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Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism

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Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, this brilliant, insightful, controversial, and courageous book contains the best of Pollitt's pieces, which have galvanized readers of The Nation, The New Yorker and The New York Times, on subjects that range from abortion and breast implants to date-rape, marriage, the media, and violence.


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Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, this brilliant, insightful, controversial, and courageous book contains the best of Pollitt's pieces, which have galvanized readers of The Nation, The New Yorker and The New York Times, on subjects that range from abortion and breast implants to date-rape, marriage, the media, and violence.

30 review for Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    It's not that Katha Pollitt is a bad writer, or even that she's wrong about most of the issues. What makes her writing so hard to take is the sense of entitlement -- the rich white college girl who has all the answers. Read the essay on Lorena Bobbitt. (Remember her? The girl who chopped off her husband's Johnson with a knife?) Katha Pollitt quotes a gal pal of hers saying of Lorena something like, "oh, well, she's borderline retarded." Actually no, she was just a working class woman who wasn't It's not that Katha Pollitt is a bad writer, or even that she's wrong about most of the issues. What makes her writing so hard to take is the sense of entitlement -- the rich white college girl who has all the answers. Read the essay on Lorena Bobbitt. (Remember her? The girl who chopped off her husband's Johnson with a knife?) Katha Pollitt quotes a gal pal of hers saying of Lorena something like, "oh, well, she's borderline retarded." Actually no, she was just a working class woman who wasn't fortunate enough to be handed an Ivy League education by wealthy and adoring parents! But to Katha Pollitt, you're either "reasonable" i.e. affluent and college educated, or else you're "borderline retarded." And even when the proles get out of line she takes it as some kind of joke. Writing about Lorena Bobbitt's knife attack, she gloats "the privates are more radical than the generals." Well, yeah. But who made you a general exactly? Is the feminist movement only for the top 1 percent of women college graduates? It was the same thing back when Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan was running for Congress, and Katha wrote a column for the NATION which basically said "working class women are to be seen and not heard. We welcome them as figure heads, but not as leaders." Is there any such thing as a working class feminist? And if not, where has the movement failed? In the Civil Rights movement, you had Martin Luther King, a graduate of Morehouse College, and you had Malcolm X, a seventh grade dropout and ex-con. These two leaders disagreed on almost everything, and yet Martin Luther King never tried to "pull rank" on the basis of his college education. Katha Pollitt pulls rank every time she opens her mouth.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I love Pollitt's confidence and clear writing. These essays are a little bit magazine-ish, though - things seem toned down and clean for the average liberal masses. But the liberal masses need to be reached, too. I was bothered by Pollitt's constant swiping at "antiporn frump[s]" - is she talking about Dworkin? Why didn't she include an essay about pornography instead of the not-like-those-other-feminists posturing she does throughout? She is tone-deaf at times and her internalized misogyny jump I love Pollitt's confidence and clear writing. These essays are a little bit magazine-ish, though - things seem toned down and clean for the average liberal masses. But the liberal masses need to be reached, too. I was bothered by Pollitt's constant swiping at "antiporn frump[s]" - is she talking about Dworkin? Why didn't she include an essay about pornography instead of the not-like-those-other-feminists posturing she does throughout? She is tone-deaf at times and her internalized misogyny jumps out, but no woman is perfect. She has excellent viewpoints on things like surrogacy and "fetal rights," with some criticisms of choice feminism which always delight me - but I wish she would have addressed the antiporn issue. Maybe she does so in other collections, but the TBR list is long and full of other terrors, so it will probably be a while before I make it back to Pollitt.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I'm certainly entrenched in the "preaching to the choir" camp of Pollitt's audience, but nevertheless, had a wonderful time reading this collection of short essays, most originally published between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties. Not only is Pollitt a witty, eminently quotable, and warm writer, she also does not shy from controversy. I think what I admired the most was her strong emphasis on social justice and addressing the root issues of many "women's issues" the media chooses to focus its I'm certainly entrenched in the "preaching to the choir" camp of Pollitt's audience, but nevertheless, had a wonderful time reading this collection of short essays, most originally published between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties. Not only is Pollitt a witty, eminently quotable, and warm writer, she also does not shy from controversy. I think what I admired the most was her strong emphasis on social justice and addressing the root issues of many "women's issues" the media chooses to focus its blathering, inaccurate chorus on from time to time. Namely, she is not afraid to call poverty what it is, and point out the social forces that uniquely disadvantage women within systems of race and class oppression. I was especially compelled by Pollitt's arguments regarding surrogacy and fetal rights. I don't think I'd ever thought through the issue completely before, but her incisive writing pared away the tangle of conflicting rhetoric on the subject to point out that the more we separate mother and baby when we consider pregnancy, the more we treat a woman like a vessel, and the child carried therein as a mere temporary passenger. This was an eye-opener for me. At the end of the day, it comes down to treating women as people, 100% of the time, with rights that are sacrosanct. Would that society could find this simple in practice...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nanette

