Skip to main content

Interview with Dr. Alice Echols

:: ::


Echols, Alice ; McKiernan, Stephen


Dr. Alice Echols is a professor of History and Gender Studies at University of Southern California. She authored four books and several articles. Dr. Echols has a bachelor's degree in History from Macalester College and master's and Ph.D. from University of Michagan.




In copyright

Date Modified


Is Part Of

McKiernan Interviews




McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Alice Echols
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: REV
Date of interview: 21 June 2010
(Start of Interview)

SM (00:00:04):
Alice Echols.

AE (00:00:08):

SM (00:00:09):
My first question is, when you were in college during the late (19)60s and early (19)70s as an undergrad and then in graduate school in the late (19)70s through the mid (19)80s, what did you see both socially and culturally? What stood out? I know that you have written in Disco about the music and the movements that were taking place in America in the late (19)60s and early (19)70s, and some of the influences that were happening too, and not only African Americans, but women and gay and lesbian Americans. Just your thoughts on your college years and what you saw.

AE (00:00:51):
Do you mean on campus? I mean-

SM (00:00:54):
Yes, on campus.

AE (00:00:55):
Okay. Okay. Well, I went to, as an undergraduate, I attended Carleton College, which is in Northfield, Minnesota. It is sort of surrounded by cornfields. And yeah, there were not a lot of attractions beyond the campus. There were a few, but there were not very many. In fact, I left Carleton and did my senior, so my last, pretty much last year and a half, I guess I would say, at Macalester College, which was in Saint Paul. I did that for a number of reasons, but certainly, one of the reasons I transferred... Because I had a lot of friends at Carleton and we stayed friends, and they were a big piece of my story. I am still Close to some of them. But I went to Macalester because it was a more politically active campus. As I said, it was in the city. It had, I think, the greatest proportion, the highest proportion, I believe, of EEOC students of any college campus. And it also had, and this is kind of remarkable, it had... The student council or student government had been able to hire an organizer to organize students, and he was a Saul Alinsky trained organizer. And so, how many college campuses could that be set up? Probably none other. Highly unusual. Very much greater population of minorities, especially African Americans at that campus when I was there. And to make it even stranger, this was pretty much underwritten by DeWitt Wallace money, which is to say Reader's Digest money. At a certain point in time, you cannot trust me on this because it is a sort of more hearsay than anything I have actually read, but I think he pulled a good deal of his money from Macalester. But in any case, it was a very different kind of experience. At Carleton, we smoked a lot of dope, and people within my friendship network certainly dropped a good deal of acid. I did not do much of that myself because I never had as well a time, but it was a... Carleton was a college campus, which was pretty intense by virtue of being in the northern frozen tundra. So, there was not a lot of activism happening. We were one of the colleges to go on strike as a result of the invasion of Cambodia. And I have this very, very dear memory, and I may be completely wrong about this, but Kai Bird's name started to cross my radar some years ago. I think that Kai Bird may have also been a student at Carleton. But the long and the short of it was that it was not as politically active a campus as Macalester, which is, again, one of the major reasons that I switched. For me, I mean, college was... I had gone to Sidwell Friends in DC, so I had gone to a prep school. I was fairly well-prepared, I would say, academically. Culturally, socially, well, there was a lot of sex. Not very much of it, for me, very meaningful. And I do think that many of us felt as though men... I should say that among the women with whom I was friends, I certainly think that there were friends of mine who were having more fun sexually than I was probably, but I still think that there was a way in which there was some pressure to be heterosexually active. There was really no overt feminist consciousness at Carleton when I was there. I remember my roommate who became a Wall Street banker turned organic farmer, a wonderful woman. And this is much, much later, obviously, in her life. I remember her showing up with Kate Millett's Sexual Politics, and it was like, "Wow."

SM (00:06:05):
Wow. Yeah.

AE (00:06:08):
This was highly... Feminism was not part of the fabric of that school yet. Although I do remember, I think it was after I had already moved to Macalester, Gloria Steinem and Margaret Sloan, who was her sidekick then, African American woman who was very important. They came to campus and there was a huge turnout.

SM (00:06:29):

AE (00:06:30):
And they were great. I mean, they were just wonderful. That probably would have been, I would imagine (19)73, I suspect, (19)72 or (19)73. But feminism was not a very lively presence. There were rumors. I remember the first transgender person I ever met was at Carleton, but was, again, not somebody who I at least understood as having any kind of feminist... This was SM. And it was rumored that when this person had... Well, I mean, let us just say that I was not really aware of any openly lesbian or gay people on that campus. Now, when I went to Macalester, I was living off campus. It was much less intense. It was much more of a commuter campus. Carleton was not. Everybody who was a student there lived on campus pretty much. And it was not even possible to have a car. I mean, when I was at Carleton, I had one of the few cars that you had to park it off campus and pretend that you did not own it. So, it was a kind of hot house. And I do not mean necessarily altogether intellectually so. It was sort of claustrophobic. We often tended to... It was easy to get involved with your best friend's boyfriend and stuff like that would happen. So, there was a lot of that kind of drama around. Macalester was different. As I said, it was a commuter college. There certainly was the beginnings of a feminist and lesbian feminist community there in Saint Paul. And I got introduced to it a little bit when I was a student there, but it did not... I was still rather nervous about all of that and what that meant. It really did feel like jumping off the cliff sort of to even get involved with any group. Not that I am particularly aware of there being any on-campus groups. I think I left there probably about (19)70... This is when it gets tricky. Probably, I think it was the summer of (19)74, and that is when I moved to Santa Fe. So, just to try to answer your question a little bit better, my sense was... I had been politically active, you have to understand, before I went to college. And I write about that in the introduction to Shaky Ground. I had been involved in a strange, little group outside of DC where I had grown up that was supposed to be fighting racism in the suburbs, and more specifically at University of Maryland stuff. I had done a good deal of... I had read a good deal of stuff that summer of (19)69 of some of the people who we met, because we hung out at the SDS house in DC, and we supported breaking furniture workers and did various things. Taxicab drivers went on strike that summer and we supported them at Union Station. But we were allied with this SDS office in DC that I think was viewed by the national office as rather dysfunctional. I do not know if it was. I do remember Bill Ayers coming here and being there one evening when he told us... He was very provocative, and he told us that we really had to pick up the gun if we were serious about fighting racism and stopping the war.

SM (00:10:26):
Is that when they were going to the Weatherman?

AE (00:10:30):
Yeah. This was when Weatherman was developing. Trying to remember when the War Council was in Flint, Michigan. It may have been... I think it was right around that time. You'd have to check, but there was Weather people around that factor. And I remember one of them trying to recruit me to go to David's grave, and it just did not make sense to me, actually. And I cannot really tell you why, except that I think I was probably nervous, made uncomfortable by the violence and also the elitism, I think. But again, this could very much be retrospective because certainly, I have been pretty critical of Weatherman in my hourly work. And let me just say, I was not impressed by Bill Ayers. I thought he was a real prick. So, when I came to Carleton, I thought that there was going to be more political activism. And what I found was some people who indeed had a political consciousness, but it was a pretty... Really, the life at the campus was really organized. I mean, at least among my friends, it was really about partying and keggers, and smoking dope, and the occasional dropping of acid, and having a lot of sex. It was not that... And I am not saying that that does not have a political dimension, but this was not a very strong political campus. Although that said, I did take a class with Paul Wellstone when he was-

SM (00:12:26):
Oh, yeah, the former senator who died in the plane crash.

AE (00:12:29):
And he was really incredible. I remember taking the class with him on civil disobedience. And there were indeed some political people there who influenced me. So, I do not know. I was one of those people who I suppose could have gone in the direction of further political activism of that sort. Organized, in other words, some sort of variety of left activism. And what happened to me was I ended up after college... Or again, on both campuses. Although at Macalester, there was less [inaudible]. And oddly enough, even though it was a more political campus, I do not remember being that much more politically involved. But be that as it may, I ended up moving with a bunch [inaudible] to Santa Fe, New Mexico, because I just fell in love with it when I came and visited. And one of my friends had grown up here and had been as an architect in Santa Fe and was just somebody who knew Pen La Farge. I think he was the half-brother of Peter La Farge, a folk singer in The Village and was the son of Oliver La Farge, the writer who was the author of Laughing Boy. And so, we stayed in this wonderful house that had belonged to Oliver La Farge. It was still in the La Farge family while Pen was at graduate school in Boston. We lived there for a year. And during that time, I heard about this interesting program in women's studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. And I started to go to their meetings. Again, this is something that I write about again in the introduction to Shaky Ground, but that experience was really pretty life changing because this was not... Even though it was ostensibly meant to be an academic program, this is a pretty wild and wooly one. I mean, this one-

SM (00:14:55):
It was certainly new.

