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The Essential Ellen Willis$
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Ellen Willis and Nona Willis Aronowitz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780816681204

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816681204.001.0001

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Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism

Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism

(p.229) Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism
The Essential Ellen Willis

Nona Willis Aronowitz

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter focuses on radical feminism and feminist radicalism. It was radical feminism that put women’s liberation movement on the map and got sexual politics recognized as a public issue. Yet this movement collapsed as quickly as it had grown. By 1975 radical feminism had given way to cultural feminism. Contradictions within the movement, problems with its basic assumptions, played a crucial role in its demise. This chapter argues that the attempt of working-class feminists to create their own identity politics foundered on their lack of a class analysis or strategy that transcended the women’s movement, while lesbian feminists—having largely rejected the identity of an oppressed erotic minority in favor of the claim that lesbianism meant female bonding and was therefore the purest form of feminism—in effect redefined the movement as a countercultural enclave.

Keywords:   radical feminism, feminist radicalism, women’s liberation movement, sexual politics, cultural feminism, working-class feminists, identity politics, lesbian feminists, lesbianism

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