Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Friday, August 28, 2015

Shulamith Firestone and the Case for Feminist Revolution

Shulamith Firestone (died 28 August 2012)

One of the key figures in radical second-wave feminism, Shulamith Firestone was an activist, organizer, and writer.

Born on 7 January 1945 in Ottawa, Canada, Firestone was raised and educated in the United States, moving to New York City in 1967. There she co-founded, with Robin Morgan, Carol Hanisch, and Pam Allen, the New York Radical Women, known for its consciousness-raising sessions, hallmarks of the developing second-wave feminist activism.

Firestone is best known for her 1970 The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution in which she developed a radical feminist political theory.

Firestone begins with an excellent history of the first-wave feminist movement, which culminated in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

She then goes on to argue that women must control their own reproductive system--as long as women must bear and rear children, they will lack full equality. She also argued that the "sexual revolution" hadn't liberated women at all, since the sexual double-standard persisted.

Susan Faludi's New Yorker essay, "Death of a Revolutionary," written just months after Firestone's death, is a great place to begin. Responding to Faludi's "not unsympathetic portrait," which she said "amounted to pathologizing Firestone’s catalytic intensity and quixotic personality while extending her assessment to an entire generation of 70s feminists," Kathleen B. Jones's "Legacy of a Feminist Revolutionary" is an essential follow-up.

But don't stop there--The Dialectic of Sex is still in print, forty-five years after it was first published.