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To read her cultural criticism is to see her admitting insecurity, weakness. Willis wasn’t always sure where the boundaries fell between personal and political, if those boundaries even existed. She could grant, “My commitment to heterosexual sex is very basic and I want, need love and companionship.” And she could also observe when her own politics became more sophisticated. She later footnoted her celebrated article on Dylan as a “prefeminist essay,” critiquing her reference “with aplomb if not outright endorsement to Dylan’s characteristic bohemian contempt for women.” She calls another statement in the piece “absurd.” What other writer would inspect her shedded skin with such harsh and bracing honesty?
Emily Greenhouse’s Dissent review of “The Essential Ellen Willis” is one of the most perceptive things written on the book so far, and it has now been liberated from the paywall!
Jul 18, 2014 / 15 notes
What if our politicians asked us to show our patriotism through dancing joyously, not shopping the sale racks? How about if public debates over discriminatory sodomy laws argued that anal sex should be legal not only because the opposite is homophobic but also because anal sex feels good? If we didn’t see self-denial as a moral imperative would we have more love for fellow people, more empathy? Would we be less anxious about our own spending habits? Happier?
Jun 11, 2014 / 6 notes
You can get a contact high from reading “The Essential Ellen Willis”…If you breathe deep, these essays are still capable of making you dizzy with possibility.
May 22, 2014 / 7 notes
My dream is to get, like, Taylor or Miley to tweet about Ellen Willis. Or at least Lorde.
May 15, 2014 / 7 notes
"With a tone as sharp and amusing as Ms. Willis’ writing, Ms. Aronowitz suggested that the ongoing appeal of Ms. Willis’ work is its playful ‘liberationist spirit,’ like the 1980s satire of a ‘National Family Security Act,’ which she offered up as the first reader at the party. Further interest lies in the incisiveness of her mother’s ideals: ‘Her writing was really [a] part of this larger value system that she had.’"
The “Essential Ellen Willis” party was written up in the Observer!
May 14, 2014 / 5 notes

"With a tone as sharp and amusing as Ms. Willis’ writing, Ms. Aronowitz suggested that the ongoing appeal of Ms. Willis’ work is its playful ‘liberationist spirit,’ like the 1980s satire of a ‘National Family Security Act,’ which she offered up as the first reader at the party. Further interest lies in the incisiveness of her mother’s ideals: ‘Her writing was really [a] part of this larger value system that she had.’"

The “Essential Ellen Willis” party was written up in the Observer!

The Lewinsky interview was, for network television, an extraordinary event. Drawn out by Barbara Walters’s alternately stern and sympathetic prodding, a vividly telegenic (plumpness notwithstanding) and self-possessed young woman firmly defends her sexuality and that of her former lover, who happens to be President of the United States. Despite the havoc, both national and personal, that ensued, she cannot bring herself to regret her passion, her pleasure or her boldness in pursuing the affair. She is still excited by the memory of Mr. Clinton’s ”energy” and ”sensuality.” She describes the progression from intense eye contact to first kiss as ”a dance,” the notorious thong-flashing incident as a ”subtle, flirtatious gesture” that meant ”I’m interested too. I’ll play.” She recalls her efforts to persuade the President to have intercourse. If her subtlety is in doubt, her exuberant lustiness is not. It’s easy to see why Mr. Clinton was attracted.
Did you know that Ellen Willis was OBSESSED with Monica Lewinsky? (There are many pages in “The Essential Ellen Willis” devoted to why she and her affair with Clinton were so fascinating.) Bet you a million dollars that she’d be up at dawn tomorrow buying the new Vanity Fair. She’d definitely be enjoying, and probably participating in, our retrospective look at Monicagate this week.
May 7, 2014 / 6 notes
flavorpill:


Liberal politics is in trouble. In the few years since Occupy Wall Street came and went, attracting plenty of news coverage but effecting little lasting change, a commitment to liberal politics feels increasingly futile — not to mention dreary as fuck.
This is a necessarily oversimplified version of the problem Ellen Willis identified in her final, most ambitious, and tragically unfinished work. A book project with the working title “The Cultural Unconscious in American Politics,” it promised to use psychoanalysis to rescue the nation’s political imagination from the conservative hell into which it descended after the radical ’60s.

