20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2000
In "Scapegoat," Andrea Dworkin comes clean. For the better part of her career, she has been dropping hints about the connections, or parallels, or metaphorical affinities between the Holocaust and violence against women. These hints have always had a meretricious quality in the absence of a detailed argument. "Scapegoat" comes as a true surprise. This book is not "Intercourse" plus the well-worn Holocaust analogy as an indicator of oppression: it is a serious monograph on the comparative lot of stateless peoples, including women. Dworkin's quotes from Jewish and non-Jewish writers are respectful and attentive, though self-indulgent in sheer number. Her analysis of Jewish religion and culture is critical but fair and reflective of great pride. The apocalyptic kitsch which the reader has a right to expect from Dworkin is less often on display here, and though men don't come off too well, there is relatively little time spent on deconstructions of "male" sexuality as the root of violence. Dworkin here is far more pragmatic: she blames any form of entrenched power and its abuses. This book is the closest Dworkin has ever come to mainstream cultural studies. If there is any justice in same, she will receive the readership "Scapegoat" deserves: people who sit through 600 pages a throw of Lacan, Foucault or Donna Haraway ought to be able to stomach this book with no trouble at all. In a perfect world.
But though this is Dworkin's best, most lucid and readable nonfiction book, it finally suffers by promoting just that which it argues to defeat, and what its existence calls into question almost by definition: presumptions of the ontological "uniqueness" of the Holocaust. The comparison to the abuse of women is not meant to relativize either, though the book's anthology of quotes offers a good deal of evidence for doing so. It is, instead, meant to assign to women an ontological specialness equivalent to being Jewish. Quite apart from the morally problematic nature of any such specialness, Dworkin falters badly on the necessary follow-through. The specialness of suffering results from a landless status which Dworkin is right in assuming not to be uniquely Jewish. By her own admission, there is no equivalent in specific female experience to the Jewish religion, which she correctly identifies as the unifying factor that has allowed even secular Jews to experience themselves as "chosen." Her alternative may be feminist ethical consciousness, but the analogy suffers from the fact that this is by definition a consciousness meant to transcend national boundaries. Like many other Jewish feminists, she identifies with Zionism and offers a severe yet forgiving analysis of its treatment of the Palestinians. She makes a fascinating parallel between Jewish ghettoization of Palestinians and feminist disdain for sexually abused women. Yet this analogy finally does not wash either. After four hundred pages devoted to the concept of both women and Jews as stateless people, the reader must be skeptical about prostitutes as an ethnicity, or "Zionism for women." Dworkin wants the possibility to exist and her understanding of the uniquely pained Israeli consciousness earns respect; all the same, she is too invested in the idea of nationalism as masculine and statelessness as female to propose a feminist separatist nationalism in credible terms.
"Scapegoat," then, tries hard to break new ground, both for feminists and for diasporan peoples, but finally ends up exposing the author's terrible and very Jewish dilemma: unable to choose either nationalism or statelessness in good conscience and yet left with the inescapable sense of chosenness and its burdens. All the same, it is a memorable summa by this country's best-known Jewish feminist, sacrificing her often tendentious originality for a reiteration of the Jewish question that honors its often-ignored sexual politics. Whether it does justice to them is a whole other question. "Scapegoat" can be read as a tissue of cliches on the subject; but people do think in cliches, and Dworkin does an adequate, sometimes uncanny job of describing how people tend to think about things. She will tell us that it is up to us to decide if that is how they are--with deeds as well as words. And words, as she has so often said, are deeds. It is in its reflection of the power of words about crimes and their victims that "Scapegoat" is most valuable as word and deed.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Never have I read such a complete hash of a book as this one.
This book is more of a personal psychological drama exposing the utter ignorance of the writer --- regarding history, faith, the motives for Arab hatred of Jews --- in fact, on most every subject she touches.
And then, to add insult to injury, she strings a vast array of historical anecdotes together with badly misconstrued ideas and personal perceptions that resemble the hallucinations of a person overdosed on heroin, angel dust or L.S.D. ---- or a combination of all of the above.
Obviously, the Nazi regime was an evil force, and those who resisted it took life-threatening risks at every turn. And many succumbed in the effort, including (for example) siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, the leaders of the White Rose German resistance movement executed in 1943 (p. 131).
