Feminist Speaks Out Against War Using Words As Weapons

March 10, 1991|By Henry Scarupa

You won't find radical feminist Robin Morgan cheering the troops in the Persian Gulf.

Noting she would have preferred prolonged diplomacy to war, however swift and victorious for American forces, she said, "I don't support the people in the Middle East as troops, don't support them being killers and forced to do what they had to do."

If that weren't enough in this time of fervent patriotism, this 5-foot woman with short, sculpted salt-and-pepper hair and soft, brown eyes fired away at Pentagon generals with smart weapons from her personal arsenal -- scathing wit and satire.

She accused U.S. military brass, most of whom are white, middle-aged males, of using "ejaculatory language and tactics." She cited as examples their own phrases, such as "super-hardened bunkers" and "rigid, deep earth-penetrating missiles."

"These men have problems," she said, zeroing in on her targets with an explosive cerebral charge, "real problems deciding where they end and where their weapons begin!"

Ms. Morgan, who is an award-winning journalist, poet, novelist, political theoretician, feminist activist and editor-in-chief of the rejuvenated Ms. magazine, shared some of these quips during a recent stop in town to give a talk at Goucher College for Women's History Month, sponsored by the school's Women's Issues Group.

Soft-spoken, highly articulate, marshaling a broad array offacts, the 50-year-old feminist puffed on a cigarette during an interview, occasionally removing the tinted aviator-style glasses from her face as if better to look a reporter in the eye while making a key point. She frequently punctuated her conversation with the expression "thank goddess."

As polls have shown, men and women differ widely on issues of war and military intervention. Ms. Morgan feels the patriarchal tendency to compartmentalize inclines men toward violence. This is a theme she sounds repeatedly, in interviews, in talks across the country and in her writing.

In a Ms. editorial, she describes compartmentalization as the capacity for "institutionalizing disconnection," separating intellect from emotion and thought from action, categorizing people by "sex, age, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, height, weight, class, religion, physical ability, ad nauseam."

Feminism, to her thinking, is characterized by "connectivity," making the connection between war and poverty, conquest and rape, militarism and machismo and so on.

Ms. Morgan already had published 12 books, including fiction, poetry, essays, several anthologies and a biting analysis of the -- sexuality of terrorism, when she was named editor of Ms. in January 1990. Under a new owner, the periodical suspended publication for six months to allow the new editor time to restructure it as the first ad-free national women's magazine, then premiered (and sold out) last summer.

Already outpacing projections, according to Ms. Morgan, the magazine goes to more than 100,000 subscribers, with an additional 60,000 copies sold at news stands, and is operating in the black.

"We're lucky Robin was in a place in her life where she could devote a few years to the magazine," said Gloria Steinem, founder and currently consulting editor of Ms. "She's the only one of us in the [women's] movement who does it all. . . . She's a real treasure."

Ms. Morgan, who was born in Florida but raised in New York, has always been obsessed with the desire to write. Her parents pushed her toward a stage career at an early age, and she performed on TV as a child actress until she put her foot down at 14.

Following graduation from the Wetter School in Mount Vernon, N.Y., she enrolled in Columbia University but dropped out after two years. Her life's focus had narrowed to literature and writing, and a broad college education didn't fit in with her plans.

During the next decade she became a true child of the '60s, savoring the freedom and excess, idealism and self-delusion that marked the tempestuous period.

She went on to take part in the civil rights movement in Alabama and Mississippi.

In her book "The Demon Lover," she tells how she then became part of a New Left revolutionary cell, took up karate, tried to learn to shoot a rifle and huddled with other radicals as they plotted to plant explosives in public buildings. She finally balked when asked to place a small bomb in a women's restroom, dimly aware of the sexism in a male strategy that ignored the danger to innocent women.

Unlike many '60s radicals, Ms. Morgan has remained eager to fight fresh battles. She said she owes her survival in part to her son, Blake, now 21 and a musician. She was married to writer Kenneth Pitchford, but is divorced.

Looking to the future, Ms. Morgan is optimistic, seeing "strides being made all the time," even though she doesn't expect all the goals of feminism to be realized in her lifetime.

That would require nothing less than the transformation of the world, she said. But for Ms. Morgan, "anything less is unthinkable -- if not only the human species but all sentient life on this planet is to survive."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.