Katha Pollitt's well-known wit and incisiveness run through all the pieces in "Virginity or Death!" -- a new collection of more than five years' worth of essays from her Subject to Debate column in the Nation. The essays cover a wide range of issues from the war in Iraq to healthcare, but unsurprisingly, the bulk covers feminist issues: abortion, child care and work, and the seemingly never-ending backlash against women's progress. In these meditations, Pollitt defies the stereotype of the finger-wagging, Mommy-knows-best feminist. She credits younger women with being "so much more confident and multicompetent" than she was at her age and lauds their accomplishments.
However, Pollitt definitely has strong opinions about women framing every decision they make as "empowering." She notes in "Sex and the Stepford Wife" that "women have become incredibly clever at explaining these [demeaning] choices in ways that barely mention social pressures or male desires." But, as harsh as Pollitt can sometimes be, there's always truth behind her observations.
When I spoke with Pollitt by phone, what struck me most was her optimism -- something a lot of feminists are understandably lacking these days. We're so busy lashing back against the backlash that forward-thinking feminism is hard to muster. Pollitt says that she wishes people would stop talking about feminism's supposed demise and instead talk about its "life." After reading the book, it occurred to me that maybe young women should do the same favor for their predecessors. Continued.
Interview With Pollitt From Salon
By Jessica Valenti. From the interview's introduction: