Feminist author, thinker and artist Kate Millett died at the age of 82 in Paris.
According to Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times, Millett suffered a cardiac arrest while vacationing in Paris with her spouse, the photojournalist Sophie Keir. From its publication, Sexual Politics was one of the main critiques of patriarchy that underpinned the feminist movement. “She was a European-style intellectual: Cosmopolitan, literate, well traveled, multi-talented, ceremonial”, she said. It was there she wrote her dissertation that would become the inspiration for “Sexual Politics”, which details what she saw as the subjugation of women in celebrated works of literature and art. Her core premise was that the relationship between the sexes is political, with the definition of politics including, as she once said, “arrangements whereby one group of persons is controlled by another”.
Born September 14, 1934, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Millett began her academic career at the University of Minnesota. She was married to the sculptor Fumio Yoshimuro but had had affairs with women, something Time Magazine couldn’t wait to share with its readers, famously suggesting that her lesbianism “cast doubt on her theories”. Other works included The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice and Iran, which followed a trip to the country in support of women’s rights. They almost didn’t escape, locked overnight in the immigration office, an experience Millett wrote about in her 1981 book Going to Iran.
Actress Lena Dunham was among those posting tributes to Millett on Twitter.
Millett had been committed to mental health institutions by her family on various occasions and she became an activist in the anti-psychiatry movement. She also wrote The Politics of Cruelty (1994), in which she railed against the use of torture, and Mother Millett (2001), about her relationship with her mother. She said she tried to buck up Millett’s spirits by telling her, “But you will be in the history books and she won’t”.
Meanwhile, she faced taunts from some feminists for saying she was bisexual while she was married but not saying she was gay.
Millett worked as a sculptor and taught at universities including Barnard College in New York City, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and the University of California at Berkeley.
Millett’s marriage to Yoshimura ended in 1985. She joined the National Organization for Women shortly after its founding in 1966 and chaired its education committee. Sita (1977) explores her love for another woman. Those bound treasures brought the message to the people, hundreds of women’s bookstores opened all over North America within barely a decade and, more than any other political movement, books made instant leaders out of their authors. “Still, she inspired generations of girls and women who read her words, heard her words and understood her words”.
“She was a pioneer, a pillar of global feminism. a true creator, ” said longtime friend Catherine Guyot at the publishing house.
Ms. Millett was honored several times late in life.
Millett was the recipient of many awards, including Yoko Ono’s Courage Award for the Arts in 2012, and was inducted into the U.S. National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013. That year she also produced the movie Three Lives, a documentary about three women, one of whom is Millett’s sister Mallory, talking about their lives in patriarchal society.
“The happiness of those times, the joy of participation, the excitement of being part of my own time, of living on the edge, of being so close to events you can nearly intuit them”.