Also obviously, the Turkish genocide of 1.5 to 2 million or more Armenians (pp. 113-114) preceded and encouraged the Nazi genocide of Jews by virtue of the silence that greeted the late 19th and early 20th century Islamic jihad against the Ottoman empire's Armenian Christians.
But just as Dworkin fails to identify the Turkish genocide as jihad, she also fails miserably to identify Islam's imperialistic and supremacist nature, from its beginnings. Dworkin relies heavily on the infamous Karen Armstrong (pp. 278), well-known both for her contempt for Israel and the Jewish people, and a hagiographic rendition of Mohammed's life totally ignoring his 627 atrocity against Medina's last major Jewish tribe, the Qurayza, with the slaughter of all their men and pubescent boys and enslavement of their women and children.
Apart from men, at whom Dworkin directs extreme venom, she reserves a great deal of ire for Jewish Israelis who do not like her bemoan all the "injustices" she perceives everywhere in Israeli life. And she quotes only the far-left Israel-bashing ideologues to sustain what she fashions into a personal, quite unique genre of Jew-hatred.
I shall echo another reviewer who noted Dworkin's preoccupation with "bad scholarship," by which I presume he meant her tendency to quote the lamest of the lame and the worst of the worst to make her "most important" points.
About the only important thing that can be taken from this book is pulp. It is best suited for the recycling plant, which is exactly where my copy is now headed.
--- Alyssa A. Lappen
37 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2000
Just as Orwell was roundly attacked by the liberal left for daring to suggest that Stalin was as bad as Hitler, so Dworkin seems to arouse the ire of the left as thoroughly as the right! I have never seen such vitriolic reviews as those she receives. Yet her analyses of social problems -- femininist or otherwise -- are breathtaking in that you find yourself constantly saying -- Of course! That's why -- And in this she has the same effect as Tom Paine when he wrote Common Sense and The Rights of Man. Yet we live in very different times, when any form of criticism of the status quo is repressed, minimalized or mocked and Dworkin has received a barrage of heavy duty artillery. Powerful people have said how much they hate her. Newspaper proprietors insist that their papers carry no mention of her unless it is to attack her. People are fired (I know this from experience) for daring to suggest her analysis of pornography, for instance, is about the most coherent understanding of the problem we all face, especially those of us who are parents of young children. She also provides a constitutional means of dealing with pornography, and that is why people find her so dangerous -- she doesn't moralise about 'filth' and violence. She suggests the deep causes and she proposes solutions. Apparently, this makes people very angry, especially, I suspect, those with vested interest in pornography. Dworkin supports the First Amendment and knows how to attack pornography. What's wrong with that ? This new book is almost light reading compared with Intercourse, say, or even the relentless Mercy, but it asks a question we should all be asking -- how does a gun culture develop from an idealistic republic overthrowing oppression and the power of the gun ? Her answer is weary in a way -- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Just as dedicated internationalists supported Zionism, so does Dworkin the feminist suggest that women should take up the gun and fight for their own nation state. It's a visionary text, like many of her books, but it is extraordinarily stimulating in the questions it raises and the answers it proposes. A large percentage of this book is source reference and as usual Dworkin has quoted chapter and verse for every statement she makes. People were shocked of her reports of obscenities performed by Israeli soldiers before disgusted Palestinian women, to disperse a demonstration. Exactly the same tactics were described by the women of Greenham Common, England, when they were part of the Peace Camp trying to stop American nuclear missiles being sited in the UK. The British soldiers behaved identically. This has a lot to do with male confusion between aggression and sexuality and maybe that's why nobody wants to debate the issues Dworkin raises. Thank goodness for the internet, Amazon books, and a chance for ordinary readers to voice their enthusiasm and support for one of the grand, eloquent voices of our age. Mary Morris, Austin, Texas
34 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2000
This book was eerily bad, a sort of reductio ad absurdum of every stereotype given to feminists. From the nonage of the equation of "emasculated" Jews with other kinds of agression to the preoccupation Dworkin has for bad scholarship, this book is ironically a shining example of the Hitlerian principle that anything can be sold as long as it is repeated often enough.
There is so much wrong with her thesis it's hard to know where to begin.
