Kate Millett, author of the groundbreaking bestseller Sexual Politics, was the feminist who launched the second wave of the women’s liberation movement. Kate was celebrating the birthday of her wife, photojournalist, Sophia Keir. Kate died at the age of 82.
Her doctoral thesis at Columbia University was entitled “Sexual Politics,“and it stated the theory that for women, the personal is political. Her book outlines the clear facts that men have institutionalised power over women, and that this power is socially constructed as opposed to biological or innate. This theory was the foundation for a new approach to feminist thinking that became known as radical feminism. In other words, men know what they are doing to women from other men. Kate called this male dominance as institutionalized oppression.
Certain Men React to Kate
The well-respected critic Irving Howe wrote that Sexual Politics was “a farrago of blunders, distortions, vulgarities and plain nonsense”, and its author guilty of “historical reductionism”, “crude simplification”, “middle-class parochialism”, “methodological sloppiness”, “arrogant ultimatism” and “comic ignorance”. All I can say is “if the shoe fits -wear it.”
Kate always stated that she never wished to be a leader of any movement – let alone the Feminist one.
Time Magazine Seeks to Discredit Kate.
In December 1970, Time claimed Kate to be “bisexual”
That December, Time publication outed Millett as bisexual, and claimed that “[the] disclosure is bound to discredit her as a spokeswoman for her cause, cast further doubt on her theories, and reinforce the views of those sceptics who routinely dismiss all liberationists as lesbians”.
Born in St Paul, Minnesota, Kate was raised by strict Catholic parents. Her mother, Helen (nee Feely), worked as a teacher and an insurance saleswoman to support her three daughters after her alcoholic husband, James, an engineer, abandoned the family when Kate was 14. Millett went to the University of Minnesota, graduating in English literature in 1956, and then to St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She taught briefly at the University of North Carolina before focusing on sculpture in Japan and then New York. In 1965, she married the Japanese sculptor Fumio Yoshimura. During their open relationship, Millett had sexual relationships with a number of women.
In her later years, Kate and Sophia lived on a farm in Poughkeepsie, New York state, where at first they sold Christmas trees, and later established a women’s art colony. In 2012 she received the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage award for the arts, and in 2013 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in New York. Kate continued to take on social issues, including advocating for women and girls in Iran and documenting the governmental abuses in places like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Apartheid South Africa.
Millett’s marriage to Yoshimura ended in 1985. She is survived by Sophie Keir, whom she married in later life.
Coming Out as Gay – Freeing Moment
During a speaking engagement at Columbia University, she was asked about her sexual orientation. She recorded her thoughts:
‘Five hundred people looking at me,’ Millett wrote of the experience. ‘Everything pauses, faces look up in terrible silence. I hear them not breathe. That word in public, the word I waited half a lifetime to hear. Finally I am accused. “Say it. Say you are a Lesbian. ‘Yes I said. Yes. Because I know what she means. The line goes, inflexible as a fascist edict, that bisexuality is a cop-out. Yes I said yes I am a lesbian. It was the last strength I had.’
Famous Quotes by Kate