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Mar 05 2007

Firestone Theater

[Read the first chapter of Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex here.]

When I hauled out my Dialectic of Sex for the first time in years, I encountered this on the first page:

The first women are fleeing the massacre, and, shaking and tottering, are beginning to find each other. Their first move is a careful joint observation, to resensitize a fractured consciousness. This is painful: no matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper. It is everywhere.

And I gazed upon the blame button and said, “Hey, that sounds familiar.” Although the fleeing women Firestone describes are the women of the Second Wave, they are also, 37 years later, us: the feminist blogosphere. I’m biased, of course, but I think she’s nailed with particular precision the patriarchy blamers. If we aren’t shaking and tottering, I don’t know who is.

Anyway. What Firestone proposes in The Dialectic of Sex is to shove Marx, Engels, and Freud together into the Meatgrinder of Feminist Theory. After cranking the handle for 200 pages, out comes rather a piquant revolutionary sausage.

Firestone’s argument is that the aforementioned dead white dudes were more or less onto something, but that their own assimilation by the patriarchal Borg prevented them from grasping the essential flaw in their analyses of class and sex. The flaw that would doom them to ultimate failure was their inability to theorize beyond what was seen, then as now, as the natural and immutable condition of human beings divided into two ur-classes based on sex. Firestone postulates that Marxist and Freudian equations would actually work if you plugged in the idea that women are human. In other words, all history really is the history of class struggle; Engels just started with the wrong classes.

Well, what about it?

271 comments

6 pings

  1. BubbasNightmare

    One of the more piquant bits TDoS:tCfFR that struck me was (page 11 of my copy):

    ‘…the end goal of feminist revolution must be…not just the elimination of male privilege but 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 (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality–Freud’s “polymorphous perversity”–would probably superseded hetero/homo/bi-sexuality’ (emphasis hers)

    I was struck by the memory of a snippet of dialog from Bob Heinlein’s (yeah, that old reactionary) Time Enough for Love:
    Two medical technicians are in an ultraclean environment in garb so obscuring that one cannot tell the other’s gender. One hits on the other; the hittee hesitates and asks, “Technician–what sex are you?”
    The hitter responds, “Does it matter?”
    “No, not really.”

    So far, “piquant” is a mild description of my reaction to TDoS:tCfFR. It’s easy to persuade me to a point of view if you use rational arguments that hang together well. I’m funny that way.

  2. BubbasNightmare

    I must add: Twisty, you’ve opened a huge can of personal worms in my world. Well done; it’s the first time it’s happened to me in years.

  3. J

    I’m still reading it– and like half a dozen other books for classes– and I can’t help but think she dismisses anthropological research too easily and ineffectively for her own ideas. I think she’s out-and-out wrong, so far, in her poorly elaborated notion of the “biological family.” Mind you, I don’t know what she was reading at the time– she doesn’t have a bibliography, and cites texts haphazardly. She sounds like she’s running on the even then outdated “man the hunter” model for her ideas of how small-scale societies functioned. By this, I mean she’s assuming a very conservative model of social structure where women are anchored at the home-base while the men go out and do all the food-geting (hunting).

    This really makes no sense, and has been critiqued and I would think proven wrong (a phrase she uses so often, though with less qualifications than leave you comfortable) over the last 40-50 years. Fact is, women have been show to contribute as much if not much more calories to the diet of the groups in which they exist. Just as people didn’t drive stone-cars with their feet, before the development of complex, sedentary, agricultural civilization there is no evidence of a stark economic dependence of any category of person on another. Strangely enough, this is a keen observation of Engels. Mind you, the idea of means of reproduction is an interesting use of Marx’s terms, she’s made a poor case for how women were dependent upon men (anyone upon anyone) for food or protection prior to the settling of humans in civilizations.

    A second issue would be the admittedly very biologically-centered nature of her argument, which also assumes without qualifcation that biology (blood-relationship) is the fundamentally central structuring agent of all human adult-child relations. David Scheider wrote a very controversial critique of this tendency to inject Euro-American beliefs about biological relation into the phenomena of kinship found elsewhere in the world. It’s a hard case to make that universally people give a damn about blood relations (as a category, not their specific blood relations), or even that blood relations (again, as category not individual) weight in significantly in the development of children into adults.

    All of that said though, I think the premise of the book is spot on, more over with the added issue of addressing women as equal players in history.

  4. cassy

    I have been abused by the patriarchy since I was a small child. I have suffered from depression since I was twelve. I thought if I escaped my family I would be free, until I entered the tech world and my dreams were destroyed. Major depression, motherhood followed since I could be good at something.

    The turn-around started for me the day I found this web site. I am not too sensitive. I am actually dulled to most of the pain and taking the rest out on myself. Depression is anger turned inward. I am off meds and happy for the first time in years.

    Beginning to find each other and validate each other’s existence. The perspective here is not filtered through a patriarchal view. I don’t usually contribute because I am not strong enough to be a blamer yet.

    Ms. Firestone says that we shouldn’t join men’s groups and hope to get the crumbs. Referencing your post over the week-end, aren’t democrats and liberals the men’s group? They can’t count on my vote. How do we change the structure of our supoort?

  5. thinking girl

    I like J’s analysis, although I haven’t read much of the book, of the use of anthropology. It rings true for me with other feminsit lit I’ve read these past few years.

    I think Firestone’s definitely onto something, using the dialetic model of historical analysis for sex class. And of course, as the many communist states have shown us, patriarchy does not come out of economic class struggles and capitalism, because patriarchy continues even when capitalism is defeated; rather, I think, patriarchy has made economic class strata and capitalism possible. It should be well-noted that Engels and Marx were not right about their idea that economic class equality would be the ultimate answer; so many communist states have failed and democratic capitalist states rise up from the ruins.

    I’m concerned, because I think I can see where she’s going, down the road of “sex/gender is more deeply entrenched/fundamental than race, thus sex/gender oppression is more basic than racism/racism arises out of sexism/sexism is worse than racism.” I reject the notion that we can divide up our identities into little categories, like “this much of who I am is Gender, and this much of me is Race, and this much of my identity is Sexuality,” etc. This is a very white-centric perspective, and not ultimately helpful because it marginalizes WOC.

    But yeah, I think you’re right on about the feminist blogosphere, Twisty. this online community has really helped me develop my feminism. and you’ve been a part of that, so thanks!

  6. jokerine

    First I want to thank you, Twisty, for this enjoyable (in a horrible kind of way) book. It reminded me a lot of how I would argue the radical feminist case if I were in any way eloquent. Well, I am 25, too. As for her method and her citations, they are, as J mentioned, unscientific. In light of her critique of science in chapter 9, I think she won’t mind. The book does give voice a whole bunch of interesting thoughts.

    My personal favorites are: 1) Just ’cause it’s natural doesn’t mean it is good that women are oppressed by their biological role. 2) Even a society that worships women still oppresses them, because the worship takes place in somebody else’s head. 3)I also recognised myself in her comments on how people want (to own) children, because they are in most cases segregated away from “normal” people. Really, I don’t want to give birth, I just want to be around children to learn from them and to teach them. 4) Her description of love also struck a chord, but I shied away from that pretty soon. 4) I was really impressed how she wove together Freud and Marx. When I first read the works of the latter, I also recognised that he was a little bit off, but I couldn’t tell how. Now I know.

    Her critique of culture (science and arts) I did not find very convincing, especially since both are very strongly represented in me.

    Anyway, great book, a bit too emotional and a good basis for a radical feminist discussion.

    Jokerine.

  7. TallyCola

    I am just finishing it up (actually probably gonna leave the last twenty pages for my long bus ride home, since I forgot my mp3 player today). Like the poster above, when I read Marx I recognized something was a bit off, but I couldn’t vocalize what, exactly. Now it’s so obvious. I believe I fell into the trap of thinking that women were already liberated, which as I grow older, I realize is completely false.

    The part about the oppression of children was really interesting, as it was stuff I had never really thought of before, except in my own terms of not wanting children because I would want them to be something I could mould, when they are their own people, and I felt bad about that. I had never expanded that thought to the way society itself treats children. I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to her talking about incest not being an issue in the post-feminist utopia, mostly because I couldn’t get over “incest” meaning “man rapes his daughter” or something similar. I still have a lot of that “women need to be protected from men!” mentality that should be chanelled more into “men need to be held responsible”. I always find myself thinking in more rigid gender roles than I would like. It’s hard envisioning a world where gender doesn’t matter, and even harder envisioning a way to get there. But that’s what I want, and why I read blogs like this!

    I definitely agree with thinking girl on this: Patriarchy has made economic class strata and capitalism possible.

  8. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    Twisty, this author clearly makes a case for the existence of the patriarchy, but you’ve already made this case (more eloquently, I might add).

    Isn’t the problem the definition of the man/husband as the “owner?” Feminism should eliminates this entitlement. I agree that the solution must be a political one, and the struggle will be bloody. Then again, all revolutions are bloody.

    Jokerine wrote: “also recognised myself in her comments on how people want (to own) children, because they are in most cases segregated away from ‘normal’ people. Really, I don’t want to give birth, I just want to be around children to learn from them and to teach them.”

    I’m really not sure what you mean here. It’s not clear to whom you are referring with “they” and “‘normal’ people.”

    I hope that you’re not condemning those of us who are mothers. It’s bad enough that the patriarchy belittles women, whichever reproductive choices we make. It’s worse when women reinforce the patriarchal rule.

    Maybe you could clarify?

  9. Catherine Martell

    J: though I join with you in regretting Firestone’s lack of footnotes or biblio, I’m not sure she’s quite so much of a biological reductionist as you make out. Read on. Anyway, like you, though I’ve found a few of her ideas somewhat dated intellectually, I find the general premise most affecting.

    On the historical dialectic, Firestone articulates exactly the reservations I have about Marx and Engels: a different form of patriarchy does not equal liberation. I’ve been trying, without success, to dig up a Marx quote that embodies this: it’s something along the lines of “you can tell the level of development a society has reached by the condition of its women”. One step forward for Comrade Karl in realising that the status of women is integral to social development; one big step back for using the possessive, Other-enforcing “its women”. If he did. Really should find the quote.

    Firestone’s exhortation to women to “rise up and seize control of the means of reproduction” is surely one of the most delightful moments in the whole book. I nearly stood up and cheered in the library, except I’m not a nutter. Suddenly, everything makes sense. When Firestone was writing, the effects of the pill on society were just beginning to become apparent. Worldwide and classwide, it’s obvious that reliable contraception has gone hand in hand for women with greatly improved job opportunities, fewer children, and a later marriage age. In other words, increased self determination. Proving Firestone right in a small way, though it’s not a revolution to the extent she’s advocating.

    thinking girl: agree with many of your points. But, re communist states, I feel obliged to point out that there haven’t been any true communist states, and that the story of capitalist triumph is both grossly exaggerated and premature. That the idea that democratic capitalism rises trimphant from the ashes of communism is not well supported: most ex-communist states have, like Russia and much of Eastern Europe, become corrupt oligarchies.

    I would also argue that there’s no way a communist revolution could ever succeed without a parallel Firestonian sexual revolution. I’m not sure whether that’s true in reverse yet. Any thoughts?

    Mainly, of course, I just wanted to repeat the words “piquant revolutionary sausage”. Piquant revolutionary sausage. Ha! Wonderful.

  10. BubbasNightmare

    Thinking Girl–

    Be very careful when denying the quality of the analysis that Marx and Engels left to the world when pointing at the fall of communism throughout Europe.

    What Lenin and his crew did was use Marxism to excuse nothing more than taking over. It is very much like what Middle Eastern terrorists are currently trying to do when they invoke Islam: trying to hide power grabs by invoking a higher principle. Like so much of the Patriarchy, piety or political theory is used as an excuse to take the reins of power from others.

    Soviet government had little or nothing to do with what Das Kapital argued; Marxism was merely the sheepskin covering the wolf beneath.

  11. jokerine

    Sure! I mean that the children (they) are segregated away from the rest of the world. Normal people are adults, in patriarchy terms. Did you ever notice how during elections Party advertisement (at least here in Germany) says things like “we also do stuff for children and old people.”, as if children aren’t persons too.

    I also believe that children are more capable of understanding than we think they are. I don’t want to treat children as different from me, because they aren’t and I have had many insightful conversations with children, which many adults don’t think is possible.

    I have nothing against mothers, just the mould of mother patriarchy wants to press me into. I know nothing about the way you treat your children or children in general and I don’t mean to attack anyone. I am very afraid that having children will make me posessive of them and will make me feel they are responsible for all I had to give up to be with them. Which they aren’t. If I wouldn’t have to give up who and what I am I would also be a mother. Maybe you didn’t have to, or maybe you thought it worthy enough. I don’t know. I am glad you put children into the world.

    See, I’m no good with words and a little impulsive. Sorry!

  12. justicewalks

    I’m concerned, because I think I can see where she’s going, down the road of “sex/gender is more deeply entrenched/fundamental than race, thus sex/gender oppression is more basic than racism/racism arises out of sexism/sexism is worse than racism.”

    I think it’s more that, no matter how awful racial oppression is relative to sex-based oppression, even if it is truly more brutal and cruel (which is not what I’m arguing for or against), the racial oppression is built upon the sexual. Even if we concede, hypothetically and for example, that every single black man on the planet has it worse than every single white woman on the planet, it is still the case that people discriminate against non-whiteness by associating it with the female. I think the argument is that without this handy comparison, justification for all manner of injustice dissolves. That isn’t to say which of many aggrieved (several times over for some) parties should be happiest with their serving of crumbs, but that’s hardly the point anyway, I suppose.

    Oh, and hello, everyone. I don’t know that I’ve ever had anything I felt compelled to add to the conversation here before.

  13. vera

    I agree; Firestone’s description applies just as well to the feminist blogosphere as it did to radical feminists of the 70s.

