VIRGINITY OR DEATH! by Katha Pollitt


and Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time
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Pollitt (Subject to Debate, 2001, etc.) takes no prisoners and suffers no fools in her third collection of sharp, insightful columns.

Originally published in The Nation between 2001 and 2005, the essays take aim at Bush, the Christian right, Larry Summers, capitalism, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Oprah Winfrey. Pollitt casts her withering gaze at the mainstream media—little better, she contends, than the propaganda wing of the White House. Nor are committed Democrats spared her ire; she details the staunchly anti-abortion voting record of otherwise progressive Dennis Kucinich and wonders why the centrist Democratic Leadership Council kept insisting that Howard Dean, pretty centrist himself, was a dangerous McGovern-esque lefty whose presidential candidacy would destroy the party. Pollitt’s most passionate writing is about feminism. She’s especially exercised about what she calls the “backlash bookshelf,” full of authors (Danielle Crittenden, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Christina Hoff Sommers, to name just a few) who insist that feminism is bad for women. She also castigates pseudo-feminist writers who celebrate women choosing to become soccer moms, but never address how social structures—for instance, a lack of federally funded daycare or decent maternity-leave policies—constrain the options from which women have to choose. One of her favorite targets is the New York Times, which specializes in credulous articles about upper-class women’s desire to stay home with kids. Abortion rights are central to many of the essays. Pollitt mordantly mocks the organization Feminists For Life, painting its president, Serrin Foster, as a well-meaning but bumbling and confused dupe, and she regularly rails against Republican attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade. Her sarcastic summary of the Old Testament is a little embarrassing, but no pundit’s perfect.

Should be required reading for the left and the right: You may not agree with Pollitt, but you can’t dismiss her.

Pub Date: June 20th, 2006
ISBN: 0-8129-7638-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2006


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