R.I.P – Radical Feminist and author of ‘Dialectic of Sex,’ dies in NYC at 67


Shulamith FirestoneFeminist author Shulamith Firestone whose work radicalized second wave feminist thinking passes away at homeBorn in Ottawa on January 7, 1945, Firestone was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family in St. Louis, Missouri. During the 1960s she studied fine arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and moved to New York City in 1967 where she co-founded New York Radical Women, the Redstockings group, and New York Radical Feminists.In 1970, at the age of 25, Firestone wroteThe Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution — a book that effectively kickstarted the cyberfeminist movement, influencing later thinkers like Joanna Russ(author of “The Female Man“), sci-fi author Joan Slonczweski, and of course, Donna “I’d rather be a cyborg than a goddess” Harraway, author of “The Cyborg Manifesto.” To come up with her unique feminist philosophy, Firestone took 19th and 20th century socialist thinking and fused it with Freudian psychoanalysis and the existentialist perspectives of Simone de Beauvoir.

Seeing how the civil rights and antiwar movements treated women as second-class citizens, she co-founded three feminist organizations: New York Radical Women, the Redstockings and New York Radical Feminists. She also edited three important collections of feminist writing, beginning in 1968 with “Notes from the First Year.”

Essentially, Firestone argued that gender inequality was the result of a patriarchal social structure that had been imposed upon women on account of their necessary role as incubators. She argued that pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing imposed physical, social, and psychological disadvantages upon women. Firestone believed that the only way for women to free themselves from these biological impositions would be to seize control of reproduction.

To that end, she advocated for the development of cybernetic and assistive reproductive technologies, including artificial wombs, gender selection, and in vitro fertilization (the latter two now being in existence). In addition, she also advocated for the dissemination of contraception, abortion, and state support for child-rearing. It would be through these “revolts” and transformations that women could eliminate the presence of sexual classes. Firestone wrote:

[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.

“A revolutionary in every bedroom cannot fail to shake up the status quo,” Firestone wrote. “And if it is your wife that is revolting, you can’t just split to the suburbs. Feminism, when it truly achieves its goals, will crack through the most basic structures of our society.”

Subtitled “The Case for Feminist Revolution,” Firestone’s book was considered essential reading for feminists and in college courses on women’s studies.

“No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical … second-wave landmark,” feminist writer Naomi Wolf wrote when the book was reissued in 2003.

Firestone emerged as a radical voice during a fertile era for feminist theory. Her “Dialectic” became a bestseller the same year as Kate Millett’s “Sexual Politics,” a feminist critique of works by D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and Norman Mailer; and Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch,” which examined history, literature, biology and popular culture.

Some feminists believed that Firestone “had found the solution” to sexual inequality, according to Ruth Rosen in “The World Split Open” (2000), a history of the modern women’s movement. But other feminists were incensed by her ideas, particularly because, Rosen wrote, “Firestone seemed to accept men as the normative human being, rather than demanding that society accommodate — and honor — women’s important biological contribution as the bearers and rearers of children.”

The division of labor (and labor altogether) would be ended through cybernetics, she argued, so that the “tyranny of the biological family would be broken.”

Not a fan of traditional biological human reproduction, Firestone described pregnancy as “barbaric,” and noted how a friend of hers described labor to “shitting a pumpkin.”

Modern feminists have largely turned a blind eye to Firestone and the role of technology in feminist discourse, but her influence can still be seen today in such things as transhumanism and the rise of postgenderist theory.

Soon after the publication of Dialectics, Firestone excused herself from public life and largely disappeared from the scene. In 1998 she published her book, Airless Spaces, in which she detailed her struggles with schizophrenia. Firestone became reclusive in her later years, dying alone in her apartment. She is survived by her mother, two brothers, and two sisters.

Jism 2, A trigger for cultural fascism #moralpolicing


 

 

Monobina Gupta , TOI
04 August 2012,

 

 Not so long ago, a young woman was molested in full public a gaze in the heart of Guwahati. Barely a month later, a moral vigilante group barged into a homestay party in Mangalore and roughed up the women. The political class and the authorities responded by walling themselves up in silence. Of course, they made the ritualistic tutting noises on primetime television talk shows. But are they always so loathe to speak their minds? Apparently not. The very same people in positions of authority issue cultural fiats in the blink of an eye. This is an age of social, cultural and patriarchal backlash. There’s an entire way of life, a whole range of desires, aesthetics and attitudes that are in the process of being tabooed: bare skin, short skirts, provocative films, ‘offensive’ posters, sexual orientations, partying, drinking, smoking, holding hands, kissing. Where’s the end to this cultural gangsterism? As modernity overwhelms us, we also seem to have become more barbaric in the way we express our disapproval and negotiate cultural and social spaces.

The newly released film Jism 2, directed by Pooja Bhatt happens to be the latest in a long series of such triggers. Describing Sunny Leone’s Jism 2 posters as ‘objectionable’, NCP MLA, Vidya Chavan petitioned the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner and Shiv Sena Mayor Sunil Prabhu to take the posters off. Rushing to do the bidding of NCP-Shiv Sena leaders, the general manager of the Mumbai electric supply and transport, removed the posters from bus stops. Its hard to ignore how on every occasion of such perceived ‘moral turpitude’, the usually inert and slothful authorities act with remarkable efficiency.

Recently, the West Bengal Board of Censorship banned posters of Hate Story, as “obscene and provocative”. One of the posters showed the actor Paoli Dam‘s bare back, later ingeniously blotted out with blue ink! Rightists, Leftists and the Centrists have covertly joined hands in their disastrous mission to ‘save’ Indian culture. With their direct and indirect support, Mumbai has witnessed the summary closure of hundreds of dance bars, throwing the women out of their jobs. Subsequent research has revealed the slow pauperization of the former bar dancers; many among them forced to return to the small towns they had tried to escape so hard.

One would have expected the National Commission for Women (NCW) to take the lead in protecting women’s rights. But here’s a sample of the organisation’s beliefs and actions. Reacting to the Magalore incident, Karnataka State Women’s Commission chairperson C Manjula reportedly said, “Home stay parties mislead young girls.” Why? Because in the perception of the NCW, the parties generate ‘suspicion about what’s going on’ “I will hold discussions with the university vice-chancellor and principals of colleges in the city to find solutions to the issue of protection of young women students,” she said. No less than the NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma herself has time and again made statements offensive to women. In the aftermath of the Guwahati molestation incident, Sharma said women should be “careful” about what they wear. Earlier in the context of eve teasing she has asked girls not to mind being called “sexy”.

What on earth is going on? Ironically, the Congress has never tired of slamming Anna Hazare for his ‘my way or the highway’ politics. But what about the ‘cultural highway’ that is being imposed on us every day? How long will this go uncontested? To quote Germaine Greer from Whole Woman: “It’s time to get angry again.”

 

 

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