Katha Pollitt

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt is a poet and columnist at The Nation[1] She has "also written essays and book reviews for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Harper’s, Ms., Glamour, Mother Jones, The New York Times, and the London Review of Books. She has appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered, Charlie Rose, The McLaughlin Group, CNN, Dateline NBC and the BBC."[1] Her most recent book is Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which encourages pro-choice advocates to support abortion unapologetically as a social good rather than bowing to the negative framing of abortion opponents.[2]

Content of Writing

The Smurfette Principle

In a 1991 article, Pollitt coined "The Smurfette Principle", which described the recurring trope in film and TV where "a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined."[3] She noted the prevalence of this trope in the media ranging from Looney Toons to Winnie-the-Pooh to Teenage-Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Muppets movies. Pollitt claimed the prevalence of "Smurfettes" in these stories send the message that "Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys."[3] A feminist YouTube channel revisited The Smurfette Principle in 2011, applying it to Inception, the Transformers movies, Star Wars, and the Big Bang Theory.[4]

Unapologetic Pro-Choice Arguments

During a book tour for Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, Pollitt described how Planned Parenthood changed the language around the pro-choice position after focus groups informed them that the public saw abortion and not black and white, but shades of gray. Pollitt dismissed this claim, remarking "Isn't that another way of saying 'there are good abortions that I approve of and there are bad abortions that I don't approve of'?" She worried that her side capitulated to its opponents' framing of the abortion debate, pointing out examples where pro-choice advocates used language such as "safe, legal and rare" and said things like "abortion is the most tragic, terrible decision a woman ever makes".[5]

Pollitt also argued that a society could theoretically exist in which women were legally required to bear every pregnancy to full term without it having negative consequences on their lives. She argued, however, that pro-life proponents have no interest in creating a "socialist matriarchy" where children would be raised communally, childbirth outside of marriage would carry no social stigma, new mothers would have access to affordable housing and government subsidies to help them raise their children, and child-bearing and motherhood would be rewarded with prestige and respect.[5]

Pollitt also mentioned a legal case in which a sixteen-year-old was deemed "too immature" to make the decision to have an abortion, contrasting this with societal expectations of motherhood and child-rearing as "no big deal" for any woman old enough to bear children.[5] Pollitt concluded her reading by calling for an overall shift on how society views pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, noting "Whether a baby is a free personal choice, or what you get for 'being a slut', or God's beautiful gift to rape victims, the practical result is the same: whatever difficulties motherhood entails are the problem of individual mothers."[5]


Taken from:[1][6]
B.A. Harvard-Radcliffe
M.F.A. Columbia University


Taken from:[1]
Pollitt has contributed to The Nation since 1980 and her "Subject to Debate" column has run since 1995. "She has lectured at dozens of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brooklyn College, UCLA, the University of Mississippi and Cornell. She has taught poetry at Princeton, Barnard and the 92nd Street Y, and women’s studies at the New School University."

Pollitt is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at Type Media Center (Formerly the Nation Institute)[7]



Taken from:[1] "For her poetry, Pollitt has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship."

  • 2013, column, “Subject to Debate” won a Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America
  • 2011, American Sociological Association Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues[8]
  • 2010, "Lifetime Achievement" prize, American Book Awards[9][10]
  • 2003, “Subject to Debate” won the National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary
  • 2001, "Emperor Has No Clothes Award", Freedom from Religion Foundation[11]
  • 1993, essay “Why Do We Romanticize the Fetus?” won a Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America
  • 1992, essay "Why We Read: Canon to the Right of Me..." won the National Magazine Award for essays and criticism
  • 1992, Whiting Foundation Writing Award
  • 1982, book Antarctic Traveller won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry


Twitter: @KathaPollitt

Related Sourcewatch

External Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Nation, Katha Pollitt, magazine website, accessed November 15, 2019.
  2. Hanna Rosin, Abortion Is Great, Slate, October 13, 2014, accessed November 20, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Katha Pollitt, "Hers; The Smurfette Principle", New York Times, April 7, 1991, accessed November 15, 2019.
  4. Feminist Frequency, #3 The Smurfette Principle (Tropes vs. Women), feministfrequency YouTube channel, April 21, 2011, accessed November 15, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Katha Pollitt, Katha Pollitt "Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights", Politics and Prose YouTube channel, November 4, 2014, accessed November 20, 2019.
  6. Poetry Foundation, Katha Pollitt, organizational website, accessed November 15, 2019.
  7. Type Media Center, Katha Pollitt, organizational website, accessed November 20, 2019.
  8. ASA, Katha Pollitt Award Statement, organizational website, accessed November 20, 2019.
  9. "Katha Pollitt Wins ‘Lifetime Achievement’ American Book Award", Nation, August 25, 2011, accessed November 20, 2019.
  10. Before Columbus Foundation, Winners of the Thirty-First Annual American Book Awards, press release, August 5, 2010, accessed November 20, 2019.
  11. FRFF, Emperor Has No Clothes Award, organizational website, accessed November 20, 2019.