Influential feminist and Sexual Politics author Kate Millett died of a heart attack on Thursday at the age of 82, while visiting Paris with her wife, Sophie Kerr. To honor her memory, I have collected eight wonderful Kate Millett quotes that prove sexual politics are still groundbreaking today.
Millett's best-known work, 1970's Sexual Politics was an expansion of the doctoral thesis she wrote at Columbia University in 1969. It examined the roles of women and sex in texts by four celebrated, male writers: Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, D.H. Lawrence, and Jean Genet. Revisiting Sexual Politics in 2005, Emily Wilson wrote in The Guardian:
Millett opens her famous polemic with some forensic analysis of sex scenes from novels by Henry Miller and Norman Mailer. The Mailer scene details the anal rape of a maid by a man who has just murdered his wife - with the maid loving it. Blimey, you think, by the end of it: these guys really don't like women much.
Sexual Politics put a finger on the misogyny of "canonical" authors, and was one of several landmark feminists texts to emerge from the mid-20th century that pinned down the problems of patriarchy. That list includes Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. Critically, though, Millett's work is much more LGBTQIA-friendly than either Greer's or Friedan's essays.
It would be reductive to pretend that Millett's work began and ended with Sexual Politics, however. She also wrote about incarceration, government surveillance, the philosophy of love, and eldercare. She wrote true-crime and travel literature. In addition to being a feminist activist, writer, and rabble-rouser, Millett was a Christmas tree farmer and a sculptor.
Kate Millett is gone, but her legacy lives on today. Check out the eight Kate Millett quotes I've chosen for you below, and share your favorites with me on Twitter!