– Kate Millett – Sexual Politics And The Cultural Oppression Of Women – Smith College Lecture – February 24, 1970 –
In a decade where movements and questions of society; its motives and methods, signaled huge changes in who we were as people, where we were headed as a species and how were we were interacting as sexual beings, none (save Civil Rights) probably had more impact than the Women’s Movement in America, and much of the rest of the world.
In what started in the early 1960s as a grassroots movement, continuing and building on earlier social and political movements going as far back in history of Women’s Suffrage at the beginning of the 20th century, the Women’s Movement, or Women’s Liberation sprang into full blossom by the late 60s and early 1970s. Among the most vocal and staunchest proponent of the movement was Kate Millett, who has often been described as “a seminal influence on second-wave feminism”, she is best known for her book Sexual Politics (1970), which was based on her doctoral dissertation at Columbia University. Journalist Liza Featherstone attributes the attainment of previously unimaginable “legal abortion, greater professional equality between the sexes, and a sexual freedom” in part to Millett’s efforts. While the first-wave feminism of the 19th and early 20th centuries focused on women’s legal rights, especially the right to vote (see women’s suffrage), the second-wave feminism of the women’s rights movement touched on every area of women’s experience—including politics, work, the family, and sexuality.
This lecture, which Kate Millett gives at Smith College during the time of the publication of Sexual Politics, is also joined by a question and answer period where a number of insights on what the Women’s movement was about are brought into focus during this pivotal period in time.
Realizing this lecture was given over 50 years ago, much has changed – much also has not. The issue of Abortion, which was an intensely hard-fought issue is explained. What was accomplished by its passage was a huge step in progress. Seeing it revert back to earlier days is no doubt baffling to those of the second-wave and even the third and fourth waves of Feminism. Not to mention Equal Rights/Equal Pay, especially those issues where positions and messages are blurred and distorted, thanks in large part to Social Media’s Culture of Influence and Confusion.
Sadly, Kate Millett passed away in 2017. One can only imagine her reactions today – hearing this lecture is a reminder.
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