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Interchange – What Makes Us Vulnerable: The Essential Ellen Willis

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Our topic for the next hour is the cultural and critical writing of Ellen Willis who was the New Yorker‘s first rock critic and the cofounder of the radical feminist group the Redstockings. Her essays have been described as always unsettling, combining passion and moral clarity, espresso for the feminist soul, and relevant as ever, with a continuing influence on critics of American culture today.

Ellen Willis was a great fan and a great “reader” of Bob Dylan. I’ll have to admit as someone with little invested in Dylan and it was only in reading Willis’s “breakout” essay on Dylan published first in the magazine Cheetah in 1967 (and called “Dylan”) that I was intellectually engaged in thinking about Dylan and the album that the song appears on, John Wesley Harding. This album, appearing to be a retreat back onto well-trod ground, was rather a work serving the purpose of liberation…that is liberating Dylan, and the rest of us, from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. More on that in the program.

Joining us via phone is Nona Willis Aronowitz, the daughter of Ellen Willis, who has edited two collections of her mother’s essays both published by the University of Minnesota Press, one called Out of the Vinyl Deeps, consists of Willis’s Rock criticism and the other, The Essential Ellen Willis, spans four decades and seems to cover nearly every topic of social and cultural importance you might think of (abortion, radical feminism, sexism terrorism, the family, male supremacy, terrorism, motherhood, racism, Judaism, fundamentalism, liberalism, and on).

A key theme that often runs through Willis’s work is vulnerability and her writing style seems to be pitched towards always understanding that common quality. The best way to understand this I think might be to think of it simply as respect for any audience to which she might be speaking. This seems more and more a very rare quality.

Guest
Nona Willis Aronowitz is the editor of TalkingPointsMemo’s The Slice and TPMCafe. Previously, she was an education and poverty reporter at NBC News Digital, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and an associate editor at GOOD magazine. She’s written for The Atlantic, Washington Post, NYMag.com, The Nation, The American Prospect, Tablet, and Rookie, among others.

Related
Ellen Willis Tumblr
There are photos and many links to Willis’s essays and reviews of the two collections edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz along with some video.

Music
“All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan
“Maybe” by Janis Joplin
“Someday Never Comes” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Beginning to See the Light” by The Velvet Underground

Credits
Host & Producer: Doug Storm
Board Engineer: Joe Crawford
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

ACLU takes on SEA371

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Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed a lawsuit in federal court this morning challenging Indiana’s newest law regulating abortion clinics. Senate Enrolled Act 371, passed earlier this year, calls for facilities that prescribe and dispense abortion-inducing medications to have many of the same emergency and urgent care resources as hospitals. The bill affects only one facility in the state, Planned Parenthood’s Lafayette clinic, which has been in operation for 40 years, providing a variety of health care services for women. The portion of the bill covering non-surgical abortions goes into effect on January first. Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, says the expense of retrofitting the facility to comply with the law would be prohibitive. The law also specifies numerous “informed consent” statements clinic workers must make to women seeking the abortion pill. The women must also be shown sonogram images of the fetus in their wombs and must be advised the availability of adoption alternatives in the state. Correspondent Michael Glab spoke with Cockrum this afternoon in a WFHB Feature Exclusive.

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