This week’s quick Sunday Reading on the list is a potent Op-Ed piece from Nona Willis-Aronowitz. Writing in the pages of the New York Times, the author embarks upon a journey through her memories and history, recalling the understanding she developed while growing and blossoming intellectually with her mother Ellen Willis, a renowned Feminist and journalist in her own right.
Willis does brilliantly to showcase that the Feminist concerns of today are also the concerns of yesterday – involving the history of the Second Wave Feminism and their problems, differences and theoretical works.
The problem that her world faces today, are not a lot different from the ones faced by her mother’s world.
Caught in a dizzying tangle of opinions from Second Wave feminist writers, many of whom were deeply ambivalent about the fruits of the sexual revolution, I sought guidance from my mother, the journalist and critic Ellen Willis, who in a 1981 essay in The Village Voice asked a question that now looms over #MeToo 40 years later: “Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex?”
She enlightened me to a strain of early radical feminism that would forever change my thinking on the importance of pleasure politics. Both pornography and men could be misogynistic and predatory, she told me. But they weren’t the causes so much as the symptoms of a sexist society. And the answer wasn’t sexual repression. Women’s liberation should not be “about fending off men’s sexuality,” she said, “but being able to embrace your own.”
Is there an answer today?
In her piece, Willis shows the horizon that presents itself under the #MeToo movement – the precise potentialities and the possibilities of how the #MeToo movement can change the entire system of how relations between the sexes are assumed to work and how ‘Bad Sex’ is violence itself.
At bottom, #MeToo is not about hashtags or individual firings. It’s a chance to reset the table of sexual politics — not by infantilizing women or declaring a war on flirting or administering litmus tests, but by continuing a decades-long push for true equality in the bedroom, for a world in which women are not intimidated or coerced into sex but are also not stuffed into the role of gatekeepers.
..This is the time to rectify all that. Condemning a culture that excuses sexual assault and harassment isn’t about weakness and victimhood. It’s about what my mom, who died in 2006, scrawled on a pamphlet from the famous 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality, which she mailed to me while I was toiling on my thesis. On it, she’d written this plain but transformative note: “Feminism is a vision of active freedom, of fulfilled desires, or it is nothing.”