    This is my take-away from chapter 1:

    If there were another word more all-embracing than revolution we would use it.

    “Firestone Theatre” — hah! Where’s the climate control?

  14. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    Thanks, Jokerine. I totally agree that the patriarchy puts children at the bottom rung–or maybe under the ladder. Twisty commented on this recently, and I look forward to more.

    I appreciate your comments on children and motherhood. It’s always good to get a perspective from someone in another place.

    I don’t have the whole motherhood/identity thing worked out, which is why I am sensitive about it. I wish that I did!

    There have been some comments here lately that seem harsh to motherhood in general, which makes me sad. Damn the patriarchy for making motherhood dangerous and devisive!

    Don’t worry about your writing. You were referring to passage in the book, and I couldn’t follow it. I’m glad that you brought up this issue.

  15. Catherine Martell

    BubbasNightmare: I’ve called thinking girl on squidging together all communism, too. But the spamulator has my comment in its hungry jaws right now. Just thought I’d mention it because otherwise it looks like I’m not paying attention – which I am, keenly.

    justicewalks: please feel compelled to say things again. You are quite right to defend Firestone on this one. She doesn’t make it a question of better/worse between racism and sexism; she’s just examining the linking tendrils.

  16. B. Dagger Lee

    I must put my pointy pedant’s hat on and point out that Firestone wrote this in 1969, when she was at most 25 years old. The Patriarchy is heavy now, but man, it was heavier then.

    She made an enormous imaginative and intellectual leap. There were brilliant, brave women here in NYC in the late 60s and early 70s. She had them to talk to; she had Friedan and de Beauvoir, but not much else. She took the tools she had and cobbled together something that impressed me.

    I too love this first paragraph and shall file it in my head next to the first paragraph of the SCUM Manifesto, and also with the first paragraph of the Radicalesbians “The Woman-Identified Woman” essay, which begins “What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion.” That’s March Hoffman and Rita Mae Brown, by god, before she tired into cozy cat mysteries.

    I left my notes at home! But I expect this discussion will last awhile. I have critical things to say about various parts of her text, but first I have to say I love her.

    yrs, BDL

    PS: Bubbas Nightmare: I think about Heinlein a lot too. It’s weird isn’t it? What is that? I suppose a sub-discussion of sci-fi is not actually thread-drift, I kept thinking about sci-fi while I was reading Firestone.

  17. kiki

    I mean that the children (they) are segregated away from the rest of the world.

    How? What do you mean?

  18. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    I think that it means “children are seen and not heard.”

    Children are certainly not given a voice in our society.

  19. speedbudget

    I think you’re right, justicewalks, to mention that racial oppression is built on the sexual. One thing I took away from my African-American history classes is that much of the racism we have now started with the fear of black sexuality that white people had (have). Much of the oppression of women today has to do with our own sexual agency and use and care of the uterus. Things have definitely not changed, just been sublimated more.

  20. BubbasNightmare

    B. Dagger Lee–

    If you haven’t gotten to the end of the book, there’s a discussion or three about the 1984ish possibilities of the outcome of a feminist revolution. Firestone handles that well, but I was a little more reminded of Brave New World, which I think is a more likely fallout from her revolution.

    Remember that s-f should stand for “speculative fiction”, and while the book is rooted firmly in fact (more about that as discussions develop), it reaches for the stars.

    Kiki–

    Read the book. Firestone goes into specific detail about how children are isolated from society, both physically and spiritually.

  21. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    The internets ate my response to Jokerine.

    I’m glad that you brought up this issue. The patriarchy puts children on the bottom rung–or perhaps under the ladder.

    I haven’t figured out the whole motherhood/identity thing, which why I’m sensitive about it. No offense taken. Just wanted to clarify.

    I especially appreciate your thoughts since you live somewhere besides the U.S. It makes me sad that you are struggling with the same issues that I am. I’d hoped that countries in Europe might be kinder to mothers.

  22. BubbasNightmare

    Oh, I almost forgot.

    Bob Heinlein wrote about line and clan families (definitely not nuclear), artificial gestation and birth, pansexuality, and gender equality (through comparison with those of 19th-century sensibilities).

  23. Octogalore

    I agree that SF’s “fleeing” description does seem to predict the feminist blogosphere. And also that Marx and Engels didn’t build sex class into their analysis.

    Substantively, her prescription is on point in a lot of ways, and to my mind not in others (eg, children is one example, but I’ll wait until that portion of the discussion).

    One question that kept coming to mind, however, is: “what’s step one?” She’s outlined what the revolution should look like. But, if we were outlining a “SF Revolution for Dummies,” what would the first step be? I didn’t see how we’d get from here to there, and as revolutions are by definition action oriented, there should be an MO that we can distill.

  24. Hawise

    ‘In the classless society the interests of every individual would be synonymous with those of the larger society.’

    Lipstick-and Birk-Wearing Momma, I think it goes deeper than that. One of the justifications for all class divisions is that the oppressor class is “protecting” the Other. Men protect women, parents protect children, soldiers/police protect civilians until each is nicely placed into the smallest prison possible. Children and seniors are slowly being protected out of the public dialogue and placed in schools, after-school programs and senior centers for ‘their own good’. In a class-based society the marginalization of the individual is synonymous with the interests of the larger society. It is only when we stop separating people out for their own good that we begin to take the interests of the individual into consideration.

  25. Jokerine

    hawise, that is areally good point.

  26. Jokerine

    Step one would be to “smile only when woman herself is pleased, not to please.” That makes me smile, just because it is so silly.

    But maybe not such a bad idea.

  27. thinking girl

    Hi all –

    clarification: what I was referring to earlier was specifically that the problem of gender oppression hasn’t been solved by the elimination of economic class strata such as in communism, which M&E seemed to think would happen, because they thought that all oppression was basically economic class oppression. I’m in no way saying that capitalism is a better economic system than communism, by pointing out that shaky capitalism has risen from the ruins of failed communist states. And I don’t think communism itself is a bad idea, it just has been implemented badly.

    sorry I wasn’t clearer about this.

    yeah, I dunno about the “Racism built on the sexual” argument. I don’t think we can easily separate these things out, such that one is more fundamental than the other. They interact with and support each other, these systems of oppression, and it’s not so easy to disentangle them. I don’t think, for instance, that racism would just go away if only we could secure ourselves some gender equality. I think it’s a lot more complex than that.

  28. magickitty

    (Writes lines over and over, “I will do my homework on time. I will do my homework on time.”)

  29. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    Agreed, Hawise. I submit that there is no protection. The patriarchy pays lip service to protecting children and the elderly, but the legal system fails to protect them.

  30. Jokerine

    I don’t think legal protection is possible. A situation has to be achieved, where protection is not necessary.

  31. BubbasNightmare

    L-a-B-W Momma:

    Much of this is a failure to properly implement a capitalist economy in “democratic” countries; this failure is very similar to how the Soviets failed to properly implement a communist economy in “people’s” states. In a proper laissez-faire capitalist economy, there would be ample cash flow between business and charities to care for those who lack the economic power to take care of themselves.

    Hmmm. As Firestone says later in her book:

    “The evils of this orphanage system, the barracks-like existence, the impersonality, the anonymity, arise because these institutions are dumping grounds for the rejected in an exclusive family system.” (emphasis hers)

    While I didn’t buy all of the conclusions she reached, her premises are for the most part rock solid. [Octagalore: That's where the revolution starts: you teach those you love the truth, and urge them to pass it on.]

    Gosh, this is the most fun I’ve had in a blog comment thread in a long time.

  32. Pony

    Thanks for putting the first chapter online Twisty. Strangely, I have been unable to find a large-print copy of Dialectic of Sex. :/

  33. Hawise

    I submit that I said that the justification is protection. As with any protection racket, the reality is disenfranchisement of the individual and separation from alternative interactions. A woman ‘protected’ to the point that she disappears from society is unable to make use of any other network.

    As when Shulamith brings everything down to this quote from Engels-

    The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man and have hitherto ruled him now comes under the dominion and control of man who for the first time becomes the real conscious Lord of Nature, master of his own social organisation.

    It is the consciousness of the actions that defines the organizations adhered to by the society.

  34. B. Dagger Lee

    BubbasNightmare’s getting down. Is that the frug, the twist or the mashed potato? Whatever dance, tell it like it is!

  35. Hawise

    Pony, I’m in the same position and my husband works at a college library ;(

  36. Twisty

    Gosh, this is the most fun I’ve had in a blog comment thread in a long time

    Me too. It’s refreshing to take a break from the Dudes and the Coulters and the rapists and the anti-abortionists and just shoot the theoretical shit for half a minute.

    When I read The Dialectic this time around, I was struck by the whole oppressed kid thing, which had flown right over my head the first time I read it, back in the Pleistocene, before I was an aunt.

    In my 20s I viewed children as loud and neurotic and belligerent, and I was glad to have them kept as far away from me as possible. Of course, a lot of kids are loud and neurotic and belligerent, but my current hypothesis is — and Germaine Greer writes about this, too, in either The Whole Woman or The Female Eunuch, I forget which — that their obnoxiousness, tantrum-throwing, and unhappiness is a function of (a) the nuclear family (the argument being that the modern family unit fosters kinder-neurosis by dint of its isolationist proclivities, and is the incubator for future patriarchalists) and (b) the incessant ridicule, dependence, and higher authority to which they are subject.

  37. Twisty

    And when I say “my current hypothesis” I mean “the idea I stole entirely from this book.”

  38. vera

    But that’s the next chapter.

  39. vera

    The only thing that worries me about Firestone’s lack of scientific truthiness is that it might be used as an excuse to pooh-pooh her entire line of thought. Which, of course, it is.

  40. TinaH

    Off topic-ish, and hopefully not derailing, the wee mention of science fiction caught my attention for feminist primers: Have you ever read the Gate to Women’s Country by Sherri Tepper?

  41. Twisty

    I think we can dispense with the syllabus, vera. The chapters subsequent to the first are enlargements on the initial thesis, and it will be impossible, I suspect, to keep the discussion from oozing hither and yon. So as of now, the whole book is fair game.

    By the way, I hope nobody was expecting me to lead this discussion. I fully intend to lean back in my desk chair and absorb all yall’s socially scientific and philosophical genius.

  42. Twisty

    TinaH, feel free to either relate the Sherri Tepper to the Shulamith or to put a sock in it, girlfriend.

  43. kate

    I am working now, but couldn’t wait to see what people have written on this. I’ll comment later, as I read the posted first chapter last night. It was quick reading, but you know, a quick read can be deceiving. I guess I’ll also have to look up Heinlein and also call on my anthro mother (I do get a lifeline call to a relative don’t I?) for her to educate me some, especially considering J’s interesting comments.

  44. Maia

    Twisty – thanks a million for this whole idea. I got a huge amount from this book.

    In particular, the chapter on the oppression of children has changed both the way I parent and the way I view parenting. I now have a much clearer idea of what my objectives are as a parent, and celebrate the fact that we are an atypical – and man-free – family. (My toddler calls us her “hamily” and I like that name much more than Firestone’s rather utlitarian suggestion of “household”.)

    There was some stuff I basically didn’t understand at all, and stuff that seemed dated or just plain wrong, but I prefer right now to take what is good rather than pick at what I didn’t get. When I’ve written a couple of feminist manifestae myself, then I’ll get picky.

    (By the way, on the subject of “what I didn’t get” – the chapter on race went right over my head. If anyone feels like pontificating on how they understood that chapter, it would not fall on bored ears.)

  45. Maia

    I mean, “utilitarian”.

  46. Jokerine

    I didn’t understand her chapter on sexual orientation. But I’m a bit confused on sex, gender, sexuality and their relations anyway. For now I’ll posit that its a language problem.

    Maia, I liked he idea of a household very much. But I didn’t like her suggestion of a contract to bind people to it. I think the household has to be free to disassemble at any moment, otherwise you start having power discrepancies, which lead to oppression.

  47. BubbasNightmare

    No. Tepper could never hold my interest, but then that’s true of 98% of s-f written nowadays. But then, I grew up reading the genre-defining era of modern science fiction–Asimov, Heinlein, Bester, Sturgeon (alas, poor Ted!)–where plot was king. Heinlein was a great enough writer to entertainingly inject social commentary into what was essentially space opera.

    B.Dagger Lee: Thank you! I’ve always preferred the Twist myself. You can follow Dave Berry’s law of dancing easily when you twist the night away.

    What excited me most about chapter 1 was the teaser about Freud toward the end of the chapter. As will be seen when we get there, one shouldn’t judge his entire corpus of work–so much of it profound and deep–based on his one spectacular failure–psychoanalysis.

  48. Twisty

    I, too, am squeamish about the contractual element of the household arrangements. I was thinking there would need to be some mechanism in place to prevent situations where a lone woman is left holding the bag with all the kids, but in Firestone’s superenlightened technosociety, diapers are self-cleaning and vintage champagne is delivered to your doorstep by the community winebots for free, so single motherhood (as we know it) could never happen.

  49. BubbasNightmare

    Jokerine:
    At the severe risk of pushing the thread away from its moorings, try Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. There are some great discussions about the superior (and wildly various!) styles of family in Luna. The protagonist Manuel O’Kelly lives in a line family that “marries” new adults into a polyamourous social group consisting of “parents”, “children”, and “hired hands”. Manuel comments that, during family reunions, he meets “children” old enough to be his grandparents.

  50. Jokerine

    Speaking of sf, let us not forget Ursula LeGuin. In her book the Disposessed she describes one way a world envisioned by Shulie could look like. I don’t actually know which published first, or wether they knew about eachother.

  51. Maia

    Jokerine – It’s worth noting that the contract idea was only for people that had agreed to come together as a “household” – or, as I prefer, “hamily” (grin) – to bring up children. For people living together without taking responsibility for looking after small children, there would be no contracts.

