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December 14: Ellen Willis

Lawrence Bush
December 14, 2009
ellen willisFeminist essayist and rock critic Ellen Willis was born on this date in New York in 1941. She was a co-founder of Redstockings in 1969 and of No More Nice Girls in the 1980s, innovative feminist activist collectives. Willis was a leading spokeswoman for an anti-authoritarian, free-speech, pro-sex feminism. Included among her writings are several significant essays on Jewish identity. She died of lung cancer on November 9, 2006. “Americans take for granted a level of sexual freedom, and a degree of choice in personal style and conduct and expression, that didn’t exist before the 1960s. The variety of food, fashion, pop-music genres, cable TV programs, the mixing and matching of cultures — all of this is a gain in pleasure. Yet there is a strong strain of joylessness and anti-eroticism in the culture, of continual exhortation to duty, sacrifice, corporate efficiency, order, control, and putting one’s nose to the grindstone. Today it does seem that our pleasures are embedded in a framework of repression.” —Ellen Willis

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.