Imagine Andrea Dworkin and Judith Butler in conversation about feminism. Would they, could they, agree on anything? Think, for example, about a conversation between them on male violence towards women. How can we imagine the conversation going? Would Andrea Dworkin speak about a 'war against women'? Or about a continuum of male violence from the cradle to the grave; from the bedroom to the boardroom? And would Judith Butler resist such terms and instead question the authority of those who claim that they can speak on behalf of such a disparate group called 'women'?
Imagine a discussion between them on the question of what feminism is or what women are. Butler might speak not only of the impossibility of reaching such definitions but also of the dangers of definitional practices and instead suggest that we look at the effects of those practices. However, Dworkin might respond that, despite the difficulties, it is vital to hold on to some clear views about what women are and what they want or what the demands of feminism are. To abandon such clarity threatens to lead us into a feminist nightmare where we cannot speak of women at all or feel confident in using feminist politics to demand rights and freedoms for women.
Why imagine this conversation? Why is it important to wonder about whether Andrea Dworkin and Judith Butler might agree on feminist issues? What is at stake?
I am introducing this book through this imagined conversation between Andrea Dworkin and Judith Butler partly because these two writers seem to embody two apparently opposing bodies of feminist thought. Dworkin would for many be seen as the quintessential 1970s radical feminist, with Butler being the paradigm of a contemporary postmodern feminist. In fact both of these writers seem to stand as exemplary figures for the feminisms they are associated with-in the sense that each of these figures is frequently taken to pose as something