    I think an important point is that very young people do benefit from a stable home where they can build relationships without fear, and where they can feel safe and secure as they learn about the world. If you want to spend time as one of a child’s main carers, you do have to commit to a relationship with that child which is not going to disassemble at any moment. Having said that, even then the contracts were only supposed to last for a limited period. I seem to recall Firestone felt that 7 to 10 years was sufficient. After that, the young person is free to make her own decisions. It all seemed like a fair compromise to me, between the young child’s need for commitment and every person’s need for freedom and independence.

  52. Jokerine

    During the entire time, I was reading the book, I was waiting for Shulie to shy away from the full consequences of her theory (yeah, I’m mean that way) that was the point. What difference, I ask, is there between a marriage contract and a hamily contract? Seven years are still seven years. Anyway would you abandon a person you had a strong emotional relationship with unless it is really necessary? I think common empathy with other humans would prevent it. And that her world would be filled with it I have no doubt.

  53. TrespassersW

    What a fascinating read. I totally agree with Firestone that there has been a class struggle between men and women since the dawn of sexual reproduction but that acknowledging a biological imbalance does not lose the case for equality.

    I must confess I am a little wary of the use of Freud in any analysis of sexuality. As I have heard said in academic circles: “Sigmund Freud, empirical void”. The vast majority of his theories are completely unprovable, rather like religion.

    I am far more interested in more modern social psychological research which I think is very salient to any debate of group conflict. To build on the racism-sexism issue mentioned by other commenters, I think they key fact binding all prejudice together is that the human brain seems set up to cleave to what is similar and to reject as a threat that which is different. I could quote a number of studies to illustrate this but will pick one, in which a group of people were shown a piece of paper and asked to guess the number of dots on it. Afterwards, they were told they were either a dot-overestimator or a dot-underestimator. In fact, researchers just labelled them randomly. They then told everybody to head off and do some stuff together. With no other prompts, people gravitated towards those who said they were similar dot estimators. And so started the depressing kind of in-group support and out-group denigration that every study of this kind reveals. If we can discriminate based on dot perception, no wonder we’re fantastic at it on something like sex or race.

    As Jokerine points out, there needs to be a situation where protection from each other’s prejudices is not necessary. To me, laying bare this kind of innate human tendency to classify is an essential element.

    I still don’t know what to make of Firestone’s theories on children as a yet more oppressed group. I certainly think they are more vulnerable and vulnerability is clearly a mainstay of oppression. But I am trying to square my ‘oppression’ of my children with the fact that without my restrictions on their activity, my pre-schoolers really could kill or maim themselves on any given day. Yet I know if I claim their autonomy has biological limitations at their age, I open myself up the criticims that that’s what men have said about women and other oppressed groups. Certainly though, I am open to discussion of social set-ups in which autonomy is fostered by access to a wider range of social contact. The isolated nature of many social set-ups such as the nuclear family allows violations like domestic abuse and child abuse to occur in secrecy, which perhaps relates to what Hawise says about ‘protection’ and access to other social networks. But I cannot comment on whether other living arrangements do any better as I know little of anthropology.

    Sorry if this comment is too long and space-hogging.

  54. Maia

    Jokerine – thanks. I get you now.

  55. Twisty

    Stop it! Stop talking about sci-fi books! I’ve started a whole new thread for you dorks. Now, don’t make me come over there.

  56. Jokerine

    “If we can discriminate based on dot perception, no wonder we’re fantastic at it on something like sex or race.”

    What if seeing the Other is not something that we have a priori, but something we learn growing up? If everything is always classified, will we not learn to classify new situations too?

    Have studies been done on infants that are not indoctrinated, yet? Like, are they able to sort colors as similar? Or, shapes?

    One can not study the system from within the system.

  57. Jokerine

    I’ve stopped already!

  58. vera

    I think we can dispense with the syllabus, vera.

    Oh no! The syllabus was the only thing saving me from the fact that I’m only 2/3′s of my way through the book!

  59. thebewilderness

    Trespasser said: I think they key fact binding all prejudice together is that the human brain seems set up to cleave to what is similar and to reject as a threat that which is different.

    I think that the point she is making is that reducing the family to the degree we have has reduced the range of differences we accept. As well as reducing childrens sources of information, the isolated family reduces their opportunity to perceive similarities in a broad range of people.

  60. justicewalks

    please feel compelled to say things again.

    Thanks, Catherine Martell. Don’t mind if I do.

    yeah, I dunno about the “Racism built on the sexual” argument. I don’t think we can easily separate these things out, such that one is more fundamental than the other. They interact with and support each other, these systems of oppression, and it’s not so easy to disentangle them. I don’t think, for instance, that racism would just go away if only we could secure ourselves some gender equality. I think it’s a lot more complex than that.

    I hate to drift the thread with all of this because it’s not specifically related to Firestone, but I just wanted to touch on this comment. Saying that racism is built upon sexism in no way means that abolishing sexism eradicates racism. What it means, more accurately, I hope, than I was able to express in the last post, is that racism – as we know it – is built upon sexism. I posit that if systematic sexism were gotten rid of, all of the excuses used heretofore to justify racism would also be obsolete. How can you degrade people by treating them like women* if you actually see women as people and treat them accordingly? Racism, and all its attendant horrors, only went down so smoothly – for everyone involved, oppressor and downtrodden alike – because it was already considered so natural, unquestionable really, for there to be certain adult people who were nevertheless in need of a little more guidance than others, who needed sometimes to be saved from themselves. So yeah, if sexism were ended, racism might still occur, but the bigots would have to get to it from an entirely different perspective than the one they’ve used so far.

    * Let me add here that I have bountiful anecdotal evidence that, for black men at least, it is the “emasculating” nature of slavery that was its worst slight, thus the bitter rejection of the castrating “strong” black woman. There is also the constant presence in the MSM of the indolent single black mother free of male headship, given her prominent place in the 6 o’ clock news in order to remind people, in part, I suppose, that black men have yet to yoke their women tightly enough, the pansies.

  61. finnsmotel

    “I don’t think legal protection is possible. A situation has to be achieved, where protection is not necessary.”

    I would agree that 100% protection is not possible.

    But, I would also say that it’s not possible to create a situation where protection is not necessary. Except, of course, in the case of the removal of all people from the planet. That might do it.

    I keep coming back around to some thermodynamics-related stuff (which I admit having a tendency to do to the point of distraction).

    In a universe with limited resources, won’t we always be in competition with each other for resources?

    Let’s say, for sake of discussion, that medical science finally cooks up a simple, easy way for women to reproduce by themselves and male humans are eradicated from the planet’s population. Since the planet is inherently limited in the resources it can provide, wouldn’t this new SuperWoman race still be likely to divide itself up along some lines or other to determine who gets more or less access to resources?

    -finn

  62. Amanda W

    that their obnoxiousness, tantrum-throwing, and unhappiness is a function of …

    I tend to think it is mostly a function of being invisible.

    I always hated as a child (and up through teenagehood) that my thoughts and arguments were not taken seriously. I was not regarded as someone worth talking to. Any reasoning I gave for my decisions in life were dismissed, as the adults were more experienced and thus knew everything and knew every which way in which I was doomed for failure.

    Children are seen as, essentially, stupid. It is possible to carry on a conversation with a child that can teach you — a full grown adult — a thing or two. They may not have as much worldly experience as you to build their consciousness upon, and they may not have a developed enough vocabulary to communicate their ideas as effectively as someone who has been on this earth not just years, but decades — but regardless, they have minds, intelligent minds just swimming with thousands of thoughts, ideas, questions and musings, an unimaginable amount of curiosity, and the temerity to make their voice heard in pursuit of all that desired knowledge.

    And how is their voice met?

    “Be quiet, honey, I’m concentrating.”
    “Uh huh. That’s nice.”
    “Go ask your [mother/father/any random nearby adult to unload this 'burden' onto]”
    “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

    Through all this, the child learns that their voice is unimportant and probably even outright unheard. They are invisible, insignificant. Their mind doesn’t matter.

    Perhaps children speak in unsophisticated ways, but I really wish sometimes that adults would treat them with a little fucking respect. It was all I wanted as a child.

  63. amanda w

    Where did those damn capital letters come from?

  64. vera

    It has always struck me how easy it is to find evidence for how shabbily children are treated in our culture. We pass laws that airplane passengers must be belted into their seats for safety’s sake, and exempt children; we legislate workplace safety and send children to schools that have crumbling asbetos ceilings; we test drugs on adults and then authorize them for use by children. All the while nattering on and on about how concerned we are for “our” children.

    Ah, but if there’s a “safety first” law that restricts children’s freedom without inconveniencing adults, such as a minimum age requirement for driving a car, we’ve got it covered.

    (I’m not arguing that four-year-olds should drive cars; just pointing out an inconsistency.)

  65. amanda w

    Also, I really need to note here that I have not read the book. I am expanding on Twisty’s comment.

    I do plan to check it out when I gain access to a library, but being disabled, and the only car in the household most often being used by the other half of the household (who works full-time), I’m in a bit of a bind there.

    I fully expect a smackdown if what I bring up has been addressed in the book. I’ll gladly just sit back and enjoy the discussion if so. Prob’ly should have done that in the first place, but we’ve all had our moments.

  66. Andrew

    Arguements about anthropoligical truth and the validity of Marxist analysis aside (only aside for the moment, as they are important), I just wanted to add that as a young pup and still somewhat fresh to feminist theory, that it is really amazing* to read a radical text like this, especially in contrast to the overly happy, everything-I-do-is-empowering “Third Wave” stuff that currently floods the market. I mean, a book that immediately identifies patriarchy as the problem and revolution as the solution – what a novel idea!

    * By “amazing” I also mean “depressing,” because on the one hand it is incredible to find so salient a social critique so early on, yet sad to find how relatively few people took its radicalism to heart.

  67. Jokerine

    Finn, go read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

  68. Octogalore

    Re children– I am skeptical about arguments such as “their obnoxiousness, tantrum-throwing, and unhappiness is a function of (a) the nuclear family (the argument being that the modern family unit fosters kinder-neurosis by dint of its isolationist proclivities, and is the incubator for future patriarchalists) and (b) the incessant ridicule, dependence, and higher authority to which they are subject.”

    Not all nuclear families are created equal in terms of isolationism, patriarchy incubation, or subjecting children to ridicule. As to dependence, I believe children ARE dependent. In what way shouldn’t they be? If I didn’t supervise my daughter’s activities, she’d poison herself or cut off the cat’s ears, and that was only yesterday.

    This analysis seems premised on an inevitability of a severe power differential in the nuclear family. It seems to me that unless that’s dealt with, we’re unlikely to take a quantum leap beyond the nuclear family. And if it can be dealt with, then why get rid of the nuclear family, or its variations, like single-parent families or same-gender-parent families?

    Finally, I remember (barely) being 25, and my ideas about parenting and family were largely theoretical. Firestone wasn’t a parent at 25 when she wrote the book, and while it’s certainly possible to speak intelligently about things one hasn’t experienced, I think parenting falls into a category in which it’s important to have been there before declaiming.

    The idea of somehow getting a critical mass of folks to walk away from pregnancy as being the predominant way of creating a family seems quite unlikely. And incubating a baby for nine months or waiting the two years to adopt, both of which my parents did and the former of which I did, both seem very difficult things to do and then relinquish the child to a more fluid “household.” Especially when one is of the view that “bringing up” does not have to equal “owning.” Where both parents work, the child is frequently more part of a larger community of many influences, anyway. I am curious about whether other parents feel that children benefit from the continuity of a primary caretaker or caretakers. I think this is absolutely the case.

    The idea of the unequal power balance seems to be the lowest hanging fruit and “step one” in addressing issues of sex class. With respect to BubbasNightmare, I think “That’s where the revolution starts: you teach those you love the truth, and urge them to pass it on” is great and necessary, but not nearly enough.

    While it’s interesting to envision what the revolution could look like, I’m not sure deliberating about the science-fiction-y advanced steps makes much sense until we tackle the initial one(s) and see what things are looking like after that.

  69. Scratchy888

    The isolated nuclear family, along with the alienating situations of work, described my Marc as “alienation from the products of one’s labour” produces a rampant narcissism expressed as an individual’s emotional inability to connect — also a concrete lack of genuineness to connect to.

  70. Scratchy888

    Sorry. “Marx” not Marc. (It’s early here.)

  71. finnsmotel

    “Finn, go read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.”

    Why?

    Maybe it’s my own insecurity, but, when someone suggests I “go read” something it implies, to me, that I shouldn’t be participating in the discussion until I catch up to the rest of the class.

  72. Jokerine

    Firestone didn’t want to abolish a primary caretaker. She wanted the position to be free from the genes. Also she suggests, not having to incubate a baby for nine months. Do you really think women would prefer all the “horrors” of pregnancy to artificial wombs?

    PS. Does anyone want some virtual ice cream?

  73. finnsmotel

    Children require assistance, because they lack the knowledge and experience necessary to acquire the resources for survival. And, once they have that knowledge and experience, they are, generally, too physically weak to battle full-sized people for those resources.

    Unless they eat out of the dumpster at 7-11. Even then, they’d be battling junkies for twinkie squishings.

  74. Anon

    amandaw, please send email with address to ibtpgroup@gmail.com, and we will send you a book. We have sent out only nine so far, and have some inventory left. We should be able to get it to you by Thursday, Friday at latest.

  75. Jokerine

    Sorry Finn! Thats not what I meant. Its late here an I’m lazy. What I meant is: For one scenario on a manless society, please read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Maybe you will find it insightful. As punishment for being lazy I have now had to type two comments.

  76. Maia

    Jokerine – the horrors are mixed with blessings, though. Personally, right here, right now – I’d take the horrors every time. But then in a Firestonian utopia, I guess things might look different?

