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"No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical, inflammatory second-wave landmark.” Naomi Wolf Originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, and going on to become a bestseller, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women's liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. Beginning "No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical, inflammatory second-wave landmark.” Naomi Wolf Originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, and going on to become a bestseller, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women's liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. Beginning with a look at the radical and grassroots history of the first wave (with its foundation in the abolition movement of the time), Firestone documents its major victory, the granting of the vote to women in 1920, and the fifty years of ridicule that followed. She goes on to deftly synthesize the work of Freud, Marx, de Beauvoir, and Engels to create a cogent argument for feminist revolution. Identifying women as a caste, she declares that they must seize the means of reproduction for as long as women (and only women) are required to bear and rear children, they will be singled out as inferior. Ultimately she presents feminism as the key radical ideology, the missing link between Marx and Freud, uniting their visions of the political and the personal. In the wake of recent headlines bemoaning women's squandered fertility and the ongoing debate over the appropriate role of genetics in the future of humanity, The Dialectic of Sex is revealed as remarkably relevant to today's society, a testament to Shulamith Firestone's startlingly prescient vision.


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"No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical, inflammatory second-wave landmark.” Naomi Wolf Originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, and going on to become a bestseller, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women's liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. Beginning "No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical, inflammatory second-wave landmark.” Naomi Wolf Originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, and going on to become a bestseller, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women's liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. Beginning with a look at the radical and grassroots history of the first wave (with its foundation in the abolition movement of the time), Firestone documents its major victory, the granting of the vote to women in 1920, and the fifty years of ridicule that followed. She goes on to deftly synthesize the work of Freud, Marx, de Beauvoir, and Engels to create a cogent argument for feminist revolution. Identifying women as a caste, she declares that they must seize the means of reproduction for as long as women (and only women) are required to bear and rear children, they will be singled out as inferior. Ultimately she presents feminism as the key radical ideology, the missing link between Marx and Freud, uniting their visions of the political and the personal. In the wake of recent headlines bemoaning women's squandered fertility and the ongoing debate over the appropriate role of genetics in the future of humanity, The Dialectic of Sex is revealed as remarkably relevant to today's society, a testament to Shulamith Firestone's startlingly prescient vision.

30 review for The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    My first serious girlfriend was a feminist and through her I started to read and think about feminist arguments. Generally it is usual to start with De Beauvoir's The Second Sex or Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. Not me. I started with this one! One of the more radical feminists, this really challenged my learnt behaviours and learnt ideas. I liked the way she used Marx's "means of production" argument and used it in relation to the "means of reproduction". I went on to read books by Dworkin My first serious girlfriend was a feminist and through her I started to read and think about feminist arguments. Generally it is usual to start with De Beauvoir's The Second Sex or Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. Not me. I started with this one! One of the more radical feminists, this really challenged my learnt behaviours and learnt ideas. I liked the way she used Marx's "means of production" argument and used it in relation to the "means of reproduction". I went on to read books by Dworkin, Brownmiller and the above texts, but this is the one that set me thinking.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sharmeen

