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Feminism Then And Now

A Conversation With Alix Kates Shulman

The definition is much broader now that feminist ideas have spread throughout the culture. I would say that anybody who wants to call herself a feminist is a feminist. In addition, there are “applied feminists” — to borrow the writer Carolyn Heilbrun’s wonderful term — meaning someone who may not call herself a feminist but who lives like one. In the early days, there was a lot of debate about who was a real feminist. At the beginning of any movement, definitions seem to matter more. In the late sixties, there was a sense that we were just a handful of people. As the movement spread, we were very worried about being co-opted. So whether or not a newcomer was a “true” feminist seemed to matter, especially if that person was representing feminism in the media; there was a lot of mistrust of the media. We didn’t want to give up on our larger ideals and settle for something less.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Marriage Is Impossible

Between the two of us, my friend and I had been married four times. Over lunch one day, he said simply, “Marriage is impossible!” I knew immediately what he meant.

To Be A Sexual Son

I was ten years old when my mother found the sexy letter that André and I had written to Celine. André was my best friend; Celine was his sister. She was fourteen, impossibly older than me, and the object of everything I could feel at the time in the way of sexual desire. My mother says I was in such a state about Celine that I once burst into anguished tears over my unrequited infatuation with her.

An Erotic Way Of Life

As I’ve been writing a book about sex in recent months, I’ve had the Kama Sutra, the Indian guide to personal sexual culture, on my desk, and I’ve occasionally consulted the Internet to track down relevant books and articles. On the Internet, I’ve noticed, as soon as you venture in the direction of sex you quickly come upon crude, unadorned images of stark sexual union. Apparently we have finally found a public place where we can show our private parts and secret fantasies free of the repressive eyes of the government agencies that serve our culture’s dominant puritan philosophies. But here there is no love, little sentimentality, and almost nothing that could be called foreplay in any innocent sense of the word.

Blowing It In Idaho

It’s 6 P.M., wine hour at the Hotel McCall in central Idaho. I grab a bowl of tortilla chips and a glass of chardonnay and stake out a spot on the back patio overlooking Payette Lake. A seaplane circles and dips over the silvery blue whitecaps. The lake is bathed in gauzy autumnal light. No postcard, no poem, no million, dollar advertising campaign can convey this quality of light and shadow and dusky color.


The Hunt And The Kill

For a long time we lived way out in the country, where giant spiders would chase me over the hill and my sister got stung by a wasp while rolling around in a cardboard box and there was a fountain in the back yard at the edge of the wheat field with gargoyles that spouted columns of sulfury water as bubbly as lemon soda. Then we moved to the suburbs, where everything was boxed in and the trees were stuck in the ground like lollipops every ten feet and the roads were painted black and the women were all crazy and pale and the men were all drunk and had grease on their hands and were going to screw something if they could just get ahold of it. They did that in the suburbs — screwed. I didn’t know what screwing was. As far as I knew, they didn’t do it in the country.

For The Man Upstairs

From the outside, the house looked like many others on the street: weathered, traditional, lived-in. The paint on the trim had peeled like the bark of an overwatered plant, but the boxwood shrubs stayed neatly clipped year-round. The iron lawn furniture, placed in an uneven circle, suggested a large family. Pizza deliverymen were always surprised to learn the house was divided into six apartments.


Behind the loaf is the flour; 
Behind the flour is the mill; 
Behind the mill is the sun and the rain 
And the Fa-ther’s will.

Readers Write


My husband had to nearly drop dead before I would be faithful to him.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


“There is something that happens between men and women in the dark that seems to make everything else unimportant.”

Tennessee Williams

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