|Born||October 14, 1949 (age 71)|
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Period||Late 20th, early 21st century|
|Genre||Essays, poetry, magazine articles, non-fiction|
|Subject||Feminism, politics, reproductive rights|
Katha Pollitt (born October 14, 1949) is an American poet, essayist and critic. She is the author of four essay collections and two books of poetry. Her writing focuses on political and social issues from a left-leaning perspective, including abortion, racism, welfare reform, feminism, and poverty.
Early life and education
Pollitt was born in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Her father was a lawyer and her mother was an agent involved in real estate. Her parents encouraged Pollitt to pursue her interest in poetry. Her father was Protestant and her mother was Jewish. Pollitt wrote extensively of her family in Learning to Drive, which is dedicated to her parents.
Pollitt is best known for her bimonthly column "Subject to Debate" in The Nation magazine. Her writing is also featured in other publications such as Ms. Magazine, The New York Times, and the London Review of Books. Her poetry has been republished in many anthologies and magazines, including The New Yorker and the 2006 Oxford Book of American Poetry. She has appeared on NPR's Fresh Air and All Things Considered, Charlie Rose, The McLaughlin Group, CNN, Dateline NBC and the BBC.
Much of Pollitt's writing is in defense of contemporary feminism and other forms of identity politics and tackles perceived misimpressions by critics from across the political spectrum; other frequent topics include abortion, the media, U.S. foreign policy, the politics of poverty (especially welfare reform), and human rights movements around the world.
In 2003 she was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto. In 2020, she was one of the signers of the so-called Harpers Letter, which expressed support for protests for social justice while criticizing the growing number of disproportionately severe punishments for perceived slights or offenses.
On May 20, 2020, Pollitt said she would vote for Joe Biden's presidential campaign, even "if he boiled babies and ate them" in an article about how she would vote for Joe Biden even if he had sexually assaulted a woman.
In 1994, Pollitt published Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism (Vintage), a collection of nineteen essays that first appeared in The Nation and other journals. The book's title was a reference to a line in Mary Wollstonecraft's 1794 treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – "I wish to see women neither heroines nor brutes; but reasonable creatures."
In 2007, Pollitt published Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories (Random House), a collection of personal essays. Learning to Drive is a departure from her political commentary, covering a range of topics from webstalking a cheating boyfriend to what she learned about her parents using the Freedom of Information Act.
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights
Politt has said that Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights (2014), was intended as a response to the "feeling among many pro-choice people that we need to be more assertive, less defensive". While the topic is always in debate, Pollitt posits that it needs to be discussed in a way that recognizes abortion as an integral component of women's reproductive lives. Her argument is built upon the notion that abortion is a "positive social good" and "an essential option for women". Pollitt says abortion needs to be looked at as "back into the lives and bodies of women, but also in the lives of men, and families, and the children those women already have or will have". She argues that the issue brings about how we discuss menstrual cycles with young girls and the number of resources we have available for families, both single parent and two-parent. Further the decision should not be looked at as the action of a woman thinking independently because abortion requires the “cooperation of many people beyond the woman herself". She said in October 2014 that Jewish tradition "does not have the concept of the personhood of the fetus (much less the embryo or fertilized egg). In Jewish law, you become a person when you draw your first breath."
A group of feminist scholars and activists analyzed Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights for "Short Takes: Provocations on Public Feminism," an initiative of the feminist journal Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. The commentaries include a response by Pollitt.
On June 6, 1987, she married Randy Cohen, author of the New York Times Magazine column "The Ethicist." They later divorced. They have a daughter, Sophie Pollitt-Cohen (September 25, 1987), author of the bestselling book The Notebook Girls, written while Pollitt-Cohen was a student at Stuyvesant High School.
