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Before Ellen Willis was a radical feminist countercultural writer, she was a timid, 20-year-old bride. Her conversion journal, “Up From Radicalism,” is up at Guernica today (reprinted from “The Essential Ellen Willis”).
May 2, 2014 / 12 notes

Before Ellen Willis was a radical feminist countercultural writer, she was a timid, 20-year-old bride. Her conversion journal, “Up From Radicalism,” is up at Guernica today (reprinted from “The Essential Ellen Willis”).

Our problem is not the excesses of talk shows but the brutality and emptiness of our political culture. Pop bashing is the humanism of fools: in the name of defending people’s dignity it attacks their pleasures and their meager store of power. On talk shows, whatever their drawbacks, the proles get to talk. The rest of the time they’re told in a thousand ways to shut up. By any honest reckoning, we need more noise, not less.

Talk shows : 1996 :: reality shows : 2014.

EW’s “Bring in the Noise” up at Gawker.

May 1, 2014 / 16 notes
Remember when Tavi Gevinson tweeted “Memoirs of a Non-Prom Queen" and all the baby feminists of the world discovered Ellen Willis? My work here is done.
Apr 30, 2014 / 10 notes

Remember when Tavi Gevinson tweeted “Memoirs of a Non-Prom Queen" and all the baby feminists of the world discovered Ellen Willis? My work here is done.

“The first time I ever discovered that she wrote about sex and pleasure was when I found this magazine called Caught Looking. It was this really cool onetime publication of feminist writers writing about porn, juxtaposed with lots of pornographic images. I was like 7 years old. I’d show my friends, like, Oh my God, there’s this sex book that I found. And I sort of figured out that she’d written something in there — I could kind of read it, kind of not — and it was the first time I realized, Wow, my mom actually writes about sexy topics! Racy topics. That was my first introduction to porn. It wasn’t some cheesy Channel 35 or Playboy situation. It was a critical journal full of smart feminists.”
I talked to NY Mag about putting together “The Essential Ellen Willis” and what it was like growing up with my mom. Shoutout to the New Yawkas who get the Channel 35 reference!
Apr 30, 2014 / 8 notes

The first time I ever discovered that she wrote about sex and pleasure was when I found this magazine called Caught Looking. It was this really cool onetime publication of feminist writers writing about porn, juxtaposed with lots of pornographic images. I was like 7 years old. I’d show my friends, like, Oh my God, there’s this sex book that I found. And I sort of figured out that she’d written something in there — I could kind of read it, kind of not — and it was the first time I realized, Wow, my mom actually writes about sexy topics! Racy topics. That was my first introduction to porn. It wasn’t some cheesy Channel 35 or Playboy situation. It was a critical journal full of smart feminists.”

I talked to NY Mag about putting together “The Essential Ellen Willis” and what it was like growing up with my mom. Shoutout to the New Yawkas who get the Channel 35 reference!

Apr 24, 2014 / 24 notes

Sooo excited to show y’all the trailer for “The Essential Ellen Willis,” which is coming out in a mere week! The trailer, which is really more like a mini-doc, features the wisdom of Irin Carmon, Alix Kates Shulman, Daphne Brooks, Jay Rosen, Jennifer Baumgardner, and my dad, Stanley Aronowitz.

Oh, and my boo Aaron Cassara made the thing!

“Mrs., my ass!” our caller exclaimed. “That’s why I’m calling. The president is a liar! As he knows perfectly well, since his Secret Service thugs argued with me for five hours yesterday, I’m as single as the day I was born. And I have no plans to get married, either.”

This was news. Minutes later we were on our way to an exclusive interview with Ruby Tuesday, the last unmarried person in America. We caught up with Ruby, who makes her home in an empty car of the Lexington Avenue IRT, at the Union Square station. She was a striking-looking woman. It wasn’t the green hair so much as the fact that instead of the one scarlet S required by law—a requirement we had naively imagined was obsolete—she wore a see-through satin jumpsuit made entirely of scarlet S’s sewn together.

“Come on in,” she said. “Have a quiche. It’s okay—I make my own.”