    Finn – I don’t think anyone claims that children need no assistance. The question is more about how much they need, how much that need is created by a culture of (for want of a better expression) prolonged infantilisation, and how that need is best met.

  77. B. Dagger Lee

    My copy has the following disclaimer: “The author would like to note that this book remains unabridged and unrevised since its original publication in 1970.” Airless Spaces, her book of short stories, insistently, repetitively details the experience of the mental ward. It seems clear she was unwilling, unable or incapable of revising the 2003 edition I have, but thought it should be revised—otherwise why the disclaimer? If I had enough time, I’d write my comments as a preface, and also figure out how I would edit her book, for edit it I would. So I guess I made notes towards a preface and preliminary notes towards an edited, revised edition.

    I would begin by throwing the Eldridge Freud sausage/chapter out (Chapter 5, “Racism: The Sexism of the Family of Man”). Shoving black folk (seemingly known primarily or only from Cleaver’s Soul on Ice) into her Freudian machine produced a grotesque, ham-fisted analysis shot through with the putrification of racism. What’s missing from her Freud machine—a recognition and analysis of fantasy is what makes her race chapter so problematic. The chapter itself is white fantasy about black folks. It’s youthfully callow and ignorant, at best. Ugh, hate that chapter.

  78. Jokerine

    *writesdown* Culture of prolonged infantilisation
    I’m falling asleep now. I will check back in the morning.

    Good night, Jokerine.

  79. B. Dagger Lee

    She took two very powerful methods of analysis—Marx and Freud—and mashed them together into a hybrid machine. The machine works best in the parts when and where she keeps front and center her main revolutionary ideas:

    1. That the Freudian apparatus of analysis is most useful when applied in a metaphorical fashion, or in shorthand, penis equals power. Who needs Lacan! We have our own somewhat contemporaneous, home-grown female genius elaborating some of the same ideas. I mourn that she wasn’t able to continue. I read that she was working on a book on advertising—which is to move into a culture’s fantasy.
    2. That prior to economic class oppression was sex class oppression. Bigger, badder, longer, uncut.
    3. That the biology of reproduction put women at an enormous disadvantage, a disadvantage that was being addressed by technology.

    I mourn that she wasn’t able to go on to write more elegantly about these powerful truths.

  80. Ann Bartow

    Without opining on whether anyone *should* read “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, allow me to point out that anyone *can* read it here:
    http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/GilHerl.html
    or here
    http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=34701&pageno=6

    NB: Because it was published in 1915, it is (unless I’m missing something or have the publication date wrong) in the public domain, which makes the University of Virginia’s copyright claim here rather, um, amusing:
    http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=GilHerl.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=teiHeader

  81. Octogalore

    Jokerine said “She wanted the position to be free from the genes. Also she suggests, not having to incubate a baby for nine months. Do you really think women would prefer all the “horrors” of pregnancy to artificial wombs?”

    As Maia said, I’d take the horrors too. I couldn’t imagine myself pregnant in my 20s. And I’m someone who thought and still thinks friends beaming and pontificating about the unique wonderfulness of pregnancy and attachment parenting are over the top. I’m also very anal about weight and fitness and control and all that stuff, and the idea of gaining 30lb wasn’t a big incentive. While I breast-fed briefly, I lasted about two months and also went back to work at about that time. And finally, my sisters are adopted, and it’s something I always thought I would do, and may still do. But feeling my daughter move inside me and delivering her were pretty wonderful.

    So yes, I have to believe that if someone like me got so much out of pregnancy and childbirth, it’s not going by the wayside very quickly.

    I think in Firestone’s time and also now, the childbearing responsibility is accompanied by obstacles that help put in place the power differential. But I think it makes more sense to work on the obstacles rather than remove the pregnancy from the womb. The latter is infeasible in all kinds of ways. Automatic job reinstatement, longer paid leave, better incentives for dads to take leaves, better accomodations for breastfeeding, and less pressure on women who decide not to… again, lower hanging, and more realistic, fruit.

  82. B. Dagger Lee

    Regarding technology and science, she has a very American, very idealistic view of science. I have this same foolish optimism entwined in my DNA, along with the words to every song by the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and every episode of the Brady Bunch and Star Trek (the original series). My heart believes one thing, my lying eyes and brain and experience say another.

    The uterus is the end result of 4000 million years of random recombination, random mutation, and reproduction, i.e. evolution. I don’t see it being replaced by a technological mechanism, although increasingly, wealthy couples are using surrogate uteruses, so the rich sex class uses the poor sex class for reproduction. I suspect pigs may be used soon for more than heart valves. I prognosticate that the uterus of a pig in a coma will see heavy usage before the artificial uterus.

    Science seeks to replicate the scope of the infinite life experiments of evolution, but it doesn’t have the time, it doesn’t have the tools or the experimental population. It seeks to make up for this by imitation and control and the directedness of its enquiry. But I think it’s going to take a long time yet.

    What were the mortality rates for women in childbirth prior to the 20th century? Technologies such as antibiotics, forceps, and surgical advances (c-sections) lowered maternal and infant mortality. Birth control and abortion made it possible to control reproduction. But I think the 1969 Shulie wouldn’t believe that in 2007 these technologies would be available to only for a tiny percent of the female population of the world. Because the 1980 B. Dagger wouldn’t have believed it.

    I think it’s a curious blind spot in Firestone’s analysis, that massive maternal mortality pre-1900 (I pulled that date out of my ass) is nowhere mentioned in a book that attributes women’s subjugation to reproduction. In fact, I think it’s a curious blind spot all over in analyses of the origins of the patriarchy.

  83. brooke

    Hello, all!
    Lifetime blamer, longtime lurker, first time poster, writing to say that I’m loving this discussion and grateful for it. And I also want to add that Engels did address patriarchy. I’m not saying this as some dude-defender, but rather, to point out that a critique of patriarchy has been central to the Marxian tradition. In “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State” (1884), Engels explains that long long long long long loooooong ago, the invention of private property–fruit of slave labor, natch–justified the hostile but at the same time stealthy transition from matriarchal social structure to a patriarchal one. Allow me a brief quote: “The overthrow of mother right [that is, the overthrow of the law of inheritance through the mother] was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became the slave of his lust and mere instrument for the production of children.” (The copy I have is excerpted in a feminist theory anthology so I don’t have the full text to cite.)

    To debate which oppression is primary–economic? patriarchal?–is to miss the crucial point that patriarchy is always economic–that is, it’s an ideology of ownership. Sex, as the means of (re)production, was and is capital.

  84. sloopin

    OK, I just started reading the Book Club selection (yes, I’m a slacker) and wow. It is so… readable. I majored in political science way back when but stayed away from super-complicated theories because I hated wading through all the muddle. Would any of you experienced blamers care to recommend more reading that, like Firestone, doesn’t require me to have a pencil and highlighter in hand while reading?

  85. Octogalore

    BDL — yes, there are alot of issues involving why the oppressiveness of women’s biology is heavily class-based, that aren’t mentioned. Breast-feeding, for example. The whole “breast is best” thing ignores the fact that breast-feeding is skewing towards the upper classes, and formula the opposite. And many poorer families water down the formula to make it last longer, or buy the powder kind which is tough to mix right. It’s been demonstrated that studies which incorporate this show that breast milk and formula are about equal.

    This seems like it’s getting way off topic, but the gist is that poor women’s workplaces are not as breast-feeding-friendly, and already-mixed formula overpriced, therefore they suffer more feeding and illness issues on the part of their children, and therefore yet another obstacle.

    Day care is another issue. Because wealthy and moderately wealthy women can afford day assistance, the career setbacks aren’t as inevitable for them. The difficulties for lower income women to make enough to justify paying a caretaker or daycare program create huge obstacles to upward or even lateral mobility.

    The communes SF describes address this to some extent, but are only feasible in a post-capitalistic era, and that’s another step 1000 issue. These are things we need nuts-and-bolts, what-do-we-do-NOW strategies to address.

  86. Elle

    Twisty et al. Thanks for a great discussion and thanks for the opportunity to revisit these ideas. I’ve only read the first chapter, but I ordered the book over the weekend. Hope it comes in time for further discussion. These are my reactions so far:

    SF “feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organisation of culture itself, and further, even the very organisation of nature.”

    SF “For we are dealing with a larger problem, with an oppression that goes back beyond recorded history to the animal kingdom itself.”

    I have no argument with the idea that the patriarchal reality I live in is all pervasive, but I can’t accept the idea that patriarchy is all. The only hope I have for improving the status of women is based on the belief that patriarchy is not all, that it is a constructed reality – and therefore change is possible. I’m afraid if I thought patriarchy was as all-encompassing as SF does, I would despair.

    Moreover, since the latest estimates for how long the human species (as we know it) has been around is somewhere around 160,000 years, and written history only goes back around 3-4,000 yrs, and archaeology has its limitations, it always bothers me when anyone claims to know how things have always been. I mean, we are looking at around 150,000 years which are still pretty mysterious. I am optimistic enough to believe that in all that space and time there might have been a society which was not misogynistic. I say optimistic because, if it happened once, it can happen again.

    As to the patriarchal organization of nature, I’m afraid I don’t know what she is talking about. Back when SF wrote this book, there were a bunch of books written by men who tried to make the case that nature was patriarchal, but I never bought it. Male biologists, after all, came up with such language as “animal kingdom.” Conscious female biologists who are not constantly looking for evidence within nature to support the patriarchal paradigm — and using patriarchal language to describe nature — often offer a fresh, feminist perspective.

    If by the patriarchal organization of nature SF means the “inequality” of reproductive tasks nature assigns to males and females, I also disagree. Nature assigns the tasks, patriarchy assigns the value. Women’s reproductive activities are not essentially less valuable than male activities (reproductive or otherwise). Neither are they essentially more onerous. I actually enjoyed motherhood, in spite of the fact that we live in a society which seems designed to make motherhood as difficult as possible.

    As to the biological family –

    For me, the biological family is made up of mother and children. Husbands are fast becoming a luxury women cannot afford. A moment’s sexual enjoyment does not a father make. The father/child relationship is a social construct. And it seems to be self-destructing as we speak. I, myself, found single motherhood a little challenging, but deeply satisfying. I’m all for women taking charge of the means of reproduction.

    As to the immutable fact of women’s dependence on men –

    Obviously, the heavy reproductive burden that woman carries diminishes her chances for survival if she has to go it alone – especially in our world. But who, male or female, goes it totally alone throughout life? But somehow, only women are denounced as dependent. Why should economic dependence outweigh all other dependencies? I have a huge problem with patriarchal society’s collective denial of the fact that humanity is completely dependent on women for the continuation of the species — as well as a variety of other wonderful things women do to make life more enjoyable for everyone.

  87. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Shulamith quotes De Beauvoir and builds upon her ideas and now I’m thinking, damn it! I had always meant to read The Second Sex but I never did. Guess I’d better git on it.

  88. B. Dagger Lee

    I would be curious to know what Firestone thinks of the internets, although she may not think of them at all. As a technology, it will enable like-minded people to form communities for both polyamorous adventures (as it’s often used) and for the raising of children. Lesbian and gay men increasingly use it to form an extended family for the raising of children—some children have two moms and two dads–a step towards Firestone’s non-nuclear group raising of children.

    Male violence is still a threat in cyberspace (I classify what happened to Amanda Marcotte as a species of male violence), but while anonymity, pseudonyms and cyberspace allow some 22-year-old boys to say the vile things in their hearts, cyberspace also allows women to comment back without, in general, fear of real physical male violence. Women can increasingly insist on a presence in discussions.

  89. curtis

    I probably should have waited until I had read all through the thread to see if this was already addressed, but it burned me too much.

    Being someone who was, as a child, forced to conform, to shut up and play quietly in the corner, to not ask questions, to be ignored when I did, to have my imagination externally suppressed to the point where I can barely tap into it now, to have to wait with hand raised to see if and adult would give me permission to ask a question, to get ‘because I said so’ as a normal response to questions.

    None of these things were for my protection, they were for the benefit of maintaining my sub-human status, and the unquestionable superiority of my ‘betters’.

    By the time I was 15 I already knew that I must not have children, to inflict this on yet another generation.

    Then I have heard, over and over, throughout my life, and now again here in this thread, that unless you yourself are a parent you just don’t understand or have no right to criticize or address the problem.

    That IS the patriarchy.

  90. Edtih

    It’s really touching to see the discussion here, and seeing a lot of us come to this book for the first time or reread it with our new, post-Twisty lens. I mean this as unpatronizingly as possible. I’m just like, really overcome.

    Here, in a non-eloquent nutshell, my favorite parts of this book:

    1) The argument for women using science to take pregnancy out of the mere “biological” or “that’s the way it is, so suck it up woman, pain and all” realm and create birth in a new test-tube reality. This reality, of course, NOT being Brave New World BUT a way for women to actually USE SCIENCE FOR OUR ADVANTAGE. I think this argument is so amazing because it flies right in the face of all this “natural childbirth” stuff that is, actually, NOT progressive. And it’s not doing so in an asshole Dr. Switchblade “come, little woman, come to me the male doctor to make you all better” but it’s saying, listen gang, why don’t we women actually TAKE SCIENCE and USE IT in a way that benefits US and NOT MEN? Consider!!

    Also, as a tangent from this, the whole argument that this is “not scientifically possible” misses the whole point. Of course it’s not scientifically “possible” because, even if it were, there’s been so little research into this area (comparatively to, say, erectile dysfunction) that we wouldn’t know if it were “possible” because some Big Daddy Scientist decided it was morally/economically/whatever-ly a Big Waste Of Time. (Are electric cars possible? They are! Do you have one?)

    2) LOVE IS THE PATRIARCHY ON LARGE-SCALE FORM. Don’t do it. I really want you all to read this chapter. I can’t even tell you how great it is. I can’t even sum up my feelings beyond that.

