The whole allure of the book, the reason it’s interesting, is because these
things really happened.—alison bechdel in hillary chute, ‘‘An
Interview with Alison Bechdel’’
The relation of the present to the past is most often figured through ide-
alizations and demonizations of particular epochs or individuals on the
one hand, and reparations and apologies for past wrongs on the other. . . .
We might ask what this figuring covers over, defers, or symptomizes in the
present. How does it elide the most difficult questions about the bearing
of the past on the present?—wendy brown, Politics Out of History
In this book I have read along the grain of the archive of women’s liberation
in order to render problematic the ways in which the movement has been
accounted for and remembered in the present. By tracking the transmis-
sion of meaning and emotion through the phrases and terms from the past
of women’s liberation to the present of mainstream, feminist, and queer
relations to that history, I have attempted to attend to the complex and
contingent eventfulness of the movement without entombing it in a didac-
tic demand that it be recognized as the origin for present feminist con-
cerns. More particularly, I have returned to what was, for many feminist
activists and scholars of the women’s liberation movement, the defining
circumstances of the movement’s emergence as a distinct feminist move-
ment, namely the widespread media coverage and public discord that con-
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