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Sexual Politics

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,190 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Identifying patriarchy as a socially conditioned belief system masquerading as nature, the author demonstrates how its attitudes and systems penetrate literature, philosophy, psychology, and politics. Her work rocked the foundations of the literary canon by castigating time-honored classics for their use of sex to degrade women.
Paperback, 424 pages
Published March 8th 2000 by University of Illinois Press (first published 1969)
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Paul Bryant
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: litcrit
Revived Review to commemorate the passing of Kate Millett, Feminist critic, 1934-2017.

(Thanks to David Schaafsma for the gentle reminder.)



(note - this is the British version of DANCING WITH THE NOVELISTS)

Tess Daley (blondly) : And here, dancing the American smooth with his partner Ola Jordan,

is Count Leo Tolstoy.

(Music : From Russia with Love. The couple cavort.)

Sir Bruce (as the couple shimmies from the dance floor) : W
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It ruined D H Lawrence for me, but we all get somewhere we realize our favorite author is sexist, especially those who had good women in their lives and I don't know why.
If you like feminist literary criticism and if you don't mind your favorite authors being criticized,you will definitely like this. It's super fluid and fun and feminist.
David Schaafsma
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
R.I.P. Kate Millett, who died yesterday in Paris. This book, which I read parts of in the seventies, and read more of in the eighties, and have occasionally used in my teaching. is responsible for founding feminist literary studies, focusing on what now seem to be (thanks to her) obvious examples--Henry Miller, Norman Mailer-- though she is also takes her scalpel to romantic favorites (of mine) Lawrence and Hardy (ouch; and I still quibble with her on her views of certain works in Hardy and Lawr ...more
Apr 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminist, non-fiction
Everyone always says that this book founded feminist literary studies even though OBVIOUSLY Simone De Beauvoir was the real founder with her essays on several of the same authors in Second Sex. I know it's not as fun to think so though since she founded EVERYTHING else already. However, Sexual Politics is mind-blowingly brilliant. One of the few literary theory books which leaves you analyzing the patterns of your own life and recognizing underlying structures you instictively knew, but could no ...more
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eyeopener. Moving, so scanning in some books. My favorite ones. After reading this, I swore off Mailer and H. Miller forever. Met Kate later, when she was making art in a studio in the East Village. My idea of an artistic rebel.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was the book that made me fall back in love with feminism.

Feminism as in "the centuries-long project to improve women's lot", not "what the pink-haired kids are doing these days."

Kate Millett is a rational person who looks at sexual norms and asks "Why?" Do we *really* think Freud's theories were plausible? Do we *really* think Ruskin's romantic ideas of domesticity were accurate? Are we *really* convinced by the sexual mysticism of D.H. Lawrence or Norman Mailer? Her aim is targeted at wri
We all know how easy it is to look back and criticize. It is very easy, but to do it eloquently, lucidly, and with the goal of creating a measuring stick for sexual politics is a feat to celebrate, not to mention that it is admirable, interesting and worth discussing.
I mean really, using literature as a barometer for the sexual-political climate of the times? What's not to enjoy? Yes, she indulges in close reading, but she does not go overboard and indulge tangents, whims or stray metaphors.
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Holy shit, this book was better than I could ever imagine. Kate Millett is a badass super genius.
It is opportune, perhaps today even mandatory, that we develop a more relevant psychology and philosophy of power relationships beyond the simple conceptual framework provided by our traditional formal politics.

When the only known "freedom" is a gilded voluptuousness attainable through the largesse of someone who owns and controls everything, there is little incentive to struggle for personal fulfillment or liberation.
This work is, to be perfectly honest, quite the mess. Not nearly as m
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
The misogyny she examines was too much for me to finish the last few chapters. A feminist must-read.
Christine Blackthorn
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It is a book that has started the second wave (or third depending which academic you follow) of feminism and as such it has already historical value. It is a fascinating read, even today.
Manik Sukoco
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Published in 1970, Sexual Politics was the first academic take on feminist literary criticism. The book was based on Millett's PhD dissertation, in which she dissected the work of D. H. Lawrence, Norman Mailer, and Henry Miller, among others. Millett pointed out how the three authors wrote about women in a sexist way. The book added fuel to the second wave of feminism, which had started in the early 60s. The book was controversial, receiving national attention and a strong backlash from men. It ...more
Josh Friedlander
I was surprised by how well this book has aged. There is nothing in it that reads as excessively utopian (as with Shulamith Firestone, who wished to abolish natural reproduction), or violent (as with Valerie Solanas), nothing focused on largely moribund causes (as is often the case with Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin). Nor does Millett restrict her audience to the respectable, middle-class and heterosexual, as was claimed of Betty Friedan. (Later in life Millett came out as bisexual and ...more
The founding text, or opening salvo, of feminist literary criticism. It's kind of odd to think that forty years ago, this critique of modern authors' blithe (and often quite funny) gender assumptions was new; today it's the universal property of well-read college humanities majors, even if they've never heard of Kate Millett. But it's still a great read.
This is a fantastic read both in its remaining relevance to how we are now and as a historical document. With so much negativity in the world, it is enjoyable to reflect on how much has been achieved - I had to keep in mind the position of women in 1960 as I was reading this - but also useful to have some flags as to how progress on women's rights is resisted and dialled back.

