Kate Millett, Ground-Breaking Feminist Writer, Is Dead at 82

Some of her targets fired back. Mailer lampooned her in “The Prisoner of Sex” as “the Battling Annie of some new prudery.”

The “Sexual Politics” project, Ms. Millett told Time, “got bigger and bigger until I was almost making a political philosophy.” From depictions of the sexes in literature, she examined how women were socialized to accept, even defend, their lower status in society, a process she called “interior colonization.”

“It is interesting,” she wrote in “Sexual Politics,” “that many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against; no better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning.”

She examined how patriarchy had been developed and then defended, by law, medicine, science, schools.

Photo

Kate Millett, left, and Gloria Steinem in New York in 1971.

Credit
Jill Krementz, all rights reserved

“Patriarchy’s chief institution is the family,” she wrote. “It is both a mirror of and a connection with the larger society; a patriarchal unit within a patriarchal whole.”

She added: “As the fundamental instrument and the foundation unit of patriarchal society, the family and its roles are prototypical. Serving as an agent of the larger society, the family not only encourages its own members to adjust and conform, but acts as a unit in the government of the patriarchal state, which rules its citizens through its family heads.”

The New York Times called the book “the Bible of Women’s Liberation” and “a remarkable document because it analyzes the need and nature of sexual liberation while itself displaying the virtues of intellectual and emotional openness and lovingness.”

But it was also met with fierce criticism, notably by Irving Howe, who, in Harper’s Magazine, described it as “a figment of the Zeitgeist, bearing the rough and careless marks of what is called higher education and exhibiting a talent for the delivery of gross simplicities in tones of leaden complexity.”

The book displayed such scant interest in children, he wrote, that “there are times when one feels the book was written by a female impersonator.”

Ms. Millett died while on vacation with her spouse, Sophie Keir, with whom she had had a relationship of many years; they recently married. Ms. Keir said by email that the cause was cardiac arrest. The two had been going…

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