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Sexual Politics

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  3,007 ratings  ·  78 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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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  3,007 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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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) :
Giss Golabetoon
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 ...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 ...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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gender-studies
This book is absolutely engaging.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
This text is a must read for anyone interested in feminism.
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.
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.
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.
Elizabeth Urello
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Most of the Ye Olde Feminist Texts that I read are still entirely relevant in today’s more enlightened times, which is probably the most depressing thing about reading them. We have not gained as much ground as we like to think that we have! We are still fighting a lot of the exact same battles! In fact, in many areas, we are fighting them OVER AGAIN having seemingly won them in the past. Equal rights for women proceed like waves crashing on society’s shore — they just touch and then the ...more
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is rare for me to find that a book lives to all the hype that surrounds it but this book certainly did. I had this book in my list for years as classic of second-wave feminist thought and after finishing it, I am simply blown away by the quality of Millett’s work. This is by far the most thorough and illuminating literary criticism that I have ever read. Millett takes D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and Normal Mailer to task for the attitudes towards women that their books and essays ...more
An essential book on feminism. Millet's voice is calm and strong, her ideas and criticism well-supported, her writing tidy and neat. This is the best feminist writing I have read so far, both in tone and in form.
She is not trapped in the idea to write it all about woman-history-culture. She chooses a point of view and focuses on it, works on it.

She studies the first wave feminism, sexual revolution in the second half of 19th century. She closely focuses on the post-WWI counter-revolution,
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I began 'Sexual Politics' as extra unassigned reading for both my English literature and language A levels and it didn't disappoint. This book was highly analytical, precise and eye opening. Millett provides many stunning arguments and theses of which are highly useful in my studies. Not only did it help me come to my own conclusions regarding my specific anthology of poetry and the novels I am studying ('Jane Eyre' and 'Rebecca') but of sex and gender in general. Additionally, I was pleasantly ...more
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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
“Patriarchy, reformed or unreformed, is patriarchy still: its worst abuses purged or foresworn, it might actually be more stable and secure than before.” 19 likes
“Whatever the “real” differences between the sexes may be, we are not likely to know them until the sexes are treated differently, that is alike.” 7 likes
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