    3) Engels wrote The Origin thing, yes (and someone here alluded to it) but that’s all he wrote on dismantling patriarchy because, by the way, he totally benefited from it. The reason why this is so important of a disctinction is because, with anyone with any socialist background, you encounter pretty quickly the argument that feminism is fine and dandy but is really flawed because it believes that sex is the root division when it’s class, and further more, if class oppression was solved, than so would sexism. So in other words, feminists are misguided if they think that feminism will solve anything that communism/socialism can’t. From this view, we also get our Manarchists (it’s the government oppressing you, stupid bitch) et al. And here we have Firestone, socialist background and all, saying, “Actually, it’s the other way around — if you want to overthrow class oppressions, you better be a feminist and overthrow the patriarchy. Actually, this ‘revolution’ is so great that it’s beyond revolution and we need a new lexicon.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but really, anyone who’s ever had a Liberal Dude in their life knows how smart this analysis is.

    4) Freudianism comes from the same root as feminism, but instead of arguing for the overthrow of these roles like feminism, it argues for their compliance. The reason why Freudianism and psychology in general has been so dangerous for so long is because of how it’s been used to pathologize women. When in fact, you can actually use Freudianism or psychoanalysis or psychology to show how women need TRUE LIBERATION. The reason why it hasn’t been used as such? Because Freud was too patriarchal, as all men have ever been, ever. (Firestone says this too. I don’t have the book with me, but there’s a part where she’s basically like, “A man analyzing sex is gonna fail because he’s too into the patriarchy.”) I like this because I actually think that psychology can be a good thing, not a bad thing, like it’s used a lot of the time. And I think that Freud is not just some moron obsessed with penises that we should throw out anymore than I think Marx is some holed-up weirdo. Neither does Firestone, and instead of making the mistake all of us often do with just dismissing these big ol’ figures out of hand, she shows where they went wrong and, without even having to say it, why all their supporters have been so frightening/infuriating/horrifying to women.

    OK, not so much a nutshell. I have more to say, but I’ll save it.

  91. Edtih

    Also, I agree with BDL’s comments about the horrible race chapter. I wish it weren’t in the book either.

  92. Edtih

    Am I in moderation? Yeah.

  93. Pony

    Thank you Elle.

  94. J

    “Firestone didn’t want to abolish a primary caretaker. She wanted the position to be free from the genes.”

    I am going to try and get back to and finish the book tonight, but I’ve gotten far enough to see the reasoning behind this claim, and it’s hardly convincing. I think she shows no evidence whatsoever that it is, in fact, the case that the adult-child relationship is universally predicated upon a biological relationship.

    Her reasoning, like I wrote before, seems entirely inline with the “man the hunter” theory about the formation of human social relations. Strangely, for Firestone, this is a powerfully misogynistic theory with no evidence. Not only that, but she conflates biological relatedness with a universal form of “the family,” which she calls “the biological family.” The biologically centered social unit has been fiercely debated in the anthropological community since the mid-1980s, when David Scheider published “A Critique of the Study of Kinship.” The issue is simply one of ethnocentrism, but of a subtle form:

    “Why has kinship been defined in terms of the relations that arise out of the processes of human sexual reproduction? The answer that I offer here should be no surprise. It is simply that so much of what passes for science in the social sciences, including anthropology, derives directly and recognizably from the commonsense notions, the everyday premises of the culture in which and by which the scientist lives. These postulates of European culture are simply taken over and put in a form that is customary for rational scientific discourse, appropriately qualified and made slightly more explicit in places and served up as something special, sometimes even in Latin. That is, the study of kinship derives directly and practically unaltered from the ethnoepistemology of European culture” (175).

    My point in mentioning this, is that her argument seems to hinge on an assumed form of kinship and family relations, for which there is really no evidence as a human universal. If anything, she might want to make the argument that as Capitalist hegemony spread so does the importance of the ownership in, if not the sheer fact of blood-relations. In other words, as she takes it from Engels, the overt ownership of women in marriage and biological family is a function of the necessary division of labour introduced and necessitated by sedentary, surplus-producing cultivation of plants and/or animals. That, though, would undermine her contention that sexual oppression predicates not only all other oppression, but social forms as well.

  95. Emotenote

    This whole thread (research) has been fascinating reading. I find myself in outstanding company.

    The issues of child rearing that SF brings up were especially fascinating since they are really hot-button ideas in our Western culture today. Some of the comments brought to mind the experiment of some of the Kibbutzes in Israel. As soon as the children were of a certain age (I think older elementary) they were moved to children’s quarters to begin their lives as members of the socialist class.

    The results over several years were that they were extremely independent, competent and used to dealing with a multitude of contradictory ideas. On the not-quite-so-great side, opposite to what one might expect, the children were also fabulously ego-centric. This apparently occurred as a safety mechanism in their self development. When this group was compared to children on another Kibbutz of the same kind and mission, people found that the children who stayed within some sort of smaller family unit were actually more personally confident and less concerned with the me-me-me. However, the KIND of small family unit didn’t seem to matter as long as the children felt secure in that someone was in support of their movement into the larger picture.

    I’d also like to bring up Jane Goodall here, not that she is a shining beacon of blameship, but rather that her life and history in going to observe primates was ignited by patriarchal pooh poohs of women scientist and the issues of conservation.

    The end result being that some decidedly un-patriarchal ways and means were the key to coming to understand the creatures she was assigned to; she was supposed to fail in her task but instead lead the was into new thinking about observational research; and she has further devoted her life fighting all of the patriarchal paradigms that put the creatures of this planet at risk. (This goes back to the idea brought up earlier that the patriarchy is built on ownership of everything)

    I realize this sounds a little jumbled, it’s way past my bedtime…

  96. MikeWC

    Not to detail the conversation, but what is the dialectial movement in The Dialectic of Sex? I read the first chapter and didn’t see a hint of anything like a dialectic.

  97. BubbasNightmare

    I was impressed by Firestone’s almost prescient pronouncement about the increasing level of erotic content in culture.

    “Stimulated to the limit, it has reached an epidemic level unequalled in history. From every magazine cover, film screen, TV tube, subway sign, jump breasts, legs, shoulders, thighs.”

    And this was in 1969. Lordy.

    Later on the same page:

    “Women’s eroticism, as well as men’s, becomes increasingly directed toward women.”

    My first reaction was that that would explain why there are so many half-naked women in Cosmopolitan–something that confused me for years.

  98. BubbasNightmare

    B. Dagger Lee, now it’s your turn to lay down the word! There’s only one word for your previous analyses and comments: shiny!

    (One comment about artificial uteruses: never say never.)

    So, do you twist, mash, or frug? And do you blog anywhere these days?

  99. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I agree with SF that until women control reproduction: Whether or not to engage in it, when, how, and under what circumstances, we’re all completely hosed and at the mercy of teh Patriarchy. This is why our pro-choice movement is so fundamental to feminism and why “pro-life feminist” is an oxymoron.

    As for artificial wombs, that’s just crazytalk. Ain’t gonna happen. Frankly, I would have loved an artificial womb to do all the vomiting, belching and pre-term laboring for me, but from the noises other women make about pregnancy it sounds as though you can pry the breeding imperative out of their cold dead hands. To each her own.

  100. Ide Cyan

    Firestone builds her dialectics on naturalist principles, which is also the mistake Marx made with regard to women. The proletarian/capitalist dichotomy is a class division, in which neither “group” can exist without the other, because they are created as groups by the relationship of exploitation and oppression.

    And yet, when it comes to men and women, both of them accept the division of the sexes as natural, and as the cause of gender, but this doesn’t explain oppression.

    If you take oppression as the first step of your analysis, as Christine Delphy has, you can examine gender from a materialist, non-naturalist but *social* point of view, wherein the oppression of one group by another *creates* those groups. Creates sex-classes, by picking one physical characteristic as the marker for class division, which thereafter gains tremendous importance for the perpetuation of that division, and from there all the justifying ideology which is found in, among other sources, Freudian bullshit.

    The naturalist view is that sex creates gender.
    The materialist view is that gender creates sex.

    Christine Delphy goes into this in much more detail. I really recommend her work. (_Close To Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women’s Oppression_, collects several of her articles in English translation. Highly recommended as a starting point.)

  101. Octogalore

    Curtis said “Then I have heard, over and over, throughout my life, and now again here in this thread, that unless you yourself are a parent you just don’t understand or have no right to criticize or address the problem. That IS the patriarchy.”

    Certainly, especially based on your experiences as a child you have a right to criticize the problem of how children can be treated with more respect for their creativity and autonomy. I did not mean to suggest otherwise.

    My point was quite different — it was that, before suggesting that children be brought up in a non-nuclear format, that they could possibly be sexual playmates for adults, or that pregnancy should be eliminated, it would be useful to have experienced pregnancy and parenthood. That way, it would be more convincing if one still felt those things could be done away with. Because I don’t think most people who’ve been parents would agree with SF on the commune concept. I still haven’t heard anyone here stand up as a parent and say it’s a good or workable idea.

    Certainly, people who are or aren’t parents can and should critique this concept. But there’s a difference between that and actually developing and proposing a concept that one really has no practical knowlege about.

    None of these things were for my protection, they were for the benefit of maintaining my sub-human status, and the unquestionable superiority of my ‘betters’.

    By the time I was 15 I already knew that I must not have children, to inflict this on yet another generation.

    Then I have heard, over and over, throughout my life, and now again here in this thread, that unless you yourself are a parent you just don’t understand or have no right to criticize or address the problem.

    That IS the patriarchy.

  102. Octogalore

    Curtis, I’m sorry, I copied the last five paragraphs of your post into mine. My apologies for the carelessness!

  103. Joanna

    Thanks for historicizing this book, BDagger Lee. I think sometimes it’s hard for us to recognize (or remember, as the case may be) how new and hard so many of these ideas were back then. I would love to read your edition of this book. Will you be writing one? on a blog or somewhere else? Please?
    Ide Cyan, yes.

  104. thebewilderness

    Octogalore said: I think parenting falls into a category in which it’s important to have been there before declaiming.

    We were all children, so I think we have the right to declaim that which we have personal knowledge of. Our current method of penning children together at school and daycare creates conditions where instead of a few children interacting with a large number of adults we have the opposite. In my experience children who interact with a large number of adults are generally far in advance of those who interact almost exclusively with other children. The household that SF suggests would go a long way toward reducing the posessiveness caregivers seem to feel entitled to.

  105. Ginger Mayerson

    As for artificial wombs, that’s just crazytalk. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Never say never, Hedonistic Pleasureseeker. I can’t link here, but if you put artificial uterus in Google you get links to reputable research (and a lot of nervous lawyers for some reason). Probably not in our lifetimes, but I’d say within the next 200 years at most (if we last that long).

    Remember, in vitro fertilization, most of the major organ transplants, and the genetic cures we now have were never gonna happen either. Until, after years and years of quiet research, they did.

  106. TP

    SF made a huge stride forward with this book. Reading it, I was at once in a future I hope for and deep in a past that was worse than I care to remember. Because things have gotten better for a small percentage of women in the world. And this has prompted some of the most disgusting backlashes and defensive postures yet invented by those who cling blindly to their sick privileges.

    I was looking forward to this discussion because there are many flaws in the book, but I don’t deeply regret any of them. They are all proofs of the time in which she wrote, and reveal as much truth as they might seem to contradict.

    Way up thread someone mentions race. Understanding sexism and understanding racism are two sides of the same coin. Race is as deeply divisive as sex in the USA, and many of our overseas friends might be very interested to know that it is still a subtle, deep problem that has so many similarities to sexism that they might as well be the exact same thing.

    The interesting thing about critical thinking about our own entrenched racist tendencies is that it can allow women to delve into the pathologies of the male experience that cause and sustain sexism by holding their own racist tendencies up for examination.

    The revolution starts, as a first step, with destroying white men as we think of them and replacing them with human beings with male genitals who have no fear of the 99% of their essential selves that is identical with women. Men should be nothing more or less than people with a different sex, in their own minds. Everything about being a man defines what is not, and into this refuse heap of identification men throw women and everything that they don’t want to be. So we must destroy the idea of man, and also the idea of woman, because this idea can only exist as a sub-definition of man.

    Race is the same. What is race but a different appearance, and nothing else? What is woman, but a different person, with a slightly different set of organs?

    I did feel a deep love for courageous Shulamith as I read on and on into the book. She managed to get so much so right.

  107. teresawymore

    I’d like to comment on Octogalore and Elle (sorry if I’m missing others, but I just read over a 100 comments).

    I like what you’re saying about children and motherhood, but I’ll go further and wonder why I don’t see in SF so far (I’m not finished) the true radical. She seems to have bought into the capitalistic-patriarchal paradigm’s value system, and her contributions to the “revolution” amount to untenable social and technological systems to accommodate those values. But why not rethink the paradigm? SF would have us outsource childbearing in order for us to have economic parity, but why shouldn’t we have economic parity along with childbearing? Why make it so every adult must serve as a cog in some corporate machine, make a covenant with X number of partners, or surrender their economic independence. Why isn’t being a caregiver a position worthy of pay and honor? (I know the answer: because that would make women independent of men.)

    I’ll make it personal: I cut our family’s income in half to become a stay-at-home mom. Now, I could go back to work and get tax credits for paying someone else to raise these same children, but when I do it, it’s not a job. As for SF’s argument about isolating children in nuclear families, I agree it’s a precarious situation, that the “system” doesn’t protect children or women but only the quality of characters involved. At the same time, most school-aged children spend more time away from home than at home, so I’m not sure they’re so cut-off. If anything, they’re more programmed with our culture’s misogynistic values than any generation before. I’m homeschooling just to be sure my kids learn things like feminism and to recognize the moral bankruptcy of competitive consumerism.