Feminism and “The Left” Need Ellen Willis’ Ideas More Than Ever

Razor-sharp piece on Mom’s ideas about the cultural unconscious by Judy Berman!
May 7, 2014 / 63 notes

flavorpill:

Liberal politics is in trouble. In the few years since Occupy Wall Street came and went, attracting plenty of news coverage but effecting little lasting change, a commitment to liberal politics feels increasingly futile — not to mention dreary as fuck.

This is a necessarily oversimplified version of the problem Ellen Willis identified in her final, most ambitious, and tragically unfinished work. A book project with the working title “The Cultural Unconscious in American Politics,” it promised to use psychoanalysis to rescue the nation’s political imagination from the conservative hell into which it descended after the radical ’60s.

Feminism and “The Left” Need Ellen Willis’ Ideas More Than Ever

Razor-sharp piece on Mom’s ideas about the cultural unconscious by Judy Berman!

When I playacted with my girl friends, I always wanted a boy’s part. And my model was my father, who drew me diagrams of magnets and the digestive system, not my mother, who intruded on my life of the mind by making me dry the dishes. Later on things got more complicated. On one level I was determined to prove that except for a little accident of hormones, I was a perfectly good man: I was going to be a famous writer/actress/scientist. Domestic chores were contemptible (I would have servants, since I couldn’t have a wife), and children—who needed them? Women were pretty contemptible too, except those happy few of us who were really men.

At the same time, without any feeling of absurdity, I worked obsessively at making myself a desirable object. I followed all the rules—build up their egos, don’t be aggressive, don’t flaunt your brains, be charming, diet, dance, be with it, wear a girdle, never kiss goodnight on the first date—until I learned that breaking them a little, or better yet appearing to break them, attracted the more imaginative boys.
May 7, 2014 / 84 notes
Courtney is such a site of feminist polarity. She just told Pitchfork: “All women are dichotomies, with a beautiful, sensual, passive side, and a monster, sexual, aggressive side.” She’s always lived that truism; she auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club by reciting Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy.”
Mom liked her stars raw and outrageous, not polished and regimented. I have a feeling that she would have brushed off Beyoncé and J.Lo as “conventional,” which was her worst insult. I mean, “Put a Ring on It?” No. Even Bey’s last album, with the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie clip, would have probably only been seen as lip service to revolutionary ideas. Although, I realize this may be because Mom didn’t have the greatest race analysis when it came to female pop stars. There are all kinds of reasons why black and Latina singers don’t feel they can be as envelope-pushing or outrageous as their white counterparts. And in some ways, when it comes to the modern black family, Bey is breaking with convention. Still, I think Mom’s allegiance was to tough bitches: She was much more into female rappers, like Lil’ Kim or Lauryn Hill.
I spoke to Sarah Nicole Prickett at Buzzfeed about my mom (and sooooo many other core ladiez, from Courtney to Sontag).
May 7, 2014 / 9 notes

Courtney is such a site of feminist polarity. She just told Pitchfork: “All women are dichotomies, with a beautiful, sensual, passive side, and a monster, sexual, aggressive side.” She’s always lived that truism; she auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club by reciting Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy.”

Mom liked her stars raw and outrageous, not polished and regimented. I have a feeling that she would have brushed off Beyoncé and J.Lo as “conventional,” which was her worst insult. I mean, “Put a Ring on It?” No. Even Bey’s last album, with the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie clip, would have probably only been seen as lip service to revolutionary ideas. Although, I realize this may be because Mom didn’t have the greatest race analysis when it came to female pop stars. There are all kinds of reasons why black and Latina singers don’t feel they can be as envelope-pushing or outrageous as their white counterparts. And in some ways, when it comes to the modern black family, Bey is breaking with convention. Still, I think Mom’s allegiance was to tough bitches: She was much more into female rappers, like Lil’ Kim or Lauryn Hill.

I spoke to Sarah Nicole Prickett at Buzzfeed about my mom (and sooooo many other core ladiez, from Courtney to Sontag).

She writes that, “to avoid both the humiliation of being treated as an object and the frustration of celibacy, we have to be supersensitive game players.” This is “nerve-wracking and not much fun” except for a happy few. These aren’t obsolete ideas. To read Ellen Willis now reacquaints you with those attractive or pervasive fictions that obscure real power relations and halt progress. I read those lines and I think of looking at pictures of the body of Pamela Anderson, whose thoughts I can’t guess. I don’t know if she was having fun, if she felt humiliated, or if she has ever felt frustrated.
May 6, 2014