Category Archives: feminism

October 11, 2012, 2:39 pm

Lesbian Nation; Or, Why MItt Romney Would Cut Off Federal Funds to Lower Manhattan

In the spring of 2013, my university is going to be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (W.W. Norton, 1963). It’s particularly fitting that we do it here at the New School for Public Engagement, I think, because a big part of our mission is to reach out to adults and non-traditional students who want to finish a college education that was foreclosed or interrupted. Although Betty Friedan was not that person, her activism and writing nonetheless caused women to finish their educations and get back in the workforce.

Betty Friedan was not so good on lesbians, however, causing people like Kate Millett and Ti-Grace Atkinson to abandon Friedan’s fledgling National Organization for Women in facor of the rock ‘em, sock ‘em world of radical feminism. Hence, let me be perhaps hte first to point out that 2013 will also be the fortieth anniversary of…

Read More

September 24, 2012, 12:13 pm

Eroticizing Violence Against Women Is A Feminist Issue — So Why Don’t We Say So?

            Not sexy, dude, even in France.

Mostly I have been keeping my mouth shut about the vogue in mainstream S/M. I am certainly restraining myself on the pressing topic of the day, Naomi Wolfe’s vagina. There seems to be so little to say about these things after all the regular critics have finished with them except to be mean about heterosexuality and how dull it is becoming. Is it interesting that A Trillion Fifty Shades of Grey is popular among straight girls?

Not really. What’s more interesting, from this historian’s perspective, is that the Grey books, which feature the possibilities of changing your life by becoming involved with a wealthy kinky man, are being carried in Barnes and Noble; that having a man “do what a woman wants without being asked” doesn’t seem to include having him give …

Read More

August 30, 2012, 5:02 pm

Department of Feminist Reading and Writing

Still interested in strange Republican views of the female body?  Here’s a terrific piece in the New York Times by my former Zenith history colleague Jennifer Tucker (August 23 2012) defending Todd Akin’s science as correct — for medieval Europe, that is. Who says feminists don’t have a sense of humor???

And here’s a great WaPo op-ed by Stanford historian Estelle B. Freedman, “Women’s Long Battle to Define Rape” (August 24 2012) that places the emergence of rape as a prosecutable crime in the context of United States racial history. It comes complete with 300 wackadoodle mansplainin’ comments, lecturing this eminent scholar of gender and sexuality on aspects of American history and society that, as a feminist scholar, she could not possibly have been aware of  (for example, that if you get rid of illegal immigrants there will be no more rape.)

Finally, here’s something I…

Read More

May 23, 2012, 4:38 pm

BDSM and Feminism: Notes on an Impasse

Today’s guest blogger is Margot D. Weiss, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT. She is the author of 2012 Lambda Award finalist Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Duke, 2011.)

Last month, Newsweek published a cover story by Katie Roiphe with the headline “The Fantasy Life of Working Women: Why Surrender is a Feminist Dream.” The story purports to account for the run-away success of domination/submission narratives, taking E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey as a case in point. James’s book – the first in a trilogy of erotic novels – is Twilight fan fiction turned New York Times bestseller with movie rights. Banned in several public libraries, it’s a tale of the “dark desires” sparked by the romance between college student Anastasia Steele and businessman Christian Grey. The book is a…

Read More

April 13, 2012, 4:26 pm

What Kind of Times are These?

Anonymous, Adrienne Rich (c. 1975), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-103575

Today’s guest blogger, Jennifer Finney Boylan, is professor of English at Colby College. She is the author of 13 books, including Stuck in the Middle With You: Parenthood in Three Genders, which will be published by Random House/Crown in 2013, along with the revised 10th-year anniversary edition of her memoir, She’s Not There. Boylan’s blog, There from Here is at, and she may be reached at


Last week, as prelude to an evening of poetry, my colleague Peter Harris– a writer and a professor here at Colby College–gave a short reading from Adrienne Rich’s “What Kind of Times Are These.” “She burned through the fog that I lived in like an acetylene torch,” he…

Read More

February 26, 2012, 1:33 pm

Sunday Book Review: Hey Daddy, What Was It Like To Be A Lesbian Feminist in the 1970s?