  108. TP

    As for all the stuff about children, I have to say that raising children has already undergone an incredible revolution in the past thirty years since SF wrote this book. I hope someone will help me prove or disprove that it may be true that children have gained far more ground than women in the same span of time. In order to deal with an argument like this it helps to have some perspective reaching back as far as Shulamith herself, or at least as far as TF or myself.

    My daughter owns me far more securely than I own her, in every way except legally, I can swear from the bottom of my love-filled heart. Is possession still pejorative when it is mutually held?

  109. Urban

    I haven’t had the time (yet) to read all the comments in the thread, but I have read the book in its entirety and I would like to thank Twisty for providing the impetus and forum. I look forward to reading the discussion in detail.

    I am particularly interested in her chapter on childhood, and I look forward to Twisty’s point of view on this.

    Something major clicked in my head about the nature of childhood, and my own upbringing, and possibly a reason why as a child, I found it somewhat difficult to relate to other children. I don’t want to bore everyone with my life story, but here’s a small snippet.

    Between the ages of four and seven I lived in a sort of rural retreat which my father ran. The ‘retreat’ was a kind of community-based system not (I imagine) unlike a commune of some kind: volunteers of all ages would arrive from the world over to spend a few months (and in some cases, more than that) living in a giant manor house in acres of grounds, working in the garden and maintaining the house.

    My brother and I were left free to do what we pleased during the time we were not in school, and this invariably meant seeking out whoever we could in order to find something to do. We engaged with so many different people of different ages. Really, when I look back on it, it was an incredible experience. Nobody treated us as separate from society, we played games with the adults, helped in the kitchen and garden, had certain responsibilities, etc. We ate meals in a big communal hall. Some people would leave, some would arrive, on a sort of rolling basis.

    When I was seven we moved to London, and until I was fourteen we lived in an overseas hall of residence for students. Run of the building was ours, and we met very many people from different cultures, over a huge range of ages. We were always included in social gatherings, and some of the students brought their kids with them to live in the residence hall too, and we would become friends. Then they would leave, and new people would arrive.

    Until I’d read Firestone, I’d never really given it much thought at all: I guess my subconscious assumption was that everybody had those kind of interactions with adults when they were small.

    Don’t get me wrong: my childhood is only part-way to what SF is talking about: it was always clear who my parents were, and who had ultimate authority over me. I went where they went, and they had control. I went to school. But I had a vast number of genuine interactions with a vast number of adults, which, thinking about it, aided my imagination and learning, not to mention enjoyment of childhood, to a huge degree.

    It’s a real eye-opener, as was the book in general. The central thesis of the text wasn’t a huge leap for me, and like others in the first few comments, when reading Marx I felt something was missing but couldn’t put my finger on it.

    But this is certainly the first time I have thought about my own childhood and patriarchy.

  110. Catherine Martell

    Ide Cyan: thoroughly excellent post. The acceptance of two sexes being a naturally ordained division was something that niggled away at me a bit, too. Especially when Firestone starts with Simone de Beauvoir, who raises serious questions about the two-sex division in the very first chapter of The Second Sex.

    On another matter: Without wishing to squash any of this supple and enriching debate, I don’t think there’s much to be gained from pointing out that Firestone was none too realistic when it came to artificial wombs or the restructuring of society. She was herself clearly aware that plunging into the treacherous waters of prediction was going to be a big risk, but makes clear that she wanted to suggest answers to the question, “What’s the alternative?” A pretty brave thing to do, and it’s inevitable that one will come a cropper doing it.

    It’s extremely easy to rip apart Firestone’s futurology and, were I a patriarchy-enforcer rather than a blamer, that’s exactly the angle I’d take. Ha ha ha! Look at the hysterical women’s libber! She hates mothers, believes in giant, pulsating cyberwombs, hates freedom and wants to have sex with children! These feminists sure are crazy paedophile woman-hating authoritarian freaks! But the way I read it, and I think the way Firestone posits it, is that she is simply exploring philosophical possibilities. It’s a contribution to the debate, not a finished prescription. Hence, dialectic.

    Perhaps, had Firestone had more than 25 years behind her, she might have thought the better of venturing into the details of what a post-patriarchal society might look like. But, then again, she forces the reader to think seriously about this question; and surely thinking about it, whether or not you agree with her precise points, is the first constructive step any of us can take towards it.

  111. edith

    t’s really touching to see the discussion here, and seeing a lot of us come to this book for the first time or reread it with our new, post-Twisty lens. I mean this as unpatronizingly as possible. I’m just like, really overcome.

    Here, in a non-eloquent nutshell, my favorite parts of this book:

    1) The argument for women using science to take pregnancy out of the mere “biological” or “that’s the way it is, so suck it up woman, pain and all” realm and create birth in a new test-tube reality. This reality, of course, NOT being Brave New World BUT a way for women to actually USE SCIENCE FOR OUR ADVANTAGE. I think this argument is so amazing because it flies right in the face of all this “natural childbirth” stuff that is, actually, NOT progressive. And it’s not doing so in an asshole Dr. Switchblade “come, little woman, come to me the male doctor to make you all better” but it’s saying, listen gang, why don’t we women actually TAKE SCIENCE and USE IT in a way that benefits US and NOT MEN? Consider!!

    Also, as a tangent from this, the whole argument that this is “not scientifically possible” misses the whole point. Of course it’s not scientifically “possible” because, even if it were, there’s been so little research into this area (comparatively to, say, erectile dysfunction) that we wouldn’t know if it were “possible” because some Big Daddy Scientist decided it was morally/economically/whatever-ly a Big Waste Of Time. (Are electric cars possible? They are! Do you have one?)

    2) LOVE IS THE PATRIARCHY ON LARGE-SCALE FORM. Don’t do it. I really want you all to read this chapter. I can’t even tell you how great it is. I can’t even sum up my feelings beyond that.

    3) Engels wrote The Origin thing, yes (and someone here alluded to it) but that’s all he wrote on dismantling patriarchy because, by the way, he totally benefited from it. The reason why this is so important of a disctinction is because, with anyone with any socialist background, you encounter pretty quickly the argument that feminism is fine and dandy but is really flawed because it believes that sex is the root division when it’s class, and further more, if class oppression was solved, than so would sexism. So in other words, feminists are misguided if they think that feminism will solve anything that communism/socialism can’t. From this view, we also get our Manarchists (it’s the government oppressing you, stupid bitch) et al. And here we have Firestone, socialist background and all, saying, “Actually, it’s the other way around — if you want to overthrow class oppressions, you better be a feminist and overthrow the patriarchy. Actually, this ‘revolution’ is so great that i t’s beyond revolution and we need a new lexicon.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but really, anyone who’s ever had a Liberal Dude in their life knows how smart this analysis is.

    4) Freudianism comes from the same root as feminism, but instead of arguing for the overthrow of these roles like feminism, it argues for their compliance. The reason why Freudianism and psychology in general has been so dangerous for so long is because of how it’s been used to pathologize women. When in fact, you can actually use Freudianism or psychoanalysis or psychology to show how women need TRUE LIBERATION. The reason why it hasn’t been used as such? Because Freud was too patriarchal, as all men have ever been, ever. (Firestone says this too. I don’t have the book with me, but there’s a part where she’s basically like, “A man analyzing sex is gonna fail because he’s too into the patriarchy.”) I like this because I actually think that psychology can be a good thing, not a bad thing, like it’s used a lot of the time. And I think that Freud is not just some moron obsessed with penises that we should throw out anymore than I think Marx is some holed-up weirdo. Neither does Firestone, and instead of making the mistake all of us often do with just dismissing these big ol’ figures out of hand, she shows where they went wrong and, without even having to say it, why all their supporters have been so frightening/infuriating/horrifying to women.

    OK, not so much a nutshell. I have more to say, but I’ll save it.

  112. justtesting

    Regarding technology and science, she has a very American, very idealistic view of science.

    I think it is particularly a 1960′s American view. The whole “better living through science”, electric cars, silver jumpsuits and holidays on the moon, vision of the future that was around back then.

    if you’re not a parent…

    These sort of comments highlight some of the fundamental problems with the way modern western society has constructed the nuclear “family” : that children are property of the biological parents and that biological parenthood somehow, and exclusively, endows people with the ability to be a decent carer or to form decent relationships with the young.

    Fundamentally wrong.

  113. BubbasNightmare

    The most personal moment I took from TDoS was from the chapter on love:

    Men can’t love. We have seen why it is that men have difficulty loving and that while men may love, they usually “fall in love”–with their own projected image.” (emphasis hers)

    This is something that, over the years, more than one partner has said to me about me. I used to poo-poo such a notion; however, the years may not bring wisdom but they do bring perspective, and I suspect that they may have been right (about me, at any rate).

    IMO, men are much less likely to be able to love a partner unconditionally. And for that attribute (despite its disadvantages), I am envious of women.

  114. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I agree with what folks upthread are saying about isolating children from the rest of society. Schools were created not for children but for the convenience of adult farmers.

    My observation: Put a bunch of same-aged children together without some critical mass of adults to balance the energies and the playground turns into Lord of the Flies in no time flat. It could be patriarchal conditioning; on the other hand it could be genetic: This fierce tendency to gain advantage at other beings’ expense.

    Look at the way toddlers bite each other when they are mad and beat up the family pets. I don’t know whether to BTP or our genes. Both sides of the nature/nurture debate leave me unconvinced and I remain befuddled.

  115. LJN

    Thank you for starting this discussion! I’ve been lurking quietly, as I’m definitely not an advanced blamer – like most of my women friends, I thought feminism had fought and won in the 60s before I was born….

    I will continue to read and learn, and keep my head down.

  116. BubbasNightmare

    LJN–

    Would that feminism had won in the ’60s. But I think there are excellent indications that there is no victory in sight.

    Goddamned fundie wingnuts.

  117. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Yeah, but doesn’t this discussion and this blog kinda give an outline of what distant hope might look like?

  118. Elle

    Correction to earlier post: “written history only goes back around 3-4,000 yrs”

    I meant goes back to around 3-4000 BCE. An interesting note for feminists concerning early writing is that the “world’s first author to be known by name” was the Sumerian princess Enheduana who wrote more than 4,300 yrs ago. Vicki Leon “Uppity Women of Ancient Times” (1995). At least that was true in 1995.

  119. Andrew

    Ms. Martel makes an excellent point here about imaging post-patriarchal society: But, then again, she forces the reader to think seriously about this question; and surely thinking about it, whether or not you agree with her precise points, is the first constructive step any of us can take towards it.

    Personally, I think envisioning that post-patriarchal stage is SO important, and that as she says, the act of thinking about it may be more important than getting every single detail correct. We’re all charting undiscovered country when we go there mentally, so I don’t look at any of these texts as claiming to be the “correct” map, whether it’s Herland or Firestone or whatever.

    It’s (unfortunately) very likely none of us will see a truly post-patriarchal culture. We only get glimpses of it with our eyes closed, dreaming. We may be the blind leading the blind, but sometimes I think together we see something, some residual image, when we open our eyes.

    Thank you for that.

  120. jnthnu

    THP, Jokerine (and everyone else) –

    Have you read Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time? She seems to take the essence of both The Dialectic of Sex and Airless Spaces and apply the ideas within to come up with an absolutely amazing work of fiction*.

    *warning: OPINION OPINION OPINION

    I am becoming a big fan of Firestone, although I admit it’s a big pill to swallow in places. Having semi-concurrently (okay, that’s not true, I read Woman on the Edge of Time first, but I’ll read it again a hundred times… and after I read He, She, and It, I said, “Gibson who?” but enough with the derailing over into what properly belongs in the SF thread) read this novel, it gave me a much-needed perspective on Firestone’s revolution by illustrating at least one version of what the outcome of that revolution might look like a hundred years on; how some of those scary/strange ideas about child rearing and interpersonal relationships might play out for the overwhelming common good of human society.

    So for my money, I have come to maintain that Woman on the Edge of Time is required reading on the syllabus along with Firestone. Also note that Woman on the Edge of Time came along very shortly after The Dialectic of Sex (1971, IIRC, I’m too lazy to go get it and look) and we’ve not come a long way, baby. On the other hand, the chapter in which the protagonist accidentally ends up in the /other/ version of the future, the pornified police state one, made me laugh out loud and not really in a good way; it’s a lot more recognizable as Where We Are Currently Headed, if not merely a straight-ahead and only slightly futuristic version of Where We Are. (Same pornification, but more food pills and HDTV.)

    And without derailing the topic too much further with my reading list, as to the topic of taking The Second Sex and updating de Beauvoir for a more ‘modern’ age, I really like Carol Tavris’ “The Mismeasure of Woman”, a book I never seem to see mentioned anywhere in the feminist blogosphere, perhaps because it fell into obscurity shortly after its publication in 1990 or so, and perhaps because Tavris is a bit too mild (not particularly revolutionary.)

    However, to derail the topic completely for a moment: I like Tavris a lot because she is a somewhat rare creature: an outspoken Feminist who also identifies as a Skeptic. I had high hopes the knob-fest that is the Skeptical “Movement” (Bowel?) might realize that they were way too male dominated and ask her or someone like her to get up front and speak for a change, but then since they seem to be way too busy enjoying their pornified annual convention in Las Fucking Vegas of all places, I can’t be all too surprised that they instead decided to install Nadine “We Stand on our First Amendment Rights” Goddamn Strossen as the token female figurehead or whatever capacity/title/token she is holding to justify their misogyny. Huge fan as I am of Dawkins, profoundly affected in my pseudo-religious youthful upbringing (saved, as it were) by Sagan, long-time supporter of Randi’s work as I have been – I’m beyond pissed off about this. I refuse to support that pornified sausage-fest any longer until they figure out that exposing the logical fallacies and destructive effects of religious and mystical thinking on human society while enthusiastically supporting the objectification of women is really deserving of much stronger language that this, but I should really shut up now: DUMB.