AE (00:15:01):
It was new. It was definitely new, and one had the feeling that there was very little out there, actually. And one was really making the curriculum. But it was unusual in the sense that community people like myself, because I had not gotten my BA. But I got my BA from Macalester, not from UNM. I was not doing anything there but working as actually a gardener trainee too eventually. But community people were able, like myself, were able to speak in the program for a period of time, which was really probably not a great thing. But looking back on it, I do not think I had the expertise. I do not think I had the skills to teach effectively. I do not think I knew enough. But nonetheless, being part of that group of mostly graduate students, because there was, I believe, only one faculty member who was married, I think, to someone in the philosophy department, and I think taught as an adjunct at the university. I think she was the only faculty member. Again, very, very telling, working as an adjunct. That would change over time, but when I was involved, which probably would have been about, I think it was probably (19)74, (19)75. Again, my dates here are fairly shaky, but it was a really impressive group. I mean, impressive, yes, a lot of smart women in that group, and it was a group only of women. A lot of political tensions between socialist feminists and those who were more mainstream and those who were lesbian feminists. This was my first real introduction to lesbians, and they both inspired me and terrified me. But I would say that there was probably more in the way of admiration than terror. But they were so super articulate. They were so articulate. They were so sure of themselves. They did not seem like the kind of miserable, dysfunctional losers that they were meant to be. And that really did completely blow my mind. And so, I began to tentatively... I eventually moved to Albuquerque. I started to go to the lesbian bar. And indeed, my first visit there was terrifying because none of those women were there, but it really was life changing. Two of the women who were part of that Women's Studies Collective, as we were called, had ties to Olivia Records. And that was the all-women's record company that recorded only women, people like Cris Williamson, and not Holly Near, but Meg Christian and several others. I mean, it was a pretty accomplished group of women, Lucia Valeska, who would then go on to be one of the heads of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This is not to romanticize it. I would say that... This was what? Probably, as I said, (19)74, (19)75, and they were all... There was a kind of dogmatism there that I did not like. I have never been a big fan of dogmatism. So, even then, that is certainly in play. I had a kind of uneasy relationship, I think, at first to that group because I was perceived very much and indeed did identify first as bisexual. And that was not a good thing to be in those days. You were not seen as farther along. You might think that lesbian feminists would think, "Oh, well, there is a bisexual. So, at least, she's more open than her heterosexual sisters." But no, it's not that way at all. It was much more the case of people, those folks, regarding you as really lacking conviction. You were seen as wishy-washy. You were seen as being the epitome of the liberal. And as you know in the (19)60s, in the long (19)60s, there was really nothing worse than being a liberal. People would rather deal with, in some sense, at least this was the rhetoric, would rather deal with somebody who was overtly inimical to their aims than somebody who they felt was dodgy in the way that they felt liberals were. So, I think bisexual women were really seen as dodgy characters, sketchy characters. And so, yeah, like many bisexual women, I did come out. And indeed, I suspect that even probably some of the women who were, I am quite sure this is true, who were the most vociferous, fiercest lesbian feminists have since gone back to men. But I did not really. I did not. But I would say that those were both wonderful years and scary years. Being involved, not so much in that collective, but in that first community and going to the bar, going to the lesbian bar, it was a very scary thing to do. It was not in a good neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination. There was sometimes men who would prowl the parking lot in order to beat up guys. That never happened to me. But I remember evening or nights when men were chased away. There were fights inside the bar for sure. There were tensions between Chicanos and Anglos, between working class women and middle-class women, between town and gown. I would not say antagonism but mistrust or distrust. So, it was a pretty... It was also a wonderful place in many ways, although it was a complete [inaudible]. But I would say you really did feel like you were leaving your life behind. And I started to see much less of my friends in Santa Fe when I moved down there, and I came out. Relations with my family became much tenser. They had been a little tense because I had been involved in these political groups. And I can remember calling my mother up to tell her that I was coming out, and she was just so actually relieved that I was not calling to say that I was joining some terrorist group. That actually, her reaction, I would not say that it was great, but it could have been a lot worse. There was definitely, I think, an element of relief.

SM (00:23:16):
So, your generation gap between your parents was over this issue?

AE (00:23:21):
Well, I would say my father was a pretty interesting character because he had been a new neoliberal and he subscribed to I. F. Stone weekly, at a point in time when actually it could have hurt him because he ended up, he worked at the Veteran's Administration, and he became the head of the mortgage loan guarantee division. And that was a job, it was a position that required congressional approval, as I understand it. And they could subpoena anything, everything, anything, including what he was subscribing to. So, that was pretty nervy of him. But over time, I will say that he became, and this was a source of a lot of conflict between us, he became a Reagan nut. He ended up moving to the right. For all I know, he voted for Nixon. I am just not sure. But he ended up moving to the right. And we did have fights about racism and about affirmative action, and about the ERA, and abortion. Yeah, we definitely did. Not so much as my mother. My mother was not as politically invested as my father was because he worked at a government agency. I do not doubt that he saw a good deal of abuse and fraud, especially in his workings with HUD because he had [inaudible].

SM (00:25:08):
Do you think the McCarthy hearings had anything to do with his fear of what could happen to him if he was a liberal and...

AE (00:25:23):
Well, no, because he was subscribing to I. F. Stone. And I. F. Stone, as you know, was-

SM (00:25:24):
Yeah. Pretty much, yeah.

AE (00:25:31):
Certainly, was judged a dangerous lefty by some people in the administration. And I think by the time that my father... This would have been during Nixon's years when he was going up. So, I do not know. I do not really think so. I think he had every reason to be fearful given Nixon and given that administration about what might happen to his appointment. And it ended up not happening. He ended up being fine, but he was an odd person in that, as I understand it... Again, I have not checked this independently, but as I understand it, he was the first person at the VA in his division to hire an African American. And indeed, I had lunch with my father and this man a number of times. And he was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a man that could be characterized as an Uncle Tom. He really was not. So, my father was odd. I would say he was an interesting mix, who over time, I think mostly goes to the right, turns to the right because of the riots in DC. I think what happened there were friends of his were attacked by Black people in the street, including people who he knew to be very honorable liberals. That really changed him, and it was very hard to see that happen. It was hard to experience that. But we did continue to... So, he goes to the right. And for years, he would send a weekly letter, both of them, both of the parents would. And he would include a page usually, which would deal with current events and his sort of sense. He was forever making disparaging comments about gays and lesbians and feminists, and you name it. And finally, towards the latter part of his life, my mother, finally, because we had a big, serious falling out at some point, I think it was in the (19)90s, and my mother persuaded me to ratchet that down, ratchet that rhetoric down. And in fact, before my mother died, she really became quite wonderful. Now, because father has died, she became much more open to-

SM (00:28:22):
Did you pick the University of Michigan for your master's and PhD because you wanted to be real competent in your knowledge of the subject matter that you were talking about earlier?

AE (00:28:34):
I had applied to a number of schools including UCLA, I think Yale, which I did not get into. But I think UCLA was definitely one of them and I did get in there, and Michigan and Yale. I think there was another school that I did not get into, and there was another one that I did, maybe Wisconsin. I ended up going to Michigan because it was meant to be very good in women's history. And Robin Jacoby was then a young and tenured faculty member there and Louise Billie was in European history. And so, it was very strong in social history. And as you know, women's history really grows out of social history. And there was a young urban historian there by the name of Elizabeth Pleck, whose husband Joe Pleck has done a lot of work on sex-role, as they were called, through sex- role socialization as it was involved in at that point in time. So, I really went there because of its reputation as a very strong department, but one that was especially strong, I hope, in women's history. That turned out not to be true. It turned out to be a very conservative department that I was getting into. For instance, Liz Pleck was denied tenure pretty early into my- [inaudible]. Pretty early into my time there, Robin Jacoby did not go up for tenure, knowing she would not get it. And they did not make any replacement. There was no real woman's historian hired there in the US side, which was what I was supposed to be in, until Phil Carlson was hired, which was, I think the year that I was... the year that I was defending or the year before I was defending my decision. So I effectively had the decision. I remember very clearly going and had... I had nobody to work with. I will get back to that interesting problem in a minute. But I went to Michigan also because it was Ann Arbor, it had this whole aura of, and history of radicalism, right?

SM (00:30:59):

AE (00:31:00):
And so I was very eager to be there. And I knew that women's studies there were meant to be really interesting and it was really interesting. It was so terrific. This is where Gal Rubin was a graduate student and Kathleen Stewart or Katie Stewart was a graduate student there, and there were other people and it was just the most amazing collection of people. Believe me, it was a wonderful, wonderful experience to be part of that program. And that is really where my intellectual life was, it was not in history. History was still very conservative and that changes. Indeed, it is changing by the time I am finishing up, but really much too late to help me. But I was also part of the so called women's community there, which is to say really, basically the lesbian community and the collectives that ran the women's Bookstore in town. And then there were various struggles there, three of the VA nurses who again, we argued wrongly accused of killing people. This was legalized prostitution. Ann Arbor was the home of legalized marijuana and we thought legalized prostitution. So we were sort of the leading edge of the, I would say, the protest front before the sex board actually emerged. And some of it actually was because of the fact that a number of the women who were the most active women in the lesbian family community there also worked as bus drivers at the Unionized Trust company in Ann Arbor and also moonlighted as prostitutes. They worked, they were sex workers at a brothel that were city corner from where I [inaudible] later in the [inaudible]. So politically I was involved in the Graduate Employers Organization too, but that was not really where my heart was as much as it was in the women's community over time as against, over time as those organizations there were fewer of these mobilizations and I became more involved ultimately in writing the dissertation. So I became less politically active, but I was pretty politically active at first in my first years in Ann Arbor. But the person, the people who really saved me back to faculty members, and it was Barbara Fields, the Columbia historian, Barbara [inaudible], who I had done coursework with and had been on my world. And she and I ran into it. But there were a grocery store and she offered to co-chair my committee. And Louis Hilly, who was the Europeanist, was the other co-chair. But it is quite telling that in the dissertation it was really about radical feminism in the recent past. I had no one to work with others in, and they were Louis me. I am not complaining in the sense that they were wonderful to work with, but it was not their field. This was not their field. It was still mean. The history department there, as I said, was still fairly backwards.

SM (00:34:32):
I got a lot of questions here that are looking at the era. Can you discuss, I just had an interview last week with Susan Brown Miller and some of these questions I asked her too, and though she had some individual questions about her background, but please discuss the movements that evolved in the late (19)60s and (19)70s. And I am talking about the women's movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the environmental movement, the Native American movement, the Chicano movement, but civil rights movement was already taking place. But please discuss the movements that evolved in the late (19)60s and (19)70s and why they seem to have declined once the Reagan era began in the (19)80s. And a lot of people blame Reagan because of the administration, but the movements were, a lot of them were shoot offs from the civil rights and anti-war movement for a variety of reasons. I got questions down the road for that, but your thoughts on why they do not seem to be as visible today that is my perception and they really have not been as visible since the (19)80s.

