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Feminism: A Movement to End Human Suffering

I represent the morbid side of the women’s movement. …Robin Morgan calls it “atrocity work.”  And that’s pretty much what it is. I deal with what happens to women in the normal course of women’s lives all over this planet:  the normal stuff that is abusive, society at large.

…The women’s movement is  like other political movements in one important way.  Every political movement is committed to the belief that there are certain kinds of pain that people should not have to endure.  They are unnecessary.  They are gratuitous.  They are not part of the God-given order.  They are not biologically inevitable.  They are acts of human will.  They are acts done by some human beings to other human beings.

…[The women’s movement] is a movement against human suffering.  There is no way to be a feminist and to forget that.  If you are a feminist, and if you have forgotten that our purpose is to end the suffering of countless unnamed and invisible women from the crimes committed against them — and yes, we may also end the suffering of men who are committing the crimes, yes, we probably think we can — then  your feminism is hollow and it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count.  This is a movement against suffering.  So in between the lines when you hear people say that this is a movement for freedom, for justice, for equality — and all of that is entirely and deeply true — you must remember that we are trying to eliminate suffering too.  Freedom, justice and equality have become slogan words, Madison Avenue words, so has revolution.  Nobody tries to sell suffering: in America, suffering is barely acknowledged.  Suffering does not fit into the advertising scheme of things as a goal for a happy American.  So it is a good measure of your own commitment to understand that in the end, in the end, the positives that we are searching for have to be measured against the true condition of women that we know and that we understand.  …

One of the things the women’s movement does is to make you feel pain.  You feel your own pain, the  pain of other women, the pain of sisters whose lives you can barely imagine.  You have to have a lot of courage to accept that if you commit yourself, over the long term, not just for three months, not just for a year, not for two years, but for a lifetime, to feminism, to the women’s movement, that you are going to live with a lot of pain.  …Be prepared for all the people who tell you that it’s your problem,  it’s not a social problem, why are you so bitter, what’s wrong with you?  …underneath that is always the presumption that the rape was delusional, the battery did not happen, the economic hardship is your own unfortunate personal failing.  Hold onto the fact that that is not true:  it has never been true.

…Many women rebel against feminism because many women think we are the ones insisting that their full human uniqueness cannot be expressed because they are women.  We are the bringers of the terrible message.  We found this out by  being women in the world.  We want to change it.  This is not a condition imposed by a political movement.  This is a condition imposed by male supremacy…Sometimes, though, the political movement against male supremacy is confused with male supremacy itself, as if we’re the ones who are telling you, “because you are women, you’re going to have to do this and this and this.”  We’re reporters.  We’re telling you that because you are women, you live in this world I’m describing, and that the only way to do anything about it is to take some political responsibility for its existence and to work collectively together, which never means the abandonment of your integrity as individuals.  It also never means the abandonment of common sense or common decency.  If it does there is something wrong with the way you are going about organizing against what it is that is upsetting you and making you angry and exploiting you and hurting you.

There is nothing that feminists want more than to become irrelevant.  We want the end of the exploitation of women; but as long as there is rape — as long as there is rape — there is not going to be any peace or justice or equality or freedom.  You are not going to become what you want to become or who you want to become.  You are not going to live in the world you want to live in.  And so you have to organize an agenda…My agenda is everything I can think of, everything I can think of doing, all the time:  movement, movement, physical and intellectual and political confrontations with power.  You have to write the picket signs, march, scream, yell, write the fucking letters.  It’s your responsibility to yourselves and to other women.

There is one thing that is not practical, and it’s the thing I believe in most, and that is the importance of vision in the midst of what has to be done, never forgetting for one minute the world that you really want to live in and how you want to live in it and what it means to you and how much you care about it — what you want for yourselves and what you want for the people you love.  Everywhere in this country now people are told to be complacent because change is impossible.  Change is not impossible.  It is not impossible.  Many things have to be changed in the world.  It is time to change the condition of women, finally and absolutely and for all time.

–Andrea Dworkin from a speech given April 8, 1983, at Hamilton College in New York, in Letters from a War Zone– Writings 1976-1989,  image from here.

Discussion

One thought on “Feminism: A Movement to End Human Suffering

  1. Leave it to the words of Andrea Dworkin to put feminism in proper perspective. I rue that so much of liberal mainstream “feminism” seems to have lost that perspective; otherwise it might not have had to become so defensively oriented and focused on protecting reproductive rights. I have compared that to Alice in Wonderland having to run as fast as she could to stay in the same place. Not only has that drained feminism of much of its vitality, but slowly but surely, hard won ground has been lost.

    Posted by Aletha | February 16, 2012, 10:47 pm

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