Feminism, not dead again

Katha Pollitt, the award-winning writer for The Nation, is one of the most popular and widely read feminist pundits in the country.  In her regular “Subject to Debate” column, which the Washington Post hailed as “the best place to go for original thinking on the Left,” Pollitt tackles with humor and keen insight a range of topics from poverty, to surrogacy, to breast implants, and the Iraq war.

Of recent interest to Pollitt is the continuing relevance of feminism in a world where many believe feminist goals have already been achieved.  “Feminism has accomplished a lot, but there's a long way to go,” Pollitt said when interviewed this year.  After citing alarming trends like the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the U.S., the fact that women make up only 20% of congress, and that the U.S. lacks paid parental leave policies, Pollitt said that problems like these remain “huge feminist issues.”

Another feminist concern of Pollitt’s is addressing the inter-generational issues and conflicts among older and younger feminists.  Of the generational struggles, Pollitt writes, “Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes?”

Her interest in reinvigorating feminism makes Pollitt a natural fit for the inaugural Jing Lyman Lecture series sponsored by the Clayman Institute.  The Institute is inviting scholars and practitioners to the Stanford campus to offer innovative thinking and perspectives on questions such as, “Has the movement towards gender equality stalled and if so why?”  and “What are promising solutions to move us beyond where we are today?”  Pollitt will speak at Stanford on February 23rd in a talk titled, “What Do You Mean I’m Not Equal Yet?  Women in the 21st Century.”  Her talk will touch upon a variety of issues from the status of women to the continuing importance of feminism to women of all ages.  Pollitt’s visit to the nation’s oldest gender research institute will also include conversations with students.

Known for cutting right to the heart of complex social and political questions, her essays, reviews, and commentaries have appeared in numerous outlets such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian.

Raised in Brooklyn, Pollitt earned a degree from Radcliffe and an M.F.A in poetry from the Columbia School of the Arts.  She has lectured at dozens of colleges and universities and has taught poetry and women’s studies.

In 2007, Pollitt released a collection of personal essays, Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories.  In the book, Pollitt reflects with both deep feeling and laugh-out-loud humor on an array of topics from her web-stalking of a philandering ex-boyfriend, to the death of her alcoholic mother, to what she learned about her parent’s lives from the FBI files she obtained about them through the Freedom of Information Act.

In 2009, Pollitt released her second collection of poetry in her book, The Mind-Body Problem, published by Random House and reviewed by Kay Ryan, United States Poet Laureate, "It’s awfully good to have such a great-hearted poet as Katha Pollitt take on mortality’s darkest themes. Again and again she finds a human-sized crack of light and squeezes us through with her."

Reading Pollitt is, as one reviewer in the blogosphere put it, “like talking to that one friend you always go to when you want to figure out how you feel about certain issues – even when you don’t completely agree, you know that the conversation will leave you feeling more enlightened.”  It is just this kind of candid, personally and politically informed analysis that is the hallmark of Pollitt’s work.