How did I miss out on the legendary Ellen Willis? I’m embarrassed to admit that before reading this stunning, provocative, erudite, fun, challenging, witty, dire, brave, and above all incisive collection of her journalism and essays, I was unaware of one of the great feminist writers on the politics and culture of our times.
“These Artful Jezebels”: On American Spies
During the American Revolutionary War, women up and down the East Coast spied for the rebels. They also spied for the British. They carried messages across enemy territory and through enemy lines. They reported on gun emplacements and recounted conversations overheard among officers about military strategy. Philadelphia women brought key military intelligence on the British Forces to General George Washington at Valley Forge.
The Dangerous Women Game
Recent studies on the appalling gender (mis)representation on TV have led some media analysts to conclude that the more television a boy watches, the more sexist he becomes, while the more a girl watches, the fewer options she believes she has in life. I am a television addict but resisted the TV series Game of Thrones because I’d heard about the abundance of gratuitous violence, sexual and otherwise.
The “Pure Cinema” of Germaine Dulac
In 1907, the French filmmaker, playwright, journalist, feminist, and political activist Germaine Dulac (1882-1942) gave a lecture on the “international task of French Women.” She urged her audience to “create things anew and according to your own spirit” and to organize into cooperatives and unions. Tami Williams’s in-depth historical study and critical biography Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations reveals the breathtaking extent to which Dulac followed her own advice.
The Obscene Hilda Hilst
“If everyone were to remember what comes out of their butt, everyone would be more generous, show more solidarity,” says Tui, in Letters from a Seducer, concluding one of literature’s greatest discourses on farting during sex.
“The Woman of the Injured Locust Tree of Qi” and Other Tales of How a Woman Should Be
There is a long tradition of literature written by men — and women — instructing women how to behave. Among the notable are The Education of a Christian Woman (1524) by the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives, richly praised by Erasmus and Thomas More, in which he calls for education for all women, regardless of social class and ability, because women’s progress is essential for the good of society and state…
“All The Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men, But Some Of Us Are Brave”: On the Legacy of Black Women Entertainers
“Sometimes we’d make a six-hundred-mile jump and stop only once,” Billie Holiday wrote in her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues about touring in the Jim Crow South.
How To Be Lost: Sex (Race, Class, and Gender) in the City of Light
After graduating from college, I headed to Paris to study contemporary French philosophy — Lacan, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze — and semiotics with Julia Kristeva. I spent most evenings contemplating the meaning of life while drinking Scotch in a gay bar in the Marais. I lived in a series of chambres de bonne with a Turkish toilet down the hall and had a boyfriend in New York, a lover in Italy, and another in London, whose visits to me in the City of Love I expertly juggled.
Women of the Fifties Redux: A Mad Men Antidote
“One of the great up-sides of being the first of a kind,” journalist Rachel Cooke writes in her chatty, informative, and inspirational book Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties, “was that guilt, at least as it pertained to working women, had not yet been invented. You looked at magazines for recipes and dress patterns, not to be told how bad you should be feeling for the way you chose to live your life.”
A Healthy Distrust of Reality: The Revolutionary Margaret Randall
Margaret Randall is a writer, poet, photographer, feminist, and political activist. She lived much of her early adult life in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua and has written over eighty books including collections of poetry, oral histories, memoirs, essays, translations, and photography books.