Jeanne Córdova, When We Were Outlaws:  a Memoir of Love and Revolution (Midway, FL: Spinsters, Inc., 2011), 256 pp. $14.95 paper. Citations refer to locations on the ebook version.

“I have always been fascinated by how a noisy swelling called a social movement arrives on the doorsteps of an individual’s life and how she responds to it,” longtime activist, writer and organizer Jeanne Córdova writes in the forward to her memoir When We Were Outlaws. “Most ignore the calling of the unfathomable energies of our times.  For the rest of us — how does one recognize a social movement when it comes calling at your door?” (115)

Today, being legible as queer or trans does not necessarily require a political community or a movement. Large numbers of GLBT folks seem quite eager to be politically indistinguishable from the heteronormative mainstream, preferring to participate in activism …

Read More

February 18, 2012, 6:39 pm

The Sunday Book Review: Elizabeth Taylor As Feminist Icon

M.G. Lord, The Accidental Feminist:  How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness (and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice). New York:  Walker Publishing Company, 2012. 211 pp. Index. 23.00, hardbound.

It is inevitable that Elizabeth Taylor’s death, almost a year ago this March, will bring us a number of books reconsidering her legacy.  I’m glad to say that one of the first out of the gate is M.G. Lord’s The Accidental Feminist, a brief interpretive account of Taylor’s cultural and political significance. As the title promises, it gives us not new facts about Taylor — it has got to be too soon for that — but a different way to think about an actress who was celebrated for her beauty and for her numerous trips to the altar (eight husbands, if you count Richard Burton twice.)

Marrying seven different men is not a quality you associate with a feminist?  Well, think a…

Read More

January 15, 2012, 2:29 pm

The End of Miss America: Feminism Didn’t Kill the Pageant, But Boredom Might

Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler, being crowned Miss America 2012

Last week I was writing a chapter of my new book about radical feminism and decided to begin with the 1968 Miss America Protest organized and executed by New York Radical Women.  I may ditch this opening: the more I dig back into the secondary material on women’s liberation, the more I see it turning up as a hook.  However, as a result of pursuing this narrative strategy I did something last night that I haven’t done in decades.

I watched the Miss America Pageant.

I didn’t intend to watch it — in fact, it took me by surprise, since for many years the pageant was a summer event. However, the show I really wanted to watch (a complex legal drama called The Firm that seems to have several plots running at once and involves the witness…

Read More

December 16, 2011, 7:07 pm

Update On The Ryan Gosling Meme, and Other Blog Bites

Tenured Radical has been laid up for few days.  I was riding over to Historiann‘s place, where we were planning on roping, tying and branding a few menz. You know, just a casual feminist afternoon activity to pass the time before final papers come in. But as I was coming round the canyon wall I ran into a few conservative bloggers rustling the herd.  Needless to say there was an exchange of words, and then BLAM! I got gut shot by a law professor.  A few stitches and I’m fine:  I’ll tell you the rest of the story later.

Meanwhile,  a few things have come across the transom.  First of all, check out the contribution to the Ryan Gosling meme designed by a reader at Rice University.  Much hotter than my Ryan who looks, come to think of it, a little like a lesbian.   (more…)

November 15, 2011, 3:47 pm

Rejoining the Parts: A Conversation with Jane Lazarre About Race, Fiction, American History and Her New Novel, Inheritance

Jane Lazarre is a writer of fiction, memoir and poetry who has published many books, beginning with her memoir, The Mother Knot (1976; reissued in 1997 by Duke University Press) and most recently, Inheritance, A Novel (Hamilton Stone Editions, 2011). She has taught writing and literature at New York’s City College and at Yale University; and for many years directed and taught in the undergraduate writing program at Eugene Lang College at the New School.

Tenured Radical: The title of the book — Inheritance — asks the reader to think about what is passed down, generation to generation.  But in the first chapter we are confronted with Sam’s frustration and anger that, as a young woman with a white and a black parent, she knows so little of her family history. We come to understand that our historical “inheritance” not only can’t be taken for granted and but also sometimes requires a…

Read More