I did accidentally find the following:
The feminist time forgot
In 1970, Kate Millett wrote Sexual Politics, a groundbreaking,
bestselling analysis of female oppression. And what is she doing now?
Read her and weep
The Guardian (London) Tuesday June 23, 1998
Another season at the farm, not that bad, but not that good either:
the tedium of a small community, shearing trees, so exhausted
afterward that I did nothing but read. A season without writing or
silk screening or drawing. Back to the Bowery and another emptiness. I
cannot spend the whole day reading, so I write, or try to. A pure if
pointless exercise. My books are out of print, even Sexual Politics,
and the manuscript about my mother cannot find a publisher.
Trying also to get a job. At first the academic voices were kind and
welcoming, imagining I am rich and am doing this for amusement,
slightly embarrassed as they offer the new slave wages. I hear the
guilty little catch in the administrative voice, forced maybe to make
a big concession of $3,000 in my case. But I couldn't live on that, I
demur. "Of course, no one does," they chuckle from their own
$50-80,000 "positions". A real faculty appointment seems an
impossibility, in my case as in so many others now. I have friends
with doctorates earning as little as $12,000 a year, eking out an
existence at five different schools, their lives lived in cars and on
the economic edge. I'm too old for that and must do better. "Oh, but
our budget," they moan, "we really have no funds at all, much as we'd
love to have you." "Surely I'm qualified?" I ask, not as a "celebrity"
but as a credentialed scholar with years of teaching and a doctorate
with distinction from Columbia, an Oxford First, eight published
books. They'll get back to me.
But they never do.
I begin to wonder what is wrong with me. Am I "too far out" or too
old? Is it age? I'm 63. Or am I "old hat" in the view of the "new
feminist scholarship"? Or is it something worse? Have I been denounced
or bad-mouthed? By whom? What is the matter with me, for God's sake?
Has my feminism made me "abrasive"? Surely my polite, St Paul manner
should be reassuring. God knows I'm deferential enough to these
I begin to realise there isn't a job.
I cannot get employment. I cannot earn money. Except by selling
Christmas trees, one by one, in the cold in Poughkeepsie. I cannot
teach and have nothing but farming now. And when physically I can no
longer farm, what then? Nothing I write now has any prospect of seeing
print. I have no saleable skill, for all my supposed accomplishments.
I am unemployable. Frightening, this future. What poverty ahead, what
mortification, what distant bag-lady horrors, when my savings are
gone? And why did I imagine it would be any different, imagine my
books would give me some slender living, or that I could at least
teach at the moment in life when every other teacher retires, having
served all those long years when I was enjoying the freedom of writer
and artist, unsalaried but able to survive on the little I'd been used
to and to invest in a farm and build it into a self-sufficient women's
art colony and even put a bit by. The savings might last 10 years,
more like seven. So in seven years I should die. But I probably won't;
women in my family live forever.
Much as I tire of a life without purpose or the meaningful work that
would make it bearable, I can't die because the moment I do, my
sculpture, drawings, negatives and silkscreens will be carted off to
The Feminist Press, in its first offer last fall (it took them 12
months to come up with this), suggested $500 to reprint the entire
text of Sexual Politics. Moreover, they couldn't get around to it till
the year 2000, since they'd need to commission one or two fancy
prefaces by younger, more wonderful women's studies scholars. My agent
and I were happy to refuse this offer, and the next, for $1,000.
The book also fails to attract interest from the powers that be at
Doubleday, who have refused to reprint it, even though another
division of the company is celebrating Sexual Politics with a long
excerpt in an anthology of the 10 most important books the house has
published in its 100 years. A young female editor at Doubleday gave my
agent to understand the work of more recent feminist scholarship had
somehow rendered my book obsolete in the "current climate". I am out
of fashion in the new academic cottage industry of feminism.