    Anyway, yeah, my point was definitely to inject Woman on the Edge of Time into the Firestone discussion, and Twisty, that is *not* to derail the conversation into what rightly belongs in the Sci-Fi thread:

    A) The book is arguably not Science Fiction to begin with, but that nitpicking shit *definitely* belongs in the other thread, and I don’t care to participate, either. Have at it, if you like.)

    B) I’m not trying to start a discussion on how Marge Piercy (or Le Guin, or Atwood, et al) are way cooler than @sexist_knob(gibson, stephenson, [barf]heinlein…) or not… I merely meant to suggest that I think it’s a fantastic book to begin with, and worthy of mention since it is so clearly directly built upon the foundation of ideas laid down by Firestone.

    Shutting up now,

    One Non-Dude

  121. jnthnu

    THP, Jokerine (and everyone else) –

    Have you read Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time? She seems to take the essence of both The Dialectic of Sex and Airless Spaces and apply the ideas within to come up with an absolutely amazing work of fiction*.

    *warning: OPINION OPINION OPINION

    I am becoming a big fan of Firestone, although I admit it’s a big pill to swallow in places. Having semi-concurrently (okay, that’s not true, I read Woman on the Edge of Time first, but I’ll read it again a hundred times… and after I read He, She, and It, I said, “Gibson who?” but enough with the derailing over into what properly belongs in the SF thread) read this novel, it gave me a much-needed perspective on Firestone’s revolution by illustrating at least one version of what the outcome of that revolution might look like a hundred years on; how some of those scary/strange ideas about child rearing and interpersonal relationships might play out for the overwhelming common good of human society.

    So for my money, I have come to maintain that Woman on the Edge of Time is required reading on the syllabus along with Firestone. Also note that Woman on the Edge of Time came along very shortly after The Dialectic of Sex (1971, IIRC, I’m too lazy to go get it and look) and we’ve not come a long way, baby. On the other hand, the chapter in which the protagonist accidentally ends up in the /other/ version of the future, the pornified police state one, made me laugh out loud and not really in a good way; it’s a lot more recognizable as Where We Are Currently Headed, if not merely a straight-ahead and only slightly futuristic version of Where We Are. (Same pornification, but more food pills and HDTV.)

    And without derailing the topic too much further with my reading list, as to the topic of taking The Second Sex and updating de Beauvoir for a more ‘modern’ age, I really like Carol Tavris’ “The Mismeasure of Woman”, a book I never seem to see mentioned anywhere in the feminist blogosphere, perhaps because it fell into obscurity shortly after its publication in 1990 or so, and perhaps because Tavris is a bit too mild (not particularly revolutionary.)

    However, to derail the topic completely for a moment: I like Tavris a lot because she is a somewhat rare creature: an outspoken Feminist who also identifies as a Skeptic. I had high hopes the knob-fest that is the Skeptical “Movement” (Bowel?) might realize that they were way too male dominated and ask her or someone like her to get up front and speak for a change, but then since they seem to be way too busy enjoying their pornified annual convention in Las Fucking Vegas of all places, I can’t be all too surprised that they instead decided to install Nadine “We Stand on our First Amendment Rights” Goddamn Strossen as the token female figurehead or whatever capacity/title/token she is holding to justify their misogyny. Huge fan as I am of Dawkins, profoundly affected in my pseudo-religious youthful upbringing (saved, as it were) by Sagan, long-time supporter of Randi’s work as I have been – I’m beyond pissed off about this. I refuse to support that pornified sausage-fest any longer until they figure out that exposing the logical fallacies and destructive effects of religious and mystical thinking on human society while enthusiastically supporting the objectification of women is really deserving of much stronger language that this, but I should really shut up now: DUMB.

    Anyway, yeah, my point was definitely to inject Woman on the Edge of Time into the Firestone discussion, and Twisty, that is *not* to derail the conversation into what rightly belongs in the Sci-Fi thread:

    A) The book is arguably not Science Fiction to begin with, but that nitpicking shit *definitely* belongs in the other thread, and I don’t care to participate, either. Have at it, if you like.)

    B) I’m not trying to start a discussion on how Marge Piercy (or Le Guin, or Atwood, et al) are way cooler than @sexist_knob(gibson, stephenson, [barf]heinlein…) or not… I merely meant to suggest that I think it’s a fantastic book to begin with, and worthy of mention since it is so clearly directly built upon the foundation of ideas laid down by Firestone.

  122. kiki

    As for artificial wombs, that’s just crazytalk. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Never say never, Hedonistic Pleasureseeker. I can’t link here, but if you put artificial uterus in Google you get links to reputable research (and a lot of nervous lawyers for some reason). Probably not in our lifetimes, but I’d say within the next 200 years at most (if we last that long).

    A great deal of the research surrounding things such as “artificial wombs” is supported by men who wish to supplant women as the sole means of reproduction. It seems much more likely that they will be used as just another tool of the patriarchy than as a liberator of women.

    On another forum a man not long ago was lamenting that he had to come from “a cunt” and that he looked forward to the days when there are artificial wombs that will only create boys, born of technology.

  123. jnthnu

    I might strongly suggest that y’all read Marge Piercy’s “Woman on the Edge of Time”. (Add it to the virtual non-syllabus.) I think she did a fantastic job of taking Firestone (ideas put forth in The Dialectic of Sex, as well wrapping it in the topic of Firestone’s experience of mental {illness, institutions} from Airless Spaces) and coming up with a wonderful, amazing work of fiction.

    I have absolutely no desire to derail the topic into what rightly belongs on the Sci Fi thread, I just think Woman on the Edge of Time was perfect for me to have read first before delving into Firestone’s arguments. Having something of a vision (admittedly, one person’s imagination and I am not suggesting that one should view Firestone’s revolutionary ideas merely through the lens of Percy’s storytelling.)

    Some of Firestone’s core concepts surrounding Old White Dudes’ Notions (I wasn’t going to be so put off by Marx and Engels as Freud – I think I might have seriously choked on that shit, if I wasn’t throughly Ready To Listen) and particularly the dismantling of the Nuclear Family, and /especially/ that incest taboo thing (but I don’t think we want to get on that topic just yet; it’s later in the ‘course’, I think) can be rather large pills to swallow, especially with her admittedly heavily academic-yet-bereft-of-{foot,end}notes style. Piercy’s story just helped immensely for me to open up to Firestone, and this was before I saw you mention her, Twisty, so I’m proud to say I was at largely Already Down With That Shit before we got here.

    (I tried to post previously and went off on an enourmous tangent about Carol Tavris, James Randi, and Thee Skeptical Bowel Movement, and it got rightfully spamulated, but I don’t write often enough, so I’m gonna stick that shit over on my own blog.)

  124. jrav

    BubbasNightmare – I think it’s dangerous to assume that women are capable of unconditional love. First of all, it adds yet again to the mystical nature of womanhood and motherhood, i.e. that women have something that men don’t. I understand what Firestone is saying, but I just wanted to point out that little tidbit. I don’t think unconditional love is what the point is here.

    Also, what I think is most important about the family that has been discussed, is tied into the idea of “unconditional love.” Unconditional love is usually referred to as in the relationship between mother and child. This is not to say that mothers do not love their children; however, I don’t really believe unconditional love exists. Thus, when mothers harm their children or kill them, the mothers become monsters because they do not fit the idea of mothers who love their children unconditionally, which is the problem. Instead of criticizing mothers more, we need to look at the culture that creates such mothers. Although, as has been discussed already, I don’t know that the commune-style life is ideal, but at the same time, I think that it is beneficial to increase discussion as to changes to the current state of the family.

    I don’t have much to add at the moment as I am working on thesis and have only read the first chapter. I hope the conversation continues in the next few weeks.

  125. hedonistic

    Chez moi this thing called “unconditional love” is for infants and cats only. Every other relationship gets a cost-benefit analysis.

  126. amanda w

    It seems much more likely that they will be used as just another tool of the patriarchy than as a liberator of women.

    Most if not all modern new developments (technological or otherwise) that have great potential to free us from patriarchy end up being used as yet another oppressive tool of the patriarchy.

    Even most if not all of the things that the feminists of the three-quarters-century fought for, in my observation, have been turned around by the patriarchy to continue to keep us in our place: birth control, for instance (when they aren’t fighting to take it away from us) is viewed by patriarchy not as a way to free women from their biological constraints but a way to free men from any responsibility they might face as a result of women: it keeps men from having to deal with sacrifices to their careers or livelihood, whether in the form of caring for a child, paying child support or anything else, so that they are freer to use us for sexual pleasure and domination without any “punishment.” But when it comes to women’s careers and livelihood — well, of course it is Bad and Selfish and Wrong for a woman to seek an abortion, or Plan B, or what have you, so that she needn’t give up her hard-fought-for place in life.

    It’s frustrating and despair inducing, sometimes, as a part of the younger generation, to see how developments that were a step forward for women have been employed by patriarchy to force us at least a half-step back. They will fight, and fight, and fight to keep us from being successful.

  127. vera

    I’m gonna have to read this book twice, because there’s so much in it. I’m thinking of creating a glossary of SF quotes.

    Yes, her anthropology is flawed, and there are many cringe-worthy moments in chapter 5 (on racism).

    But there’s a gem in every chapter:

    Marx and Freud were both onto something but were so blinded by their own misogyny that they missed the main point.
    “The fifty-year ridicule”–If those four words were all she wrote in chapter 2, it would be enough.
    Segregating children from the adult world and retarding their development is not just a bad idea, it’s oppression that springs from the same source as women’s oppression.
    The names of courageous radical women like Alice Paul should be as familiar as Thomas Jefferson’s or Martin Luther King’s, yet they are all but forgotten.

    That’s just a sampling. B. Dagger Lee, I’d love to see your edition. An updated, revised, and annotated Firestone would be just the thing for these times of ours. It could be an eBook. Would SF go for it?

  128. vera

    A great deal of the research surrounding things such as “artificial wombs” is supported by men who wish to supplant women as the sole means of reproduction. It seems much more likely that they will be used as just another tool of the patriarchy than as a liberator of women.

    (Shudder) Exactly; this is the nightmare, and why Firestone asserts that women must seize the means of reproduction.

  129. Ginger Mayerson

    A great deal of the research surrounding things such as “artificial wombs” is supported by men who wish to supplant women as the sole means of reproduction. It seems much more likely that they will be used as just another tool of the patriarchy than as a liberator of women.

    Kiki, that’s a possibility and a risk, yes. But almost any technological advance can be misused. Not that medical ethicists have much impact, but the fact that the field exists says to me that the problem is at least recognized.

    And as far as technology being used to create more boys than girls: the future is now. I don’t have any hard data on hand and can’t link, but women have been aborting female fetuses since amniocentesis became widely available. I understand this is more prevalent in Asia, but I apologize for my lack of hard data or links. Amniocentesis is an example of a good technology being used badly in certain cases.

    Back to Firestone, I have these thoughts: 1) she had a vision and the guts to put it out there; 2) a syllabus would be nice (for me). It’s Twisty’s show, but because I read the whole book with more care than I usually read things, (I read a lot of comic books and history) I’d like to spend some time on and read the comments on each chapter in a more focused way. I know Twisty is busy, but her intro to the first chapter got us off to a good start. I kind of feel like we’ve wandered a little. But this is not my blog, so I leave it there.

  130. Tigs

    One barb I would like to throw in the mix is the ever-present problem of the utopia, our impending death.
    Human mortality, I assert, is a prime motivator for the human race. This crisis underpins the entire canon (admittedly the canon of the patriarchy, but it is not resolved in radical texts either) of political and philosophical thought. In attempts to control that which is inherently uncontrollable we see manifestations in the construction of hierarchies wherever they can be created— just as earlier posts alluded to in stating that racism has its roots in sexism, both can be understood as manifestations of the attempt to conquer nature.
    Shulie addresses this crisis through the feminine body, and attempts to conquer nature through the replacement of the female body with technology seem to me dangerous in that this vision of utopia still leaves the ultimate crisis of our death unsolved.
    I don’t mean to sound Heideggerian, in this, rather I reject a cult of death as paramount patriarchy. Instead I think that women, being the socially-constructed embodiment of nature, might in radical resistance have the socially-constructed consciousness to envision an alternative utopia on different grounds.
    I’m not sure Firestone isn’t making the same mistake as M&E in not digging deep enough; to attempt to resolve the crisis by removing the problem of the woman’s body seems to me to reproduce the patriarchy within the self.

  131. BubbasNightmare

    It’d be so edifying to see some sort of agenda on how the feminist revolution would happen, Firestone-style. I’m afraid I’m not that forward-thinking a person, but I will suggest Major Step The First (which I mentioned earlier in this thread):

    #1 Teach those you love the precepts that Firestone expounds, and urge them to teach those they love in turn.

    After that, some other (vague) steps:

    Urge educators to follow #1.
    Live what you preach. (i.e., reject the nuclear family)
    Read. Read. Read. And urge those you love to do the same.
    Write. Write. Write. Twisty (and others) provides an absolutely invaluable outlet.
    Don’t ever let anyone shut you up.
    Remember what separates you from the Patriarchy, and keep it dear.

    Remember some of the truths about revolution:
    –revolutions only succeed when they occur during a power vacuum
    –revolutions only succeed when they start at the grass-roots level
    –an educated revolutionary is a dangerous revolutionary

  132. Octogalore

    Thebewilderness said “We were all children, so I think we have the right to declaim that which we have personal knowledge of.”

    Of course, talking about what parents can do better is anyone’s game, but when it comes to supplanting the role of parents, I think one needs to have had some experience in the role to discuss its elimination. It’s the difference between critiquing how something can be improved and radically replacing it. To me, and I’m willing to grant this may be only MHO, I’d be more convinced if I heard an actual parent discuss sharing the role with a commune. Thirty posts down, and I still haven’t heard that.

