Millett's "Sexual Politics" was among the most talked-about works of its time and remains a founding text for cultural and gender studies programs
Feminist activist Kate Millett (R) at a suprise birthday party for her niece, Kristan Vigard, on May 21, 1979 in New York. Ms. Vigard, who is currently performing in the Broadway show "I Remember Mama," turned 16. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm), photo: AP/Ron Frehm
07 of September 2017 18:16:17
PARIS – Kate Millett, the activist, artist and educator whose best-selling work "Sexual Politics" was a landmark of cultural criticism and a manifesto for the modern feminist movement, has died at 82.Millett's book was among the most talked-about works of its time and remains a founding text for cultural and gender studies programs. Her impact reached across generations and across borders — and condolences filled social networks in multiple languages Thursday.Millett died of a heart attack Wednesday while on a visit to Paris, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the family. The publishing house that carried her books in French also confirmed her death."Sexual Politics" was published in 1970 in the midst of feminism's so-called "second wave," when Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Millett and others built upon the achievements of the suffragettes from a half-century earlier. Together they challenged assumptions about women in virtually every aspect of society.Among Millett's 21st-century fans was TV star and writer Lena Dunham, who tweeted: "So sad to hear about Kate Millett's passing. She pioneered feminist thought, de-stigmatized mental illness, wore massive fashion glasses."
Steinem posted a tribute on Facebook: "As Andrea Dworkin said, 'The world was asleep, but Kate Millett woke it up.' Sexual Politics -- and all Kate's work -- will keep us Woke.""Sexual Politics" chronicled centuries of legal, political and cultural exclusion and diminishment of women, from the "penis envy" theory of Sigmund Freud to the portrayals of women as disrupters of paradise in the Bible and Greek mythology. She labeled traditional marriage an artifact of patriarchy and concluded with chapters condemning the misogyny of authors Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence and Norman Mailer, but also expressing faith in the redemptive power of women's liberation."It may be that a second wave of the sexual revolution might at last accomplish its aim of freeing half the race from its immemorial subordination — and in the process bring us all a great deal closer to humanity," she wrote.While countless women were radicalized by her book, Millett would grow to have bittersweet feelings about "Sexual Politics," which later fell out of print and remained so for years. She was unhappy with its "mandarin mid-Atlantic" prose and overwhelmed by her sudden transformation from graduate student and artist to a feminist celebrity whose image appeared on the cover of Time magazine.Amused at first by her fame, Millett said she was worn down by a "ruin of interviews, articles, attacks.""Soon it grew tedious, an indignity," she wrote in the memoir "Flying," published in 1974.She was dubbed by Time to be "the Mao Tse-tung of Women's Liberation," and rebutted by Mailer in his book "The Prisoner of Sex," in which he mocked her as "the Battling Annie of some new prudery."Meanwhile, she faced taunts from some feminists for saying she was bisexual while she was married but not saying she was gay. During an appearance by Millett at Columbia University, an activist stood up and yelled, "Are you a lesbian? Say it. Are you?""Five hundred people looking at me. Are you a Lesbian?" Millett wrote. "Everything pauses, faces look up in terrible silence. I hear them not breathe. That word in public, the word I waited half a lifetime to hear. Finally I am accused. 'Say it. Say you are a Lesbian!'"Yes, I said. Yes. Because I know what she means. The line goes, inflexible as a fascist edict, that bisexuality is a cop-out. Yes, I said, yes I am a lesbian. It was the last strength I had."Millett's books after "Sexual Politics" were far more personal and self-consciously literary, whether "Flying" or "Sita," a memoir about her sexuality in which she wrote of a lesbian lover who committed suicide. "The Loony Bin Trip" chronicled her struggles with manic depression and time spent in psychiatric wards."There is no denying the misery and stress of life," she wrote. "The swarms of fears, the blocks to confidence, the crises of decision and choice."The daughter of Irish Catholics, Millett was born in 1934 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was long haunted by her father, an alcoholic who beat his children and left his family when Millett was 14. She attended parochial schools as a child and studied English literature at the University of Minnesota and St Hilda's College, Oxford, from which she graduated with honors.
So sad to hear about Kate Millett's passing. She pioneered feminist thought, de-stigmatized mental illness, wore massive fashion glasses.— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) 7 de septiembre de 2017
HILLEL ITALIEANGELA CHARLTON