    Writing this because I'm thinking a lot of Shulamith Firestone's death tonight. A professor in media studies lent me his copy of Dialectic of Sex when I was 18 and i remember how it fundamentally changed my thinking. As a young feminist reading a lot of Marx and thinking of socialism, it really brought home the concept of reproductive labour. And I referenced the book a lot both in school and personally. Plus, I really liked how she characterized childbirth and pregnancy as a completely dehumani Writing this because I'm thinking a lot of Shulamith Firestone's death tonight. A professor in media studies lent me his copy of Dialectic of Sex when I was 18 and i remember how it fundamentally changed my thinking. As a young feminist reading a lot of Marx and thinking of socialism, it really brought home the concept of reproductive labour. And I referenced the book a lot both in school and personally. Plus, I really liked how she characterized childbirth and pregnancy as a completely dehumanizing experience. I think I'll read it again and write a more thoughtful review 14 years after reading it. I had so many questions for her and was hoping she would go on some speaking tour with Dialectic of Sex Revisited. Like, how she analyzes gender oppression with trans rights, if she really thought men couldn't love and if she feared that technology could further oppress women. It's amazing she wrote this when she was 25, but also really sad died alone struggling with mental illness. I kind of wish I had the chance to tell her that her book really set me on the road of fighting for social justice and liberation. RIP Shulamith!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Firestone, part of the Women's Liberation Movement and a founder of the Redstockings, is an oft-quoted source of inspiration for one of my favorite blogs, I Blame the Patriarchy (IBTP). So when I ran across her book in a thrift store, I thought it a lucky find, as I could finally see what the big fuss over Firestone is all about. There are aspects of Firestone's analysis of gender inequalities that I found quite compelling. She sees women's oppression as a class issue (thus the regular statement Firestone, part of the Women's Liberation Movement and a founder of the Redstockings, is an oft-quoted source of inspiration for one of my favorite blogs, I Blame the Patriarchy (IBTP). So when I ran across her book in a thrift store, I thought it a lucky find, as I could finally see what the big fuss over Firestone is all about. There are aspects of Firestone's analysis of gender inequalities that I found quite compelling. She sees women's oppression as a class issue (thus the regular statement on IBTP of women as the 'sex class'), which I think makes it easier to talk about other types of oppression as linked to women's oppression. If 'women' is a class and not just a biological state, then it's possible to talk about men who culturally belong to this class, not because they blur or transgress (though they may) biological gender lines, but because they have been culturally/socially marked as belonging to the 'female' class, and thus are similarly oppressed by the male elite at the top of the patriarchy's hierarchical chain. Firestone uses this discussion of class to link sexism and racism, which I think is useful. She also discusses children as an oppressed class and charts some of the historical trends in how children have been regarded in society to make the case that they are potentially more oppressed now than several centuries ago.* Notably, however, much of her analysis becomes extremely Freudian, which has its weaker and stronger points. She does some really interesting things with Freud, though; she refers to Freudianism as 'the misguided feminism.' She suggests that 'the only way that the Oedipus Complex can make full sense is in terms of power,' so that what happens in the complex is not so much transference of sexual desire but a realization of who has power in the family unit and a realignment of oneself along those axes of power. I think this may be a pretty plausible adaptation of Freud, but I'm interested in finding someone more versed in his work who had critiqued Firestone to see if there are things I'm missing. I found the last third of the book much less satisfying. Firestone has a section on 'feminism and ecology' which is essentially an overly simplistic look at the ecological crisis, with all the blame placed on the 'population problem.' Thus the solution to environmental degradation is for women to overcome their own biology, and for reproduction to happen cybernetically, with children communally cared for. This view certainly dates Firestone, as modern feminism, especially eco-feminism, has recognized the problems of mandating birth control for all women, and especially for seeing population as the main contributing factor to environmental deterioration, ignoring issues like per capita consumption of natural resources. And we are only now beginning to understand some of the problems in technological control over the basic processes of life, such as in our attempts to genetically modify plant life (see http://www.projectcensored.org/censor... for news reports confirming the danger of GMO food to human health). So, try though she may, I don't think that Firestone is able to lay out a plausible picture of what a future, patriarchy-free society might look like; I just don't think her hopes for a 'cybernetic socialism' are either realistic or desirable. *"Yes, you say, but surely it would have been better for the children of the working class could they too have lived sheltered by this myth [of childhood]. At least they would have been spared their lives. So they could sweat out their spiritual lives in some schoolroom or office? The question is rhetorical, like wondering whether the suffering of blacks in America is authentic because they would be considered rich in some other country. Suffering is suffering. No, we have to think in broader terms here. Like, why were their parents being exploited in the first place? What was anybody doing down in that coal mine?"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    A synthesis of Marxism and radical feminism is an interesting concept in theory, but Firestone doesn't really do a good job. To be blunt, this is a very racist book. Her chapter on racism - "Racism: The Sexism of the Family of Man" - is just disgusting. In order to prove her theory, Firestone has to show a causal link between racism and sexism. To do this, she takes a bizarre psychoanalytic perspective that characterizes white/Black race relations in the United States as Oedipus and Elektra comp A synthesis of Marxism and radical feminism is an interesting concept in theory, but Firestone doesn't really do a good job. To be blunt, this is a very racist book. Her chapter on racism - "Racism: The Sexism of the Family of Man" - is just disgusting. In order to prove her theory, Firestone has to show a causal link between racism and sexism. To do this, she takes a bizarre psychoanalytic perspective that characterizes white/Black race relations in the United States as Oedipus and Elektra complexes; the end result is basically spending a whole chapter victim blaming Black women and talking about how sexist the Black Power movement was in her eyes (in reality the Black Panthers were around 70% women according to some estimates and supported women's liberation more or less completely after 1969). She doesn't touch on any other race relations and in fact in another chapter belittles Indigenous struggles. This kind of racist analysis is really unacceptable.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    Best read in the sociology of gender that radicalized notions of what feminism could and should be for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    l.