Ellen Willis’s dystopian satire on our national marriage anxiety, from 1981, is up at Flavorwire. Another one of my favorites from “The Essential Ellen Willis.” (Only 9 days til publication! Yay!)
Apr 23, 2014 / 23 notes

In the 1960s, prosperity and cultural radicalism were symbiotic: easy access to money and other resources fueled social and cultural experimentation, while an ethos that valued freedom and pleasure encouraged people’s sense of entitlement to all sorts of goods, economic and political…With a fifty-dollar-a-month rent-regulated East Village apartment, I could write one lucrative article for a mainstream magazine and support myself for weeks or even months while I did what I liked, whether that meant writing for countercultural publications that couldn’t pay or going to political meetings. When I did have jobs, I didn’t worry overmuch about losing them, and so felt no impulse, let alone need, to kiss anyone’s ass. There was always another job, or another assignment. At one point, while I was living with a group of people in Colorado, the money I made writing (sporadically) about rock for the New Yorker was supporting my entire household.

Since the early ’70s, however, the symbiosis has been working in reverse: a steady decline in Americans’ standard of living has fed political and cultural conservatism, and vice versa. Just as the widespread affluence of the post–World War II era was the product of deliberate social policy—an alliance of business, labor, and government aimed at stabilizing the economy and building a solid, patriotic middle class as a bulwark against Soviet Communism and domestic radicalism—the waning of affluence has reflected the resolve of capital to break away from this constraining alliance.

Scratch magazine excerpted one of the most frighteningly relevant essays in “The Essential Ellen Willis.” So happy it will be online forevermore! (via theothernwa)
Apr 22, 2014 / 85 notes

The lack of honest reporting on fun, mass experience seems lost in outdated discourse about authenticity. The question, “How can you enjoy Coachella when it’s something so fake?,” seems to guide the media’s coverage. But even Woodstock, the original festival experience, was a corporate one. As New Yorker critic Ellen Willis wrote in her 1969 coverage, it was spun by publicists as an utopian achievement of the youth counterculture to conceal the reality of its logistical breakdowns and lack of proper plumbing. Just like at Coachella, where reporters describe the crowd’s ADHD attitude toward performers as if it’s the decay of civilization, Willis noted that at Woodstock the music “was not the focal point of the festival but, rather, a pleasant background to the mass presence of the hip community.”

As commentator, Willis was unique in her ability to navigate the space between skeptic and participant: “[T]he most exhilarating intoxicants were the warmth and fellow-feeling that allowed us to abandon our chronic defenses against other people,” she wrote. That abandonment of distance and separation from physical fun that’s now a prerequisite of belonging to today’s prudish media subculture did not de-legitimize Willis’s report; it enhanced it.

Read Zak Stone on the lack of decent reporting about the pleasures of mass experience in a post-Ellen Willis world.
Apr 18, 2014 / 15 notes
It was the best, the worst, the most enlightening, the most bewildering of times. Feminism intensified my utopian sexual imagination, made me desperate to get what I really wanted, not “after the revolution” but now—even as it intensified my skepticism, chilling me with awareness of how deeply relations between the sexes were corrupted and, ultimately, calling into question the very nature of my images of desire. For my sexual fantasies were permeated with the iconography of masculine-feminine, seduction-surrender, were above all centered on the union of male and female genitals as the transcendent aim of sex (not, surely not, one form of joining among others). Why did I want “what I really wanted,” and did I really want it? And—oh, shit, forget about utopia— what were the chances of steering some sort of livable path between schizophrenia (or amnesia) and kill-joy self-consciousness in bed?
Book Forum reprinted one of my favorite EW pieces, “Coming Down Again,” reprinted in “The Essential Ellen Willis”! (via mamonee)
Apr 15, 2014 / 8 notes
Come celebrate the release of “The Essential Ellen Willis” on Friday, May 2nd at Galapagos! There will be free drinks, free love, and free Ellen Willis readings from some of your fave writers. (Oh, and non-free books courtesy of WORD Bookstores!)
RSVP here.
Apr 2, 2014 / 20 notes

Come celebrate the release of “The Essential Ellen Willis” on Friday, May 2nd at Galapagos! There will be free drinks, free love, and free Ellen Willis readings from some of your fave writers. (Oh, and non-free books courtesy of WORD Bookstores!)

RSVP here.