Alix Kates Shulman

American writer

Alix Kates Shulman (born August 17, 1932) is a Jewish writer of fiction, memoirs, and essays, and a prominent early radical activist of second-wave feminism in the USA. She is best known for her bestselling debut adult novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (Knopf, 1972).

Quotes edit

Interview (2020) edit

  • (about writing her 1972 novel Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen) I wanted to show everything that we were talking about, in consciousness-raising
  • “Looks were an advantage for getting a husband, and getting a husband was everything,” Shulman explains. “You couldn’t even go to upscale restaurants in the evening if you were a woman alone or even two women. You had to have a man with you. It’s very hard for people to understand what it was like then.
  • When I ask Shulman if she is surprised that women are still having such bad sex, her response is swift. “Not really,” she says. “And the reason is that the power relations between genders haven’t changed much. I think it takes a lot of trust and caring for good sex to happen—for women at least.”

Interview with Jewish Women's Archive (2016) edit

  • My inspiration for the novel came from my participation in the first national demonstration of the women’s liberation movement: the 1968 protest against the Miss America Pageant, in Atlantic City, that symbol of traditional white beauty standards. That protest brought women’s liberation to national attention for the first time.
  • As a feminist, I believe that individuals on their own cannot change the culture; individual solutions don’t have traction. It takes a mass movement to really change things.
  • Each generation must define the problems anew, from their own observations and experience.
  • Once a writer has published a book, it belongs to its readers.
  • I keep in mind Rabbi Tarfon’s ancient wisdom that “you are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to abandon it.” Let this be my advice to young writers, too. Keep writing and never give up.

A Marriage Agreement and Other Essays: Four Decades of Feminist Writing (2012) edit

  • Compared to the heavy burden of age I felt in my early thirties-panicked over the impending loss of youth about to finish me off-seventy feels positively young. Remember the 1960s slogan, "don't trust anyone over thirty"? Remember the thirty-year-old admission age to Older Women's Liberation (OWL)? Never have I felt older or more irrelevant than before feminism's Second Wave, when thirty was considered over-the-hill (for women) and the last safe age to begin a family, and your life was supposed to be fulfilled by having babies. Still feeling then like a 1950s middle class Midwestern girl, though living in New York, I retired from full-time work to become a mother; and by the time my youngest started school I was a disillusioned wife with a wandering husband, no savings, no prospects, no future. A has-been at thirty-four! Then the women's liberation movement hit New York and quickly restored my youthful ardor. Suddenly I had a compelling purpose and important work. Far from being a has-been, I knew life had not, would not pass me by. Fired by movement passion, in quick succession I defied my husband, began organizing women's groups, gave my first speech, wrote my first essay and before long first novel. Though that early movement euphoria couldn't last, I never again felt as impotent or "old" as I had before it touched me. In an instant I switched from a woman with a past ("old") to one with a future ("young").
    • "Thoughts at Seventy"

Introduction edit

  • It was in 1967, in the midst of that decade of emotional upheaval and political dissent, that I heard the first rumblings of the women's liberation movement. News reached me in my Greenwich Village apartment via the radio, while I was washing the dinner dishes. I was in my thirties, raising two small children and beginning to write. On the air, several fervent young women were discussing the injustice of women's situation in words that spoke directly to me. When they invited their listeners to attend an upcoming meeting of the fledgling movement, I put down my sponge and picked up my pen. Jotting down the telephone number and date of the meeting, in that moment I launched myself into one of the great liberation movements of our time, which profoundly transformed the lives of women worldwide, mine included.
  • By the early 1980s the explosive phase of the movement was over, at least for the time being-explosive and quiescent phases having alternated for several hundred years. Yet throughout that decade and the following, the ideas advanced by the movement were so warmly embraced by the mainstream that their very success sparked an organized, sometimes virulent backlash (including widespread bombings of abortion clinics and torture of gays), producing what became known as the culture wars.
  • Advocates, no matter how old, face forward and upward toward the light; funerals can only momentarily divert them.
  • each generation can do no more than add its bit to the endless river of consciousness and change, and that's about as good as it gets.

Quotes about Alix Kates Shulman edit

  • Alix Kates Shulman had no idea that its main principle, that "a woman and man should share equally the responsibility for their household and children in every way, from the insidiously unacknowledged tasks of daily life to the pleasures of guiding a young human to maturity," would cause such uproar. Reprinted in the debut issue of Ms., in Redbook (attracting two thousand letters), Life, a Harvard textbook on contract law, and other anthologies, it drew scorn from Norman Mailer, who famously mocked Shulman by declaring that he never would be married to a woman like her-he would never help his wife with the dishes!
    • Joyce Antler Jewish Radical Feminism: Voices from the Women’s Liberation Movement (2020)
  • In "Sex and Power: Sexual Bases of Radical Feminism," her contribution to the Signs collection, Alix Kates Shulman explains the premise of radical feminist consciousness raising: "The so-called experts on women had traditionally been men who. as part of the male-supremacist power structure, benefited from perpetuating certain ideas. ... We wanted to get at the truth about how women felt.. .. Not how we were supposed to feel but how we really did feel." As it turned out this was easier said than done, especially when the feelings in question were sexual.
    • Ellen Willis No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays (1992)

External links edit

Wikipedia has an article about: