Eulogy, In Memory of Andrea Dworkin, the Writer
Annie McCombs

Part I (Elegy)

Andrea's ability to analyze unspeakable brutality and to extract its meaning was the fulcrum of her talent, her genius, her disciplined writer's mind; but, it was the richness and the power of her living voice that lifted the tides and brought oceans of women to their feet.

Andrea transformed the unending "sounds of suffering and pain, anger and hate, sorrow and grief"[1] of women's lives into an "articulate resistance"[2] based on meaning--she told us the truth about why these acts of brutality are done. By listening to how these acts are done, and to whom, Andrea's "articulate resistance" shaped words to give dignity to every outraged scream or silenced refusal. Andrea gave us the sanity of meaning by telling the truth. Truth summoned courage everywhere she traveled. And, resistance followed courage.

I do not know what Andrea might have written had she not been a woman, a feminist; but, I do wonder where her gifted life would have led her and what marvelous works she might have written--had not such vast cruelty existed to torment and damage women's lives. I do know that there was a time in my own life when I knew only one woman who had not been raped; then, I didn't.

So. Instead, Andrea listened[3] to the sounds of women's lives shattering around her like glass or china or hearts[4] and with that listening gained knowledge. She found determination to practice her "articulate resistance," to organize against brutality.

Andrea asked each of us to stand in the way of it--to stand between brutality and its target--with words, with law, with our bodies, and even with the armed resistance of self-defense. We are all Andrea's living legacy. And, we are each responsible to keep her work and memory alive.

Part II (Dirge)

Andrea honored the women who came to her, one by one, with their words, which, in her words, are the "percussive sound of their heartbeats"[5] underlying her own work.

When we listened to Andrea speak, we heard in her voice what it means when someone is tortured, raped, maimed, beaten, starved, sold, bought, used, killed, or just dominated and ridiculed. We learned what it means for a society to passively ignore the screams and despair of millions. Again.

What does it mean when such crimes are public acts of brutality, as many are, especially now by merit of the internet and ubiquitous cameras? The Minneapolis Anti-pornography Civil Rights Ordinance[6] showed us the meaning of hanging a body in the public square as a warning and as public entertainment.

In Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant,[7] identifying with the oppressed as she was wont to do, visualizing the body that had hung in the village square, Andrea wrote:

I would feel the fear it created in those who saw it. I would feel the necessity of another incursion against the oppressor--to show that he had not won, nor had he created a paralyzing fear, nor had he stopped one from risking one's life for freedom.

She also said "...one had to be willing to die for freedom, yes, but also to live for it." [8]

Part III (Coronach)

We all know that even the least of these acts of brutality is devastating and common--even as we know that each perpetrator delights in doing it. What else do we know? Alexander Pope knew the following:

Search then the ruling passion: there alone, the wild are constant and the cunning known; the fool consistent, and the false sincere...this clue once found, unravels all the rest.[9]

What does it mean to know these things? It means that there can be no meaningful justice, no reconciliation, no forgiveness, no mercy until the knot of sexualized violence is untied. This untying is the prerequisite for peace and equality; it is the first step in ending torture, war, and violence against women and children.

Shakespeare put these words in Lady Macbeth's mouth;
she said:

What need we fear who knows it,
When none can call our power to account?

This diseased ambition, this conceit of raw power, this cruelty as human relationship is no less harmful coming from a woman, devised though it may be by a male writer, and certainly that was his intention. The meaning here is quite simple. Unaccountable power must be undone. Untied. Confronted. Held accountable.

Andrea held the perpetrators accountable, and they hated her for it. They ridiculed her and condemned her work.

We are the living legacy of Andrea's work, and we are all responsible to see that it lives.

None of us may rest, in peace or otherwise, until this work is done.

Part IV (Sadness)

Meanwhile, all the fragile petals of my weeping cherry tree, which first bloomed on the day Andrea died, have fallen.

Feminists have created amazing Memorial websites for Andrea; they have been both a blessing and a lifeline for many who grieve and mourn Andrea's death.[11]

One tribute stated simply"...people are not forever."[12]

Somehow, such a quiet observation cut to the heart of my grief. No, not forever. Let me remember Andrea.

It has been my profound privilege to have known, studied, worked with, and loved many brilliant, talented, and committed feminists over the course of my lifetime. Andrea was one of these.

I remember Andrea at the Take-Back-the-Night[13] march in San Francisco, 1978, when we all shut down Broadway simply because of our numbers. It was a very large march.

I remember reading a loose-leaf manuscript of Right-wing Women[14] while working on a ferryboat in SF bay; I kept those papers in a small wooden box and carried it with me to work each day until it was completely read. I still have that wooden box and those papers.

I remember when Andrea gave a speech to a conference of about 500 men in Minneapolis/St. Paul and called for a 24 hour truce[15] in the raping war against women. That speech changed lives. It was such a small thing to ask--just one day--without any woman raped. We want that day. Then, now. Forever. Everyday.

I remember Andrea during the fall of 1983 teaching at the University of Minnesota with Catharine A. MacKinnon at the Law School and also teaching Middlemarch[16] in the Women's Studies department. A little later on, the Civil Rights Ordinance was born. I remember Thanksgiving dinner with the Ordinance's city council sponsor, Charlee Hoyt, and all who were present.

I remember sitting with Andrea in a little restaurant in Noe Valley, a San Francisco district, when words failed the both of us, when we both seemed to know how long this struggle was going to take and how many women's lives lost.

