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Queer feminist author, Kate Millett, dies at age 82

Millett's book, Sexual Politics, is considered a more queer-friendly version of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique

Queer feminist author, Kate Millett, dies at age 82
Kate Millett in 1970 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Kate Millett, the feminist writer best known for her 1970 book, Sexual Politics, died on 6 September at the age of 82.

Born in 1934 in Minnesota, Millett was raised by her mother after her alcoholic father abandoned the family when Millett was 14. Millett went on to study at Columbia University, where her doctoral thesis, Sexual Politics, became a best-selling feminist manifesto.

According to the New York Times, Sexual Politics sold over 10,000 copies in just two weeks.

Sexual Politics was considered a more queer-friendly version of Betty Friedan’s famous The Feminine Mystique.

Millett worked as an educator at colleges including Barnard, Bryn Mawr, and the University of California – Berkeley.

Coming out as gay

During a speaking gig at Columbia University, Millett’s alma mater, an audience member demanded to know Millett’s sexual orientation. This was the first time Millett came out as a lesbian.

‘Five hundred people looking at me,’ Millett wrote of the experience. ‘Everything pauses, faces look up in terrible silence. I hear them not breathe. That word in public, the word I waited half a lifetime to hear. Finally I am accused. “Say it. Say you are a Lesbian.”’

‘Yes I said. Yes. Because I know what she means. The line goes, inflexible as a fascist edict, that bisexuality is a cop-out. Yes I said yes I am a lesbian. It was the last strength I had.’

Other advocacy work

Millett also struggled with mental illness, being institutionalized and treated for bipolar disorder.

These experiences inspired Millett to write other books and even film documentaries, such as her 1990 book The Loony-Bin Trip and the 1971 documentary by an all-female team called Three Lives.

Millett took on other social issues, including advocating for women and girls in Iran and documenting the governmental abuses in places like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Apartheid South Africa.

Millett died in Paris while on vacation with her wife, Sophie Keir. According to the New York Times, Millett went into cardiac arrest.

Aside from Keir, Millett is survived by her two sisters, Sally Millett Rau and Mallory Millett Danaher.

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