At a glance:
- Author: Susan Brownmiller
Susan Brownmiller has been a feminist activist since the 1960’s, when she cofounded the New York Radical Feminists (1968). As a journalist, Brownmiller has protested against such traditional women’s magazines as Ladies’ Home Journal for their portrayals of submissive womanhood.
Brownmiller first gained national prominence with her best- seller Against Our Will, an extensively researched history of rape as a social and political tool. In it, she asserts that rape “is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” Although this controversial statement has been interpreted as saying that all men are, literally or potentially, rapists, Brownmiller insists her point is that all men, as participants in patriarchal rule, benefit from and so implicitly support what poet Adrienne Rich terms a “culture of rape” that keeps women fearful and subordinate. Named one of Time magazine’s Women of the Year in 1975, Brownmiller toured the United States delivering the message that while her book gave rape a history, now “we must deny it a future.”
Brownmiller’s second feminist analysis, Femininity, appeared in 1984. It was criticized by some feminists for merely exploring the ways in which the concept of “femininity” is socially constructed in ways that are injurious to women— without urging action or protest. Brownmiller has also written the novel Waverly Place (1989) and numerous articles, and she founded the organization Women Against Pornography.
Cohen, Marcia. The Sisterhood: The True Story of the Women Who Changed the World. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1988. A biography and a history of the major women in the feminist struggle of the 1960’s and 1970’s. In addition to looking at Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Germaine Greer, Cohen provides a believable story of Brownmiller’s efforts in the Civil Rights and women’s rights movements and gives her credit for originating and leading the sit-in at the Ladies’ Home Journal.
Edwards, Alison. Rape, Racism, and the White Women’s Movement: An Answer to Susan Brownmiller. 2d ed. Chicago: Sojourner Truth Organization, 1979.
Kaganoff, Penny. “Susan Brownmiller.” Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1989. An interview with Brownmiller that connects her women’s movement activities with her concern for battered wives and abused children.
Leo, John. “The Comeback of Feminine Wiles.” Time, January 30, 1984, 82.
Sheffield, Carole J. “Sexual Terrorism.” In Women: A Feminist Perspective, edited by Jo Freeman. 4th ed. Mountain View, Calif: Mayfield, 1989.
Did this raise a question for you?