As usual, the new school year brings a raft of slick marketing detritus
into the mailboxes of University of New Hampshire
employees. Which is how I laid my hands on
the announcement of the "Saul O
Sidore Memorial Lecture Series 2006-2007."
The theme of this year's lectures is:
Violence Against Women:
Complicating the Legacy of Andrea Dworkin
For those who don't get UNH junkmail, the lecture series
also has a web
, where you can read about the lecturers and
take in the following gem:
Lectures will be followed by facilitated dialogues run by and for men,
women, and all people.
Yes, after specifiying "men" and "women," it's necessary here
to append "and all people." We don't want to exclude anyone
at the University of New Hampshire. Not on the basis of your
self-defined gender identity, anyway.
Anyway: this year's lectures revolve around the late Andrea Dworkin.
Professor Marla Brettschneider states
The life, ideas, legendary
status and vilification of this extremely
controversial thinker eerily resonates with the
situation on the UNH campus in the past year.
Dworkin's life work commands interdisciplinary
attention. The uncanny coincidence of
her death at the height of a chaotic, runaway
discourse, threats and assaults on women and
those deemed "feminists" at UNH presents a
unique opportunity to wed interdisciplinary
scholarly examination to a serious practical
need on our campus.
It's eerie! Uncanny! But in any case,
we've been bad, so we deserve it.
Professor Brettschneider's allegation of "threats and assaults" as incredibly overblown.)
People with longish memories might remember Dworkin coupled
with law prof
Catharine MacKinnon in an anti-pornography
campaign back in
the 1980s. As a user of the World Wide Web, you probably have
a pretty good idea of how that worked out.
In addition to that,
Dworkin was a hedgehog, in an Isaiah Berlin sense:
she knew One Big Thing. And that One Big Thing was… well,
perhaps a few sample quotes
will help you figure it out:
A commitment to sexual equality with males is a commitment to becoming
the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the
murderer instead of the murdered.
Men have defined the parameters of every subject. All feminist
arguments, however radical in intent or consequence, are with or against
assertions or premises implicit in the male system, which is made
credible or authentic by the power of men to name.
Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social
form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination.
If you find this kind of rhetoric insufferably tendentious,
worthlessly overbroad, and essentially incoherent: well, you're right. But you're also missing the point.
You simply can't argue against such assertions; the people that make
them aren't interested
in debating them. They're interested
solely in marking out their territory, signalling fellow believers.
About all you can do is shake your head and walk away.
Or you can mark your own territory; this can be fun, and
nobody does it better than Camille Paglia:
MacKinnon and Dworkin are victim-mongers, ambulance chasers,
atrocity addicts. MacKinnon begins every argument from big,
flawed premises such as "male supremacy" or "misogyny," while
Dworkin spouts glib Auschwitz metaphors at the drop of a bra.
Here's one of their typical maxims: "The pornographers rank with
Nazis and Klansmen in promoting hatred and violence." Anyone
who could write such a sentence knows nothing about pornography,
or Nazism. Pornography does not cause rape or violence, which
predate pornography by thousands of years. Rape and violence occur
not because of patriarchal conditioning, but because of the opposite,
a breakdown of social controls. MacKinnon and Dworkin, like most
feminists, lack a general knowledge of criminology or psychology
and hence have no perspective on or insight into the bloody, lurid
human record, with its disasters and triumphs.
And it's not just Camille. Cathy Young dug
out more quotes
in a Boston Globe op-ed after Dworkin died:
To put it plainly: Dworkin was a preacher of hate. Her books are full of
such declarations as, "Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her
betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman."
("Patriarchy," of course, covers contemporary Western societies.)
"Male sexuality, drunk on its intrinsic contempt for all life, but
especially for women's lives, can run wild." "Hatred of women is a
source of sexual pleasure for men in its own right."
[Cathy Young also bemoaned the
" at Reason
's Hit&Run blog, using language that
probably wouldn't make it into the Globe
Needless to say, neither Camille Paglia nor
Cathy Young will be giving any of the Sidore
Lectures this year. That would "complicate" the legacy of Andrea
Dworkin a bit too much.
No male lecturers, either. Although (see above) it's promised males
will be allowed to run "facilitated dialogues."
Other than that, however, we'll be getting a "diverse"
array of lefty feminists from academia, who seem to have been picked
to make sure the all the racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation bases
While our local 9/11 conspiracy theorist
is getting all the current limelight, this kind of stultifying
intellectual conformity is business as usual in the modern university.
That's the real scandal.