Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt is the author of Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics and Culture.

Dream On: Bringing up Babies

Katha Pollitt, 11 September 2003

“Sometimes the young unmarried woman is told she is having too much fun and will pay later; sometimes she is told she is too miserable, and no wonder – while men postpone commitment, her eggs are already scrambling. The young mother may be advised to give up work till her children are older or she may be urged to fight for government policies and workplace changes that would enable her more easily to combine both roles. But basically the books all given the same depressing advice: compromise, settle, tone yourself down, and do it sooner rather than later.”

Our Soft-Shelled Condition: Corsets

Katha Pollitt, 14 November 2002

To us it seems obvious that corsets did a body no good, but to the Victorians the case was less clear. As the century wore on, the corset was marketed as necessary for good health, a female exoskeleton capable of propping up, containing and defining a woman’s weak, soft, plump flesh, as if she were a human lobster.

At the end of her lively, well-researched and wide-ranging inquiry into the ‘hush’ she believes surrounds the subject of menstruation in America, Karen Houppert thinks about her reluctance to discuss the subject of her book with the men she knows. ‘I tell them I’m writing a book. If they pursue the matter, I tell them that I’m working on a book about menstruation...


Katha Pollitt, 21 March 1996

Having a baby is such an impediment to American women I used to wonder why they didn’t go on strike: ‘No equality, no kids!’ It may be that something like that is happening in those countries where family structure and masculine attitudes are in radical conflict with women’s desire for emancipation. Catholic Italy and Spain, of all places, have the lowest fertility rates in the world today; and in Japan, where women typically lose their jobs on marrying and motherhood is a full-time and often rather lonely business, young women are increasingly reluctant to get married at all. But while American women may be getting more sceptical about marriage, their devotion to motherhood remains strong. They may have fewer children than their mothers did (2.05 was the 1993 average) and they may have them a bit later, but a full 88 per cent of women who turned 45 in 1995 are mothers. And this generation (my own) was the first to have wide, if uneven, access to modern contraceptives and legal abortion, and to books and articles and ads touting the childless – make that ‘childfree’ – life.’

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