    "(inauthentic) racism" I think the general position on her is that she was a brilliant thinker who sometimes missed the mark. My thoughts are she's a very weak thinker who had one or two insights. It's not just her virulent racism. It's her sloppy arguments re freudianism, overpopulation, childhood and incest etc. (TBH my position on her has been shaped by the fact that the first thing I heard about her was that she argued that racism is just sexism extended and I've been contemptuous of her and "(inauthentic) racism" I think the general position on her is that she was a brilliant thinker who sometimes missed the mark. My thoughts are she's a very weak thinker who had one or two insights. It's not just her virulent racism. It's her sloppy arguments re freudianism, overpopulation, childhood and incest etc. (TBH my position on her has been shaped by the fact that the first thing I heard about her was that she argued that racism is just sexism extended and I've been contemptuous of her and people who think highly of her ever since.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    A wonderful combination of Marxism & Feminism. A radical (sometimes to the point of absurdity?), powerful, honest, dated, and frequently very funny work. Pregnancy is barbaric. I do not believe, as many women are now saying, that the reason pregnancy is viewed as not beautiful is due strictly to cultural perversion. The child's first response, "What's wrong with that Fat Lady?"; the husband's guilty waning of sexual desire; the woman's tears in front of the mirror at eight months -- all are gut A wonderful combination of Marxism & Feminism. A radical (sometimes to the point of absurdity?), powerful, honest, dated, and frequently very funny work. Pregnancy is barbaric. I do not believe, as many women are now saying, that the reason pregnancy is viewed as not beautiful is due strictly to cultural perversion. The child's first response, "What's wrong with that Fat Lady?"; the husband's guilty waning of sexual desire; the woman's tears in front of the mirror at eight months -- all are gut reactions, not to be dismissed as cultural habits. Pregnancy is the temporary deformation of the body of the individual for the sake of the species. Moreover, childbirth hurts. And it isn't good for you. Three thousand years ago, women giving birth "naturally" had no need to pretend that pregnancy was a real trip, some mystical orgasm (that far-away look). The Bible said it: pain and travail. The glamour was unnecessary: women had no choice. They didn't dare squawk. But at least they could scream as loudly as they wanted during their labour pains. And after it was over, even during it, they were admired in a limited way for their bravery; their valour was measured by how many children (sons) they could endure bringing into the world. Today all this has been confused. The cult of natural childbirth itself tells us how far we've come from true oneness with nature. Natural childbirth is only one more part of the reactionary hippie-Rousseauean Return-to-Nature, and just as self-conscious. Perhaps a mystification of childbirth, true faith, makes it easier for the woman involved. Psuedo-yoga exercises, twenty pregnant women breathing deeply on the floor to the conductor's baton, may even help some women develop "proper" attitudes (as in "I didn't scream once"). The squirming husband at the bedside, like the empathy pains of certain tribesmen ("Just look what I go through with you, dear"), may make a woman feel less alone during her ordeal. But the fact remains: childbirth is at best necessary and tolerable. It is not fun.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This book is total whiplash. Firestone is totally brilliant one moment, and totally ridiculous the next. Even though I agreed with many of her premises, and some of her conclusions, I was often bewildered by her thought process -- she really needed to lay off the Freud, and maybe go out and meet some actual children. Her tone, too, is hard to take. She reads like an out-of-touch guidance counselor or a hopelessly square academic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    I never want to see the term "racial Oedipal complex" ever I never want to see the term "racial Oedipal complex" ever

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ingeborg

    This is a really good book, I read it in one breath, maybe it's a little dated, especially with all the new reproductive technologies that changed almost nothing regarding family life. But I wouldn’t call it ‘radical’. What exactly is radical about it? Firestone is writing facts about this society – men and women are not equal because of the fact that only women can give birth. Isn’t that a fact? Society just never adopted in a righteous way to it. When two people have the same job position, and This is a really good book, I read it in one breath, maybe it's a little dated, especially with all the new reproductive technologies that changed almost nothing regarding family life. But I wouldn’t call it ‘radical’. What exactly is radical about it? Firestone is writing facts about this society – men and women are not equal because of the fact that only women can give birth. Isn’t that a fact? Society just never adopted in a righteous way to it. When two people have the same job position, and one goes off to have a baby, the other has a better chance of getting a promotion, or keeping a job if somebody has to get laid off right? We could say that women get something else, the joy of children, the love…. But this may or may not be true. Sure some get joy. Others get depression, guilt … Maybe Firestone’s solutions are radical (artificial ways to have kids). They are also a little idealistic. Because artificial ways of reproduction have to be paid, which bring us to the class question. Only the privileged would have the privilege anyhow. Don’t we have third world women getting pregnant for women from USA or Europe today? But her solutions aside, the real question after reading Firestone remains: it possible to reach equality in a society where only women are responsible for giving birth and most of childrearing? This is still debatable today.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shana Bulhan