AE (00:35:50):
Well, I do think that the (19)70s is a period in which there is a good deal activist biology, and so I do think the (19)70s, the business character, I do think by the time he gets the (19)80s, absolutely, I think it is true. And there was a cultural shift of course, that put him into office as well was inimical to the kind of political organizing that had characterized the (19)60s and into the 1970s. So I think that that was the fast. But I also think that it is very, very hard to maintain movements. Movements by their very nature or some, maybe not seminal, but they are limited. they do not just go on forever. And there shifts and they change and they rarely are, and they usually go through foul periods. Now, I do not know who is to say that there is not going to be some sort of resurgence of feminism tomorrow. Certainly people have thought that that was going to happen any number of times since the (19)70s, but I guess in the (19)80s, I have just been reading this wonderful book by 15 sample called The Feminist [inaudible], which is a history of, for the first and the second place. And one of the things that she points out, and I think this is really key, is that in part because of Reaganism and the tone that Reaganism took on feminist fear. Because faith that you felt if you were a feminist, and I would say if you were a member of a sexual or racial minority as well, or somebody who was elected, it was not one of the things that keeps movement going is a sense that you are gaining, you are actually gaining ground. We have had the experience of losing ground and having to fight and fight and fight, continuing to fight for abortion, for instance, that was getting acquittal away, continuing to fight for the era that was a losing battle. We thought that she had managed to diminish the possibilities of foreign adventures, right? Involvement in the affairs of foreign government, well, no, as Iran. So there were a number of ways in which I think people who were associated with those movements, the challenges to affirmative action, certainly there were a number of programs that had been instituted, especially during the LBJ and even during the Nixon years that were dismantled during the raging years. And I think there was this sensation that many of us had of a total fatigue. And then they are having to gear up around the pornography battle and faith in the first, within the sum movement, but it was also an internally divide movement. So one of the things that Christ stamp points out in her very really brilliant book is that when we are looking at feminism, it is not case that the movement end, which is, I would have to say that I would now revise my argument in daring to be bad. I think that radical feminism does sort of peter out. But feminism as a whole, I think that I was far too harsh on liberal feminism. I think that then becomes the ancient, I mean, as I say in my book, even the radical feminist engine cuts out and it was less liberal feminist. I do not feel as now as gloomy about that. I think an awful lot was accomplished. And I think as a result of what I was going to say that Chris in her book is that as a result of Reaganism, you find American feminists working globally and having great success in working globally. Which is not to say that global feminism has been unproblematic because there has been a tendency, as she points out in her book, to flatten women's experience out and not be yearly as attentive as one should do the sort of local conditions and traditions. But nonetheless, I think that made a huge difference. And so I would not say that feminism totally heated out. And I think there are still conversations that are happening. There are still, I would not say that there is a movement in the way in which there was in the (19)70s, but there is still happening. And I think it is even significant when you have people like Lady Gaga saying quite forthrightly on the Larry King show, that yes, she is a feminist and that she wants to change the way that girls and women think about themselves.

SM (00:41:51):
You wrote a book on radical feminism, and of course a lot of people I have interviewed are proud to be feminist, but they do not say they are radical feminists. How do you define the difference between a radical feminist and just a feminist or a mainstream feminist, or what is the difference?

AE (00:42:08):
Well, I think that really defies easy descriptions. I, again I would have to say, I really tried very diligently in that book to give a definition of radical feminism that would be broad enough to include even radical feminists who did not agree with each other.

SM (00:42:39):
Hold on one second. I have to turn my, okay.

AE (00:42:47):
But I mean, Susan Brown Miller, I do not know how she identified herself to you in her interview, but for instance, she was involved in a group called New York Radical Feminist. And I would say still that what characterized radical feminism, and this is where I would be more critical of my book now, is that I think that this began to characterize liberal feminists as well over time because it was a very powerful idea. Which is the idea that personal is political, which means this is an idea by the way that I think has been understood, has been used in ways that have not always been productive. But be that as it may, I think that the personal is political was originally an idea that was really put forward by Seawright Neural the radical sociologist, and then popularized somewhat by Hayden and then further picked up on by the woman who begin to form these little groups that become the basis of the Women's liberation Movement. And what the personal is political really means is that there is that personal life, this area of our existence that we usually assume is purely personal, actually has the political dimensions. And so it actually says something about the culture in which we live that, for instance, heterosexual sex at that point in time often was a three-minute affair that did very often was more centered around male pleasure than female. It was significant and said something about the culture that there were certain people who were changing the diapers and cooking the meals and cleaning up, et cetera, et cetera. That was what it was really, I think originally supposed to mean. Not that if you lived with a man or if your hair was long, or if you wore high heels and you were not a feminist, which is very often the way that it was construed, I think. But so a radical feminist was somebody who really felt that the real focus of our political activism needed to be around the personal and needed to be around the psychological. Not to the total dismissal of dealing with and working on employment discrimination or rape laws or violence against women more generally. But that the real meat of this, the real meat of the struggle was psychological and it was relational. And so for me, radical feminism was really about an immense challenge to personal life and to the sort of social organization of private life. And again, in some cases it led to things that I think were unfortunate. The personal political was one of the arguments that was used to by some feminists to supports the impeachment of Clinton. And I myself, could not have cared less. I should not say I could not have cared less, but I did not think that that should be the basis of impeachment. But I do think that the attention to personal life, whereas liberal had been much more tuned to sort of more conventionally understood political realm of employment discrimination laws, legislation. But here is the thing, over time, inevitably the radical feminist's agenda, the sort of focus on the personal, it be very visible and so now begins to organize CR groups now takes up the struggle more effectively than radical feminists does. Abortion rights and rape laws and on and on and on. So the liberal feminist, the liberal feminist, played an incredibly important role, and they were themselves changed and transformed by radical feminists. I would say radical feminism played a role in the women's business, not unlike the role that, for instance, Nixon rights. It pushed the issue it went deeper and sometimes in somewhat wacky ways, but it was still liberal feminism would never have developed as it did without that kind of push for radical feminists. Does that help too?

SM (00:47:53):
Yes. I have some names here. Would you put Gloria Steinem and Betty Fordam and Sherry Height? Would you put them in the liberal feminist where you have, but you would have Bella Abzug, Robin Morgan, Andrew Derkin, Susan Johnson, Jermaine Greer would be more in the radical.

AE (00:48:16):
Well, I think one of the things that I really feel at this point in time is that I am very uninterested in making those kinds of distinctions, in part because very often those distinctions were much more meaningful in the very early years of the women's movement. And over time I think became less so. Certainly somebody like Dudy Friedan had no use for radical feminism. On the other hand, she herself, her thinking was to some extent transformed by what was going on within the radical feminist sphere. But I am not comfortable making those kinds of judge, I just do not think it is, it gets us anywhere. Let us just say that at its best, at its most optimal radical feminism and liberal feminism when they worked together, were able to really accomplish a lot, sometimes in a kind of good cop, bad cop way.

SM (00:49:24):
The (19)60s and early (19)70s are often defined as the era that defined the color culture that includes long hair, unique dress, drugs, rock music, the sexual revolution. And a lot of people say that the (19)60s included goes right up to 1973 and that the real (19)70s began in the mid (19)70s, but the (19)70s were also important. So basically what I am saying is, and I have heard this from other people, that a lot of the things that define the (19)60s, many of them really defined the (19)70s and were more important in the (19)70s.

AE (00:50:08):
Well, yeah, that is maybe argument that I make in the disco book. I think this notion of the me decade, it was a great essay from Will, but think we have outlived, I think there was an awful lot of, if you want to talk about narcissism, there was an awful lot of narcissism in the (19)60s too. And I think, but to get at the question of the (19)70s, I think that what is distinctive about the (19)70s is that over time, one does have the feelings as a result of the loss of Vietnam, which different parts of the population experience differently right? As a result of that, as a result of the energy crisis, as a result of the shuttering of factories as a result of the recession and stagflation, it is a different kind of consciousness mean you do not have the sense of nearly the same sense, which was very important for the underwriting of protests. This sense of, hey, this is let the good times roll. This is just not going to end. We are going to continue to be able to live for $30 a month in a beautiful, somewhat rundown Victorian in the middle of a city. So that sense of optimism and hopefulness, I think begins to take a beating. And I think, again, more systematic research has to be done on this. And when that sort of sense of pessimism sets in, and I think also the political assassinations take their toll. I think in black communities, certainly the sense that you are able to elect mayors is important, but it is also becomes increasingly undeniable that these are cities that are in pretty bad shape. So I think, again, I think that the periodization is probably going to vary somewhat depending upon the group that one's talking about. But I think if you think about the (19)60s as being a time that did involve actually both collective action and assigned an ethos of individualism, if you think about it at the time, which was pretty hedonistic and pleasure oriented. This goes through, this runs through the threads that run through the (19)70s, and the kind of hedonism that you might have seen at the full auto auditorium becomes much more available to more people in disco culture. And in fact, one of the things that is quite striking about disco culture is that it is not, I do not want to oversell it, I do not want to romanticize it because there was racial discrimination in discos, but it is a much more integrated nightlife than what you found at Hip Ballroom where black people tended to be not typical. Something of a rarity.

SM (00:53:59):
Hold on. Somebody is calling. I will let it go. My cell phone. I will just let it ring. Yeah, it is interesting because as a student at Ohio State in the early (19)70s, this is before disco, African American students had their own dances and white students had their own dances, and there was this black power thing and there was a lot of intimidation going on. And then disco came about later in the (19)70s itself. Would you say, as some people have told me that some people think that the (19)70s were more about the sexual revolution and drugs was more a (19)70s thing than a (19)60s thing?

AE (00:54:42):
Well, I think drugs become, drugs had been part of various, if you think about it, if you think about pharmaceuticals, the (19)50s were a drug era. You think about just the very casual use of speed in the 1950s. There was a reason that so many beatniks were so many of the beats were using feed. It was that it was pretty much the drugs that a lot of people were using. And it was easy to get at Carlton, they would hand it out at examination time. And that was way into the (19)60s. So I think it depends on the kinds of drugs that you are talking about. And I certainly would not make the argument that a lot of people do that the (19)60s were good drugs and the (19)70s were bad drugs. I think that is very simplistic. But I do think that drugs in some sense become more available. I think that the sexual revolution affects more people in the 1970s. I think certainly gay liberation really changes the landscape for Williams Samaritans. So I think that it is absolutely true that there is more sexual expressiveness. There is probably, again, do not quote me, but there is certainly a lot of drug use. I think it does permeate the population more fully. And I think some of the biggest protest marches actually happened in the 1970s. I think all of that is true.

SM (00:56:38):
One of the things I interviewed Phyllis Schlafly, and I know David Horowitz, who you are aware of, a liberal who became very conservative and has attacked the (19)60s generation in many ways. You teach women's studies and well, another areas, how do you respond to the criticism of colleges today that the troublemakers of yesterday now run today's colleges and oversee departments like women's studies, gay studies, Asian studies, and black studies. It is a criticism that some more conservative people make toward the universities today.

