Andrea Dworkin was a controversial figure in feminism, whose persuasive charismatic speaking inspired and influential ideas drew criticism across political spectrums.
My Name is Andrea (2022), directed by Pratibha Pramar, is a hybrid documentary based on Dworkin’s writing and featuring both archival footage of Dworkin and performances of her life. Actresses Ashley Judd, Soko, Amandla Stenberg, Andrea Riseborough, and Christine Lahti portray the prolific writer at various points in her life, with each performance focusing on a different specific event or trauma experienced by Dworkin.
The film tells the story of Dworkin’s life as a writer and activist, touching on parts of her story that greatly impacted her lifelong work. Voiceovers — both recordings of Dworkin and voiceovers by the actresses who portray versions of Dworkin in the film — drive the film. In using the voiceovers, the film feels like listening to a long diary entry, with the performances like projections from the words themselves.
Riseborough’s performance was especially affecting. She is Dworkin as an ex-pat in Amsterdam. Andrea found love with a fellow activist. After the pair got married, he began to abuse her. Riseborough exudes both fiery passion and hollow desolation as this iteration of Dworkin, offers an acute look at this pivotal moment in Dworkin’s life.
Throughout the film, the focus often comes back to how Dworkin spoke out against violence against women, specifically rape and domestic violence. In many ways, Dworkin was ahead of her time and many of her words will resonate with modern audiences — especially since the #MeToo movement. Although she seems radically ahead of her time, it’s disheartening to see just how little has changed since the height of her work.
My Name is Andrea also takes a critical look at her anti-pornography activism and the impact of Intercourse (1987), a book in which Dworkin posits that heterosexual sex and penetration are degrading to women — an extension of her anti-pornography work.
Despite how controversial her viewpoints on pornography and sex were, Pramar ensures that viewers understand the verbal abuse and public discreditation that Dworkin went through. Through archival footage and a moving performance by Ashley Judd, viewers witness how viscerally people in the public, especially men, hated Dworkin and her work as an activist. In many ways, the film acts as an apology to Dworkin herself, letting the feminist know that the collective is sorry for how she was an outcast in the last 30 years of her life. Watching the film is an emotional experience; Dworkin’s trauma is approached unfiltered, her emotional turmoil on display to explain how she became the influential feminist she is. Dworkin may not be a “forgotten” figure in feminism, but she was silenced and is largely unknown to new generations. My Name is Andrea offers an excellent introduction to Dworkin’s life and work while connecting her radical viewpoints with the same struggles that women are facing today.