Meredith Tax, feminist author, dies at 80

Meredith Tax, a prominent second-wave feminist activist and writer who has challenged herself, her peers, and the world at large to rethink long-held ideas of gender, race, and class , died on September 25 at the age of 80.

Her friend Frances Kissling confirmed the death but provided no further details.

Ms. Tax’s life, born to an ascendant Jewish family in Wisconsin, has often been a story of self-discovery. She was a graduate of Brandeis University and a student in London who dreamed of a golden career in the arts before the 1960s politicized her, then radicalized her to “study the world instead of literature.”

Litigation even within activist communities, she confronted Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights supporters over the issue of sterilization abuse and was expelled from the October Leninist League after criticizing her treatment of women. She faced her own judgment in the 1970s when she worked at a Zenith television factory in Chicago and was the only white person on the assembly line.

“The first thing I had to learn to do was hard physical labor; the second was to shut up,” she wrote in a mini-autobiography on her blog. “I’ve always been such a bright girl, in love with my own ideas. Now I’ve had to learn to listen very deeply, to listen the way people do when they’re in the minority, taking into account not only what people said but also what they didn’t say, changes in their voice, their body language.

Earlier in 2022, Ms Tax lamented what she saw as the lack of a feminist equivalent of Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street. Writing in The Nation, she alleged that “young feminists are focused on social media, blogging and campaigning – a focus that involves paying a lot of attention to personalities, branding and celebrity” .

“While #MeToo is unquestionably a powerful movement against work-related sexual harassment and assault, it is not a membership organization, so there is no way for the people who support it to ensure its consistency. or change his public face,” she wrote.

Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, challenged Ms Tax’s view. In a letter to the Nation, she cited the massive 2017 rallies held shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration as “an example of activism online turning into activism on the streets, on the ground, where and when it was most needed”.

Mrs. Tax’s books included the non-fiction “The Rising of the Women” (1980) and the novels “Rivington Street” (1982) and its sequel, “Union Square” (1988), which the New York book critic Times Eden Ross Lipson described it as “a kind of ‘politically correct’ but popular fiction. It’s accessible and entertaining, and mixes romance, family life, fashion and politics without condescension.

Ms Tax wrote for The Nation, The Guardian and The Village Voice, among other publications, and was praised for her 1970 pamphlet “Woman and Her Mind”, a seminal text of second-wave feminism, in which she explored how society conditions the behavior of men and women.

“Men are taught to be active,” she wrote, “to get what they need; to not be pretty and wait for her to come to their neighborhood. Men do not observe every cloud that passes over human relations as if their whole future depended on it. There is a reason for this. This is not the case. Women are hyper aware of their environment. They must be. Walk down a street without listening and you are in real danger. our society is one in which men rape, assault and murder women they don’t know every day.

Meredith Jane Tax was born in Milwaukee on September 18, 1942. Her father was a doctor and her mother was a housewife “of the Betty Friedan generation, angry and bitter about her disadvantaged childhood and her own crazy family, but too fearful to try to broaden her horizons”, wrote. “Today she would be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder; she was afraid of everything and couldn’t stand having someone around whom she couldn’t completely control.

Ms Tax graduated from Brandeis in 1964, then spent four years at the University of London before returning to the United States to join the anti-war and feminist movements.

She helped found the PEN American Center Women’s Committee, the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse, and the Women’s World Organization for Rights, Literature, and Development (Women’s WORLD). More recently, she chaired the board of the Center for Secular Space, founded in 2011 “to strengthen secular voices, oppose fundamentalism, and promote the universality of human rights.”

Ms. Tax’s first marriage, to Jonathan Schwartz, ended in divorce, and she later married author and philosopher Marshall Berman. She had a child with each husband. Information about survivors was not immediately available.

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