough.” Fine, fine. I’ll let you grad students have at it. At least we should regard it as an important historical text regarding the time that right-wing Jews and evangelicals began to collude—when a largely quite anti-Semitic group of people began to embrace Zionism. (It is also the best example of Dworkin as a reporter.)
People love to misunderstand Dworkin, often with the intention to discredit; lumped in with anti-transgender feminists, for example, when she very much was a friend to trans people. (She of course also suffered from derailing herself early and often on other topics!) But what’s also notable about her and much of her generation is that they came out of, and were involved in, the anti-war movement—a movement that doesn’t hardly exist now, even as we are locked in a state of permanent war—a state that affects some people greatly, but so many people almost not at all.
The number one criticism of feminism by men’s rights advocates (who run the gamut from mildly reasonable to total wackjobs) is that men’s bodies are treated as disposable, and that feminism doesn’t recognize this. Men are historically cannon fodder, they argue. (This is true!) But this is something that second wave feminists like Dworkin knew all about. In fact, woven throughout Right-Wing Women is a strong thread of anti-“misandry.”
This section, in particular, picks up a thread that always itches the men’s rights fellows—where she criticizes the common idea that women are better, more spiritual, more in-touch with nature. Dworkin is pointing out here, as with the evangelical women she spoke with earlier, that she believes this is a TRAP used to trick women.
And here, near the end, she takes a hard line that many people I know would not enjoy or endorse—but many would, and the men’s rights crowd would certainly appreciate it. If the fear is that feminism somehow (IDK HOW, but okay) subjugates men, well, Dworkin’s brand of feminism is quite clearly expressed as only absolute equality, free from any bias and baloney about what a woman or man “is,” can do, or can be.