AE (00:57:21):

SM (00:57:22):
And it is not only been since 2000. It was all through the (19)90s too, and probably the latter part of the (19)80s.

AE (00:57:31):
Well, I think that it would be fair to say that the university tend to be places where faculty members tend towards the liberal. I do not think that that is the preserve only of women's studies department. There tend not be, there are departments called things like lesbian and gay, bisexual, transgender studies. I do not know. I am associated, I have taught in many places in women's studies, gender studies, LGBT, I have encountered some dogmatism. But anybody who has read my work knows that I am really not dogmatic. I am not a defender of weatherman. I am not a defender of, I have been known to be critical of the last, I have been known to be critical of other strands of feminism. I am not really a very [inaudible] person. And in fact, that whole term, politically correct or PC was a term that was created that came about within the feminists and sort of larger progressive movement as a way of poking fun at that kind of the more ideologically oriented amongst us. And so I tend to think that actually in the programs that I have been involved with, that there has been a good deal of debate. And these are not places that are characterized by semi-Nazism as some people have alleged. I think I am somebody, and I know I am not alone in this, who when she teaches feminism, will often teach well, I always teach people who are critical of the movement as well. I will teach Camille Pollia, I will teach people who...

AE (01:00:03):
... I have taught Phyllis Schlafly. I think it is really important for students to be exposed to something other than simply a certain strand of feminism, a certain kind of let us say, gay and lesbian history writing. So, I have always encouraged people in my classes, and I have seen this a lot among other faculty, encouraged people to question orthodoxies no matter what the orthodoxy, even if it's a political tendency that is represented in the program that I am teaching in. I do think that feminists have been really extraordinarily self-critical, perhaps not in ways that Schlafly and Harwood would agree with, but I think we have certainly taken on board very seriously the criticisms that, for instance, women of color have made of these women's studies programs. So I would say I am very well aware of those criticisms, of course, but somebody like myself, who I really do think of as in many ways, really a free thinker. I have not felt constrained, shall we say, by my involvement in these [inaudible 01:01:47].

SM (01:01:48):
You are a cultural historian, and of course the boomers have been alive since 1946. The oldest Boomers are 63 going on 64, and the youngest Boomers are 47 going on 48. So they have all been around a while. So I break it down here, and I have been asking this to all of my interviewees, at least the second half of my interviewees, is, in your words, define the culture of these particular periods. I will do one at a time here, define the culture of the late (19)40s and (19)50s and how the (19)40s shaped the (19)50s and the (19)50s shaped the (19)60s. It does not have to be anything in length, but just general, what it was like to be a kid growing up in America, or a young parent like the Boomers parents or World War II generation raising kids in this era. Just define the culture of the late (19)40s and (19)50s, and then how the (19)40s shaped the (19)50s, and how the (19)50s shaped the (19)60s.

AE (01:02:54):
Well, I suspect that it goes farther back. I mean, I suspect that certainly the (19)30s did a lot of shaping of the (19)60s in the sense that initially a lot of the people who were (19)60s activists, and by that, I mean people who were involved, not in Young Americans for Freedom, I am talking about the people who were involved in FBS and other left-leaning groups, the liberal groups, what they knew about the (19)30s and the left through the (19)50s was very sobering. So I think that to a great extent, there was a caution about dogmatism and about relying upon a predetermined or any kind of dogma, any kind of Marxist-Leninist thought. There was a real uneasiness about that, which of course was an uneasiness that was encouraged and to a great extent by some of the liberals who were mentoring people like Hayden and others. So I think that, you have to go even further back. When it comes to my own childhood, I think the way that I make sense of it, and I write about this a bit in the Janice book, is that Lord knows Port Arthur was not Chevy Chase, Maryland by a long shot, and her parents were not my parents. But I do think that many of us grew up feeling as though our parents were just completely unreasonably invested in a kind of safe and secure existence. They wanted stability, they wanted safety, they wanted stability, and they did not want excitement. This is what I believe in the Janice book I talk about, I think I quote Peter Coyote about the adventure shortage.

SM (01:05:21):
I am interviewing him in three weeks.

AE (01:05:23):
Yes, check it out. I am pretty sure that he's the one who talked about the adventure shortage, and I did not interview him. I could not get to him so more power to you. But I think that that is true. I think many of us growing up did feel as though there was an adventure shortage. I think there was also a sense that a number of the people that I interviewed for the Janice book talked about, which was this sense of potential oblivion. I mean, I had nightmares myself about Soviet troops marching down the street. I mean, those of us who lived through the Cuban missiles crisis and were aware of and worried about the arms buildup, I think did grow up feeling fearful. I suspect that all of that, the sort of enthusiasm that our parents had for stability and for a lack of excitement and the kind of adventure shortage that that resulted in, and these sorts of fears about nuclear destruction, probably made us take risks. It did not make us better, it did not make us more noble. It did not make us the best generation or a better generation. It made us different. I think, again, each of us dealt with us differently, and some people took no risks at all, but a lot of us did take risks, whether it was deciding to come out as a lesbian as I did, which believe me, was not a great career move, although you would not know it now, but for a long time, I did not have a tenured position, and this had to do with the kind of risks that I took in my work and it had to do also with the fact that I was not at all closeted. It was pretty easy to tell from my acknowledgements that I was not exclusively heterosexual. So a lot of us took risks, I think as a result of that, as a result of feeling this kind of claustrophobia. A lot of us grew up in suburbs that did not have a lot happening in them also. So I think in particular, many of us were drawn to African American culture and African American music. Eventually, certainly for me, and I am sure this is true for some others too, from listening to soul music, you started to read Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, and there was for sure some pretty problematical stuff in Eldridge Cleaver. But nonetheless, this stuff changed the way that you understood power and the way that you understood America. So I guess that is what I would say.

SM (01:09:05):
Yeah. You do not have to go in, because I got quite a few questions here, and your explanation was beautiful there. You have talked about some of these things, but if you could define how the culture of the (19)60s shaped the (19)70s and how the culture of the (19)70s shaped the (19)80s.

AE (01:09:24):
I do not know if I can really do that. I mean, I think-

SM (01:09:33):
From a Boomer's perspective.

AE (01:09:35):
I think that the (19)60s got its best, and there was a worse to the (19)60s, too. I mean, I am not a romantic, I am not somebody who thinks that everything about the (19)60s was just hunky-dory. I do not. I think that there were some real mistakes. I teach the (19)60s, and so some of my favorite books are things like... Oh, what's the name of this? The TC Boyle book about the commune, which is so funny. It is just really a devastating critique. "Drop City," devastating. But at its best, I mean, the (19)60s gave people, and I know this is an overused word, but it gave some people a sense of empowerment. At the same time, it made others feel, who had been used to taking certain privileges for granted, it made them feel angry about the loss of that. But certainly for people like myself, it was an incredibly empowering experience. You really did feel as though the world could be changed, a war was stopped. I am just looking outside because we are having a hailstorm, and I am trying to think if I should call you back in a minute and move my car.

SM (01:11:23):
You are having a bad storm.

AE (01:11:27):
Yeah, we are having a hail storm, so I am just looking outside. I think it is okay.

SM (01:11:32):
Let me know, and then I could call you back in 10 minutes if you want me to.

AE (01:11:36):
I tell you, why do not you call me back in five?

SM (01:11:41):

AE (01:11:41):

SM (01:11:41):
Yep. Bye.

AE (01:11:41):
Okay, great. Okay, bye.

SM (01:11:46):
You were talking about the (19)60s. I think you were finishing up on the culture of the (19)60s and the influence on the (19)70s, and then the culture of the (19)70s. Basically, what I am really asking here is because we are talking about when Boomers have been alive and the feelings that Boomers have. It is 74 million people so they have experienced all these. So what the (19)70s, the (19)80s, and the (19)90s, and the (20)10s mean to them, just from your perspective.

AE (01:12:16):
Well, I think that probably the fact that I was involved in the feminist movement and the gay and lesbian movement, these were movements that did have real momentum through a large part of the (19)70s. So I think that for me, and again, this is taking into account the fact that obviously, as I said, look at what's happening as regards to global feminism, had I made that move, then I am sure my feelings would be very different. But the feelings that I had, I would say in the (19)70s, I think that I still had a sense of momentum. I think in the (19)80s, the (19)80s definitely felt like a real break on change. I think that is when I felt, and I am not sure, again, this is hard to know, it is not clear to me to what extent I felt this and to what extent this was what I was reading in at the time. But it did feel as though there was more of a backlash in that decade against feminism. Then of course, there was, in this period, this was when I was teaching, it was the beginning of AIDS, so that really reverberated. So I think there was this sense of, that I was probably not explaining very well, but I think that there was frequently this sense in the (19)80s of not only not momentum, but of having to defend the victories that you had won much, much earlier. It led to a kind of wariness, at least on my part, a kind of fatigue. I was quite pleased when Clinton won. If you were to go beyond that, obviously from the standpoint of 2010, I am almost 60, the way that the culture has changed, it takes your breath away. It's difficult sometimes to comprehend how much it has changed. In the sense of being able to be, at least in my world, pretty openly gay, being able to not have nearly the kinds of impediments that I would have had and that I did have when I first was studying history because I am female. There is just so much that is changed. On the other hand, we have this incredible poverty and we have this environmental disaster and on and on and on. So I do not know quite what else to say. I mean, I think I would say this about the (19)60s though, to go back just for a moment, that my predominant experience of the (19)60s, well into the (19)70s, was this sense of really being able to have agency and feeling a real sense of empowerment and seeing it in other people, and just really how beautiful that was. It is kind of amazing, if you consider how, for instance, the university has changed, now we can look at the fact that the university has changed in all kinds of ways that are agreeable to me, whereas other parts of society a bit more resistant to change or have actually changed in ways that have contributed to greater inequality. You think about banking, you think about the lack of regulation. But if I think about the university, I think one of the reasons that that place has been so transformed is that so many of us from the (19)60s did have the sense of we can really do this. Right? That was such a strong ethos.

