In 2012, when I became interested in feminism, I read ” I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape” by Andrea Dworkin. It was a speech delivered in 1983 for “500 men and some women” at an event organized by the “National Organization for Changing Men”. In the introduction, Dworkin explains how complicated it was for her to attend and what made her do it, despite the many difficulties. She says that “in a sense, this was a feminist dream-come-true. What would you say to 500 men if you could?” and that the speech was the way she used her “chance“.
I had never read anything by Andrea Dworkin, or by any other radical feminist, but I was a woman and had been living in this world for 35 years and that was enough: Andrea Dworkin was the first radical feminist to show me the absolute dimension of what “the personal is political” means, and my first experience of sisterhood, or communion with women through the desperate pain and revolutionary love we share due to our existence as women, irrespective of nationalities, languages, ideologies, age, ethnicity, class, and in this case, time, was this speech.
Part of what I do to earn a living is translate and subtitle, i.e., paraphrase and summarize, and at this point I don’t know if cause or consequence, but there are many aspects in my life where I “translate and subtitle”, apart from work. I had never seen a translation as simultaneous and accurate as this one by Andrea, it was as if she was transcribing the contents of my heart and translating it all into my eyes, as I read her words, while at the same time, I could hear hers, desperate, immense, relentless. Everything I wanted to tell all men in the world was right there. No one could read it and say it was still unclear what we were talking about.
Andrea Dworkin knew perfectly well who she was addressing with the speech she gave for 500 men and some women, in 1983.
Nowadays, we call them “NIGELs, feminists, allies, unicorns, deconstructed” and whatnot. Andrea carefully considered what to tell them and chose, above all, to let them know “that we do not have time. We women. We don’t have forever. (…) And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us”. And after presenting the whys and the hows of all this, after describing with surgical precision what men could and should do about it, after so clearly explaining that what we need the most is for them to stop, the only thing she asked for was a 24 hour truce. Nothing else.
When I became interested in radical feminism, I read this text. I wanted to say something to all the men of the world and, of course and above all, to the one I was with. I needed to with anguishing despair, but did not know exactly what or how to say it. This text was specially created for men, so I decided to start there. It was an overwhelming experience. In a good way. Also in a good way. But it was painful, as part of a process that will inevitably have pain, among multiple intimate and profound experiences, as is the development of feminist consciousness.
Andrea Dworkin captivated me, among other things, for the sincere clarity with which she expressed, at that moment of her process and her life, the same anguishing despair and the same painful love that I had only felt, without words, 29 years after the speech was delivered, in another continent, in another language, and seven years after Andrea Dworkin had died. I decided to translate it because reading this text was for me a kind of opening ceremony, in which, instead of cutting a ribbon, one was created, uniting me to Andrea, to all the women who share this consciousness, to those who don’t, and to myself. I think now that the spinning, weaving and creation of these ribbons is what feminist consciousness is about and for that reason I think that this text made me a radical feminist, because there I found “my first ribbon”. I also decided to translate it because Andrea Dworkin’s work is, unfortunately, not officially translated into Spanish.
In thirteen books of feminist theory, fiction and poetry, Andrea offers an impressive, thorough and exhausting description, an intelligent, acute, rigorous, honest account of this anguish and despair inspired by a painful, evident and moving love for women, but not exclusively. Among the fiercest injustices committed against Andrea Dworkin, and by extension, against the women united by her work/ribbon, was to have vilified her with savage and vampiric cowardice for “hating men”. How much more can someone love men than to persuade them to stop being monsters? How much more than continuing to believe in their humanity, “against all evidence”?
It was excruciatingly painful for me to understand feminism while living among men. It was torture to love them and at the same time feel their rejection, their cruel sarcasm, their defensive postures, their violent reactions, humiliating, satirizing, dismissing, gaslighting. It hurt greatly to want to convince them to stop hating us. It was draining and consuming to continue, “against all evidence”, appealing to their humanity. I do not need to, but I can clearly imagine what it must have been like for her. We are united by the same ribbon and I know she is moved by love – if anything, because I remember real men, real coffee tables, real beds, real and metaphorical nudity – I remember standing in front of them, showing them everything they broke to see if that would make them stop.
It hurts to believe in men’s humanity “against all evidence”. Because we know that they can change, that their misogyny is no biblical or genetic destiny, it hurts that they will not change or stop. It hurts that “we do not have forever”. On that day, Andrea deviated from her journey with great complications to go talk to 500 men who wanted to change, and tell them that we need them to stop. Some took it well, others badly, one tied to hit her right there, as she left the venue after delivering the speech in 1983.
Andrea Dworkin died in 2005. Since the 1970s, her life and name represent the war of women against sexual violence, through its multiple manifestations, especially rape, pornography, and the sex trade. Until her death, Andrea fought for the liberation of women from male domination, in a world increasingly invaded by misogyny and misrepresentation, and the explosion of the sex industry associated with new technologies. In 2000, she published a story in newspapers The New Statesman and The Guardian, in which she claimed to have been drugged and raped in a hotel in France. Misogynists and feminists doubted their testimony, both privately and publicly, including her husband, gay writer, now GTBQ + activist, John Stoltenberg, and showed either happiness, or “concern” for Andrea’s mental health, with some even daring to ask “Who could want to rape Andrea?”
Julie Bindel, radical lesbian feminist journalist and author, narrates that, since then, Andrea was never the same again. Despite this, she told her, in an interview in 2004: “I thought I had given up, I felt like I was going to give up, I felt like I had nowhere else to go, but now I feel a new vitality, and I want to help women.” (…) “The libertarians are winning this war, Julie (…) if we give up now younger generations of women will be told porn is good for them and they will believe it.” Andrea Dworkin was motivated by love, despite all the suffering and all the horror: “All women are on a leash, because we are all oppressed. But those who get to adulthood without being raped or beaten have a longer leash than those who were. It should be that the ones with the longest leashes do more to help others. But it doesn’t work that way, so we are the ones that fight the fight“.
I haven’t been a lesbian all my life, and only recently I understood what that had to do with radical feminism. Andrea’s inexhaustible love was enough to appeal to men’s humanity, but it was devoted to women, all women, whether on a longer or shorter leash. For Andrea, “love of women is the soil in which my life is rooted. (…)In any other soil, I would die. In whatever ways I am strong, I am strong because of the power and passion of this nurturant love (…) There is a pride in the nurturant love which is our common ground, and in the sensual love, and in the memory of the mother–and that pride shines as bright as the summer sun at noon.”. Andrea believed, and rightfully so, that the future would bring a “terrible storm” that would make it hard to remember what the sun felt like. “As long as we have life and breath, no matter how dark the earth around us, that sun still burns, still shines. There is no today without it. There is no tomorrow without it. There was no yesterday without it. That light is within us–constant, warm, and healing. Remember it, sisters, in the dark times to come”.
Andrea died in 2005, she was 58 years old. I am 40 now and would also like a 24 hour truce without rape, but I no longer try to convince men to make it happen, because we do not have forever. We have explained enough and we have loved enough, much more than enough. And we have waited too long. In the past few years I have learned more about myself, other women and the world than I had in my entire life. Most of the information I already had, but didn’t know it. It was Andrea who gave me the first translation of myself, other women and the world. In the words of Julie Bindel: “Without Andrea, generations of feminists would be willfully ignorant about the meaning and effect of pornography, as well as how to overcome a desire for male approval in order to tell the truth about women’s lives.”.
We do not have forever. This is a terrible storm and we do not have forever. We have the love and the pride, and we have the burning sun, still shining, despite the many ongoing wars, with no truce.