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SUBJECT TO DEBATE by Katha Pollitt Kirkus Star

SUBJECT TO DEBATE

Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture

By Katha Pollitt

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 2001
ISBN: 0-679-78343-1
Publisher: Modern Library

The always provocative essayist for The Nation presents a collection of her biweekly columns dating from 1994 to fall 2000—including impeachment but before chads.

Pollitt (Reasonable Creatures, 1994) is known as a feminist, a liberal, and a fighter for social justice—all causes from the same shopping cart, one might think. Not necessarily so, as the author points out in her introduction. Although the feminist movement has moved women along from their pre-Friedan roles as wives and mothers, Pollitt argues that the young women who have ended up in the workplace remain captives of body image and conflicting roles. Nevertheless, the women’s movement lives, even in the “I’m not a feminist, but . . . ” culture; its great impact might be better understood if it were not separated (often for the convenience of the analysts) from other historical forces. A woman does not have as much choice as she thinks when social, race, and class disparities continue to exist. “Gender equality requires general equality,” says Pollitt. The essays that follow reinforce that theme, beginning with a gloomy assessment of the progress of women around the world, lightened by acid comments on Camille Paglia and Catherine MacKinnon. Swipes at New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (journalists are one of her favorite targets), plus loose defenses of Paula Jones, the movie Titanic, and President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky prepare readers for unexpected points of view. Mayor Guiliani takes some hits as both art critic (of the elephant dung Madonna) and demolition expert (of the city’s welfare safety net), as does Judith Wallerstein for sloppy science in her recent analysis of the effects of divorce. But Pollitt is not just a quick wit with some easy targets. She researches and discerns the hypocrisies, the contradictions, the obfuscating—and the tragedies—on both sides of the political and cultural divides and notes them with clarity, logic, humor, and sensitivity.

Biting, entertaining, erudite—destined to annoy, but also perhaps challenge, the politically correct on the right or the left.