Dialectic of Sex

Firestone, Shumlamith. The Dialectic of Sex: the case for feminist revolution. Tornton: Bantam Books, 1971.

I have to start off by saying something about the cover of this book. For starters, the woman. It is a photograph of a Degas painting called simply Tete De Jeune Femme. The face of this young woman is a subject for scrutiny; her expression, debatable. She looks passive, unconcerned. To the first glance she is an observer and not a feeler. And yet, there is something sad, worrying in her eyes. But, the photograph is not the only thing that makes this cover so interesting. It’s the text. “…a slashing attack on male supremacy…” This had me worried in all sorts of ways. I’m not looking to attack men. Hell, I married one, didn’t I? And then there’s this: “Chapter 6 might change your life.” Is that a promise or a threat? That led me to question things. Wait, does my life NEED changing? Then I read the book…

I have to admit, many different parts of Firestone’s book gave me pause. For example, the concept that war (specifically World War II) was a welcomed opportunity for women to be treated as equals was really interesting. The idea that women hired as the only available workforce during that time allowed them to be and feel necessary and not just in the “female” sense of family and sex. The second concept that feminism and Freud “grew from the same soil” (p 43).
Firestone does not leave any aspect of the case for feminist revolution uncovered. She even delves into the stages of fashion for children in medieval times. For the male child dress was not to symbolize just age but to also announce sex, social rank and prosperity, whereas the female child did not have stages of fashion. She went from swaddling directly to adult garments. There was no need to differentiate social rank and prosperity because women had neither.

Lines that struck me: “We can attempt to develop a materialistic view of history based on sex itself” (p 5), and “This radical movement was built by women who had literally no civil status under law; who were pronounced civilly dead upon marriage, or remained legal minors if they did not marry; who could not sign a will or even have custody of their own children upon divorce; who were not taught to read, let alone admitted to college…; who had no political voice whatever” (p 17). And the line that made me laugh out loud, “She then assuages his pricked ego by assuring him of her undying loyalty to his Balls” (p 123).

Reason read: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. We are in the pink once again. I have a whole slew of books dedicated to honor strong women fighting or surviving cancer. Shulamith is one such influential woman.

Author fact: I was shocked to discover Firestone passed away a little over a month ago.

Book trivia: Thanks to Wikipedia I learned a there is a documentary out there called “Shulie.” I have to look that up.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “I Am Woman – Hear Me Roar” (p 121).



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