SM (01:17:33):
Yeah, you make a good point here about the fact that in the (19)80s there was this feeling of the gains that had been made, now there was greater challenge, and it is like you are fighting the battle all over again because that is when affirmative action was challenged. So the African Americans, I know about Latinas, Caesar Chavez working with them, of course, the labor unions were set back in those times, the women's movement. I know a lot of attacks on the environmental movement took place then. Certainly, I think just about every movement we have discussed, the anti-war movement was almost nonexistent. There was a small group of anti-war, but then we saw it all over again in the early (19)90s in the Gulf War. So my next question, I am getting into some of the disco questions, which I am kind of excited about. This is Steve McKiernan now. When I think of disco, I think of Barry White, Isaac Hayes, the Bee Gees, Tavares, Thelma Houston, Donna Summer, Sylvester, Chaka Khan, Andy Gibb, Gloria Gainer, and I forget the, again, oh, Love Unlimited Orchestra. However, in this same period, these groups were very popular. And I do not know, I think Mothers and Fathers and Sisters and Brothers would be on that other side. But I think of Earth, Wind and Fire, Cool and the Gang, Eddie Kendricks, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, the Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, and Patty LaBelle. Now, I do not know if you categorize them in the same as you would the disco performers. They are all around the same time, though.

AE (01:19:30):
They are all around the same time, and you will doubtless remember that one of the early big disco hits before a lot of people were really very aware of disco, was Lady Marmalade, which was done by the group Trio LaBelle, and which Patti LaBelle was a member, and certainly Earth Winds and Fire was great. Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway back together again. I used to play them all the time in [inaudible] where I DJ'ed. Again, I tend not to be particularly driven by the urge to categorize in that way. In the book, one of the arguments that I make very early on, and I am pretty attached to this idea, is that when it comes to rock music, nobody says about heavy metal, "Well, that is heavy metal. That is not really rock." Or nobody says about punk, "Well, that is punk. That is not really rock." Other words, we understand rock as being almost infinitely malleable. It's a big category that can kind of attach all category. It can contain a lot of different kind of phonics, a lot of different kinds of sounds. But that is not been true of disco. And so there will be people who say, "Oh, well, Michael Jackson was not really a disco artist." "Oh, the Philadelphia International Group, like the OJs, they were not really disco." It just goes on and on and on.

SM (01:21:14):
Yeah, the Stylistics were another group of that period. And the Delfonics, I mean, there was group after group and they were all great.

AE (01:21:22):
They were great, and many of them were produced by Tom Bell. So I would argue a couple of things. I would say, first of all, that those distinctions between artists do not mean that much to me. That when I think about disco and when I try to define disco, what my definition of it is, the music that certainly took as its template soul music, but which transformed it in ways that made it much more lush, much more symphonic, was characterized very often by as you know, the four-four thump. But it was music that included anything that really worked on a disco dance floor. That could be Betty Hendrick, and often was, it could be Parliament Funkadelics, One Nation Under A Groove. It could be Patti LaBelle. I mean, to me, it's whatever worked. I think because disco has been so stigmatized, people have been very eager to define disco very narrowly, as really referring to only the most classic disco records in, again, a very narrow and circumscribed period. Now, that said, I do think that there are some differences between funk and disco, although I would say that there is an awful lot of disco dance floors featured funk. And the Isley Brothers, for instance, did a song called "Fight the Power," that was a great song and a very political song just as The Temptations did a song "Papa was a Rolling Stone," that also was a very socially conscious song. These were songs that played in early disco. "Papa was a Rolling Stone," I think was three years before "Fight the Power," but nonetheless, this kind of music, music by Black musicians who sometimes define themselves as more oriented towards funk, sometimes more towards disco, sometimes more towards R and B, sometimes more towards rock, like Chaka Khan or LaBelle, they were all being played for a period of time on disco dance floor until disco became Disco with a capital D and then the sound narrowed somewhat. But phonically funk tended to be more about getting into a groove and finding that groove and digging deep into that groove. Whereas disco phonically, orally, it sounded more obviously constructed because it was. It was music that was remixed an remixed in ways that emphasized its dance ability. It was music whose musical movements often had a kind of arbitrary feel to it. Why do the horns come in there? Why suddenly does the vocal end here? So I think that made it phonically somewhat different from funk. But on a dance floor, I always found that most people were quite eager to dance to the full spectrum of what was danceable. I do not know if I answered your question.

SM (01:25:08):
A lot of rock musicians, so were really into rock in the (19)60s and early (19)70s, and jazz musicians too, could not stand disco because from what... Hold on. Okay, here we go. A lot of musicians did not like it because of the fact that it took jobs away from people because they were com-

AE (01:25:39):
Oh, yeah. That is true. I think that there was a whole segment of the rock community that hated disco because of the fact that a lot of rock venues, rock clubs went disco and understandable. But of course, there were a lot of other criticisms made of it too, and that it was boring and predictable.

SM (01:26:07):
Well, some of the things that I heard around the years when I was at Ohio State, and then of course my years as an administrator at Ohio University through (19)76, is that when you think of disco, well, the (19)60s is over because the (19)60s was about activism, the (19)60s music was messages. The folk musicians, the rock musicians, they had a lot of messages in their music. This was just pure dance. That is one of the criticisms. Another one is that the (19)70s began when disco began, because a lot of people of the (19)60s think that up to 1973, that is still the (19)60s because of the way that is. And that the (19)70s really began around (19)74 and (19)75, and you had "Saturday Night Fever," the movie, and that is when it really began the Disco era. Just your thoughts on all that hodgepodge that I just mentioned.

AE (01:27:15):
Well, again, I think most music of the (19)60s was not political music. It was music that very often yearned to be meaningful. I would say it very often tried to be meaningful, but I do not think very much of it actually was political. I mean, if you really look at it, if you really look at the most popular. If you look at the very earliest music that was popular on disco dance floors, what's interesting is that a lot of that music actually was not utterly apolitical the way that it has been represented. Again, a song like "Fight the Power," most people would say, "Oh, well that was funk," but it was being played in discos. So I would say that there is a shift over time in disco to a less overtly political register. Now, I think that one of the groups that is most interesting in this respect is Chic, the Bernard Edwards- Nile Rodgers group, because Nile Rodgers had been a member of the Black Panthers. Chaka Khan had been involved with Black Panthers as well. I would say that both of those musicians, both Nile Rodgers and Chaka Khan, and I would say this is true of LaBelle as well, who were popular in the early years of disco, these are musicians who wanted their music to be empowering. So "I am Every Woman," now not everybody will think of that as a political song, but I think Chaka Khan did actually. Not everybody will necessarily think of "We Are Family," as a political song, this is the Chic song, but Nelson Mandela has said that when he was in prison, this was a song when it would come on the radios that the guards were listening to, it kept him going. It was a song that Nile Rodgers claimed to have written at Woodstock. Certainly the vocal Trio LaBelle did a number of songs, which were really pretty overtly political. But I think that what is interesting about disco is that to a great extent, it is music that is not overtly political. It is satisfy-

AE (01:30:03):
... political. It is satisfied with getting people dancing. And to the extent that there is a political message in any of it, it is usually rather hidden and obscured. For instance in the song, Good Times by Chic, many people thought that, that was the song that is completely out of touch with America. It seemed, for many people, to be a song celebrating the good life in the midst of a terrible recession, but it was tongue-in-cheek. It is just that nobody expected a disco group to be smart enough to do a song that was tongue-in-cheek. As Nile Rogers said, "If this had been Bob Dylan, everybody would have said, "Check out Bob. Pretty cool."" But because it was a disco group, people took it at face value. So I think that, I do think that disco tended to make its meaning obscure, it tended not to favor the politically explicit. And I think that is really interesting that, that is true. I think to some extent, because disco was really about, to a great extent, about escapism and it was much more about taking evasive action. Again, as I point out in my book, there are songs that do make political points. But this was not really, there was not very much finger pointing music, to use Bob Dylan's expression, in disco. But again, I think partly that the meaning was made on the dance floor. I mean, the meanings were made in the kinds of contacts that happened between people. The ways in which, at its best, racial boundaries were crossed, gender boundaries, sexual boundaries were crossed. So I think that, more often than not, was where the meanings were.

SM (01:32:22):
I will tell you one thing, going to a disco in downtown Columbus in 1975 was a lot different than going into the Ohio Union in 1972, where there was total separation.

AE (01:32:36):

SM (01:32:37):
One of the questions here is disco, you bring this up in your book, was basically performed by Black performers. It is often scorned as a terrible period for music between rock and roll and the Motown sound of the (19)60s and mid-(19)70s that, we already just went over that, to the new wave music in the (19)80s. Does this scorn or attack have anything to do with racism, prejudice, or the lessening of the value of something because it does not come from the majority?

AE (01:33:07):
Well, I think unfortunately, by the time we get to the attacks on disco, it comes to be understood within the community, within communities of rock, was that rock music is a largely white genre, with the exception of Jimi Hendrix. If you were to tune into classic rock stations in 1977, and I mentioned an article by Bill Marcus who talks about a Bay Area station that does a history of rock that includes precisely one Black artist, and that is Jimi Hendrix. So there is this sense, by the time we get to the mid to late (19)70s, that rock is really... that Black people do not belong in rock music. Which is, of course, such an irony given the fact that you would never have had the rock music without Black musicians, because R&B is the essential backbone to rock. So yeah, I mean, I think there is a sense in which you have to understand the backlash against disco as certainly involving a certain kind of racism. And if you look at the two DJs in Detroit that tried to organize an anti-disco army, they called themselves the Disco Ducks Klan, I think it is. And they hatch this plot to go on stage wearing white robes. I mean, that cannot be accidental, the use of Klan, the use of... The decision is later aborted, but of course it is. I think it has to be understood, within the context of a situation, a moment in which some white heterosexual men feel under attack. They feel as though their music is being shoved off the airways. They feel like they are being shoved out of certain jobs because of affirmative action, because [inaudible]. And so, I do think that disco comes to, it is a lightning rod of sorts for a lot of discontent about racial minorities, and about feminism, and about gay men. Because certainly, even though a lot of people were unaware of the fact that gay men were the, really, disco's early adopters, a lot were not. And a lot of people did know that there were significant numbers of gay men who were among disco's poor constituencies. So I think that, the backlash against disco is inseparable from homophobia and racism, and probably as well from a kind of uneasiness about feminism. I also think, and I argue this in the book, that for some rock and rollers, it was also the case that they felt as though their style, their way of being [inaudible], their masculinity, was threatened by this new style. Which today, we would sort of characterize as metrosexual. This sort fastidiousness, personal fastidiousness, attention to clothing, attention to grooming, attention to looking good, a buff body, and a willingness to dance. And these are all sorts of characteristics that women like in this. And they like their boyfriends and husbands to look good, dress up. To, basically, look like gay men. And the biggest affront to a lot of the disco folks who were white was that, the men who were sort of responsible for these new norms were gay men who had no use for women. So, you know.

