Shulamith Firestone: The Dialectic of Sex
Family abolition, love revolution, children’s liberation, the elimination of biological sex: such were the demands of the New York militant “Shulie” Firestone. In 1970, at the age of 25, Firestone published her utopian manifesto The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution before disappearing forever from the scene of politics. With its rejection of the nuclear family, its observation that giving birth is “like shitting a pumpkin,” and its speculations about automated pregnancy, The Dialectic of Sex re-mixes Engels, Marx, Fourier, Beauvoir, Sartre, Hegel, and Freud, among others, to identify “the sexual substratum of the historical dialectic.” For Firestone, both sex and class oppression originate in the sexual division of labor. Feminist revolution means not merely the overthrow of male privilege, but “the elimination of the sex distinction itself.”
In this course, we will close-read The Dialectic of Sex, with a view to evaluating the possibility of a twenty-first century “critical Firestonism.” How can we understand a book both maligned (by some feminists as well as chauvinists) as techno-dystopian, baby-hating and misogynist and passionately celebrated? How do we account for Firestone’s terrible treatment of race? What is the book’s legacy within queer and black feminist thought and speculative fiction? Discussion will center around two key questions: why abolish the family, and how? Secondary readings will include components of the following: Angela Davis, Marge Piercy, Kathi Weeks, Alice Echols, Adrienne Rich, Loretta Ross, and Wages for Housework.
Course ScheduleSunday, 3:00-6:00pm EST
March 13 — April 03, 2022