It is an academic book but easily accessible. I would say it is far more accessible than de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, to
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh, wow.

I picked up this radical second-wave text in the week after Kate Millett’s death. It’s a wonderful read, ruthlessly smart analysis seasoned generously with snark and anger.

After starting with a small taste of the frank, incisive literary criticism to come, Millett sets forth a little historical context and then aims her pen squarely at the social and psychological establishment’s backlash against the first wave of feminism, which she calls the sexual revolution - the one that culminate
Anastasia Sijabat
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Millett is a passionate, angry feminist. I'm sure the nature of academia has made her tone her anger down. Nevertheless, her passion and wit still show in her books.

"Sexual Politics" is her masterpiece. In this book, she meticulously dissects misogyny in literary works and debunks myths around patriarchy. Although I haven't read anyone that she criticised, it was a thorough assessment. Her examples provide a clear portrayal about what the works are about, and thanks to this, I felt like I was we
Tara Calaby
There is always something so depressing about reading key feminist texts from more than four decades ago and realising that we're still dealing with the same old crap. That said, being angered is good, because it expands your mind and your opinions and makes you see things in a clearer light.

I think the main difficulty of this book is that it combines literary commentary with strong feminist theory, meaning that much of the literary content will be of little interest to those reading solely for
Ryan Mishap
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wonderful 1970 classic breakdown of male domination through an examination of literature: Mailer, Miller, Freud, Hardy, and more. Essential as an early feminist literary criticism piece correlating the stories that get told and the effects in the real world.
Louise Colette
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-s-studies
If steam isn't coming out of your ears after reading this one, there's no hope for you.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gender-studies
This book is absolutely engaging.
Kate Millett was the first writer, I think, to talk about the idea that the personal is political, meaning that the way that women are treated in their everyday lives, and the structures that train men and women to behave in certain ways, are political. In this book, a groundbreaking study of sexual politics in history and literature, she breaks down the way men and women have been taught to behave in certain ways and enact certain roles in order to perpetuate the structures of patriarchy.

This b
Mar 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a key feminist work, and encourages one to just think of the world through a different lens.
This text is a must read for anyone interested in feminism.
Mara Eastern
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women
An enlightening overview of the history of women's rights accompanied by an analysis of literary representations of women by male writers.
Janet Simons
Feb 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
I read this many years ago. It is one of the worst written books I have ever encountered. It did teach me one important lesson: don't waste time and energy on a poorly-written book.
Just This
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
revealing study of patriarchy, the first wave of feminism, how it affected society, and was reflected in early to mid-twentieth century literature.

a key feminist text.
Groundbreaking when it came out, roughly 50 years later it is a great primer to the thoughts of the Second Wave of Feminism. Dated and some of her presumptions were proven right.
Zuly Pine
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I want to give it a 5 stars b/c of the beginning chapters where it analyzes the history in terms of socio-political and psychological elements, especially when she starts writing about Freud, which completely blew my mind. I knew he was a controversial figure but didn't understand why until I read this book. I absolutely love that she challenges Freud. Towards the end, she writes about the literary presentation of women, which I think is important. The problem is that I started to loose my atten ...more
Raine McLeod
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminist
This is an incredibly thorough, brilliant analysis of how women are viewed by men in life and in literature. It's dense reading, and dark (considering how women are disdained by men), but detailed and fundamental. Millett spends a lot of time excoriating male authors for their gross misogyny, and the only downside is that you have to actually read what these men wrote and try not to vomit. No one hates women like men do.
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Katherine Murray "Kate" Millett was an American feminist writer, educator, artist, and activist. She attended Oxford University and was the first American woman to be awarded a postgraduate degree with first-class honors by St. Hilda's. She has been described as "a seminal influence on second-wave feminism", and is best known for her 1970 book Sexual Politics," which was her doctoral dissertation ...more

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