SM (01:37:20):
Wait, you write beautifully... Barry White is one of my favorite artists of all the time. And again, I worked for the university, and most, I know there were some gay and lesbian students at Ohio University in these dances, but obviously, they were not out. But I think when you describe the difference between Barry White and James Brown, it is beautiful. Because you talk about vulnerable masculinity, Barry White pleasuring the ladies. And I have got my notes here, from being a sex machine, James Brown, to a more loving style that was Barry White, and what a difference. And so, I never thought of it that way. But obviously, when you listen to Barry White, there is a respect for women there. And there is a respect, whereas with James Brown, it was all about sex.

AE (01:38:23):
Yeah. Well, with James Brown, it was all about what he wanted sexually. And I mean, listen, I am a great lover of both of their music, but I think it is really true that Barry White was much more woman friendly. And so I think that, that kind of shift, it is hard. I mean, that is something that becomes more obvious later, as you look back at the era. I think it was harder to see at the time. But I also think that, one of the reasons that rap developed the way that it did was as a backlash against that kind of love man style that was characteristic of White.

SM (01:39:10):

I have a quote here from your book, and this is, I think, in your introduction. "Throughout Hot Stuff, I placed disco within the discourse of feminism, de-industrialization, globalism, ongoing struggles for racial justice and greater sexual preferences." And you have already gone over most of this in your commentary, but does that really put it in a nutshell?

AE (01:39:35):
Yeah, I think so. I think so. I mean, I think it is just that disco, I mean, I think it is a great paradox for many. I mean, it is a paradox of sorts because disco was primarily music about getting down, which is not to say that sometimes it was not about something else. But it was, in its essence, about getting down whether on the dance floor or in the bedroom. And much of this music did not strive to be more meaningful. And yet, it nonetheless both expressed and aided and abetted a number of changes that were absolutely central to American culture, in that period. And it is just paradoxical because the music itself did not, for the most part, strain to be meaningful the way that (19)60s music did. And yet, it had such an impact. But it is an impact that, I think, some people, especially boomers, resist learning about. I mean, there was... I opened the book with a great article by Andy Costumes who was the journalist who wrote at the Nation in The Village Voice, and he published this article about disco. And he talked about the contempt that so many of his (19)60s friends had for it. And yet, both of us had a very similar experience. I mean, there were a lot of my friends who were (19)60s people who hated disco because it seemed synthetic, it seemed unnatural, it seemed sleazy. It seemed like a real regression back to the sort of universe of bubblegum. And yet, there was a lot. Because they did not go to disco, they really did not know all the work, all the cultural work, that music was doing. Because Costumes was gay and because I am gay, that gave us a different perspective because we were part of those clubs. And we could see the way that the music was actually being used. And one of the things that I wanted to do in that book was that, I have been very influenced by the work of musicologists and scholars of music, like Susan McClary and Simon Firth. I mean, many of others have been. And they talk about how music is too often seen as a reflection of the culture, and not often enough seen as actually doing cultural work itself. It is not understood as changing us, making us, changing us, socializing us. And one of the things I really came to believe as I wrote this book, it was not something that I understood at all well as I began it. But I came to understand that as I was working on it, was that disco... Everybody always looks at punk and says, "Ah, punk." This was a really transformative moment, you know? And yet, I see... Actually, I do not want to get into a hierarchy here. But, I see a whole lot of change happening in the way that people understand their bodies and the way that they understand their gender, and their sexuality in these years through disco. And so, that was something I really wanted to make manifestly clear in the book.

SM (01:43:13):
Well, something that really struck me was one of the criticisms of all the movements today, or the issues, was identity politics. You hear that from the more right-side that... they criticized identified politics. And of course, the (19)60s was about that. But you say the (19)70s was a time when numbers of gay men, excuse me, African Americans, women, ditched predictable social scripts. Disco played a central role in the process, which broadened the contours of Blackness, femininity, and male homosexuality. I often wonder where Native Americans and Latinos fall in there. But what I want to comment here before you respond, as a person who has worked 30 plus years with college students, the most important thing we want to see when they walk into university to when they graduate, besides a sense of knowledge about why they were there, is a sense of self-esteem, a feeling of comfortableness with who they are and a sense of belonging. And it seems like everything you talk about, about disco, and particularly in terms of the gay and lesbian community, and women, and African American as a whole, that this helped in that feeling, in our society as a whole. And I know from seeing students dance in the (19)70s that the criticisms that we are seeing today, and actually we have seen since that time, the students that I have worked with, they loved it, so.

AE (01:44:54):
Well, yeah. I mean, I think that disco did enable, especially gay men and women across the board, who generally like dance better than men. I mean, again, it is a generalization and there're exceptions, but it tends to be true. And I think African Americans as well, it did afford them real kinds of opportunities for changing themselves. And I do think that, you do find people in all those categories, all those identity categories, who do ditch social scripts. I mean, I would say, and this is a kind of thread throughout the book, I do think though that, that was scary just as it was in the (19)60s. I mean, change is scary. And for instance, and it is not... there are losses too. And so when we are talking about disco, and we are talking about women, we are talking about sexual expressiveness, I mean, I think it is significant that Donna Summer and some of the other disco divas end up renouncing that world because on some level it makes them uncomfortable. And I do think that the sexual revolution of (19)70s made a lot of women uncomfortable. I think that, for instance, when you are talking about African Americans, there was a way in which what had been so exciting about disco to so many Black musicians and producers, which was that it allowed them to occupy the kind of sonic territory that had been more the preserve of white musicians, right? Sophisticated, symphonic arrangements, very kind of sweet music, music that was not necessarily gritty and was not recognizably Black. That was all very liberating. But it came to feel, to some African Americans, like a selling out of Black music. And when we come to male homosexuals, I think that the move away from effeminacy to gay macho also meant that certain categories of men who were effeminate really felt sidelined. So one of the things that I tried to express in the book is that, as liberating as all this stuff could feel to these three groups, there were certainly dissenters. There were certainly people who did not buy it or people who came to feel disillusioned. So I think both of those things are true. Change is like that, isn't it? I mean, you know?

SM (01:47:47):

AE (01:47:47):
It is obviously, it is dialectical. And so, it makes a lot of sense that you would then have this kind of ambivalence.

SM (01:47:55):
Yeah. I think that what you are talking about here, when you listen to Barry White and his music from (19)75, Let the Music Play, and then when you hear Marvin Gaye, What's Going On, his album in 1971 is the difference of night and day. One is just really about, I will not say having fun, but just getting out on the dance floor and being free. And Marvin Gaye, that is a very important thing, it's a sensitivity and sensitizing people to the issues that we must all care about. But that there is a difference there, one may be more macho than the other, so to speak.

AE (01:48:33):
Yeah. And the thing about Marvin Gaye that is interesting is that, then he goes totally into bedroom music himself. I mean, and I think that is a really, really interesting phenomenon and it is one that I write about in the book. And I cannot say that I have cracked the nut here, that I totally understand it. I think it's fascinating that you find R&B going through this shit where there is this period, and I think it really begins early. I mean, it begins as early, I think, as (19)71. And I think it goes through, it sort of peaks in about (19)74. And I think Fight the Power is one of the last instances, I think of (19)75, but do not quote me on it, is this really fascinating period of social commentary. And much of it is not about racial uplift, it is about confusion, it is about feeling sold out, it is about disappointments. And yet, it is like then you have R&B turning on a dime and becoming... You see it with Papa Was a Rollin' Stone from the happy people. I mean, that is a really interesting shift. And I do not know exactly just what to attribute it. I mean, I think it could be that, that kind of music of reflection and social commentary and disappointment got to be almost a cliché. I mean, I think that, that is quite possible that it was just so flooding the airways. And it could be that there was this sense of, enough already. But in any case, it is a very interesting shift that it does turn, and it turns so emphatically towards something else.

SM (01:50:31):
You mentioned in there that you think that Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, their song was the first disco song?

AE (01:50:40):
Well, I say that a lot of people think that it is, The Love I Lost.

SM (01:50:45):

AE (01:50:45):
I am reluctant to actually name one. I mean, I think there's that, I think, Girl You Need a Change of Mind. I mean, I think there are some contenders out there. I mean, there are certain elements that are beginning to cohere. But I think, yeah, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. I think, The Love I Lost is a key moment. Yeah.

SM (01:51:18):
But you have got to admit one thing, that Saturday Night Fever really awakened this nation to disco with John Travolta dancing. And here's a guy that is not a gay male, he is a macho male, but he is out on the dance floor wearing those clothes and feeling comfortable wearing those clothes and really into dancing. And they had the Bee Gees music in the background, and you had Tavares. Would not you say that, that is a historic moment when that movie came out?

AE (01:51:48):
Yeah. Yeah, I would. I would not argue against that, no.

SM (01:51:56):
You wrote a great book that I read a long time ago, I did not reread it, but Janis Joplin. And the question I want to ask you about her, is her life and death an example of the counterculture gone wrong, because drugs killed her?

AE (01:52:14):
Well, I think, yes. I mean, in some ways, drugs killed Janis, but I think [inaudible] killed Janis. I mean, I think that the disappointments in life, I think, I mean, she could never hold on [inaudible], right? And I mean, who knows? Had she lived in the age of Prozac, I am sure she would have been medicated. And probably her music would, I do not know what her music would be like. People have written about this a lot now. I mean, but we have the kind of works of art that fed off in programmed misery and unhappiness if the writers were medicated people. So I do not know, but I do not think she was... I think that the counterculture... And many of us of the boomer generation were attracted to risks and were reckless. I think that was one of the, it was part of what made it so exciting, and also so dangerous that people played with that. Janis knew what she was doing. Janis knew that she was taking a risk every time. I mean, after all, she was no stranger to ODing. So she knew what she was doing. And I think in her case, I guess I would say that, there is both this element of recklessness that is generational. And in her case, I think also very much driven by the fact that there is a lot of person unhappiness there.