    People don't understand this book, and it's easy to misinterpret it and label Firestone as a delusional antiquated radical feminist who disappeared into obscurity anyway, but the thing is this book is the best starting point for social change that I have ever come across. I intend to show the world how perceptive Shulamith Firestone really was. It's scary facing the possibility that truth doesn't lie in absolutes, and that freedoms can actually exist and be possible without everyone killing each People don't understand this book, and it's easy to misinterpret it and label Firestone as a delusional antiquated radical feminist who disappeared into obscurity anyway, but the thing is this book is the best starting point for social change that I have ever come across. I intend to show the world how perceptive Shulamith Firestone really was. It's scary facing the possibility that truth doesn't lie in absolutes, and that freedoms can actually exist and be possible without everyone killing each other or the "inherent darker truth of human nature" coming out. It's safer to believe humans are evil - laws and governments and establishments and authorities make sense that way. Firestone has ruthlessly deconstructed so many social conventions it seems preposterous to most people. Social notions about childhood, incest, race, sexuality, politics, economic structure - they're all dispensed with. Firestone does have a certain bias against homosexuality which is one of the biggest reasons why I think of this book as a starting point and not a complete analysis, strategy or understanding of world politics. As for outdated? The world hasn't actually changed that much since the Sixties. It's just become more prettily embellished.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nabilah

    Great introduction but as I read more, i realized her analysis on race is really, really bad. I think she's racist...She belittles indigenous resistance and Black Panthers among others. This is all my fault. If i finish Angela Davis's Women Race and Class (she criticized this book in Chapter 11), i wouldn't buy this book!! There is some good ideas, yes, but i cannot get pass this blatant racism. Great introduction but as I read more, i realized her analysis on race is really, really bad. I think she's racist...She belittles indigenous resistance and Black Panthers among others. This is all my fault. If i finish Angela Davis's Women Race and Class (she criticized this book in Chapter 11), i wouldn't buy this book!! There is some good ideas, yes, but i cannot get pass this blatant racism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    A thought-provoking book with strong analysis in certain areas, but major flaws in others. Firestone is strongest in her analysis of the history of feminism, the failings of Freudian psychology, and the role of love and romanticism in heterosexuality (although she doesn't name it as heterosexuality), and she doesn't sugarcoat her critique of men's oppression of women. Despite being written over 40 years ago, her analysis is still very relevant. Her discussion of the social construction of childh A thought-provoking book with strong analysis in certain areas, but major flaws in others. Firestone is strongest in her analysis of the history of feminism, the failings of Freudian psychology, and the role of love and romanticism in heterosexuality (although she doesn't name it as heterosexuality), and she doesn't sugarcoat her critique of men's oppression of women. Despite being written over 40 years ago, her analysis is still very relevant. Her discussion of the social construction of childhood is fascinating, especially as it relates to the nuclear family and schooling system, but her ideas about child sexuality — and child/adult and parent/child sexuality in particular — are troubling. When it comes to race, her analysis is very lacking; she tries to force white/black relations into the framework provided by her reinterpretation of Freud, and she relies significantly on racist stereotypes (black men want white women) and misogynist texts like Soul on Ice to support her case. Gay and lesbian issues are another area in which the book deserves criticism. Firestone does an excellent job of showing how the institution of heterosexuality hurts women, but she fails to discuss "homosexuals" — although she occasionally sympathizes with them — as anything more than examples of abnormal psychology, and her comment that "homosexual men" are "often misogynists of the worst order" smacks of homophobia. She is unable to offer a full critique of heterosexuality, including PIV, and her heteronormative perspective is revealed in her claims that, given all choices, people would naturally gravitate towards heterosexuality due to the "sheer physical fit" of male–female bodies in sex. When it comes to her discussion of technology, Firestone offers a hopelessly naive image of a utopian techno-fix. Of course, her visions of artificial wombs and technology to alleviate women of domestic chores are products of the time, with the book written in 1969, but it is nevertheless unfortunate that she cannot see the connection between men's domination of women and "man's" domination of nature, instead seeing the latter as part of the solution to the former. I was very interested in seeing what her vision of a feminist revolution would look like, but the technologically-dependent, controlling state she describes strikes me as not only thoroughly unrealistic but also very unappealing. While the book does come together well as a whole, each chapter forms a coherent, independent unit and can be read separately.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Endlessly anti-black. I was also annoyed and low key grossed out by her need to psychologize white supremacy (and patriarchy sometimes) as some sort of repressed, unsolved, psychosexual failing. Yikes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vagabond of Letters, DLitt

