Thursday, July 9, 2009

Virginity or Death!

Virginity or Death! And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time
Katha Pollitt (2006, Random House)

Virginity or Death! is full of news stories from the last five or six years that I would sometimes rather not think about, because sometimes it's just too much. The title essay, for instance--can you believe that a vaccine that would protect against cervical cancer and related diseases might be made unavailable on grounds of morality? Fortunately for people like me, Katha Pollitt is on top of those stories, and is appropriately, articulately, enraged. Her starting point is old-fashioned-but-never-out-of-style feminist issues, like decent pay for child care workers, and the rising inaccessibility of abortion services.
As in the work of Molly Ivins and Barbara Ehrenreich, however, such matters turn out to be intricately connected to --in fact, the human face of-- issues of freedom, justice, and community. "Despite the onslaught of negative media, and large audiences receptive to it, and despite the real-life opprobrium that can befall a woman perceved as uppity, promiscuous, or insufficiently shaven of leg, feminism persists because it fits the actual conditions in which women live." Bad as the news often is, I am heartened to read such witty, incisive reports on those conditions.

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