Pollitt is best-known for her column "Subject to Debate" in The Nation magazine which The Washington Post called "the best place to go for original thinking on the left." She has also published in numerous other periodicals, including The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Ms. magazine and The New York Times. In 1994, she published Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism, a collection of nineteen essays that first appeared in The Nation and other journals. Most of her Nation essays from 1994 to 2001 were collected in Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics and Culture, published by the Modern Library in 2001. Before she became a regular columnist for The Nation, Pollitt edited its Books & the Arts section and won a National Book Critics Circle Award for a volume of her poetry, Antarctic Traveller, in 1983. On June 13, 2006, Random House published her book Virginity or Death!: And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time. Another volume of her poetry, The Mind-Body Problem, was published in 2009.
Much of Pollitt's writing is in defense of contemporary feminism and other forms of 'identity politics' and tackles perceived misimpressions by critics from across the political spectrum; other frequent topics include abortion, the media, U.S. foreign policy, the politics of poverty (especially welfare reform), and human rights movements around the world. Her more controversial writings include Not Just Bad Sex (1993), a negative review of Katie Roiphe's Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, and "Put Out No Flags" (2001), a Nation essay on post-9/11 America in which she explained her refusal to fly an American flag out of her living room window.
Cathleen Schine writing in the New York Review of Books describes Pollit as "a good old-fashioned feminist and leftist columnist for The Nation, as well as a prize-winning poet."
Pollitt was born in to a Jewish family in New York City. She married Randy Cohen, author of the New York Times Magazine column "The Ethicist," on June 6, 1987. They later divorced. They have a daughter, Sophie Pollitt-Cohen (September 25, 1987) author of the The Notebook Girls. On April 29, 2006, Pollitt married the political theorist Steven Lukes.
Pollitt received an A.B. in philosophy from Radcliffe College in 1972 and an M.F.A. in writing from Columbia University in 1975.
Pollitt was criticized by Bernard Goldberg, who named her number 74 in his book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, because of her essay "Put Out No Flags," in which she says: "The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war." Goldberg criticized what he perceived to be her lack of patriotism in the time shortly after the September 11th, 2001 attacks.
Pollitt's response, in the Introduction to Virginity or Death!, was "(Memo to self: must try harder.)"