Awards, honors, grants
- The Frost Place poet in residence (1977)*
- National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry (for Antarctic Traveler, 1983)
- National Endowment for the Arts (grant, 1984)
- Academy of American Poets ("Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award," 1984)
- Fulbright Scholarship (1985)
- Arvon Foundation Prize (1986)
- New York Foundation for the Arts (1987)
- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (Fellowship, 1987)
- National Magazine Award (for "Essays and Criticism," 1992)
- Whiting Award (1992)
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America ("Maggie Award," 1993)
- Freedom from Religion Foundation ("Freethought Heroine Award," 1995)
- National Women's Political Caucus ("Exceptional Merit Media Award," 2001)
- National Magazine Award (for "Best Columns and Commentary," 2003)
- American Book Award ("Lifetime Achievement Award," 2010)
- The Nation Institute (Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow)
- Freedom From Religion Foundation (Honorary Board of distinguished achievers 2010)
- American Humanist Association ("Humanist Heroine," 2013)
- Antarctic Traveller: Poems (Knopf, 1982) (ISBN 0394748956)
- Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism (Vintage, 1995) (ISBN 0679762787)
- Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture (Modern Library Paperbacks, 2001) (ISBN 0679783431)
- Virginity or Death!: And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time (Random House, 2006) (ISBN 081297638X)
- Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories (Random House, 2007) (ISBN 1400063329)
- The Mind-Body Problem: Poems (Random House, 2009) (ISBN 1400063337)
- Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights (Picador, 2014) (ISBN 9780312620547)
- "Pollitt, Katha (Vol. 122) - Introduction". www.enotes.com, Contemporary Literary Criticism. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
- Bentley, Toni (23 September 2007). "Life, and My Evil Ex-Boyfriend". The New York Times.
- "Radcliffe Awards to Honor Distinguished Women". Harvard Gazette. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. 1996-05-30. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
- "Author Bios". The Nation.com. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Pollitt, Katha (7 April 1991). "The Smurfette Principle". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
- "The Smurfette Principle". TV Tropes. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
- "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Nash, Charlie (May 21, 2020). "Journalist Says She Would Vote Biden Even 'If He Boiled Babies and Ate Them '". Archived from the original on May 21, 2020.
- Pollitt, Katha (May 20, 2020). "We Should Take Women's Accusations Seriously. But Tara Reade's Fall Short". Retrieved Dec 10, 2020 – via www.thenation.com. Cite magazine requires
- "Reasonable Creatures by Katha Pollitt". enotes.com, Magill Book Reviews. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
- Donna Seaman (1 February 2001). "Review of Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture". Booklist.
- "Review of Virginity or Death". Publishers Weekly. 13 June 2006.
- Terry Gross and Katha Pollitt, interview (8 November 2007). "Katha Pollitt: Learning to Drive in Public". NPR "Fresh Air".
- Schine, Cathleen (22 November 2007). "The In-Between Woman". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "Patricia Clarkson as Katha Pollitt in Isabel Coixet's Learning to Drive" Archived 2014-11-01 at the Wayback Machine. Indiewire, August 21, 2013.
- "Reasonable Creature by Katha Pollitt". enotes.com, Magill Book Reviews. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
- "Three poems". 2009-05-13.
- Metal, Tara (October 12, 2014). "Pro: An Interview with Katha Pollitt". Jewish Women's Archives. Archived from the original on October 12, 2016.
- Jeffery, Clara (October 9, 2014). "Take Back the Right". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
- Pollitt, Katha (2014). Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights (First ed.). New York: Picador. p. 2. ISBN 9781250055842.
- Pollitt, Katha (2014). Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights (First ed.). New York: Picador. p. 25. ISBN 9781250055842.
- "Short Takes: Provocations on Public Feminism Pro by Katha Pollitt". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. October 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
- "TV Writer Wed To Katha Pollitt". New York Times. 1987-06-07. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
- "Katha Pollitt and Steven Lukes". New York Times. 2006-04-30. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
- "Honorary FFRF Board Announced". Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2008-08-20.
- "This years AHA Conference Awardees & Special Guests". Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- Katha Pollitt official blog
- Column archive at The Guardian
- Column archive at The Nation
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Katha Pollitt on Charlie Rose
- Katha Pollitt at IMDb
- Profile at The Whiting Foundation
- Works by or about Katha Pollitt in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- "Katha Pollitt collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
- Biography at Freedom from Religion Foundation at archive.today (archived 2013-04-14)
- Beyond the Politics of Irony and Lip Gloss: An Interview With Feminist Writer Katha Pollitt by Jessica Clark, LiP Magazine: 2001.
- "Strident" and Proud (July 12, 2006 interview of Pollitt by Jessica Valenti on salon.com)
- Exchange between Pollitt and Michael Albert of Z Communications at the Library of Congress Web Archives (archived 2001-09-16)