If you're a feminist who talks about feminism, you've probably seen that word before, and have maybe even had it aimed your way.
Conservative men have the word "feminazi." Liberal men have coined "MacDworkinite," and it's used much like the other term: it's usually applied broadly, across disparate groups of women who do not hold the same views as one another, in order to discredit a larger group of feminists by associating them (willingly or not) with an allegedly extreme and ridiculous faction. The heat and sneer accompanying these terms puts women on the defensive; once the insult is lodged, many women abandon whatever statement they were originally making in order to prove how they are not, in fact, bigots and man-haters. And so the male anti-feminist successfully redirects and wins.
Did I say ANTI-feminist? Yes, I did. Because a real live unicorn wouldn't use such a term, but there are certainly plenty of narwhals (oh, sorry, "profeminist men") running around out there who believe it's appropriate to "MacDworkin" and "anti-sex" a woman for suggesting something as radical as (for example) the notion that men paying women for sex does not constitute liberation.
Why is it so bad? Many people who would never use the term "feminazi" don't understand why MacDworkinite is implicitly offensive. Here are a few reasons:
1. It's (intentionally) disrespectful to Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon
..a. They are not the same person. They collaborated on several efforts, but have very distinct experiences, focuses, methods, voices, and writing styles.
..b. The use of the term is (every time I've seen it) accompanied by misunderstandings, distortions, and/or outright lies about their lives and work, such that the term itself connotes untruth about these two women.
..c. The word LOOKS like something we're used to seeing (thereby masquerading as a polite and civil term), by seemingly naming a school of thought for its creators. However, unlike "Freudian," "Kantian," "Cartesian," "Epicurean," and "Machiavellian," Dworkin's and MacKinnon's names have not only been modified to make a convenient eponym, but have been diminished and conjoined in order to do so. Certainly, the two were contemporaries and collaborators, but Plato was Socrates' student and Aristotle's teacher, yet each manages to receive his own adjective. Hell, we wouldn't even care about Socrates had Plato not written his teacher's thoughts down (as he remembered them), but we still manage to distinguish between asexual (socratonic?) relationships and an instructor who uses the question-and-answer (Platocratic?) method of teaching. Yes, certainly these men have greatly influenced western civilization, but are there ANY prominent male theorists or philosophers whose schools of thought have received the MacDworkin treatment?
2. It paints women as radicals (usually against their wills) in order to discredit them
..a. For instance, you will note that the subtitle of this community is "A Radical Feminist Inquiry into Men and the Movement." Does that mean that only radical feminists post here? No. Clearly, "Radical Feminist" modifies the predominant approach of the analysis here, rather than marking everyone who posts or reads here with an indelible ink.
..b. Similar to the truth contained in Rebecca West's famous quote about feminism ("I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute"), many women who do not consider themselves radical feminists find themselves considered such for espousing views that don't have anything to DO with radical feminism - they're just suddenly "radical" to men and other people who hate women. See ginmar's post: http://www.livejournal.com/users/gi
....(1) In other words, even if "MacDworkinism" existed as an honest representation of those two women's work, the woman accused of being a MacDworkinite would be correct in saying "I'm not one." Again, though, since the common use of the term is based on distortion, what woman COULD it apply to?
....(2) Radicalizing a woman against her will is lying about women.
....(3) Radicalizing a woman against her will is silencing women.
....(4) Radicalizing a woman against her will is dismissing women.
3. For those women who HAVE read and DO identify with the work of both Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, and/or for those women who DO identify with radical feminism, being called diminutives like "MacDworkinite" or "radfem" is a bit bewildering.
..a. Personally, it reminds me of "what do you know about it anyway, you're just a girl." Well, yes, that's kind of true (just? girl?)...but...uh...what IS your point?
....(1) By the way, have you heard radfems have cooties?
....(2) We do, and they're contagious.
..b. The point is, of course, that it's much easier to call a woman a MacDworkinite than it is to explain, using truth, why that's such a terrible thing to be.