Susan Brownmiller left a comment on the previous post that I thought many of you would be interested in seeing. She is highly critical of the article that Susan Faludi wrote for the New Yorker about Shulamith Firestone‘s contributions to radical feminism in the 1960s and 70s, both in its judgment and its appearance fairly recently after Firestone’s death. Be sure to read the whole thing in full, but here’s some flava:
For the record, I chose not to speak to Faludi for her New Yorker piece because I said all I cared to say about Shulie Firestone in my movement memoir “In Our Time”(1999), and I thought it was disgraceful that Faludi was going to parse Firestone’s paranoid schizophrenia for a popular audience so soon after her death. One of Shulie’s paranoid delusions in 1970 when she abruptly quit New York Radical Feminists was that my consciousness-raising group and I were plotting a coup against her. For some reason Faludi decided that this particular delusion was actually true. It wasn’t true, although Shulie repeated it many times over the next few years to anyone who’d listen–. . . .
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Faludi leaves out all the wonderful things New York Radical Feminists accomplished after Firestone’s departure– most notably our Speak-Out on Rape and our Conference on Rape in 1971, two events that helped forge a new national consciousness on rape and the sexual abuse of children. Yes, there were unstable people in the radical feminist movement, as there have been unstable people in all political movements. Sometimes grandiose ideological visionaries destroy movements– as Weatherman destroyed the New Left– but generally they just self-destruct, as poor Shulie did before “The Dialectic of Sex was published. As for the infighting, that goes with the territory. You need nerves of steel to stay in for the long haul in a radical political movement.
And now for the correction: One of the reasons I believe Brownmiller left her comment was to correct the record on this blog about a mistake of mine. I had written in a comment, “Susan Brownmiller, for example, doesn’t really want to talk about a lot of the stuff Faludi wants to explore with her.” I had the (apparently mistaken) notion in my mind that Brownmiller had been interviewed for the article, but Faludi is actually quite clear that she tried to talk to Brownmiller but “Brownmiller declined to talk to me” about the breakup of the New York Radical Feminists. Instead, Faludi writes, Brownmiller “referred me to her memoir, In Our Time (1999).” Faludi also did what any historian would do as well–she read (and quoted from) Brownmiller’s papers at the Schlesinger Library.
So, this post is to correct any mistaken impression I gave that Brownmiller participated in Faludi’s research at all for this article, as well as to highlight some of the memories that Brownmiller shared in her comment. There’s more than the quoted passages above, so do read the whole thing.