Shulamith Firestone

Shulamith Firestone

Shulamith Firestone (January 7, 1945 – August 28, 2012) was a Canadian-born feminist. She played a large role in the early development of radical feminism. She was a founding member of the New York Radical Women, Redstockings, and New York Radical Feminists.

Firestone wrote The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution which appeared in 1970. In this book, she argues that the basis for gender inequality is because of biology. She discusses how if we separated the reproductive processes from the body that women would not be at the disadvantage they are now. They would not be the ones responsible for pregnancy, childbirth, and the subsequent child-rearing expected of women. She makes a case for the use of cybernetics to carry out human reproduction. She also discusses eradicating the nuclear family which she said contributed to the gender inequality. By keeping the traditional roles of the nuclear family, women are automatically placed in the subservient, housewife/caregiver role. Firestone had proposed community based child-rearing where no one individual was responsible for the childcare.

“So that just as to assure elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the underclass (the proletariat) and, in a temporary dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, so to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: not only the full restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, but also their (temporary) seizure of control of human fertility – the new population biology as well as all the social institutions of child-bearing and child-rearing. And just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud’s ‘polymorphous perversity’ – would probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally. The division of labour would be ended by the elimination of labour altogether (through cybernetics). The tyranny of the biological family would be broken.”
—Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex

The New Yorker published an excellent article about Shulamith Firestone.

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