    'Maybe it would be funny if it weren't so serious.' (Proposed tagline for the dialectic of the sexes ever since the abolition of couverture, dated August 17, 1920.) I don't know if the author was infleuenced by Marcuse and Adorno in her thesis, but it certainly shares much in common with the neo-Marxist underpinnings of Marcuse and other 'New Left' thought: it is one possible subset of the entire revisionist material dialectic 'critical theory' superstructure established by them, with some psycho 'Maybe it would be funny if it weren't so serious.' (Proposed tagline for the dialectic of the sexes ever since the abolition of couverture, dated August 17, 1920.) I don't know if the author was infleuenced by Marcuse and Adorno in her thesis, but it certainly shares much in common with the neo-Marxist underpinnings of Marcuse and other 'New Left' thought: it is one possible subset of the entire revisionist material dialectic 'critical theory' superstructure established by them, with some psychobabble to boot. It demonstrates this similarity by reimagining the Marxist dialectic in terms of 'the Patriarchy' and 'womyn' instead of economic class, and in terms of, I quote, 'the means of reproduction, which must be seized [from men]' instead of the means of production. A curdling synthesis of seemingly every strand and phase of corrosive Jewish thought from Spinoza to Marx to Freud to Friedan to Marcuse (whether or not she independently discovered the usefulness of redefining material dialectic and Marxian economics - and the ease with which they are lent - in terms of some or the other 'oppressed' group and 'the power structure' instead of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and in terms of politically economizing a non-economic activity, respectively), the goal of this book, if secured, would ensure the existence of a 'Matriarchy' for one or maybe two generations before a general (and well-deserved) civilizational collapse. As desiderata of her thesis have been imperfectly and partially though increasingly secured in the Western world (especially in the university - so-called 'rape culture' -- in the human resources department -- in the metamorphosed Marcusianism of the SJW movements and related strands of the alt-left), the gestalt of her thesis - whether by her created, or just by her expressed - is certainly here, now, in the decadence of late capitalism, pouring fuel on the fire melting the girders of civilization. No race can survive without its women: in this, and this alone, was the author correct... If you want to see the purest and radical blueprint and attempted justification for the nth-wave feminist plague, skip everything else: you've come to the right place. (If you're part of the plague, you will love it with a righteous love such as I can not describe! if you've reached this far, give a reading to Benatar, 'The Second Sexism' [academic] or van Creveld, 'The Privilged Sex' [popular], to which - if you have any intellectual honesty - you will likely have the same mixed but largely negative reaction a Radical Traditionalist or Neoreactionary such as myself has to his tome.) To give respect where respect is due, it is a simply amazing accomplishment from a twenty-something student, to either (or both) tap the zeitgeist, or (and) to further mold it so well. The rating is hard to come by, as the book is enlightening as to part of the predicament we find ourselves in in the West but entirely destructive in its thesis and application (which has become too real, if still marginal); prescient, but a self-fulfilling prophecy of collapse and regress; dogmatic yet evil, and above all obtuse and murky in that ineffable way of neo-Marxists, social scientists and pomo historians who really don't know what they're trying to say (or know all too well and desire to sneak it past their betters: the Sokal affair makes me hopeful this is not often the case). There is no part of the book I can give a five; few parts I can give a four; quite a few parts I can give a three, and a panoply of sections - including the overarching thesis - to which negative value can be justly assigned. In light of the importance and influence of the work, and the revelatory character of some passages with regard to lifting a flickering and dim lantern to the decaying and leprous corners of our world (yes, while capturing, propagandizing, and rationalizing a good part of one of the many Aristotelian causes responsible for their condition), a zero or one-star rating seems inadequate, so I leave a reluctant two stars, rounded up from somewhere in the one-decimals. It is, in any case, reluctantly recommended reading, in the same league as Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals', but on one of the theoretical sides. (Pre-Nov 2018 review)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Siddharth