Recently a book inquired Who Stole Feminism? I sure didn't. Nor did
Ti-Grace Atkinson. Nor Jill Johnston. We're all out of print. We
haven't helped each other much, haven't been able to build solidly
enough to have created community or safety. Some women in this
generation disappeared to struggle alone in makeshift oblivion. Or
vanished into asylums and have yet to return to tell the tale, as has
Shula Firestone. There were despairs that could only end in death:
Maria del Drago chose suicide, so did Ellen Frankfurt, and Elizabeth
Fischer, founder of Aphra, the first feminist literary journal.
Eizabeth and I used to run into each other at a comfortable old hippy
cafe in Greenwich Village that I visited in the afternoons, writing
some of the darker passages of The Loony Bin Trip in public to avoid
the dangers of suicidal privacy at home. She'd just finished a book
that was her life's work. Probably it wasn't getting the reception
she'd hoped for in the already crowded new market of "women's studies"
texts written by sudden specialists in this field. Elizabeth and I
would eat an afternoon breakfast and chat, carefully disguising our
misery from each other. Feminists didn't complain to one another then;
each imagined the loneliness and sense of failure was unique.
Consciousness-raising groups were over by then. One had no colleagues:
New York is not a cosy town.
Elizabeth is dead and I must live to tell the tale, hoping to tell
another generation something I'd like them to know of the long
struggle for women's liberation, something about history and America
and censorship. I might also hope to explain that social change does
not come easy, that pioneers pay dearly and in unnecessary solitude
for what their successors take for granted. Why do women seem
particularly unable to observe and revere their own history? What
secret shame makes us so obtuse? We did not create the community
necessary to support each other against the coming of age. And now we
have a lacuna between one generation's understanding and that of the
next, and have lost much of our sense of continuity and comradeship.
But I have also spent 40 years as a downtown artist habituated to the
existential edge and even as I proclaim that all is lost, I am
planning a comeback . . . imagining a sinecure in human rights for
extreme old age, matched editions of my collected works, and final
Just last week, after a good dinner and a good play (Arthur Miller's
American Clock), I lay awake scheming, adding up the farm rents and
seeing the way to a summer of restoration, figuring to replace the
slate roof on the farmhouse, to paint every building, the lavender
house, the blue barn.. Bundling my sums together, ecstatic that I have
finally paid off my credit cards, scribbling at three in the morning
that I will plant roses again, the ultimate gesture of success. I will
have won out after all. Living well is the best revenge.
And then a trip to see my elder sister, the banker/lawyer, caps my
determination. The Elder has a computer programme that guarantees you
survival on your savings at 5 per cent interest if your withdrawal
rate does not exceed 7 per cent - a vista of no less than 30 years. My
savings plus my rat's turd of social security: the two figures
together would give me a rock-bottom, survival existence. Thanks to
the magic of programmed arithmetic, I am, at one stroke, spared the
humiliations of searching for regular employment, institutional
obedience, discretion or regimentation. Looks like I can stay forever
footloose and bohemian, a busy artist-writer free of gainful
employment. Free at last - provided I live real close to the ground.
A longer version of this article appears in the summer issue of US
magazine On The Issues.
Kate Millett's life
Born 1934 in St Paul, Minnesota. Educated at University of Minnesota,
St Hilda's, Oxford, and Columbia, New York.
Moved to Japan in 1961. Married fellow sculptor Fumio Yoshimura in
1965; split up in the 70s.
Published Sexual Politics (1970); The Prostitution Papers (1973);
Flying, her autobiography (1974); Sita (1977), about her doomed love
affair with another woman.
Active in feminist politics in late 60s/70s. In 1966 became committee
member of National Organisation for Women. In 1979 went to Iran to
work for women's rights; was expelled.
In 1990 published The Loony Bin Trip, about her mental breakdown.
In 1991 was back in the news after Oliver Reed, drunk, tried to kiss
her on C4's After Dark.
In 1994 published The Politics Of Cruelty