For Patty Zimmermann, with Revolutionary Love

by | May 1, 2024 | Commentary

These words were written for a late-April weekend memorializing Patty Zimmermann, who was Editor-at-Large for The Edge, Director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, Professor of Screen Studies at Ithaca College, and a fierce friend and ally.



We, Carla and me, are thinking of you because this is such a Patty time.
With the coming changes of spring,
And FLEFF running without you being present.

It all feels a bit raw.
So I wrote this for you.

I am remembering everything from each other.
My cancers.
Our shared pregnancies — running while huffing and puffing.

Through the restructuring and downsizing of the college
Three different times.
Four different college presidents.
Through our mother’s deaths.

You were my beloved friend for 40 years.

You could be so Catholic sometimes.
And I was an anti-Zionist Jew raised by communists.
We demonstrated for Palestine together, just before you became ill.


She had boundless energy to find and re-find herself.

When Patty first arrived in Ithaca, she called me at the suggestion of a mutual friend, Tyler Stovall, who said I could help her figure out the college. I told her to meet me on campus at the tennis courts and we played one of our first of many games.  I was trying to play tennis and she kept talking and asking questions — you know Patty.

I still remember them and these are a few answers:

Sit on no Committees
Be wary of senior faculty, they are selfish and will try to get you to do their work
Teach what you want to teach
Remember that most of the profs are deep misogynists
Take no shit
Always try to find a posse
Don’t think about tenure, they just use it as a cudgel
Write whenever you have something to say — and make sure you do this.


We are alive, and then we are not.
The border between life and death is clear and not.
Some of us stays
And continues.
Other parts fade.
Grab onto this and continue with Patty’s best self.
She would want you thinking newly.

All borders — Mexico, Greece, Gaza, sex, gender, nations — are in flux.
Immigrants will be the new citizens
Or citizens will be the new migrants.
We are living in a time of multiple potential and real endings.
Whether it is climate, disaster, COVID deaths, Zionism, electoral politics, the state, gender as open and evolving.
Beliefs are under siege.
New possibilities emerge.

New constructions and identities are not fully visible.
Let these cracks let in new light and possibility
Stay here
Let go of the old
Try to find the new.

Iranian feminists
Afghan anti-Taliban women
Sudanese women freedom fighters
Reproductive revolutionaries
Give voice
Fight back
Rise up!!!


She was not a huge fan of Beyoncé.
Too capitalist
Too objectified
But she would feel differently about Cowboy Carter.
She would love this album
For its generosity and camaraderie, especially to other Black women. Giving recognition. Sharing the light.

And I am pretty sure she would tell Taylor Swift that she needs some new ideas. Enough of the self.

She was in awe of the bravery of the Ukrainian women snipers.
We wondered if we could be one.
We sent money for their uniforms.

She loved food.
She loved cooking for others.
She would be enraged by the IDF killing of the Palestinian food aid workers.

Be unsure of yourself,
But be brave.
Be revolutionary
Be courageous and welcoming
Be loving
Be critical and demanding.
Do all of this
All of the time
And make the revolutionary love that is needed
To save the planet.


She was a wonderful friend to so many.
Her death was fast, so fast, too fast.
So let me tell you what Patty wanted you to know.

She loved you, her friends, to the very end.

She died thinking of the community that she nurtured and nurtured her.
So she was not alone,
Thanks to you, and she wanted you to know this.


Whatever you do, I know this.
Patty would want you to do something.
Do something small and you will see it will grow.
Doing nothing is not OK.

I have written elsewhere: hope is not an idea. It is a practice.
When you try to make the planet kinder, safer, more humane you build hope.
If you want to hope,
Do something.

Patty was our comrade — Carla and Stewart and Sean and Kailey for doing something.
She still is.
She is still yours too.



Zillah Eisenstein is a noted international feminist writer and activist and Professor Emerita, Political Theory, Ithaca College.  She is the author of many books, including “The Female Body and the Law” (UC Press, 1988), which won the Victoria Schuck Book Prize for the best book on women and politics; “Hatreds” (Routledge., 1996), “Global Obscenities” (NYU Press, 1998),  “Against Empire” (Zed Press, 2004), and most recently, “Abolitionist Socialist Feminism” (Monthly Review Press, 2019).

 Photo by Connor Lange/The Ithacan


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