The feminist time forgot

Started by Peter, Feb 16, 2008, 03:09 AM

previous topic - next topic
Go Down


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 dump.

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


Feb 16, 2008, 03:10 AM Last Edit: Feb 16, 2008, 03:41 AM by Peter
The mailing list archive referred above contains some dense Marxist-Feminist shit.

How did this get by the moderators? I don't expect to find this kind of
commentary on a feminist list. (Is this some sort of subtle irony test that
I'm failing?) The Kate Millet post was depressing indeed. A critique of the
conditions that brought her to that point would be welcome; this
mean-spirited accusation is not.

Leslie Vermeer

How on earth indeed?

Matfem is not a moderated list.  Unfortunately, I see the time has come to
change the situation.

in solidarity,

Martha E. Gimenez
Department of Sociology
Campus Box 327
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, Colorado 803

Oh, that way.

I remember when Kate was in her heydey and I was working full-time at
mind-deadening jobs and raising two kids by myself -- not exactly the
artist's life. Not that I would take all that away from her, but we should
remember that not everyone had it.

Today, I know women (including my daughter-in-law) who are pursuing degrees
in women's studies not for fame and/or fortune, but because such credentials
will help them get jobs in social service agencies, especially family
planning, women's services, etc., not to mention all those jobs for which
you need some kind of degree -- any kind of degree.

Like any other degree beyond the high school diploma, the women's studies
degree will give you more alternatives than you had without it. Like any
other degree, it will open some doors and close others. Ultimately, you
yourself will be the person who determines what this degree will do for you.

So stop worrying and enjoy your studies!

(Sorry if this sounds patronizing and soppy -- it's not meant that way!)


Thee heeh!

It was, therefore, very interesting to me to read a call for
papers for an edited book on Materialist Feminism.  The description
of Materialist Feminism put forth by the editors, Chrys Ingraham
and Rosemary Hennessy, was to me indistinguishable from Marxist

Since when did women become materialist?

considered her a Marxist Feminist because, unlike Socialist Feminists

Who cares about what kind of faeces it is. Just keep it away form my food.

This is certainly news to me; Socialist Feminism's rejection
of Marx's and Marxism's "reductionism" lead to the deliberate
effort to ground "patriarchy" outside the mode of production

Bla, bla...

The justification for using Materialist Feminism rather than
Marxist Feminism is the alleged insufficiency of Marxist Theory for
adequately explaining the oppression of women.

I don't think Angela Davis is any less radical than Millett, and she's a tenured full
prof. at UCSC, has overcome many obstacles to her position (including
being fired), so I don't believe that being a committed radical dooms
one to poverty and desolation.  Please don't evaluate your stake in
feminist activism and scholarship solely in terms of Millett's
situation.  Best wishes to you all, Kathleen

Today, based on the mass of anthropological research that has emerged in the
past 20 years, some of us believe that the story is much more complicated:
that male domination and class society developed...

Research, ha!

segregated work patterns and childrearing practices eventually led to institutionalized male dominance

some of the gathering and hunting peoples for a while (at least) enjoyed a very rich and
abundant diet by working only two or three days a week

So great life was, until those pesky men invented capitalism and the damn machines.

challenges a basic tenet of Marxism: that the history of all society is the history of "class struggle." If we accept that at least some of the first societies of homo sapienss

I have never forgotten that the reason I went to university is precisely
because of those mind-numbing jobs that I promised myself I would never
go back to. I think we need to remember that despite the gloomy
statistics of the job market, we are still in the position of making
choices. I have chosen to work towards a job in academia, but I have
also had the option all along of turning away from this goal. My working
class roots always remind me that being here (ie studying in graduate
school) is a privilege. I think sometimes that other graduate students
forget that most people in the world are not given this opportunity.

I am especially heartened by the statistics for Women's Studies jobs.
The program at my university (Toronto) a collaborative doctoral program
(meaning that we are all registered in regular discipline programs at
the same time), but I am sure the Program Co-ordinator will be
interested in hearing these stats.

I think what is chilling about Millett's story is that she seems to have
all of the qualifications that we are told to work towards: a
Ph.D., teaching experience, and publications

... ans so on, ad nauseam...


For a refreshing swim in shit, go to Progressive Sociologist archives, choose any file and read.