Forget the weakness of the biological equation of types of agression under the Nazis as compared to individual agression of men to women- that is far too sophisticated a rejoinder to this book. Let us instead look at the simple history of the perception of Jews in Nazi era Germany:
The simple fact is in Nazi Germany Jews were not looked upon as passive creatures by the Nazis themselves. As Hitler put it, the Jews were the "negative ubermensch", a sort of daguerrotype of the good Aryan Ubermensch of Hitler's turgid racial imagination. This, combined with the brave and trenchant defense of the Warsaw ghetto and other places where Jews defended themselves with skill and aplomb, and you begin to realize the fact that wipes out Dworkin's thesis from the start- that the "emasculated Jew" which Dworkin clings to was a fictional creation established long after the war had been ended. So the very basis of Dworkin's book- that there was an abuse dynamic that bore resemblance to the supine position of individual men to individual women- is refuted with the merest glance at history.
It is clear Dworkin is far off in her understanding of male and female sexuality from the beginning even eithout having to go to the absurd lengths of making some kind of Nazi equation with spousal abuse. Andrea Dworkin clearly does not have much of a clue of the idea of sexual socioiology or the ways it might manifest itself in our lives, just as she is forthrightly determined to pull dispirate facts together in order to cram them into her doctrinaire proto-religious emancipationist ideology.
That having been said, I still feel Dworkin has the grain of a better analysis of the more turbulant aspects of male female relationships than her detractors. Other commentators deride her notion that sexuality between men and women has the ring of an agressive manifestation- she calls romance "rape with good salesmanship".
While this is clearly hyperbolic, I believe the essense of it is correct- romance is mostly found where the hint of domination is most prevalent. She is completely wrong that this domination is a societal sublimation of any kind (it is, at bottom, clearly a biological trait and not a cultural one), the essential seedy nature of attraction is one that I find hard to deny. This is the one point her critics would least like to give her, but the one I find most convincing. I do not see where this reality should give her critics (or Dworkin herself, for that matter) some kind of implicit approval of some kind of radical lefitsm, however: it seems obvious that more traditional forms of morality more effectively sublimates the worst libidonous tendancies in women and controls the worst displays in men, thus most efectively working against this violent nature more effectivly than the silly hodgepodge of her ideological beliefs.
Overall though, this book was very, very bad, and the work of a would-be Lenin of the feminist variety. The one good intuition Dworkin has about the nature of male and female oppressive relationships is overshadowed by the reams and reams of nonsense she spouts about nearly every other conceievable angle of ideology. This book is only good to laugh at.
This book is interesting in one aspect, though- it is interesting to read people that get this much wrong. It's the ideolgical equivalent of Sally Jesse Raphael Show- a thing no sane or intelligent person believes, but watches nonetheless out of a kind of natural human interest in the worst in all of us.
There is one final interesting point to this book- Kirkus gave it a bad review. I wonder why. Kirkus is a notoriously partisan review clique that famously gives one sided ideological reviews of nearly every imaginable work of politics. Apparently Kirkus now gives into the idea of tokenism and has hired a few sane people. I predict this is not a trend.
15 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2000
_Scapegoat_, Andrea Dworkin's first book of the twenty-first century, is a work which raises, once again, the question of what it is to be human.
The question is implicit in any discussion of _dehumanization_. Were the Jews in Germany dehumanized by the anti-semitic propaganda of the Nazis, or can the acceptance of the images of Jews presented in anti-semitic propaganda be compatible with the recognition of Jews as human beings? Are the women in pornography dehumanized by what Dworkin sees as the misogynistic propaganda of pornographers, or can the acceptance of the images of women presented in pornography be compatible with the recognition of women as human beings?
Dworkin's answers - "no" to both questions - stem from the conviction that there is something that it is to be human which is not compatible with being the stigmatized, objectified target of legitimized violence. One cannot be a human being and simultaneously be the kind of being whom it is just, reasonable and perhaps even erotically satisfying for another human being to rape, torture and kill. The willingness - to borrow a phrase - of Hitler's executioners to rape, torture and kill millions of Jews strongly implies that they did not and could not regard the Jews as human beings. According to Dworkin, the banality and ubiquity of rape and prostitution in male-dominated societies indicate a similar "willingness" among men, and a similar refusal or inability to perceive the humanity of their victims.
_Scapegoat_ asks what it is to be human, and rejects the answer that it is to be Aryan, or middle class, or male in a world in which non-Aryans, the poor and women are contrastingly less than human. Dworkin sees this answer as one of the underpinnings of the modern state, be it US or Israeli, where accession to full humanity and citizenship means casting off the stigma of dehumanization *and transferring it to others*. The scapegoat is made to be the bearer of one's own past humiliation and dishonour. Hence the astonishing malice of many of those who have escaped from poverty towards those who remain poor, the immense rage of the newly affluent against the "idle, immoral, irresponsible" underclass from whom they must struggle to distinguish themselves. Becoming "respectable" often means taking on the values and attitudes of those who formerly treated you like dirt.
