Shulamith Firestone

03.05.2015 |

Episode #8 of the course “Significant futurists and their ideas”

In the second half of the 20th century, American social movements were concerned with the equal rights and treatment of many subgroups and minority populations. Many radical theories that promoted feminist objectives emerged, and among the most radical theory of second-wave feminism was that of Canadian-born Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex. Combining theories from Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Simone de Beauvoir, Firestone described a utopia where women were freed from the burdens of biological imperatives of pregnancy and childbirth, and children were bred in artificial wombs and raised communally.

In her 1970 pivotal text, Firestone analyzes how women’s historical opportunities have been limited by the burden of reproduction placed on their bodies. She advocates a redefinition of sex roles, the rights of women to reproductive choice, and the disassembly of the family group. She was a political celibate and encourages other women to engage in celibacy as a path to liberation. She promoted mechanical means of reproduction and fetal development, such as technological wombs, and advocated eliminating the cultural differences between people of different sexes. Her most radical suggestion was an absolute denial of Freud—she negated his view that the sex drive is what motivates human behavior.

Firestone was mainly politically active before the publication of Dialectic, and afterward she continued to found and support multiple feminist societies and causes around the country. She has been lauded and hailed as one of the most significant figures in the movement toward equal rights for women and a better understanding of the female human condition. Ultimately, she only published one other work, in 1998, which was an autobiography recounting her struggles with mental illness.


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