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