SM (01:54:03):
Yeah. I interviewed a person who loved Janis, knew her. But she committed a sin in the drug community, she brought alcohol.

AE (01:54:13):
Yeah-yeah. So she-

SM (01:54:14):
And she was never forgiven for that by some purists who did not drink, but they were into every other drug you can imagine.

AE (01:54:24):
Yes, exactly. Yeah, no, it is absolutely true that there were people who really thought that Janis' love of alcohol was just completely, made her kind of beyond the pale.

SM (01:54:40):
This is a question I ask, because I know... this is Roe v. Wade. And I asked Susan Brownmiller this question last week, and I went to her apartment in New York and it was three hour interview. It was a great... she is a very nice person.

AE (01:54:54):
Yes, she is a very nice person.

SM (01:54:55):
Yes. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the most important legal decision since the end of World War II, during the time that boomer women had been alive, so we are talking about the (19)63 years. Is there any other legal decisions that are more important than that one?

AE (01:55:12):
Well, I think that there was a lot of... I think there were some decisions around equal employment.

SM (01:55:27):
Brown v. Board of Education.

AE (01:55:29):
Oh, well, I mean. I think, yeah. Again, I mean, I would say it is very hard to... I would advise against those making any kind of hierarchy. I think that there are some legal decisions that have been very important, that would include Brown and Roe v. Wade. I think some of the stuff that has not been studied very much, but is interesting, are some of the rulings around equal employment, especially their applicability to gender. And so, I think those were important as well. And these happened in the (19)70s. So I think, again, Roe v. Wade was very important. Would I say that it was the most important? I probably would not say it was the most important, but it is important. But of course, it's flawed, and that enabled it to be picked away at.

SM (01:56:27):
One of the things that is historically documented is the excessive sexism in the other movements at the end of the (19)60s, during the (19)60s and before the (19)70s began. And that would be in the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement. I talked to people in every movement, and they said it was in the gay and lesbian movement, it was in the Chicano Movement, it was in the Native American movement, and it was in all the movements. And the question I am asking here is, sexism in the movements of the late (19)60s and early (19)70s played a very important role in stimulating the onset of the second wave. Is that true? And secondly, without the sexism, would the movement have gone in a different direction, because it was so dominated by white men?

AE (01:57:16):
Well, I mean, I think white men...

SM (01:57:22):
And Black men, because of the civil rights movement.

AE (01:57:24):
Well, I think that all men... I mean, in the case of white men, you had men who were accustomed to feeling entitled. They were accustomed to a certain kind of entitlement based upon their skin color and their gender. I think when you are talking about men of color, because of the way in which they were constructed by the dominant white cultures, they often did not necessarily feel that sense of entitlement. But that did not mean that they were any better, at all. I mean, it meant that very often they were, as Fran Beal put it in writing about some Black male activists, I mean, it was like they were trying to... I mean, their idea of what their women should be like was derived from the pages of, might as well have been from Ladies' Home Journal. And they had a very macho kind of aspect as a result of being disempowered. So yeah, I mean, it had a terrible... I mean, it's paradoxical. Because it was for the feminists who... For people like Susan Brownmiller and Ellen Willis, and all of the others who played such an important role, Fran Beal, Margaret Sloan, Marco Jefferson. I mean, all of them. It was crushing to feel how little feminism mattered and how disparaged it often was. It was really terrible. But on the other hand, it did, of course, enable the development of the second wave. I mean, it was so strange that women did begin to organize autonomously. I mean, I guess I would say that, I think I am probably... I guess, the only other thing I would say is that, I think that one of the things, one of many reasons that I have written critically about Weathermen is that-

AE (02:00:03):
...that I have written critically about Weatherman is that I think both Weather and ... I think there is certain elements of the Black freedom movement, as well in the sort of fetishizing of revolution, the kind of vanguardism that they assessed, really ensured that women would have to go their own way, and that it would be a painful break. Yeah, I think it could have been different. I mean, I think if people had remained committed to participatory democracy, if people had really listened to one another and been respectful, then yeah, it could have turned out differently, but it did not.

SM (02:00:57):
What are the major accomplishments of the women's movements in the second wave, and what are the greatest disappointments?

AE (02:01:06):
Well, I mean, I would say probably the greatest would be the expansion of ... Well, I guess many things, but I mean, at the level of policy, basically, we live in a culture in which discrimination against women, gender discrimination in education and employment is ... it happened, for sure, but it is not, for the most part, seen as a good thing, right?

SM (02:01:42):

AE (02:01:42):
So I think it is widely ... Discrimination against women is just ... I am trying to think of a way to say this that sort of takes in the complexity of it. To a great extent, it is no longer tolerated. I think that is the biggest thing. I mean, violence against women, which was just assumed to not exist or exist on the margins and not be very important, and very often was understood as [inaudible] being a woman's fault has been completely reinterpreted. That is an enormous shift. It is not to say that there's not violence against women that happens in this world, and there are not people who turn a blind eye, but it is really significant, a very significant change. Significant change in the understanding of the importance of sexual freedom for women. I mean, again, coming back to the ... too often [inaudible] in a way that none the less seems to ... for some women to have been understood as nothing more than pleasing men, but I still think that there has been significant ... I think we are talking about employment. We are talking about education. We're talking about violence against women. We are talking about right to sexual pleasure. All of those things. Abortion rights, all of those things. There have been major achievements in women's athletics. Again, more can be done, more needs to be done, but there has been considerable achievement.

SM (02:03:38):
This is just a general question. I have asked this to everybody. Again, we have talked about the (19)60s. When, in your opinion, did the (19)60s begin, and when did it end? And what was the watershed moment in the (19)60s? I ask the same question again. When did the (19)70s begin and end, and what was the watershed moment in the (19)70s?

AE (02:04:00):
Well, I do not really know. I mean, I am not trying to cop out on this. I think that this is something that is constantly ... that is changing and shifting. I mean, obviously, it just depends on what one's looking at. I mean, the (19)60s do not really begin, in some sense ... I mean, what we know as the (19)60s, a kind of period of protest. They do not really begin, for instance, gay and lesbians, until really late in the game. But if we are looking at African Americans, you can argue that in some sense the (19)60s begin in (19)55. You could go back even further. I mean, you could go back to the demobilization after World War II and the fact that so many Black soldiers had different experiences in other parts of the world and that emboldened them in certain ways. It created a shift in consciousness. It really, I think, depends upon the group in question, so that is why I am sort of reluctant to say. But clearly, you could make the argument that the (19)60s really begin back in the (19)50s. You could put it at (19)54, (19)55. You could similarly make the argument that there was an awful lot, if you're looking at college campuses, that was the same in 1964. That not very much change had actually happened, and you do not begin to really feel those shifts until probably (19)65, (19)66. Still, they really remain the land of ... many of them, many college campuses, the land of the beehive and the crew cut until well into the (19)60s. So I think I am just not ... I am sort of uneasy making those kinds of generalizations, but clearly, shifts do happen and shifts in consciousness over a long period.

SM (02:06:16):
Do you remember, I know you do, but I have been asking this, when you heard John Kennedy was assassinated?

AE (02:06:23):
Yeah, I do very, very well because I was in a Quaker meeting. I forget the day of the week, but we were having a Quaker meeting at Sidwell Friends, where I was, I think in the ... Would I have been in the seventh grade? No, no, no. Anyway, I was at Sidwell Friends. Bobby Kennedy's two boys ... two of Robert Kennedy's sons were students there. I am sure everybody at that Quaker meeting remembers it because we did not know what had happened. None of us knew. But what we did know was that in the middle of this meeting, they were ushered out. So, again, we did not know. I did not know. I remember taking the bus home, public transportation, city bus back home. It really was not until I walked into the house that I knew what had ... I knew for sure what had happened. Yeah.

SM (02:07:28):
Yeah. Were you another one of those that watched four straight days of TV?

AE (02:07:32):
Watched a lot of it. Yeah.

SM (02:07:36):
Yep. One of the questions that ... When Newt Gingrich came into power ... I do not want to always refer Newt, but in 1994, and when George Will writes a lot of his articles, and more recently, Huckabee on his TV show and others, they like to take shots at the (19)60s generation as to the reason why we have so many problems in today's society is because it goes right back to that time in the (19)60s and the (19)70s. They are talking about the drug culture, the sexual freedom, the lack of respect for any sort of authority, the challenging that took place, the beginning of all the isms, all these things. They blame some of the problems we have in our society today and the unwillingness to talk to each other on that period. Your thoughts on those individuals who continue to attack the (19)60s generation, which is basically attacking the Boomers. The way they lived. The way they acted. It's not all of them, now, because there is 74 million and only about 10 percent, or maybe even 5 percent, were involved in activism, but blaming them for where we are today. That includes the divorce rate.

AE (02:09:06):
Well, I think it is a very easy deflection for conservative politicians, many of whom have had their own marital problems, have not they, to continue to bash the-the (19)60s. I mean, when in point of fact it is hardly a problem that ... I do not know how you get from (19)60s protestors to Newt Gingrich having an affair with another woman when his wife is dying of... I do not know how you-

SM (02:09:41):

AE (02:09:43):
I mean, I just think it is a kind of scapegoating that these folks have engaged in all along. I think that it is true that the right wing actually... I mean, I think what I would say is more significant is... because I think that marriages are difficult things to make work. Especially when you are in denial, and especially when you are ... I often wonder if those people who are most apt to be pro-family in their rhetoric, and to bash the (19)60s, and gays and lesbians and feminists, I mean, do not really do it in order to be deflective. I mean, not just with their public, but personally deflective. You know?

SM (02:10:34):

AE (02:10:34):
I mean, because they cannot really cope with their own indiscretions and transgressions. Because certainly, I mean, there has been such a parade of right-wing politicians who have screwed up. I mean, it is hardly the case that this is ... that the marital woes and the ... What is the word I am looking for when you have relationships outside of marriage?