    Strange, Radical and Unthinkable. Those were the three words that refused to leave my head when I was reading this book. Firestone herself would say that the fact that I think this is unthinkable, just as every other man and woman out there would, is an indication of how deep the sex dialectic goes. She provides helpful summaries at the end of almost every chapter, and frankly, they were the ones that really stunned me. To summarize her whole "destroy to create a better new world", she says: 1. th Strange, Radical and Unthinkable. Those were the three words that refused to leave my head when I was reading this book. Firestone herself would say that the fact that I think this is unthinkable, just as every other man and woman out there would, is an indication of how deep the sex dialectic goes. She provides helpful summaries at the end of almost every chapter, and frankly, they were the ones that really stunned me. To summarize her whole "destroy to create a better new world", she says: 1. throw out genders and sex roles: all reproduction will be artificial and neither women nor men would have any special attachment to the child as "their own" 2. throw out culture as we know it: all the culture we have till now has only been created by men and the subjects have been women. after #1, we will now have a new culture which will have equal, voluntary participation from all humans (remember that there are no sex roles anymore and to refer to men and women as men and women after #1 would be of no particular importance) 3. throw out childhood, schools, the special care for children: i.e. children are little adults. they should be assimilated into the adult society as soon as they are physically capable of it. there's no need to have separate games, separate play-things or separate literature for them. in fact, there's even a need to believe that children should be asexual. (throw back to the medieval ages) 4. throw out economic dependence by incorporating the communist policy: control of the means of production in the hands of the public, and every human will be given a basic income from the government for physical sustenance. There are several loopholes that I could think of in her principles, even if you allow for the fact that the cybernation and the completely artificial reproduction society is just around the corner (47 years ago, she said "soon"). I realise why Radical feminism is so controversial, it openly says that the complete present system is useless and the only way to redeem it is to completely destroy it and go back to the Medieval Ages, only this time, we would have the technology to not have to toil everyday.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    I really wanted to like The Dialectic of Sex, but unfortunately a lot of the ideas were extremely dated or questionable. Firestone's reworking of Marxism through a feminist lens and her appraisal of American feminism (chapters one and two) were interesting, thought-provoking, and well-argued, but it all quickly starts to go downhill. Starting from chapter three, 'Freudianism: The Misguided Feminism', Firestone attempts to analyse all aspects of patriarchal and capitalist culture using purely Fre I really wanted to like The Dialectic of Sex, but unfortunately a lot of the ideas were extremely dated or questionable. Firestone's reworking of Marxism through a feminist lens and her appraisal of American feminism (chapters one and two) were interesting, thought-provoking, and well-argued, but it all quickly starts to go downhill. Starting from chapter three, 'Freudianism: The Misguided Feminism', Firestone attempts to analyse all aspects of patriarchal and capitalist culture using purely Freudian terminology and concepts, which results in super problematic assumptions regarding parent/child relations, homosexuality, and race relations, and a really weird fixation on the 'incest taboo'. Chapters which I liked: 1. The Dialectic of Sex 2. On American Feminism Chapters which are worth reading (but are occasionally questionable): 3. Freudianism: The Misguided Feminism 4. Down with Childhood 8. (Male) Culture Chapters which are just questionable: 6. Love (see the first half of bell hooks' All About Love for a much better analysis of love and romance) 7. The Culture of Romance 9. Dialectics of Cultural History Most of 10. The Ultimate Revolution: Demands and Speculations Chapters which made me go, "Yikes!": 5. Racism: The Sexism of the Family of Man The last few pages of 10. Namely: (view spoiler)["even if he should happen to pick his own genetic mother, there would be no a priori reasons for her to reject his sexual advances"; "Relations with children would include as much genital sex as the child was capable of"; and the inference that "non-sexual friendship" should "disappear". (hide spoiler)]

  18. 5 out of 5

    Luann Ritsema

    I can't say what the relative merits of this book are -- I can only say that when I read it as a teenager I couldn't begin to understand half of what she was saying and yet it somehow changed the direction of my life. I wanted to understand. I wanted to respond to the anger, the power, the independence portrayed within its mass-market bindings. I hid it in my underwear drawer, next to the pilfered pack of Winstons I'd stolen from my Dad, so my mother wouldn't get that sad, nervous look on her fa I can't say what the relative merits of this book are -- I can only say that when I read it as a teenager I couldn't begin to understand half of what she was saying and yet it somehow changed the direction of my life. I wanted to understand. I wanted to respond to the anger, the power, the independence portrayed within its mass-market bindings. I hid it in my underwear drawer, next to the pilfered pack of Winstons I'd stolen from my Dad, so my mother wouldn't get that sad, nervous look on her face, like I hated her because I wanted something different; like I'd go off to college and get too much education and forget about God and start taking drugs and date inappropriate people and never come home and not end up being a missionary or a Gospel singer. And come to think of it. That's pretty much what happened. Thank you, Shulamith.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megat Hanis

    Firestone was truly one of a kind. In less than two hundred pages, she presented her case clearly : Biological inequality is the root of social division. It gave rise to sexual class and division of labour (men for production ; women for reproduction). While claiming that Marxist analysis of class struggle based on economic factor failed to grasp the true cause of social division, she took us back to our own bodies and see for ourselves the inherent inequality in our biology. It is this inequali Firestone was truly one of a kind. In less than two hundred pages, she presented her case clearly : Biological inequality is the root of social division. It gave rise to sexual class and division of labour (men for production ; women for reproduction). While claiming that Marxist analysis of class struggle based on economic factor failed to grasp the true cause of social division, she took us back to our own bodies and see for ourselves the inherent inequality in our biology. It is this inequality that also gave birth to the creation of family and superficial sense of love and romance. However, as a fan of Butler and Foucault, her analysis lack foundational critique which characterized the embodiment of our identity particularly through the creation of gender itself. No one who has an interest in gender studies should ignore this radical piece.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maya

