Ellen Willis Came Up with the Term Pro-Sex Feminism

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It seemed to me that most contemporary rock magazines were propagating an artless scorecard-genealogy version of criticism, treating music in isolation from other art, culture, and political realities. And I had certainly never read Bangs, whose irascible, rambling rock-crit from the 1970s many considered to be classic examples of the genre. I gave him a solid try, but every page I opened to just turned me off. This was the canon? If all those dudes at Rolling Stone and Spin were taking their cues from a nihilistic, homophobic, apolitical speed freak, it was no wonder the whole game left me cold.

Sara Marcus, who recently published Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolutionreviews Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music for the Los Angeles Review of Books, while also opening up about her contempt of Lester Bangs being heralded as the epitome of rock criticism.

What Marcus really hopes is that Willis, who came up with the phrase “pro-sex feminism,” will be redeemed from the shackles of the music ghetto and recognized as the brilliant radical thinker she is. Out of the Vinyl Deeps is an excellent starting point, though.


Katy Henriksen writes for Live Nation TV and is a classical music and arts producer at KUAF 91.3FM Public Radio. She's written about arts and culture for the Brooklyn Rail, New Pages, Oxford American, Paste, the Poetry Project Newsletter,Publishers Weekly, Venus Zine and others. You can keep up with her at @helloloretta or through helloloretta.tumblr.com. Katy is Music Editor Emeritus for The Rumpus. More from this author →