SM (02:11:06):

AE (02:11:08):
Yeah, adultery, but there is another word. Begins with a T and I cannot remember it. But anyway, that liberals and leftists have any kind of monopoly upon whatsoever. I just think it is a kind of case loop that they just constantly run. What I would say is that that lack of ... I mean, it is true that the (19)60s was about challenging authority, and this was a message that I think was picked up on by conservatives. You look at, for instance, the anti-busing protestors in Boston and other places, and they directly borrowed the tactics of (19)60s activists. You look at the anti-abortion movement, and you see the same thing. There is a real borrowing of [inaudible]... that kind of commerce. I mean, there was a real circulation of attitudes and stances and ideas, actually, between the right and the ... I hesitate to say the left because I do not even know if we have a left in this [inaudible], but there has been significant amounts of circulation there. The thing that strikes me is that I am just consistently struck by, if you want to talk about incivility and rudeness, by the extent of which this has been so absorbed and modeled by the right wing. I think that they have become models of incivility in a way that most of us on the left or within liberalism just have not.

SM (02:13:03):
Well, one of the qualities that is been defined within the generation as a whole is their inability to trust. Obviously, they experienced leaders that lied to them as they were growing up. In the Vietnam War, we all know about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and certainly Watergate with Richard Nixon. If you were really in tune as a young boomer, you knew that Eisenhower lied about U-2. You see constant... McNamara and the lies about the numbers of people that were being killed over there. The number scheme. So many things. It is a quality that has somehow been aligned with the generation. Of course, we all know about Jerry Rubin and do not trust anyone over 30, and then they switched it to over 40 when they were getting close to it. But also, there is a conflict here too. It is the fact that if you are a political science major, one of the best qualities one can have as a citizen is to not trust your leaders because that shows that democracy is alive and well. So that is a normal thing. But then psychologists will oftentimes say that if you cannot trust someone else, then ... You have got to be able to trust somebody. That is not a good quality either. Would you say, first off, that they ... I think we can say about the generation. Was this a trusting or ... Is this a quality that you see within the generation, they do not trust, and is it a negative or positive?

AE (02:14:42):
Well, I think that ... I mean, I would say this about the generation as a whole, that, if anything, people trusted too much. I mean, they assumed that America was the country that it said it was. Many of us, we grew up with this Cold War rhetoric. I think many of us assumed it to be true. So I think it was our faith in America being different, and being democratic, and being the beacon of liberty that then caused ... that it helps to explain the philosophy of the anti-war movement and end of some of the other movements. It is that you grew up thinking that you were living in this country, which was a citadel of freedom, and then you discovered that, hold it, it was more complicated. I think as a consequence, people ... I mean, I tend not to be a conspiracy theorist. I think that most of the important left-wing thinkers are not, but are we skeptical? Yeah, probably. I do not think that skepticism is a bad thing. I think conspiracy theories, that can be disabling in its own way, because then it's sort of like, "Well, why bother, if this whole thing is sewn up?" Of course it cannot be sewn up because you would never have really had the (19)60s, and you would never have really ... you would never have had the changes that have taken place. You know?

SM (02:16:37):

AE (02:16:37):
That is what I would say.

SM (02:16:39):
I only got four more questions here, so we are almost-

AE (02:16:42):
But Steven, you know what? I am going to have to get off in just a few minutes.

SM (02:16:48):
Okay, yeah. I am going to ask... Let us just cut this down to two questions here then.

AE (02:16:52):

SM (02:16:52):
This is a big one, because this is the issue of healing. I took a group of students to Washington, D.C. in 1995. Actually, the students that came with me, 14 of them ... It was our Leadership on the Road programs. We met Senator Edmund Muskie before he passed away. The students came up with this question because they saw the films. They were not alive. They saw what happened in Chicago in 1968, of all the divisions. The whole world is watching what happened there. Of course, he was the democratic vice presidential candidate. They thought he would respond to this question based on that experience. The question was basically, "Due to all the divisions that were happening in America in 1968, do you feel we were close to a second civil war? Number one. But most importantly, do you think that the divisions between Black and white, male and female, gay and straight, those who supported the war and those who were against the war, those who supported the troops or against the troops as a generation, are going to go to their grave, like the Civil War generation, not healing from the divisions that took place in their lives?" So it was a generational question, because they'd cite the Civil War, and some things had come up with those gatherings in Gettysburg. It was very obvious that no healing had taken place when so many people went to their graves in the Civil War. Muskie answered in a certain way. How would you answer that question? Do we have a problem with healing in the nation? Is it an issue?

AE (02:18:31):
Do we have a problem with healing in the nation? I do not know. I mean, I tend to think that a lot of ... that the (19)60s are used politically to great effect, and they continue to be. I mean, there was an article recently about this in the New York Times. I cannot recall what it was about, except that... I cannot remember the issue that the author was exploring. But I think it's become a political... People make political hay with it. But honestly, am I able to have conversations with neighbors who I know feel very differently about certain things? Yes. Am I able to have conversations with colleagues who I know think differently about a variety of issues that were hot issues in the (19)60s? Yeah. I mean, I do not know. For me, personally, no, I do not see it as being ... I do not see it as being quite like that. I mean, I guess with the Civil War, though, I mean, eventually you do have a kind of reconciliation that happens between North and South. That is through reconstruction and the denial of rights to Blacks. And this increasing move in the north away from an ideology of equality towards one that stresses separatism indifference. Eventually, that point is reached through unfortunate ways. This would be late in the lives of that generation, for sure. But for our own, no, I guess I do not. You know?

SM (02:20:27):
Yeah, Senator Muskie responded. He did not even respond to 1968. He made no comment to them. He gave a melodramatic pause for about a minute. It looked like he had a tear in his eye. We have it on videotape. Basically said, "We have not healed since the Civil War due to the issue of race." Because he just saw the Ken Burns series and it had really touched his life, and he said, "When you lose 430,000 men, and you almost lose an entire generation, that is another issue in itself."

AE (02:21:00):
Yeah. I think he is right about that. I mean, I think that...

SM (02:21:08):
Others have said to me that ... In response, he said, "You ought to be a little more specific on this question because if you simply say those who fought the war, the three million plus who went to Vietnam, and those who protested the war, you might have some issues there."

AE (02:21:24):
Yeah. I think that that is possible. Although, I will tell you, I mean, one of the things about my background is, by virtue of going to a prep school, I was in school with Robert McNamara's son.

SM (02:21:39):

AE (02:21:39):
There were other people who were sons and daughters of policy makers and government leaders who were in that school.

SM (02:21:48):
The name of the school?

AE (02:21:51):
Sidwell Friends.

SM (02:21:52):
Okay. Yep. Yep.

AE (02:21:54):
It's where the Obama daughters are. It is where many, many presidents put their kids, right?

SM (02:21:58):

AE (02:21:59):
It would seem. So, I mean, I did not know that many people who actually went to Vietnam. I really did not. of course, that was not unusual in the Vietnam War. I mean, there were a lot of people who went to college, especially elite colleges, who did not know anybody who went to war. I have subsequently had contact with people who were military people who went to fight. What struck me, actually ... Maybe this is because I am in Santa Fe part of the year, and that I am in university communities to some extent, but what struck me is the extent of which so many of the people who I met and have met, who did serve in Vietnam, really shared many of the views that I had about that war. That is been quite striking to me.

SM (02:23:03):
You have been to the wall on Washington, do you think the ... Jan Scruggs wrote the book To Heal A Nation, do you think that wall has helped heal the nation in any way?

AE (02:23:13):
I do not know.

SM (02:23:14):
Beyond the veterans.

AE (02:23:15):
I do not know. I just do not. I mean, I could not say.

SM (02:23:21):
My last question, very last one, and thank you for going over the time, I truly appreciate it, is that when we're talking about boomers now, who were born in 1946 and beyond, we're talking about a lot of different presidents from Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson. Of course, we had Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton, George Bush the first, George Bush the second, and President Obama. I do not think I have missed anybody in there. Jimmy Carter, of course. What presidents, when you look at them and you look at your life's work, not only with gay and lesbian issues, but with women's issues, which ones are the ones you most admire in terms of those two issues?

AE (02:24:27):
Well, I think it is too early to say about Obama. I mean, I have been disappointed, as many have, with a lot of what he has not done. So it's too early to say. There was a lot that I admired about Clinton, but I did not admire the Welfare Reform Bill. But this does not ... I mean, a lot of my criticisms about Clinton go to other things beyond the issue of gender and sex discrimination. I have to say that in many respects, I have admired Clinton. It's too early to tell about Obama. I would say that.

SM (02:25:29):
Are there any questions I did not ask you thought I was going to ask?

AE (02:25:32):
Oh, well, yeah, I mean, there would be any number of questions that you could have asked. It is not as though I have been sitting here thinking, "Gee, why has not he asked me this?"

SM (02:25:43):
Right. Okay.

AE (02:25:44):
I have not. No. I have not.

SM (02:25:45):

AE (02:25:47):
Now, when is your book coming out?

SM (02:25:49):
Let me turn this off. One second.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Alice Echols

Biographical Text

Dr. Alice Echols is a professor of History and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. She authored four books and several articles. Dr. Echols has a Bachelor's degree in History from Macalester College and a Master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.





Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format


Material Type


Interview Format


Subject LCSH

College teachers; Echols, Alice--Interviews

Rights Statement

Many items in our digital collections are copyrighted. If you want to reuse any material in our collection you must seek permission, or decide if your purpose can qualify as fair use under the U.S. Copyright Law Section 107. If you think copyright or privacy has been violated, the University Libraries will investigate the issue. Please see our take down policy. If using any materials in this online digital collection for educational or research purposes, please cite accordingly.


SDS; Racism; Weathermen; Affirmative Action; Women's Studies; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Graduate Employees Organization; Activism; Feminism; Women's Movement; Racial Discrimination; 1960s; 1970s; Environmental Movement; Anti-War Movement; Soul Music; Funk Music; Disco Era; Identity Politics; Sexual Revolution; Janis Joplin; Roe v. Wade; Sexism; Anti-War Movement; Civil Rights Movement; Abortion Rights; Demobilization; John F. Kennedy Assassination; Drug Culture



Item Information

About this Collection

Collection Description

Stephen McKiernan's collection of interviews includes more than two hundred interviews with prominent figures of the 1960s, which were collected between the mid-1990s and 2010s. The collection provides narratives of people who were actively involved in or witnessed events in the 1960s, an era which spurred profound cultural and… More

Link to Collection Overview

Link to Browse Collection Items


“Interview with Dr. Alice Echols,” Digital Collections, accessed May 28, 2024,