    Although I do not agree with some of the minutae of this book, it is impossible to overstate the importance (and relevance) of this book to Women's Liberation. As with Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics", there is no feminism today worthy of the name that has not grown out of the seeds that Firestone planted. Although I do not agree with some of the minutae of this book, it is impossible to overstate the importance (and relevance) of this book to Women's Liberation. As with Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics", there is no feminism today worthy of the name that has not grown out of the seeds that Firestone planted.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen O'Neal

    Shulamith Firestone understood better than anyone that has ever lived the way in which women's oppression intersects with the oppression of youth. Anyone interested in feminism or youth liberation needs to read this book. Shulamith Firestone understood better than anyone that has ever lived the way in which women's oppression intersects with the oppression of youth. Anyone interested in feminism or youth liberation needs to read this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    vi macdonald

    There's some cool and interesting stuff in here...there's also Freudian/kinda racist bullshit in here. Also: phrases like "racial Oedipal complex" and "(regarding: "ghetto communities") "child sexuality: it's a groovy thing, the kids love it" are unspeakably uncomfortable. There's some cool and interesting stuff in here...there's also Freudian/kinda racist bullshit in here. Also: phrases like "racial Oedipal complex" and "(regarding: "ghetto communities") "child sexuality: it's a groovy thing, the kids love it" are unspeakably uncomfortable.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shanna

    The chapter about ectogenesis has altered my views on reproductive rights. It's great. The chapter about ectogenesis has altered my views on reproductive rights. It's great.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Poppy

    Simply a must read. I don't care who you are or what you think you think about sex differences or what you think about Marx. Shulamith will set your ass straight on key issues. Simply a must read. I don't care who you are or what you think you think about sex differences or what you think about Marx. Shulamith will set your ass straight on key issues.

  25. 5 out of 5

    SaЯRah Muhammad

    I suppose a work like this is valuable mostly for its reinterpretation of standard strains of Western (masculine) thought. Ms. Firestone makes astute observations that illustrate the failures of Marxism and the Psychoanalytical movement at understanding what women want. Men will never get it and any system devised by men will never get it. Quite honestly, most men don't want to get it. The mystery is the thrill. This is why marriage is such a drag. It takes away the thrill of it all and replaces I suppose a work like this is valuable mostly for its reinterpretation of standard strains of Western (masculine) thought. Ms. Firestone makes astute observations that illustrate the failures of Marxism and the Psychoanalytical movement at understanding what women want. Men will never get it and any system devised by men will never get it. Quite honestly, most men don't want to get it. The mystery is the thrill. This is why marriage is such a drag. It takes away the thrill of it all and replaces it with slow, creeping death. It also creates stability. Something that Ms. Firestone's proposed solutions do not offer. Children need stable environments to reach their potential. How a commune would provide this, I don't know. I agree with Ms. Firestone that childhood should be abolished. Mostly because I do not see how children benefit from our paternizing treatment of them. Children ought to be treated as adults and given the same rights. However, I do not agree that they should experience "as much genital sex (with adults) as they are capable of", as Ms. Firestone suggests near the end of her book. What would stop adults from taking advantage of the child's smaller physicality in these instances? What kind of paradise allows the wholesale sexual abuse of its children? Or, perhaps, sexual perversion (along with art, music, poetry and religion) would also be eradicated? I recognize that I will never be pregnant. I know it hurts worse than anything I could ever imagine. But, it isn't barbaric. It makes sense that Ms. Firestone was 25 when this came out. Most women I have known around that age were decisively against ever having a baby. Somehow, though, 5 years on, they found themselves wanting a baby. Conditioning? Undue pressures from family members and the media? Or is it simply that women are biologically constructed to desire the experience of childbirth. Maybe that's Firestone's whole point. We need to figure out a way to rewire women so they don't ever reach the point where babies make them swoon. Sure. I would like to get a glimpse at what a futuristic polymorphous world would look like, I would like to imagine a world without sexual repression or war. But I recognize the instincts that create them. Because I also know that they are the same instincts that create great tragic art. For all its evils, Western civilization has allowed us to explore our inevitable mortal death. Firestone's contention that there will be no death is preposterous. Without the threat of death, life is not worth living. The struggle against death has created us. It has created all that we are.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ewan