I remember donning a shoulder holster because it was my responsibility to make sure Andrea was safe in Durham, NC, there for a talk at Southern Sisters bookstore. I'm pretty sure concealment wasn't legal at the time.

I remember a conference at Miami of Ohio[17] where Andrea got an award from Pornography Awareness, Inc. and almost started a riot with her speech, the right kind.

I remember countless speeches and conferences, but what I remember most is Andrea's presence and her voice; how she could make me marvel and then make me cry. She could make me laugh. She could tell a story. I remember one about a man in Brooklyn who knew Andrea from her neighborhood streets, who called her "Dwork," who knew her work, and watched for her. I cannot type her name without hearing the sound of "Dwork" coming from Andrea.

Part V (Threnody)

I remember Andrea as small,
especially her hands,
this woman of enormous talent,
a titan and a basilisk,
with kindness warm in her eyes.
I remember her bright smile of recognition,
her face haloed with glorious curls.
I can still feel
the complete softness of her embrace
and how immense her burden of sadness.
She spent her life generously,
a writer of substance and beauty,
a life writing with an artist's eye,
a poet's love of words,
a revolutionary's ambition,
ambition for freedom--real freedom--
freedom to commit art and love.
Yours was a luminous sojourn, Andrea.
History shall make it so.
History shall make it so.
Andrea died on a moonless night,
not just any night,
but a night when the earth cast
its overwhelming shadow
across the entire face of the moon,
hiding it,
depriving the world of nighttime
this luminescence.
Moon-gazing lunacy denied,
but a longing lived, cradled, honored
an ambition, the impulse to live
in the hearts of poets and lovers.
Andrea chose
a small window of freedom from patriarchy
to escape this world.
This window had not been open for 26 years.
Andrea escaped this world
when the 2000 year old church
had no pope. No head patriarch.
The moment was a requiem in progress.
Way to go, girl! Get outta Dodge.
Bet you got there before he did.
(Can you hear Andrea laughing?)
Andrea made good her escape.
She died with no moon to give her away.
Sleepless one, did you sleep that night?
No moonlight that night, did you know?
No hand to touch your face.
Did you know, did you wonder?
No word of goodbye.
Did you think your last thought?
What might it have been?
Beloved by thousands, but alone,
although with comfort nearby, so close.
But, alone. Was it peaceful, Andrea?
Did you finally just fall gently to sleep?
Where are you, magnificent one?
Have you gone back to Crete?
"When I die, though, I'm going back,
as ash, dust to dust--not to the stone walls
or throne of Knosos but to a high hill
overlooking Heraklion.
I belong to the place even if
the place does not belong to me."[18]
Andrea, Andrea,
the weeping cherry tree bloomed
on the morning you did not rise
with the shining, burning sun overhead.
How I miss you.
This time, this period of hot tears and gnashing teeth,
this unimaginable howling grief will end,
but I will mourn your death
until my own.
Copyright--Annie McCombs--April 2005

[a] For a documentary copy of this photograph.
[1] Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, "The Freighter." New York: Basic Books, 2002, p. 105.
[2] Andrea Dworkin, "Autobiography," Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Vol. 21. New York: Gale Research, Inc., 1994. Reprinted on-line at: http://www.nostatusquo.com.ACLU/dworkin/Autobiography1.html (April 15, 2005).
[3] Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, "One Woman." New York: Basic Books, 2002, p. 148. See also, Heartbreak, "The Women" p. 179.
[4] Andrea Dworkin, THE NEW WOMANS BROKEN HEART: Short Stories, chapter 5, "the new womans broken heart (for E. and L.)." San Francisco: Frog in the Well, 1986, p. 24.
[5] Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, "The Women." New York: Basic Books, 2002, p. 179.
[6] Andrea Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon, Pornography & Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality. Minneapolis, MN: Organizing Against Pornography: A Resource Center for Education and Action, 1988. See also, In Harm's Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings, edited by Dworkin and MacKinnon. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press, 1997.
[7] Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, "Kazantsakis." New York: Basic Books, 2002, p. 97.
[8] Ibid., p. 97.
[9] Alexander Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle I, line 174.
[10] William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene I, Lines 37-39.
[11] Feminist Memorial websites for Andrea Dworkin include:
Nikki Craft's website at http://www.andreadworkin.com/memorial/ ,
and Rain and Thunder's at
http://free.hostdepartment.com//R/RainAndThunder/ .
[12] Nikki Craft, webcrafter. Memorial Messages. "T.M.," on April 12, 2005--1:30 p.m.
http://www.andreadworkin.com/memorial/messages/archives/2005/04/personal_tribut.html (April 13, 2005).
[13] Laura Lederer, ed. Take Back The Night: Women on Pornography. New York: William Morrow, 1980, p. 286.
[14] Andrea Dworkin, Right-wing Women. New York: Perigee Books, 1983.
[15] Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone: Writings 1976-1987, "I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape." London: Secker & Warburg, 1988, p.162. On October 15, 1983, in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Midwest Regional Conference of the National Organization for Changing Men was held; and those attending heard this speech first.
[16] George Eliot, Middlemarch.
[17] This three-day conference at the University of Miami at Ohio began on April 2, 1993 and was titled "The Politics of Sexuality: A Question of Civil Rights" and was presented by Students Organizing Against Pornography.
[18] Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, "Knossos." New York: Basic Books, 2002,
p. 93.
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