Andrea is now listed in Encyclopedia Britannica's "Guide to Women's History"
among the "Top 300 Women who Changed the World".
At the age of 19, Andrea Dworkin lived in Greece. From 1966 to 2005 she lived a woman's life, a writer's life, a warrior's life: a human life. On April 9, 2005, too soon, too recently, she died in Amerika--a country with an ignoble history of great atrocities which continue to this day. So many of the raped, the battered, the sexually exploited, the emotionally and physically neglected, the materially impoverished, the racially despised and invisibilized all have our home here, in Amerika--the land of the slavery, genocide, and misogyny, and material comforts and excesses unknown to most of us who live in the rest of the world. When Andrea was 19, she left for a while, until the realities of being an Amerikan brought her back, to fight against atrocity.
In 2005, Andrea left us for good, but her ashes have stayed in the country of her birth. She has left us in body, in mind. Andrea's passionate, intelligent body and mind (one entity) are gone, but much more than those ashes remain.
In First Love (1978), and in every piece of her writing, she gave of herself all that she knew in service to all that she longed for. Had her mind stayed colonised, this would be typically female--to give and give, in the service of others, rarely appreciated enough, too often mistreated for doing what patriarchy makes women do. But Andrea made hard choices, to know more about the world of pain than anyone with her material background needs to know to survive.
Andrea seems to have made the choice to love writing more than loving men, or loving anything else for that matter. In this, she is feminist, through and through, but not a hater, not hard-hearted, not callous, still vulnerable, real, as all humans are. She was seeking real freedom for all of us, for real human beings: freedom from from interpersonal cruelty, from systematic tyranny, from indignity, from cowardice, from social lies cloaked as biological truths. And she owned that some of these social wrongs were once hers as much as anyone else's--hers in the sense that she believed and behaved what patriarchy demands women believe and behave. The radical turn, the courageous choice, came when Andrea measured out the cost of living those lies versus the cost of telling the truth. In her life's work, we realize the price for each is far too high.
In her honesty and courage she was more generous than most writers. She sought not simply to tell a story--of a woman's life--but the story of how a human life comes to be a woman's life, and how she moved herself forward toward a new kind of humanity. Her writing and her actions were not self-serving or self-indulgent. She hoped her work would be read, and she hoped the reader would be changed for the better. In this, she was an eternal optimist. But she also found out that speaking a woman's human truth to patriarchal power can render one a heretic.
Andrea Dworkin, during her life, and since her death, her name and her work have been maligned--mangled and distorted beyond all recognition, by men and women who hate the kind of truth she told, because it brings us all too close to what we each try not to know. She was hated too for loving the freedom that lives beyond social hierarchies, beyond all oppression, beyond patriarchy. Too many of us have settled for what patriarchy offers up as life--the cruelty and the comforts. Andrea never settled. And she never rested, as we commonly think of that word's meaning. She was despised as well because she asked so damned much of her readers: to bear this truth, to imagine and try to realise these freedoms. To not settle or rest.
On April 9, 2005, she did come to rest, finally, and on April 9, 2006, her ashes, at last, will be brought to the land her heart loved, in the nation of Greece, on the island of Crete. The photo of Andrea (above on this page) is the photo of a human being who was only beginning to know how cruel the world could be. She had already suffered the pain of brutal misogyny, but her life would take her through so much more. But here is a photo of a woman who was, in that snap-shot instant, at peace in the beauty that surrounded her.
As you read First Love, a work of stunning honesty and fierce passion, think of her now returning to that place of beauty where she discovered that her desire to write--for justice, for freedom--could and must surpass any other kind of love. In Crete, Andrea began a life-long journey to live up to the real meaning of her name: courage. She lived out her life as bravely as any woman could--far more than most men do. A lover of humanity, and of books and cats, she asked women and men to be courageous, to be honest, and to work toward an end to tyranny in all forms.
Know her anew or again, and know as well exactly what she stood for, as you read First Love. It is a love letter to one human being, but a gift to us all.
Think also of her resting in peace, finally, in a place, exactly forty years ago, that she called home. --Nikki Craft, April 9, 2006
We have to think very seriously about what it means to sustain a resistance against the tyranny that is part of everyday life for women.
-- Andrea Dworkin in Minneapolis, 1987.