OPEN LETTER TO MEN
Who Say They Believe in Freedom and Equality
© 1981 Nikki Craft
Men - liberals,
leftists, activists - our brothers, where have you been? Ask
yourself what you have been doing during the last
two decades of our struggle.
This essay was inspired by Andrea Dworkin, who has taken great personal risks in order to bring this society to a higher political understanding of pornography and violence against women.
If blacks were being
lynched in this country in the same numbers that women are being sexually
tortured and slaughtered, you would do something. Or would you? Your failure
to grasp the political nature of these heinous crimes against women is inexcusable;
your failure to act against them is complicitous.
THE MEN WHO DECLARE THAT POLITICAL activity subsided
in the 70s seem to have dozed after the Vietnam War ended.
liberal and leftist men had indeed dropped out of political activity,
allowing the right-wing agendas to emerge in America - but women
continued to organize throughout the 70s.
worked for the Equal Rights Amendment, the specific right to
safe, inexpensive, and legal abortions, plus other issues too
numerous to list here.
the most urgent of these has been the effort to end the systematic
sexual terrorism against women. Besides setting up direct services
for victims of violence such as rape crisis centers and
battered women's shelters, we have worked to dismember the
- liberals, leftists, activists - our brothers, where have
you been? Your absence from our meetings has been conspicuous.
Perhaps it is easier for you to see the atrocities in Vietnam,
Iran, Chile and El Salvador than it is for you to see the atrocities
committed against women in your own homes and streets. Perhaps
it is easier, for those of you who are white, to understand
the plight of your black brothers than that of women.
there was talk of removing Aunt Jemima from the syrup labels, "Amos
and Andy" from TV, and the story of "Little Black
Sambo" from elementary school libraries, we heard no screams
of censorship from you then. It was you who justified forced
busing as a necessary inconvenience "in order to achieve
racial equality." I believe it was even you who worked
for acceptable standards in advertising and movies which would
prevent stereotyped roles of blacks in insidious, hateful,
racist ways. But you will tolerate no such solutions for women.
your understanding of class and corporate greed and your criticisms
of capitalism, you move swiftly and articulately to defend
the rights of men who degrade and mutilate women's bodies in
the name of sexuality, profit and entertainment. Pornographers
have empires, which they use to encourage oppression and violence
against a class of persons who do not now have, and never had,
the civil rights vouchsafed to men as a class. The First Amendment
belongs to those who can afford to buy it, but all this seems
beyond your economic analysis.
say you can agree with our goals, but it is our tactics you
abhor. You have denied us the right to work within the law and outside
the law. You reprimand us for damaging property. You warn us
not to molest magazines that would have us raped; not to tear
up magazines that advocate tearing up our bodies. You say the
public is likely to misinterpret our message to justify censorship
and book burning. But how will men respond to the images they
see in pornography? What actions against women are these images
likely to justify?
you burned draft cards as a symbolic act in the 60s and burglarized
federal buildings to destroy draft records we did not quibble
over your tactics. We did not condemn your work against that
death industry. Instead, we joined with you hand in hand. What
would you have done without us in those years?
days you even object to our picketing of films that provoke
sexist hatred and glorify violence against women (i.e., Dressed
to Kill, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Body Double).
You claim that this simple act of public education violates
your sacred First Amendment. "If you don't like the
film don't go to see it," you tell us. You will boycott
lettuce and gladly give up grapes, but when we ask you to give
up your dirty books - books that do dirt to women - you laugh
and tell us we are being trivial, that we have lost our sense
have counseled us to be silent so that freedom of speech
will survive. You claim that the First Amendment works only
when the pornographers have their unbridled expression, but
you ignore the fact that women's voices have been and continue
to be gagged by the roar of pornographic misogyny. You
have warned that if Playboy, Hustler and Penthouse would
bend to our pressure, it could constitute a dangerous
precedent, that the enemies of freedom await to descend like
decry fascism on the horizon, but how can you be blind to the
same tyranny implicit in pornography? Pornography, most often,
dehumanizes women. It reduces us to fethishized objects and
provides a blueprint and support network for men who commit
acts of sexual terrorism. And you, fully aware of the media's
powers to mold mass consciousness, still ask us for proof that
these images cause prejudice and violence against us.
There are atrocities being committed in your own backyards.
Read the casualty lists! The names appear by the thousands
in eroticized, pornographized newspaper articles: every day,
women taken away, one by one by one by one. The torture chamber
is not Dachau or Auschwitz. It may be the closet in a house
across the street or the windowless van in front of you on
the highway. Yet you can look, with that most disgusting smirk,
at images of the eroticized and glorified torture, lean back
in your easy chair, cross your legs and ever so rationally
speculate: "But you know some women want that."
libertarians! You who express your belief in freedom and equality:
you have done more than defend pornographers' First Amendment "right" to
abuse and degrade women. You have often actively excused it.
You have in many cases embraced the bigotry and bought their
lies about women. You have read and at times enjoyed this propaganda.
blacks were being lynched in this country in the same numbers
that women are being sexually tortured and slaughtered, you would do
something. Or would you? Your failure to grasp the political
nature of these heinous crimes against women is inexcusable;
your failure to act against them is complicitous. Those of
you who remain silent should know that you are as guilty as
your predecessors who closed their ears to the rumblings of
hatred and prejudice expressed towards Jews and others in Nazi
Germany. You are as guilty as those who cast their eyes downward
as these people were marched away; one by one by one by one.
if you cannot, or will not, join with us, we ask this of you:
at least stop supplying ammunition to the enemy. Help us break
the support network for men who commit these acts of sexual
violence against women. Please do not work for pornographers.
As we would not work for the Pentagon, we ask that you do not
take jobs from Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt or Bob Guccione. Please
do not give interviews, supply photographs or write articles
for them. Don't advertise in or help distribute their magazines.
Please do not accept their tainted donations for 'liberal/progressive'
political causes. No matter what personal gains are offered
you, and they may be significant, do not collaborate against
women by giving the pornographers more credibility. Use your
creative energies elsewhere. Avoid being entangled in their
network of production and distribution, knowing that our blood
drips from every dollar they pay.
we ask you not to give them your money: don't be consumers
of pornography. Don't buy the lies about women, men and sexuality
they offer you as truth. Your humanity is victimized by those
will see you, brothers. We will see you at the anti-draft rallies,
and the demonstrations to halt the atrocities in Nicaragua
and South Africa. Rest assured that we will remain beside you
in these struggles for the liberation of all peoples.
At these events, when you look into women's eyes, be glad that
we are there. Then - ask yourself what you were doing during
the last two decades of our struggle.