Wednesday, July 14, 2021

summary and anaylsis of The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone

In The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone argues that the "sex class system" is earlier and deeper than any other form of oppression , and that the eradication of sexism will require a radical reordering of society: groping, they begin to find each other. The levels of consciousness that are left behind matter little, the problem always remains deeper. Feminist activists find it necessary to question not only the entirety of Western culture, but the very organization of culture and, beyond that, that of nature itself.

Firestone holds that the biological sexual dichotomy, particularly the biological division of labor in reproduction , is the root cause of male dominance , exploitation from one "economic class" (as Firestone refers to social class ) to another, racism , imperialism, and ecological irresponsibility. Sexual inequality is an oppression that goes back beyond all written testimony until it penetrates the very thresholds of the animal kingdom. in this sense, it has been universal and inevitable, but now there are cultural and technological preconditions that make its removal possible and perhaps necessary for human survival.

Firestone describes his approach as a more radical dialectical materialism than that of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels . She believes that in their concern with economic processes, Marx and Engels failed to perceive "the sexual substratum of historical dialectics." Unlike Engels, Firestone argues that male domination has a biological basis and, as such, existed long before the institution of private property and the monogamous patriarchal family produced by it. Male dominance is the result of what she calls "biological family". And of the inevitable dependence of women and children on men within the family for their protection, if not for their subsistence. Firestone claims that there were no ancient matriarchies (societies ruled by women), and that the seemingly superior status of women in matrilineal cultures is due only to the relative weakness of men. Whatever the lineage system , the vulnerability of women during pregnancy and the long period of human childhood require the protective and therefore dominant role of man. 

This dependence of the woman and the infant on the man causes  according to Firestone psychosexual distortions in the human personality, distortions that were described by Sigmund Freud . Firestone describes Freudism as a "wayward feminism," since she considers that the only real difference between Freud's analysis and that of radical feminists is that Freud and his followers conceive of the social context in which sexual repression unfolds as immutable. . For Firestone, Freud showed that the source of repression and sexual class distinctions is the power relationshipinherently unequal in the biological family: women and children are equally oppressed by the more powerful father. The male child identifies first with the mother, whose oppression he shares, but soon changes his identification to the father, whose power he fears but will one day inherit. In the process he accesses the incest taboo and the strict separation of sexuality and emotion that this requires and that constitutes the psychological foundation of political and ideological oppression. While the girl also envies the father's power, she learns that she cannot inherit it and can only share it indirectly, earning the favor of the dominant male.

Not only are women and children inevitably oppressed in the biological family, but they are doubly oppressed by the particular form that prevails in industrialized nations : the patriarchal nuclear family , which isolates each couple and their offspring. Compulsory schooling and the romantic mythology of childhood are devices that serve to prolong children's isolation and economic dependence. The socialist-feminist revolution will liberate both women and children, leaving them with total economic independence and sexual freedom., and fully integrating them into the world at large. The end of the sex class system must mean the end of the biological family, that is, the end of the biological reproductive role of women through artificial means of gestation . The love between the sexes remain, because it becomes oppressive only when it joins the reproductive function. The biological family turns sexual love into a tool of oppression. Within it, women give their love to men, thus inspiring the latter to greater cultural creativity and providing the former with an emotional identity of the kind that is denied to them in the world at large. However, men, as a consequence of the Oedipus complexand from the incest taboo, they are incapable of love: they must degrade the women with whom they make love in order to distinguish them from the mother, the first object of forbidden love. They cannot respect and be sexually attracted to women at the same time. 

That is why the " sexual revolution " has not meant the liberation of women , who are still bound by double standards and the need to combine love and sexuality. By eliminating the biological family and the incest taboo, the feminist revolution will expand the opportunity for heterosexual lovereal, in addition to legitimizing any other type of voluntary sexual relationship. Firestone is hesitant to make accurate predictions about how children will be raised once they are no longer born to women in the biological family, but suggests that there will be a variety of social parenting units, including couples who "live together" and households of unrelated people, up to a dozen or so, who are hired to stay together long enough to provide a home for their children until the latter are ready to enter the world, which they will do at a much younger age of what is now considered possible. 

For Firestone in The Dialectic of Sex  the feminist revolution presupposes socialism , but it goes further. Existing socialist societies have tried to expand the roles of women without fundamentally altering them, to integrate women into a masculine world, rather than eliminating the sexual class altogether. The feminist revolution will end the split between the "aesthetic modality" ( feminine , intuitive and artistic ) and the "technological modality" ( masculine , empirical and oriented to the control of nature through the understanding of its mechanical laws). The end of sexual repression will free Eros to spread and humanize the entire culture. Eventually it will lead not only to the end of alienated work , but also to work as such, understood as an activity that is not carried out by itself. The technology will eliminate housework and other drudgery, leaving everyone free to do work that is intrinsically rewarding.