Susan Brownmiller comments on Faludi & Firestone: “You need nerves of steel to stay in for the long haul in a radical political movement.”


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:  Continue reading

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

. . . not at least until you’ve read Susan Faludi’s fascinating review of radical feminism in the late 1960s and early 70s and one of its stars, Shulamith Firestone.

One of the recurrent themes in modern history is the association between revolution and mental illness–as both a political attack from the right and as a lived reality.  Some of the most radical Whigs in the American Revolution–the kind who supported women’s rights, for example!–were accused of suffering from revolutionary spirit as from a mental illness, the “contagion of liberty.”  James Otis, Jr., for example, the ardent Whig and brother of Mercy Otis Warren, was one of them.

So too radical feminism had its visionaries who, as Faludi suggests, “helped to create a new society.  But [Firestone] couldn’t live in it.”  After struggling with mental illness for at least thirty years, Firestone’s body was discovered last summer in her Greenwich Village apartment apparently several days after her death: Continue reading

Are you there, God? It’s Margaret.

A savage handbagging!

It’s a big day for women’s history today as we note the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Here’s a roundup up some of the things I’ve seen on the non-peer reviewed interwebs:

  • Echidne weighs in on Mags:  “Thatcher was not a feminist, of course.  She is famous for openly disliking feminism, partly because she was blind to what feminism had given her:  The right to run for office, the right to vote.  She believed that her successes were based on nothing but her own talents and her own hard work.  Women’s concerns she brushed off like so much dandruff on the shoulders of her black suit. . . . So what is Thatcher’s legacy for women?  I would imagine that she would be angry at such a question.  Those women, always pestering her when she was nothing like them!  She was one of the boys, or at least a Smurfette among Smurfs.
  • Note:  when Echidne calls Mags a “Smurfette among Smurfs,” she’s not suggesting that her legacy is tiny or mockable.  She’s pointing out that there is only *one* Smurfette among a whole colony of Smurfs, and that Smurfettes therefore tend to spend a lot more time and energy defending their position in the boys’ club rather than opening the door to and making room for more Smurfettes.  Just so that we’re clear on that point. Continue reading

The empathy gap for those hardworking, white middle-class “men on top?”

This essay strikes me as jaw-droppingly weird and pretty stupid.  Susan Jacoby:

WHEN I dream about my father, as I do even though he has been dead for more than a quarter of a century, I always wake up when I hear the crunch of tires rolling over rock salt — an unmistakable sound evoking the winters of my Michigan childhood in the 1950s and early ’60s. Dad, an accountant, would pull his car out of our icy driveway and head for his office long before first light. This was tax season, and he could keep his business and our family financially afloat only by working 80-hour weeks.

You won’t find Bob Jacoby or his unglamorous middle-class, middle-income contemporaries in “Mad Men,” the AMC series beginning its sixth season on Sunday. If we are to believe the message of popular culture, the last men on top — who came of age during World War II or in the decade after it — ran the show at work, at home and in bed.

.       .       .       .       .       .

Nearly all institutional power for 20 years after the war was indeed wielded by the war generation (and eventually by younger men born during the Depression). Yet a vast majority of men possessed limited power that could vanish swiftly if they committed the ultimate sin of failing to bring home a paycheck.  Continue reading

Best. Response. Ever.

Donna Brazile to marriage concern trolls:

Perhaps, if I’d had Ms. Patton’s wisdom and foresight about what really matters in college, I wouldn’t have taken so many pesky classes, and instead concentrated on designing my hair, makeup, attire and personality to create the perfect man-catching machine.

Perhaps it would have all worked out exactly as Ms. Patton implies — the perfect house, kids, husband and future. And yet I’m skeptical. I made a lot of stupid decisions in college; I’m really glad the choice of life partner wasn’t one of them. How many people, do you think, could choose a tattoo at 22 years old and still be happy with it by the time they are 50? Let’s be generous here: maybe a quarter of all people? And tattoos don’t even talk. Continue reading

Check check check: is this blog even on?

Howdy, friends!  I’m sorry about the extended blog silence–apparently, several of you have noticed the absence of posts here over the past few weeks, and are maybe a little concerned.  Some of you have gingerly emailed me links and ideas for other posts–thanks!  But my reasons for not-posting are even more trivial than being out of ideas:  too much travel and too many RL command performances = too little time, energy, and/or reliable internet access for me to blog at all.  (And then there’s my day job, after all.)

Other bloggers are on the ball.  If you’re interested in intelligent commentary on marriage, civil unions, and the circus last week at the U.S. Supreme Court, then go see what Madwoman with a Laptop has to say about her visit to the famous marble steps last week, complete with photos and other interesting links.  See also Tenured Radical‘s inaugural post post-Spring Break and her discussion about the economic and cultural privilege it takes for her and her partner to resist marriage while ensuring that they’re economically and legally protected otherwise.  Smart stuff.

In any case:  I’ll be back on the high plains real soon, and will resume regular posting post-haste.  In the meantime:  Continue reading