    This compilation of weekly column articles smacks of blog-like narcissism. Pollitt is the self-appointed expert on everything and everyone. Beware her left-wing feminism as it will obliterate any opposing point of view. Though sometimes thoughtful, she is too often thoughtless with her sharp-tongued rhetoric. This is a walk down memory lane—a you-had-to-be-there kinda read. Wishing we’d have moved on in our discourse but know better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Katha Pollitt is one of the most amazing feminist writers on the planet. And this is easily her best collection ever. It's a bit dated as these are all from the late 80s and early 90s, but it was helpful for me to understand the important things that happened when I was too young to know about them (or know anyone's opinion other than that of the conservatives in my house.) And many of the events of those years still affect the world of today.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

    I'm only giving it four stars because I wish I'd known to read it ten years ago. Why, oh why, wasn't this required reading for intro to women's studies?? This book would have done me so much good back then! Pollitt tackles all the hardest issues surrounding American women today, and tackles them with wit and wisdom and common sense. I really love her work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gayle Noble

    It's both interesting and disheartening to see just how little some things have changed since this book was published 23 years ago. We're still having the same arguments about access to abortion and the right of a woman to bodily autonomy and ownership of her own body, women are still struggling with body issues and the pressure to remain ever youthful lest they are consigned to the scrapheap. Yes, we have made some progress but there is still much to be done. I didn't agree with the author on a It's both interesting and disheartening to see just how little some things have changed since this book was published 23 years ago. We're still having the same arguments about access to abortion and the right of a woman to bodily autonomy and ownership of her own body, women are still struggling with body issues and the pressure to remain ever youthful lest they are consigned to the scrapheap. Yes, we have made some progress but there is still much to be done. I didn't agree with the author on all issues but I thought they were tackled in a thought-provoking way - the chapter on Germaine Greer and her book on ageing was eye-opening. Worth reading but bear in mind when it was written.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen McRae

    These essays were written in the timeframe of 1985-1995 and they are finally being discussed today in the me too movement the depth of bias against women is so deep so entitled. There has been progress but we have far to go still

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erica Char

    Well written and pretty relevant to today. I was a bit surprised by how present intersectional feminism was in this, but disappointed by how much was about motherhood and babies (I skipped those bits).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chinook

    "Beneath her portrayal of domesticity as a satisfying and enjoyable pastime is what one Amazon.com reader calls 'a relentless paean to obsessive practices.' Menelson wants us to sanitize our sponges and disinfect our dish towels after every use, change the kitty litter ever other day, put on fresh pillowcases twice a week, vacuum our mattress pads wheneer we change the sheets and unplug and wash the refrigerator once a week! Taken seriously, this is domesticity as paranoia-oh, no, a germ! Takes "Beneath her portrayal of domesticity as a satisfying and enjoyable pastime is what one Amazon.com reader calls 'a relentless paean to obsessive practices.' Menelson wants us to sanitize our sponges and disinfect our dish towels after every use, change the kitty litter ever other day, put on fresh pillowcases twice a week, vacuum our mattress pads wheneer we change the sheets and unplug and wash the refrigerator once a week! Taken seriously, this is domesticity as paranoia-oh, no, a germ! Takes in small doses, it's housekeeping as a hobby for busy professionals, like gourmet cooking, or (more likely) a fantasy: one more self-improvement project that lasts a week and makes you feel guility forever... Put Eve Engesser's story [almost lost her sons for a missed workfare appointment] story togher with Cheryl Mendelson, and what you have is domesticity and motherhood as class priviledges. For poor women, take a "job" or lose your shelter and your kids. For the well-off, running the house becomes a holy task, than which nothing of which the human spirit is capable could possibly be more important."Katha Pollitt You know, I like a clean house as much as the next person. I'm usually also willing to work to get it that way. However, I am always intensely annoyed by the need to clean up messes created by others, especially if they aren't guests. I have, at times, actually cleaned my fridge out weekly - giving it a wiping down while figuring out what my grocery list should entail just seemed smart. I usually clean once a week - though I may dust or mop my floor a bit less often. I've been known to let the bathroom go for a bit and I have to admit that my dishes aren't always washed within 24 hours. Cleaning seems much more satisfying when I'm doing it all for myself than I ever recall it being when I lived with roommates or my ex.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This is the best book I have read in a while. I imagine I sound like this when I blog and passionately debate in bars, but secretly i know I am not this on it. EVERYONE should read the "family values" essay if nothing else. but, not nothing else, because, really, all the others must be read too. She even changed my mind on one issue.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I could not put this down! Pollitt is a wonderful writer, and a humorful feminist (yes, apparently they do exist...). It is sad how little has changed since she wrote these essays in the late 80's and early 90's.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Elftmann

    I have a shelf of books that I insist my daughters read throughout their lives this sits on that shelf.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Katha Pollitt, how I love thee.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Incisive, witty essays that point out gender-related double standards. Great and accessible starting place (IMO) for feminist thought and criticism.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  18. 5 out of 5

    abdolla abdollay

  19. 4 out of 5

    C.l. Coleman

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cathrine Veikos

  21. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

  23. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maurine

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy Barlow

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  28. 5 out of 5

    RECook

  29. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Cooper

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lumonash

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