    A well-written argument for the existence of class distinctions based on sex (the title and the initial argument is drawn from Marx and Engels' work on economic class), and a clear case for thoroughgoing systemic change. I'm unsure as to how many of its recommendations have been taken up in the 45 years (!) since it was written, and certainly some of the rhetoric seems of its era (I have no particular knowledge of psychoanalysis but the Freudian stuff seems dated). However, Firestone's challenge A well-written argument for the existence of class distinctions based on sex (the title and the initial argument is drawn from Marx and Engels' work on economic class), and a clear case for thoroughgoing systemic change. I'm unsure as to how many of its recommendations have been taken up in the 45 years (!) since it was written, and certainly some of the rhetoric seems of its era (I have no particular knowledge of psychoanalysis but the Freudian stuff seems dated). However, Firestone's challenge to women to take control of the means of RE-production, locating the underpinnings of their reproductive labour in the fundamental family structure, remains cogent and, I think, well-argued. I most enjoyed the final chapter, in which Firestone sets out some (as she herself admits) "dangerously utopian" ideals for humanity -- a feminist science-fiction, after a fashion -- while acknowledging that it is not the revolutionary's place to suggest how the world should be, just to fight against what is flawed in society as currently set out. "[T]he oppressed have no job to convince all people. All they need to know is that the present system is destroying them." There may, thankfully, be some aspects of our present society which have moved on since this book was written, yet there is still, even now, a case for feminist revolution.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Karl Hallbjörnsson

    Start date forgotten — finished 12. July. This is a creative and vigorous book, full of energy and revolutionary vision, preemptive and prophetic ideas. Shuley felt one step ahead of me most of the time, as if I were simply catching up to her — she was only 25 when she wrote this work, 4 years older than I am, and she's kind of become someone whom I admire. Some of her ideas — particularly her quite free interpretation of Freud as well as her views on the education of children — felt like they n Start date forgotten — finished 12. July. This is a creative and vigorous book, full of energy and revolutionary vision, preemptive and prophetic ideas. Shuley felt one step ahead of me most of the time, as if I were simply catching up to her — she was only 25 when she wrote this work, 4 years older than I am, and she's kind of become someone whom I admire. Some of her ideas — particularly her quite free interpretation of Freud as well as her views on the education of children — felt like they needed a lot more nuance if not a complete overhaul, but I'm willing to let it slide because she still manages to make some compelling cases. It felt to me like the one thing she does best is the over-all form of the book — it was a pleasure to read, free-flowing, chock-full of concepts. Her chapters on Culture, Male Culture and The Cultural Dialectic were the most interesting ones, I thought. I'm sure I'll have to come back to this one eventually.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    The Dialectic of Sex is no The Second Sex. Firestone writes with an authoritative, mature voice, but there is something "youthful" about the book. She apparently wrote it in her early twenties. It's a classic piece of theory. What I mean by that is that much of the book is an elaboration of a central idea. The conclusion chapter was a quick read. With many books that end with a type of manifesto, I find myself nearly skimming them. I can tell you roughly what was in the chapter, but by the time I The Dialectic of Sex is no The Second Sex. Firestone writes with an authoritative, mature voice, but there is something "youthful" about the book. She apparently wrote it in her early twenties. It's a classic piece of theory. What I mean by that is that much of the book is an elaboration of a central idea. The conclusion chapter was a quick read. With many books that end with a type of manifesto, I find myself nearly skimming them. I can tell you roughly what was in the chapter, but by the time I had finished the book, I was glad I was finishing it. I'm going to be working my way into The Feminine Mystique pretty soon. Firestone had issues with Friedan. I'm not sure what more to say. If a person looks up Firestone, you're going to get a rough idea of what she said or thought. The elaboration in the book is certainly unique, but there are no stylistic fireworks here. It's a solid piece of second wave Feminism that was clearly influenced by the Frankfurt school.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mona Ohana

    Shulie does what Freud, Marx, and Engels combined fell short in doing. She synthesizes a class analysis that incorporates the politics of sex. Firestone's Dialectic should be taught alongside primary philosophical texts, not buried in the reading lists of only women's studies. Her text is radical, socialist, feminist. Firestone breaks ground in a way that her male counterparts did not. She critically examines the past, present, and future of power dynamics and gender as a structure of inequality Shulie does what Freud, Marx, and Engels combined fell short in doing. She synthesizes a class analysis that incorporates the politics of sex. Firestone's Dialectic should be taught alongside primary philosophical texts, not buried in the reading lists of only women's studies. Her text is radical, socialist, feminist. Firestone breaks ground in a way that her male counterparts did not. She critically examines the past, present, and future of power dynamics and gender as a structure of inequality. A great companion text to read with Simone de Beauvoir's work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Firestone argues that the fundamental dialectic of life is not economics, but sex. She makes a pretty compelling case. Like most early feminist writing, it's depressing to contemplate, but also kind of exhilarating -- imagine all these women, slowly beginning to make connections internally, then with each other, to say "wait a minute, something's not right here." Firestone argues that the fundamental dialectic of life is not economics, but sex. She makes a pretty compelling case. Like most early feminist writing, it's depressing to contemplate, but also kind of exhilarating -- imagine all these women, slowly beginning to make connections internally, then with each other, to say "wait a minute, something's not right here."

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