( 1946-), writer, speaker, political activist
Andrea Dworkin is a feminist activist whose life illustrates the use of art for the sake of politics. She is a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction works that use her literary skills to promote her commitment to improving the status of women. She is best known for her efforts against pornography, and with CATH- ARINE A. MACKINNON, she is the author of ordinances that define pornography as harmful to the civil rights of women.
Andrea Dworkin was raised in a poor, Jewish family in Camden, New Jersey. Her mother was ill throughout her childhood, and her father worked two jobs to pay the medical bills. Consequently, she spent much time alone as a child, reading avidly from a very young age. She credits her father for providing her and her brother an equal education and for treating their intellects with equal respect. Thus, unlike most girls growing up at that time, she learned to expect no less of herself than was expected of her brother or even of the male writers she read continuously. In such an atmosphere, she developed intellectual aspirations that were usually reserved only for males (Personal interview).
Dworkin has been active in grassroots political activism most of her life. During the 1960s, she participated in the draft resistance and antiwar movements and the fight for abortion rights. Her arrest at an anti-Vietnam War demonstration in 1965 unwittingly launched her into the public eye as an activist on behalf of prison reform. During a four-day incarceration in New York City's Women's House of Detention, she was sexually assaulted by two prison doctors and repeatedly subjected to internal body searches by other prison officials. She hemorrhaged for fifteen days and was so traumatized by the experience that she lost her capacity to speak--a common response to sexual abuse.