The Washington Post called Katha Pollitt “the best place to go for original thinking on the left.” Camille Paglia once wished for her to “burn in hell.” But this week, it’s all about YOU.
That’s right — in preparation for her visit to CNW later this month with her new collection of columns, Virginity or Death, the righteously feminist Nation columnist Katha Pollitt will be dropping by our Discussion Boards every day this week to take your questions and chat about whatever’s on your mind. (Or nearly whatever.)
To get us started, we aksed Katha a few questions of our own. Read ‘em after the fold — or just jump right into the conversation here.
CNW: The title essay refers to the religious right’s opposition to the HPV vaccine. Given that the religious right has explicitly come out and said that they’d rather girls get cancer than have sex, why are they still in power? Don’t you think most people in the US think cancer is worse than premarital sex? Or am I being sadly naiive?
KATHA: The religious right is overreaching, and this is a good example. Most Americans—not all, but most — are practical people. At least where they themselves are concerned! They may not approve of abortion, but they have them. They may think there’s “too much divorce,” but in states that permit “covenant marriage,” in which spouses bind themselves to stricter vows, almost nobody goes for it. The more powerful the religious right becomes, and the more opportunity it has to interfere with the lives of ordinary people , waste huge amounts of government money, and cram its ridiculous beliefs, like “intelligent design,” down everyone’s throats, the more people are seeing the dark side. There is a hard core of rightwing Christians impervious to information, just like there were a lot of people who thought Nixon was great no matter what. But ultimately, the US is a modern country with a modern economy, and we can’t compete in the modern world if we all have to pretend evolution is just a theory, and stem cell research is murder, and so on. Then other countries do the research, get the patents, make the money.
Unfortunately, the religious right’s anti-woman and anti-sex agenda meshes with a more general impulse to cut government services and abandon low-income people. These trends coming together have really hurt poor people— funding cuts in contraceptive services, for example.
CNW: If you could force one federal official to read your book, who would it be and why?
KATHA: Condoleeza Rice — she looks like she could use a good laugh.
CNW: You’ve been a feminist through enough waves that you’re probably pretty wet by now. Do you think we’re getting anywhere, or just ebbing and flowing like the tide?
KATHA: It’s easy to get discouraged when you read that fewer women are willing to call themselves feminists and keep their name after marriage and so on. The whole raunch phenomenon is so depressing, too — to say nothing of the fact that the majority of women voters went for Bush in 2004. Still, when you consider the gains women have made in education, in sports, in control of fertility, in political leadership, in oh I dunno, home-ownership! It is hard to imagine women giving all that up. The media loves the storyline that women are turning away from feminism— i used to joke that every time a lawyer quits her job to stay home with a baby, the New York times puts it on Page One. In fact, i think that lots of women are seething with anger — at being disrespected by pop culture, at not getting the same chances or pay as men, at the lack of child care, the way rigid job structures push mothers out. they just don’t see that the women’s movement is going to do much about those things.
CNW: Do you get hate mail? Tell us about it…
KATHA: Go back to Afghanistan, you fat ugly bitch! I’m praying for you, because if you die now you will burn in the Lake of Fire! I used to care, now i just press the delete key. I’ve read that women get lots of more hate mail than men on the net — like 25 times as much. i can’t stress enough how crucial it is to just not let it get to you. Just remind yourself that these people do not know you and are probably miserable, if not insane.
CNW: What/who are you reading right now?
KATHA: My friend David Feige’s new book, Indefensible, about his work as a legal aid lawyer in the Bronx. It’s as exciting as 20 episodes of Law and Order, but it’s the flip side: the defense lawyer’s POV. I also just reread one of my favorite memoirs, How I Came into My Inheritance, by Dorothy Gallagher—brief, vivid, hilarious essays about growing up working-class, communist, and Jewish in the Bronx. Writers are always talking about “voice,” but not many have one as distinctive as Gallagher’s. Talk about compression! She can tell a whole story in two wry sentences.
Now it’s your turn! Want to follow up on something she said above? Or do you have a totally new question or comment? Click here to get in on the conversation…