One of the most intriguing things about this interview exchange between Andrea Dworkin and radio talk show host David Gold is, for once, Dworkin gets to fight misrepresentations of her work in person. Gold comes to the interview angry. He admits to feeling infuriated after reading Letters from a War Zone, Dworkin’s collection of essays against rape. Men often deny feminist arguments by relating things back to their personal experience. That is exactly what Gold does here. He insists that most of the men he knows understand rape is a crime, and claims the power dynamics Dworkin writes about in her book unfairly lump men together. Yet, as Dworkin points out, rape happens. It continues to happen in a country where women supposedly have equality, at an increasing, not decreasing rate. Therefore, what men say about their disapproval of rape in conversation may be very different from what they actually do in society. Since most women are raped by husbands, relatives, and men they know intimately, there is really no way for women to differentiate between men who will rape and those who will not.
Often men and women define rape differently. In one study, seventy five percent of male high-school students believed paying for a woman’s dinner entitled them to sex with her. In this interview, Dworkin explains that women are paid at most sixty cents for every dollar men make, and that economic dependency ensures women are expected to barter sex for survival.
Gold argues that women seem willing to play into this bias, selling their looks to men who drive expensive cars, wear Rolex watches, and have big salaries. But Dworkin reminds us that women have so little money, we really have to think about money when we think about men. More than that, women are often forced to live life through men’s accomplishments, simply because prejudices against succeeding on our own are so great. Gold accuses Dworkin of having said there are two types of people in this world, those with phalluses and those without them. But Dworkin points out she has never made any such claim. Rather, society devalues women for not having penises, and the status that goes with them. But Dworkin’s message to men is optimistic: things do not have to be this way. She challenges men who say they care about women, to prove it, in ways women can see, including activism, demonstrations, and organizing publicly to say that pornographers and rapists do not speak for all men. Dworkin also suggests men should show they value women, not by blaming us, but by sitting down and listening. During the latter portion of the interview, Dworkin fields questions from mostly male callers. One caller claims women raise men, and are therefore responsible for men’s behavior. He tells Dworkin women shape society, and asks condescendingly, “Women are part of society, are they not?” Dworkin’s reply should encourage us all to think about the answer, in a world where women continue to be raped and valued for sex: “I hope we are. Sometimes we wonder.” --Stephanie Cleveland, August 17, 2006