Dworkin argues for a conception of the state the humanity and citizenship of whose members is not predicated on the scapegoating and dehumanization of the poor and stateless. She demands sovereignty for women, and predicts that organised, concerted and possibly violent struggle will be necessary to obtain it. Note that sovereignty does not mean social domination: Dworkin is not arguing for a substitution of female supremacism for male supremacism, but for a non-supremacist notion of sovereignty, a concept of the human which would not be merely a metaphysical transliteration of the social self-image of slavers and aristocrats.
The questions posed by _Scapegoat_ - and it is, substantially, a book of questions - are in my view fundamental; whether or not one agrees with Dworkin (for instance about deconstruction: here let me register an anguished squeak of dissent at her acceptance of David Lehman's ignorant characterisation of postmodern thought as the ingenious dissimulation of its own politically tainted origins. She could have read Lyotard, or Lacoue-Labarthe, or Derrida on the holocaust and learned otherwise. No doubt other matters seemed more urgent at the time), one must recognise that her writing and analysis strike at the nerve of many of the most difficult and painful issues of our political and personal lives.
on September 19, 2013
A remarkably well researched and written with depths seldom found. Wisdom supported with evidence utilyzing the full spectrum of disciplines and presented with a unique writers style that allows for an informed insertion of the personal with the objective. This is a difficult book to read because it examines the full human history of this specie's evident need to refuse acceptance of personal responsibility for their painful emotions and to project these unbearable feelings onto the most vulnerable group available. I can only stand in awe of both the scholarship and the author's courage.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2000
I loved this book! Dworkin writes to provoke, elucidate and to inspire-not to entertain. This is a truthful book, and the truth is dangerous. Dworkin's deftly crafted comparative analysis of women's and the Jews' plight powerfully illustrates male oppression. The Kirkus reviewer never read Scapegoat-or did so with half an eye. For a reviewer to claim that historical facts are due to "Dworkin's own bitter personal feelings (rooted in her experience as a battered woman)" is pitiful. The comments in the Kirkus review are willfully misleading. This book is a definitive piece on human oppression should not be missed!
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2006
This work took Dworkin NINE years to complete. And it really shows when one sits down to read it. It is incredibly well researched; indeed, most of the book is quotes from others and then Andrea's questions--tough questions--regarding them. Make no mistake however, you will not get the same information simply by reading the works of others; Andrea only picks the best of the best sources to quote, and the questions she asks are brilliant.
I absolutely cannot say enough good things about this book. It was the first Andrea Dworkin book I completed. Now, I can't wait to get my hands (or rather, eyes) on another one. :-)
29 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2000
Let there be no ambiguity: _Scapegoat_, by feminist critic Andrea Dworkin, is an absolutely reprehensible book. In seeking to establish a novel thesis, that both Jews and women have been oppressed because they are weak, Dworkin veers of the path and embarks upon a protracted indictment of all men.
Somewhat implicitly and throughout the book, Dworkin insinuates that testosterone-induced violence is a universal trait of men, and since all men are capable of this violence, all men should be dealt with accordingly -- through political subordination of men. Explicitly, Dworkin repeatedly demonstrates her extreme bias against men, specifically orthodox Jewish men, by making absurd generalizations with no attempt at documenting them. Take, for example, her assertion that orthodox Jewish men are frequenters of prostitutes. How does she know? She makes no claim to cite any source, anecdotal or otherwise. In fact, there are so many blatant falsehoods told about Judaism that one wonders how any respectable editor let them go to press. Similarly, Dworkin exhibits specific ignorance about the topic on which she purports to be an expert, women's issues, when she states (for instance) that women in India can be murdered with impunity. Really? Upon what is this claim based? These are just typical examples of how Dworkin has ignored any appeal to evidence, the trait of a fanatic.
It is indeed a sign of divine grace that this dyspeptic rant ever made it to press, and it is a shame that many accept it as good scholarly work.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2011
This is an important book to students of the holocast as well as students of feminism. Her contrast between the two is clever and insightful. As a woman of Jewish descent and ardent feminist, her's is a credible voice. Her untimely death has left a void that has not yet been filled.