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Interchange – Is a Woman a Person? Needing Ellen Willis More Than Ever


So, here we are, August 4th, 2015, and I’m asking “Is a Woman A Person?” You laugh, no, scoff at me for asking this. Of course!, you say. But are we “persons” by degrees with some considered lesser beings? Consider the concerted attack on women’s health funding by Republicans seeking to defund Planned Parenthood. It seems women ought to be tethered to reproduction and firmly under the control of the male head of the family. Right? We’ll look at the essays of Ellen Willis in this program as a way to investigate the longevity of this male supremacist attack on women.

On June 30 I talked with Ellen Willis’s daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz, who had edited a selection of Ellen Willis’s essays, about Willis’s life and her influence as a writer,, which included her work as a music critic–rock music critic–for the New Yorker magazine, but was mostly political, and always feminist. We didn’t dig too deeply into the specifics of the Radical Feminism of Ellen Willis that night.

But, with the continuous onslaught against women primarily through access to care, which seems to be about restricting access to biological options regarding reproduction, we should return to Ellen Willis. No, we must to return to Ellen Willis.

There was something of a dismissive review of The Essential Ellen Willis in the Los Angeles Review of Books back in May of 2014 by Lisa Levy. It disparaged Willis exactly where I would praise her for sounding one particular feminist note for forty years. For FOUR decades what remained consistent for women while Ellen Willis was writing for both a popular and academic audience? The attack on women’s individual rights. The ongoing commitment to restricting women from being able to decide without the imposition of a man and a male supremacist society how to live their lives as equal human beings. But the book reviewer seemed to tired of that complaint, or too tired of having to read about it over and over.

Jennifer Maher, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Aretha Franklin – “RESPECT”
Eurythmics – “Sisters are Doing It For Themselves”
Beyonce – “Run The World (Girls)”
Bikini Kill – “Rebel Girl”

“Abortion: Is a Woman a Person?” (Village Voice, 1979)
“Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism” (Social Text, 1984)

Interchange – What Makes Us Vulnerable: The Essential Ellen Willis
Interchange – Impulse Under the Influence: Campus Rape Culture
Interchange – Rape and White Male Privilege

Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Board and Music Engineer: Jonathan Richardson
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

Interchange – Orson Around: In Conversation with Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore


Tonight’s program “Orson Around,” is a glimpse at the life and movies of Orson Welles.

This conversation took place in the breakfast room at the Grant Street Inn in Bloomington earlier in the year during the week that Indiana University hosted a Welles Symposium to celebrate his centenary. Yes, Orson Welles was born 100 years ago. But he still seems ahead of us.

We begin with Jonathan Rosenbaum talking about Oja Kodar, who was the principal collaborator and partner of Orson Welles during the last twenty-four years of his life. She was a muse, no doubt, and an artist in her own right. Kodar surely complicates this statement Welles made in the 1950s to the French writer Maurice Bessy (and that Jim Naremore talks about later in the program), “I hate women, but I need them…Women block all conversation. That dates from the day they won the right to vote. They should have stayed slaves.” Jonathan Rosenbaum says that Welles’s unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind might be called his only feminist film. Of course its female star, played by Oja Kodar, doesn’t speak a word.

James Naremore is the author of five books and dozens of essays on film and modern literature, and is the editor of four volumes of film criticism and theory. His research deals with a variety of writers, directors, and performers, including such figures as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, and Vincente Minnelli. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Communication and Culture and Indiana University.

Jonathan Rosenbaum was the chief film critic for the Chicago Reader for twenty years, and has written of film for many other publications. He is the also the author of many books, including Movies as Politics. He publishes his criticism on his own website, jonathanrosenbaum.net.

From the Henri Mancini soundtrack to Touch of Evil: “Main Theme,” “Tara’s Theme,” and “Orson Around.” We also heard excerpts from the movies Citizen Kane, F for Fake, Moby Dick, and Touch of Evil.

Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Board Engineer: Jonathan Richardson
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

Interchange – What Makes Us Vulnerable: The Essential Ellen Willis


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.

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.

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.

“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

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

Interchange – W. Kamau Bell: Jokester Without Borders

Guest W. Kamau Bell with WFHB General Manager Cleveland Dietz, Interchange host Trish Kerle, and Interchange producer Doug Storm.

Guest W. Kamau Bell with WFHB General Manager Cleveland Dietz, Interchange host Trish Kerle, and Interchange producer Doug Storm.

Host Trish Kerle’ welcomes comedian W. Kamau Bell, whose work openly challenges racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. The New Y0rk Times called Kamau “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.”  Face Full of Flour, his standup comedy album, was named one of the Top 10 Best Comedy Albums of 2010 by iTunes and Punchline Magazine.  His comedy series, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, premiered in August 2012 and became a critically acclaimed, though short-lived, television show executive produced by Chris Rock.  W. Kamau Bell has just launched his first major comedy tour and he will be performing at the Comedy Attic here in Bloomington, Indiana on March 12, 2014.

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