Essays on Women and Feminism
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 Most of the essays collected here (and previously published in The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere) bring an important critical, often feminist, perspective to controversial issues: sex and sexuality, children and families, abortion and motherhood. Debates about the literary canon, according to poet Pollitt (Antarctic Traveller, not reviewed), rest on the assumption that the only books that students will read are those lucky enough to make ``the list.'' Maybe, she suggests, since there's so little reading going on at all, the list is really not so important. She imagines a country of ``real readers'' who read voluntarily, actively, and self-determinedly, exploring all kinds of literature in all kinds of settings; but she doesn't see this happening as long as the debate is about which books to force down readers' throats, in which case one book is as bad as another. In an examination of politics and family-values rhetoric, Pollitt analytically separates ``the family'' and ``family values,'' claiming that the conflation of these two terms obscures ``two distinct social phenomena that in reality have not very much to do with one another.'' This distinction allows Pollitt to question the ways in which these terms are used by pundits and others, on both the left and the right, to evade more pertinent issues, such as economic inequality. In a cutting indictment of Katie Roiphe, Pollitt challenges the notion that current rape statistics are based on feminist manipulation of definitions and a reinterpretation of ``bad sex'' the morning after. Although others have critiqued Roiphe on the same points, Pollitt asks new questions about sexuality and sexual responsibility. This could be a good resource for women's studies and young feminists, though despite its acuity, it won't provide much new information to those readers already up-to-date on feminist politics.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1994
ISBN: 0-394-57060-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1994


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