I Favour Violence: Andrea Dworkin

In this short video Andrea Dworkin answers the question: “is law is an appropriate tool for the protection and also the advancement of women?”


Well, what I feel about it is that we have to use what we’ve got and what we’ve got isn’t very much and we have to find some way to keep the rapists off the streets. There are different ways of doing it, law is only one way of doing it.

I myself favour violence, deeply. I favour it.

And the reason that I favour it is that the law isn’t working. And as long as the law isn’t working women who have been attacked or who are being attacked need to understand that they have a right to defend themselves against anyone who is attacking them.

Many people prefer the legal system, I don’t blame them for that, I wish it would work. It’s not working. We have another 50 years to try to get it to work. We have a woman (whose name I’m not remembering right now) who killed a paedophile, who raped her son. It was clear that he was going to be acquitted, so she shot him. In my view she did the right thing. I admire her for what she did.

So, I’m willing to sit down with my sisters and think of a dozen other things that we can do that are not terrible things to do, but we have to do something. We can’t do nothing.

That’s my answer to you.


6 thoughts on “I Favour Violence: Andrea Dworkin”

  1. “We have a woman (whose name I’m not remembering right now) who killed a paedophile, who raped her son. It was clear that he was going to be acquitted, so she shot him.”

    No. That’s not resistance, that’s not Che Guevara, that’s not the ANC in apartheid South Africa, that’s vigilantism of the far right kind. Restorative and transformative justice are the routes forward. Carceral feminism expects the capitalist system which oppresses all of us to provide justice and peace. It will never do so. If that mother were herself a defendant who was acquitted, would she then say the system was a failure, that she committed the offence and got away with it?

    Murdering someone did nothing worthwhile. The police and the criminal justice system here in the UK need to be abolished and replaced with true justice. That does not include capital punishment, whether by the state or by individual people.

  2. @Na: what if the man murdered by that mother were someone in your own family? What if the evidence submitted at trial were far from conclusive beyond reasonable doubt, leading to the man’s rightful acquittal?

    Are you saying that we should treat all legal judgements as suspect and we can take the law into our own hands? What if you were the one being accused of a heinous offence against a child? You would expect the law and society to protect you, not to leave you exposed to vigilante violence. Perhaps you believe in honour killings – which is what Ms Dworkin seems to be advocating.

  3. James, your argument works when taken out of context. As you’ll see if you look back at what she actually said, the only reason that violence can ever be the answer in these cases is when the legal system doesn’t work for rape victims, which it didn’t back then and doesn’t today, and doesn’t look to be improving. In fact it’s getting worse.
    In the case she mentioned, the woman knew that the man in question had molested her child. The “justice system” was not going to prosecute the man, and so she did what she could to protect more people’s lives from being ruined by a predator, to protect herself and her child from a dangerous man.
    I’m afraid your argument underestimates both the harm done by pedophiles and rapists as well as the ruthlessness and absolute dedication and determination with which such predators go about their business of abusing the vulnerable. They tend to be prolific, with a thirst for abuse that cannot be quenched and which knows no bounds.
    As Dworkin says at the end of the clip ‘we can’t do nothing’. Short of having the capacity to overthrow the entire justice system in one fell swoop, what do you suggest that we do to stop further victimisation of women and children?
    Anyway, the criminal justice system also makes mistakes. It is not infallible.

  4. “when the legal system doesn’t work for rape victims” is all the time and will always be the case under a capitalist system involving police. And why should rape be the only case in which it’s admirable and ethical to murder the accused person? Can I chop the arms off the person who I think stole my bike?

    “the woman knew” – at least she claimed she did. This is one of the excuses people on the Right use to justify capital punishment in cases “in which the guilt of the accused is proven and obvious”. It’s no good because:

    First: that’s never the case. The woman could be lying, which is why courts in the UK have a standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

    Second: capital punishment is barbaric. Do you also approve of Sharia law in Saudi Arabia and of the many hundreds, possibly thousands, of people executed in secret by the Chinese state every year?

    “to protect more people’s lives from being ruined by a predator” is no excuse, either. The fact that sexual assaults are not being prevented by the current system of punitive incarceration is not a reason to either increase its use or to resort to vigilantism and lynching. There are better ways. Did you think that police and prisons were universal throughout history? Both are recent inventions, brought in by capitalist societies during the industrial revolution, and in the USA’s South as slave catchers and for the mass incarceration of Black men.

    “a thirst for abuse that cannot be quenched” sounds exactly the kind of hyperbole that is routinely printed in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers such as The Sun, or in The Daily Mail. Is theirs the standard you want to apply to justice and ethical behaviour? The reality is that child sexual offenders have amongst the lowest recidivism rates. Really, your thirst for lethal vengeance is rather more dangerous to any society that doesn’t want to descend into mob violence.

    Plainly, ‘we can’t do nothing’. But it’s no good saying than anything is better than nothing. We could do all kinds of things but some are more useful, some are more effective and some are more humane than others. I suggest you take a good look at the TransformHarm.org site for ideas in restorative and transformative justice that look for healing and accountability, not revenge and murder in response to harms. The current system is deeply unsuccessful in preventing offending behaviour but that’s no reason to resort to lynching.

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