Cover image for Subject to debate : sense and dissents on women, politics, and culture
Subject to debate : sense and dissents on women, politics, and culture
Pollitt, Katha.
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Publication Information:
New York : Modern Library, [2001]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 332 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
A collection of articles originally published in The nation.

"A Modern library paperback original"--Cover.
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PS3566.O533 S83 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Subject to Debate, Katha Pollitt's column in The Nation , has offered readers clear-eyed yet provocative observations on women, politics, and culture for more than seven years. Bringing together eighty-eight of her most astute essays on hot-button topics like abortion, affirmative action, and school vouchers, this selection displays the full range of her indefatigable wit and brilliance. Her stirring new Introduction offers a seasoned critique of feminism at the millennium and is a clarion call for renewed activism against social injustice.

Author Notes

Katha Pollitt writes the bimonthly column, "Subject to Debate" for The Nation . She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and Whiting Foundations, a grant from the NEA, a National Magazine Award in Essays and Criticism and a National Book Critics Circle Award. She lives in New York City.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Readers of the Nation depend on their Pollitt fix to stay sane, eagerly reading her zestfully argued, blazingly commonsensical (what a shock good clear thinking can be), and morally precise columns. A master stylist as well as a passionate champion of social justice, Pollitt introduces this powerhouse collection of more than 80 essays spanning the years 1994 through mid-2000 with a bracing overview of the state of feminism and feminism's role in the state, observing that feminism is not a monolithic force, or "plot," but rather a growing resistance against misogyny and the status of second-class citizenry for women by both genders. Adept at picking out the hypocrisy from the rhetoric and intent on voicing sharp, lacerating truths about society, she never misses an opportunity for wit, and her range is extraordinary. Here are incisive and exhilarating essays on women at work, domestic violence, dead-beat dads, panhandlers, school prayer, same-sex marriage, Larry Flynt, and the movie Titanic as "romantic feminism." Every beautifully executed piece is a touchdown, and no silly dances follow. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pollitt professes to find the cover of this collection of her Nation columns "pretty"; her readers might find it misleading, since the eye on the cover is in sweet soft-focus, while Pollitt's own eye is steely, uncompromising and sharp. In these 88 brief essays, she brilliantly shears away the rhetorical cotton wool that obscures the serious implications of many hot social and political issues of contemporary America abortion, welfare reform, affirmative action, school vouchers, gun rights and control. Unfailingly feminist in her analysis, she is never tendentious and always witty. Nor is she reluctant to turn her gaze close to home, to the gap between the Nation's high-minded principles and its largely lily-white editorial offices, for example, in her discussion of various liberal hypocrisies. Her newly written introduction calls upon feminists at the millennium to kick-start the "stalled revolution" with renewed demands for change that, she says, would further social justice, and themselves transform those who articulate them. If there is anything to regret in this collection, it is that columns written seven years ago remain fresh today, so little progress having been made toward resolving the issues they raise. (Apr.) Forecast: This attractively packaged and affordable collection should prove popular among those whose spirits have been depressed by recent political events and prospects of future recession. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The essays in this collection were originally published in the author's column of the same name in the Nation from 1994 to fall 2000 and follow an earlier collection, Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism. With incisiveness and wit, her spirited essays address contemporary political and social issues, including abortion rights, racism, welfare reform, feminism, and poverty. Pollitt's lively commentaries on the contemporary American scene and the women's movement and her unwavering promotion of social justice will make a refreshing addition to most public libraries and academic collections in journalism and women's studies. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/00.]DPatricia A. Beaber, Coll. of New Jersey Lib., Ewing (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Clara Zetkin Avenue Scurrying around Manhattan on a blustery morning a few weeks ago, I happened to glance up while waiting for the light to change in front of the public library. Beneath the green and white sign reading Fifth Avenue was another, also green and white, and printed in exactly the same lettering: Clara Zetkin Avenue. Gee, I thought for a split second, if Rudy Giuliani is naming a street for the grande dame of German socialism, he can't be as bad as I thought. But will New Yorkers really start telling taxi drivers to make a right on Zetkin? Then I saw the bent wires fastening the sign to the post, and realized what was going on: Some lefty prankster was reminding us that the next day, March 8, was International Women's Day. Well, the great day came and went with barely a ripple of attention here in the United States?although I understand that, over at the United Nations, Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali gave a speech about the need to do more for women, which in the case of the United Nations shouldn't be too difficult. Maybe the local indifference is why I find myself filled with gloomy thoughts about the worldwide situation of women. Here we are, at the end of the twentieth century, and not only have hundreds of millions of women around the globe yet to obtain even the barest minimum of human rights, but the notion that they are even entitled to such rights is bitterly contested. Consider, for example, the horrors documented in the State Department's annual human rights report, which focused on women this year for the first time: genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East, bride burning in India, sexual slavery in Thailand, forced abortion and sterilization in China. Imagine the firestorm of international protest if any of these practices were imposed by men on men through racism or colonialism or Communism! Well, you don't need to imagine: Just compare the decades of global outrage visited, justly, on South Africa's apartheid regime for denying political, civil and property rights to blacks, and the cultural-relativist defense advanced on behalf of Saudi Arabia and other ultra-Islamic regimes for their denial of same to women. Nobody's calling on American universities and city governments to disinvest in those economies. In Iraq and a number of other Middle Eastern countries that are not theocracies, a man can with impunity kill any female relative he feels is "dishonoring" him by unchaste behavior; in Pakistan, the jails are full of women and girls, some only nine years old, whose crime was to be the victims of rape. I suppose Benazir Bhutto will get around to them after she finishes persuading the world that her mother is trying to undermine her government because of a sexist wish to see a son, rather than a daughter, in power. Excerpted from Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture by Katha Pollitt All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.