Mr. Nickle

Someone should introduce this strong, independent woman to the world of self-publishing on the internet. If her book is good - people will buy it and Amazon or whoever will take a small cut as the middleman(or middleperson if you prefer).

PUBLISH AN E-BOOK BIATCH and you might get some money for food.

Don't mention the war! - Basil Fawlty


Damn those mind numbing jobs that have enough actual value to others
that they are willing to exchange assets for the fruits of labor.

Yep, those degrees in fem-stud come in handy. Not a hell of a lot of actual work, and
a gateway to a "job" fucking up other folks lives. Those State social worker jobs
requiring a degree in "anything" come with great no show potential. "flexible" hours,
raises based on simple longevity, and a nice pension paid for on the taxpayer dime.

All without incentive to actually be innovative, except in dodging and "delegating" the
heavy lifting. Did I forget about the "special protections from consequence of incompetence or out right fraud" perk that quite often goes with those socialist bureaucracy appointments?



How did this get by the moderators? I don't expect to find this kind of
commentary on a feminist list. (Is this some sort of subtle irony test that
I'm failing?) The Kate Millet post was depressing indeed. A critique of the
conditions that brought her to that point would be welcome; this
mean-spirited accusation is not.

The woman who wrote this comment is a true feminist. Feminists don't search for the truth or even care about what reality is; if the reality is unpleasant you simply complain that someone let it through (the "trolls" are getting through again).

If you can twist it around to somehow show how evil the Patriarchy is, it may be OK: "A critique of the conditions that brought her to that point would be welcome ..." -- the "conditions" of course are the evil males who thrust capitalism upon her and obviously tried to destroy her because of their fear of a strong, independent woman.

Cordell Walker

let me see if I get this
she is pissed off cause she isnt famous anymore??
"how can you kill women and children?"---private joker
"Easy, ya just dont lead em as much" ---Animal Mother


let me see if I get this
she is pissed off cause she isnt famous anymore??

She's worried that she's going to run out of money.

She's suddenly realized that the crap she studied and wrote about is ... crap.

Cordell Walker

she dont want to have to get a real job to support herself
she wants to "write"
I get it now :toothy9:
"how can you kill women and children?"---private joker
"Easy, ya just dont lead em as much" ---Animal Mother


She's going to have to do what other strong and independent women do when they hit hard times ...

... get a man to support her.

The Biscuit Queen

I wonder if she honestly looked for lower paying jobs and was "overqualified", if the fact she is 63 disqualifies her from most jobs, or if she just didn't look at the lower paying jobs.

To be fair to her, she is not in a good place to find a job. She is 63, overeducated in a useless field, and out of work for a long time.

To be fair to everyone else, a greeter at Walmart, a Subway clerk, and a child care provider are all jobs which do pay something which can be done by people her age, IF the degree is not a problem. Of course she could always omit those if necessary.

I feel sad for her as no one likes to feel this impending doom of old age with no money or support, but she did make her bed. This is the other side of the story that feminism conveniently forgot to mention, I suppose it is a bittersweet irony that the top proponants feel the most sting. Here she is at 63, alone, broke, childless; I guess she has it all now, right?
he Biscuit Queen

There are always two extremes....the truth lies in the middle.


Gloria Steinem found some guy to marry her when she was in her 60s - this woman is going to have to put forth the effort to find a man.

Between the choice of some man supporting these women or the taxpayers supporting them in the form of welfare, I think the former is the better choice. Some men like mouthy, opinionated women with saggy tits and lousy sex skills, so she better get going on finding one.


Kate Millet is not into men....she would need to find a succesfull lesbian divorce lawyer.

Kate has produced an incredible amount of Sapphic illustration over the years...she could set up a soft core lesbian porn site.

Sexual Politics was re published in 2004 but apparently it bombed.

Tony Ananda

>My books are out of print<

Those weighty tomes had nothing in them.  Compare her books to, say, Christopher Lasch.  He has been dead for over a decade.  Not only are his books still in print, they are widely read and studied.  He was a serious thinker, not a promoter of fads.
When the going gets weird, the wierd turn pro.


Living well is the best revenge, but you ain't living well, puddin'. Hahahahahaha

GAME OVER, fembitch!  :laughing6:

Go Up