    Ginger Mayerson said (in referring to HP’s comment “As for artificial wombs, that’s just crazytalk. Ain’t gonna happen.”) “Never say never, Hedonistic Pleasureseeker. .. Remember, in vitro fertilization, most of the major organ transplants, and the genetic cures we now have were never gonna happen either.”

    But, these latter discoveries were to fix or improve something that pretty indisputably needed fixing or improving. We’d have to have a critical mass believing that the non-artificial womb situation needs fixing or improving to make the analogy valid, and I agree with “ain’t gonna happen.”

    TP said “The revolution starts, as a first step, with destroying white men as we think of them and replacing them with human beings with male genitals who have no fear of the 99% of their essential selves that is identical with women.”

    That would be great.

    But what’s the first STEP? I know I’m annoyingly literal, but what you’ve suggested is the end goal, not the step. My feeling is that we need to be nitty gritty about this and think about, OK, here’s the target, what do we actually DO first?

    Teresawymore said “I like what you’re saying about children and motherhood, but I’ll go further and wonder why I don’t see in SF so far (I’m not finished) the true radical. She seems to have bought into the capitalistic-patriarchal paradigm’s value system, and her contributions to the “revolution” amount to untenable social and technological systems to accommodate those values. But why not rethink the paradigm? SF would have us outsource childbearing in order for us to have economic parity, but why shouldn’t we have economic parity along with childbearing? Why make it so every adult must serve as a cog in some corporate machine, make a covenant with X number of partners, or surrender their economic independence.”

    Yay! I completely agree, you’ve put this very eloquently. Why do we need to outsource to solve the problem? You’re right: economic parity along with childbearing is the more realistic and better solution. My hat, at least, is off.

  133. curiousgyrl

    octagalore;

    I cant speak about the collective, or parenthood, but my brother and I did grow up raised by the same four parents. each couple which made up half of our parental quadrad claimed they didn’t like sharing, but I’d like to point out thatthey claimed it from the bar, with a martini, every other weekend while us kids trotted down the street.

    Having seen one half of this foursome have a second, more traditional, family made up of one child and two parents (thus maintaining the same kid to grown-up ratio but shrinking down) its clear to me that up to some unknown limit, more is indeed merrier in the parent/child relationship.

  134. curtis

    On what Urban said I have also observed, at least something similar. Working at a business for 12 years, with all of us adult employees regularly interacting and conversing with the bosses home-schooled children, in watching them grow up I saw that they were much more confident and self-assured, assertive and independent minded, than I have otherwise seen in children or had experienced myself. It was essentially the first example I have ever seen of something like the right way to do the child-raising thing. Also they expressed gender in a much more neutral, girls can do anything boys can do and vice-versa kind of way, which I thought was very cool.

    Octagalore:

    I can’t really speak very well to the point until my mom loans me the book next week, having only read chapter one. Adults being sexual with children does sound very creepy to me. But adults being far more open and honest about sexuality and relationships, as children are ready for it, that I think we need a lot more of.

    I am not sure that we really need to totally abolish the nuclear family, primary caregiver role, so much as add to it a lot more caring community involvement and sharing of the burden, especially as a child gets older and is past the initial primary parent bonding stage. At least as an incremental step towards real liberation and equality, since I think that without the patriarchal baggage it may be that a child could get the bonding needs met by both male and female, and perhaps several of both. One major current obstacle is that so much of the activity we engage in is so narrowly segregated by age group, interest and gender that much of our ability to even live in community has been lost.

    I think I could agree with you that a total communal structure with no primary parental role may simply be unworkable in todays society. But as it is now in the nuclear family structure children are the one group in america which have virtually no recognition as humans under the law, only as the property of parents. for example the HPV vaccine parents rights battle currently being fought in Tx, where the rights and welfare of the children are at best secondary to the parents property rights. This will probably continue as long as primary parents have sole rights and responsibility for caring for children. This also perpetuates child abuse due to the nuclear families ability to keep such behavior secret. While I’m not so sure about the right way to change it, we desperately need to if we are to have any future at all.

    btw, long time lurker, second time poster, and I did read the FAQs, couldn’t quite make it through the s.c.u.m. manifesto though. I feel like I have been a blamer for a very long time and this blog is helping me to clarify just exactly what it is that I am blaming, thanks Twisty!

  135. Ginger Mayerson

    Ginger Mayerson said (in referring to HP’s comment “As for artificial wombs, that’s just crazytalk. Ain’t gonna happen.”) “Never say never, Hedonistic Pleasureseeker. .. Remember, in vitro fertilization, most of the major organ transplants, and the genetic cures we now have were never gonna happen either.”

    But, these latter discoveries were to fix or improve something that pretty indisputably needed fixing or improving. We’d have to have a critical mass believing that the non-artificial womb situation needs fixing or improving to make the analogy valid, and I agree with “ain’t gonna happen.”

    Hi Octogalore. Most of the pregnancy and delivery stories I hear are so horrible, it sounds like human gestation has been at critical mass for a while and it’s well nigh high time for artificial wombs. This might have something to do with male doctors pushing aside midwives, but if there were technology for artificial wombs, I say use it. It’s got to beat a c-section all to hell.

    If reproduction were accomplished through artificial wombs, I think I could take more of an interest in other people’s children because of the reduced territoriality and possession mania some people have about their kids. I might even have one of my own. And it would be so fabulous, there would be a waiting list to change its diaper. Just kidding.

    Seriously though, I think kids are interesting. I taught for a while, the youngest age was around 8 or 9 and I actually liked kids more when I was with them five days a week than when I’m not around them so much. They’re interesting and cool, especially when they feel safe enough to talk, just talk human to human, to an adult, which was seldom, but worth the wait when it happened.

    Gloria Steinem once mentioned somewhere that mothers on AFDC should be allowed to live in communal groups so the child care, food, and other resources could be shared. Whether she got that idea from SF or not, I’ve always loved that idea, but AFDC mothers must be punished, so I doubt this idea could ever happen (and I’m the never say never girl). The rules for AFDC are stupid and punitive.

  136. Jezebella

    Octogalore, you said:

    “Of course, talking about what parents can do better is anyone’s game, but when it comes to supplanting the role of parents, I think one needs to have had some experience in the role to discuss its elimination. It’s the difference between critiquing how something can be improved and radically replacing it. To me, and I’m willing to grant this may be only MHO, I’d be more convinced if I heard an actual parent discuss sharing the role with a commune. Thirty posts down, and I still haven’t heard that.”

    I think the kind of person who would be willing to raise a child communally may also be the kind of person who has decided not to have children. Personally, I don’t have kids because I just don’t want to be the one and only sole source of another human being’s health and happiness. It’s just too much to take on. I have no inclination to trust any man to really take on his fair share of the parenting, so I’m thoroughly convinced that when it came down to it, I would be the only person ultimately responsible for any child of mine.

    On the other hand, if I believed that I wouldn’t be in it alone, that my child would have other sources of health and happiness and caregiving at all times, other people thoroughly committed to parenting, that it wouldn’t be a second full-time job on top of everything else I do, that I could have afforded to be a parent, I can say for sure that I would have made different reproductive choices.

    Telling non-parents that we don’t have the right to propose the elimination of parenting AS WE KNOW IT is absurd, because I, for one, have eliminated parenting from my own life because parenting, AS WE KNOW IT, is not for me.

    Am I being clear? My willingness to, in theory, relinquish total control over my own biological child and share parenting with others, makes me the kind of person who doesn’t have children, by choice. I think it’s important to consider the fact that there are people who choose NOT to be parents, and to consider their reasons for it, and their opinions about parenting.

  137. Maia

    Back and loving the discussion.

    Octogalore – you ask for an actual parent to stand up and say that communal parenting is the way to go.

    For me, personally, given the relationship that I have in fact developed with my daughter and the expectations I had even before her birth – no, I wouldn’t want her raised by a community of parents where I had no more say than anybody else. I wouldn’t want her raised by her bioloigcal father either, or anyone at all but me. As somebody or other put it up-thread, by now, for better or worse, the two of us own each other.

    But.

    I am pretty sure that if I had given birth to her fully expecting that her “family” would be a bunch of people of which I would be only one, then I think my view would be different. After all, if fathers can have equal input with mothers, then why can’t a bunch of other “parents” have a similar relationship?

    I just spent a weekend away with a big group of friends and my daughter was the only child there – everyone talked and joked with her, and played with her, and helped look after her and everyone loved it, including me. That’s kind of how I envisage the Firestonian household, except that my role as biological mother would be of less significance in the sense that I would have to demonstrate and earn love by my actions rather than having it assumed by right of biology.

    As I’ve said before, I am a fan of natural pregnancy and childbirth. I found it a powerful experience that, while in some ways difficult, was worth the horrors. I don’t see why a person who loves to make babies should have to look after all the babies she makes – wow, if I could do it again I would, and only the thought of having to look after a second child would slow me down. Why not make childbirthing a vocation separate from childrearing? Seems at least as plausible an idea as a whole load of artificial wombs.

    And then, I’m also a fan of “natural” parenting (breastfeeding, slingwearing, co-sleeping, blah-blah) but none of that requires that the biological mother should be the primary caregiver. Even breastfeeding can be shared, and hormone treatment can (if not now, then soon – given the right research funding) get milk production going even if you haven’t actually had a baby, and indeed even if you are a man.

    Finally – sex with kids. My own take on this is that in the utopia, power and sex and genitals are finally divorecd. Genital sexual contact is replaced by total sensual contact. Powerplay that often amounts to or borders on rape is replaced by loveplay that involves loving, consensual physical contact which may or may not involve genitals and orgasms. Kids are allowed to experiment. People do not mix power up with sex – instead, equality and consent and mutual enjoyment are eroticised. Hence, the idea of rape or near-rape, the idea of sexual abuse, the idea of getting a kick out of making someone do something that they don’t *really* want to do – these ideas just don’t appeal. Kids are sufficiently mature to know when they are being messed with and to know what they can do about it – and sufficiently powerful and free that they can take steps if anyone breaks the rules. All this means that children can safely participate in loveplay (or not, if they prefer) rather than being relegated to the “too young” corner. My feeling is that most kids would not be terribly interested in joining in prior to their own sexual awakening – and that afterwards, because they are allowed to grow up when they are ready rather than waiting until their parents are ready to let them go, they will be “adult” enough to make wise decisions and handle any fallout.

  138. Maia

    I just wrote a really long comment and got spamulated.

    In the meantime – I agree with Jezebella. Plus, I *am* a parent and even I could really approve of communal parenting. I would do it in a heartbeat, even though the bond I have already formed with my existing child means that I couldn’t “give her up” to a communal family so easily. Too late! For better or worse, we own each other now.

  139. finnsmotel

    Tigs said:

    “One barb I would like to throw in the mix is the ever-present problem of the utopia, our impending death.

    “Human mortality, I assert, is a prime motivator for the human race.”

    I agree 100%.

    It’s the one true shared cultural experience among all humans. Woman, man, black, white, rich, poor, you name it, no one here gets out alive.

    My feeling on it is that mortality is what drives the revolutionary to seek change within their own lifetime, rather than accept the speed of evolution.

  140. Catherine Martell

    vera says: “I’m gonna have to read this book twice, because there’s so much in it. I’m thinking of creating a glossary of SF quotes.”

    Great idea. May I suggest, for a start, improving matters here?
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Shulamith_Firestone

    I plan to get on to it as soon as I get a chance to read the book again. If I remember rightly, the “shitting a pumpkin” crack is actually recorded speech in TDoS, rather than a direct quote. But I could be wrong. It’s a nice line in either eventuality.

  141. Octogalore

    Bubbas Nightmare – some interesting proposals. I think teaching and reading are important too. Although, people we love are kind of a captive audience. Mobilizing educators is a great idea. “Beyond Dolls and Guns” had some interesting thoughts about how to do this.

    Ginger Mayerson – I’m not sure that you’d find a large percentage of the folks with the lurid pregnancy stories who wouldn’t want to have had that experience. I am not someone who thought I’d get a lot out of something that a cow can do, but watching that heartbeat happening inside was pretty neat. Teresawymore had a good point, why throw out the baby(bearing) with the bathwater? And, as my interest is primarily with the issue of implementation, the bottom line is it just wouldn’t work.

    I agree, Steinem’s idea re AFDC was a good one.

    Jezebella, I agree that “the kind of person who would be willing to raise a child communally may also be the kind of person who has decided not to have children.” And I’m not telling non-parents they don’t have “right” to propose elimination of parenting as we know it, but I’m saying their opinions won’t matter as much *in practice* and so to me aren’t as meaningful. Whenever you’re looking to eliminate or change something, the people who stand to be most immediately affected are the ones whose opinions are critical to the determination of feasibility. If you were going to change the rules for the police department, for example, the opinions of existing police officers would be more relevant than those of potential future ones to whether the rule change would ever actually take place.

    And in this particular scenario, fair or not, your “willingness to, in theory, relinquish total control over my own biological child and share parenting with others” is less critical than existing parents’ likely reaction of “over my dead body” to the commune idea. Because the latter reaction will prevent it from happening more effectively than the former would cause it to happen.

  142. diotima

    I have read the first chapter and have not had time to go through all the comments – so this may be repeating former posts.

    What’s most remarkable to me is that Shulamith Firestone takes women out of the “defined by nature and biology” category that we’re normally relegated to and makes us part of history. She may not be the first feminist to do so, but I’ve never heard it expressed so strongly that we can be actors in history. I’ve heard feminism described before as a “movement against nature” as if that was proof of its futility, when actually that is one major thing it has going for it as a social movement – nationalism, socialism, capitalism are all very influential ideas based on requiring people to suppress human nature and self-interest.

    It’s also remarkable to have realised in 1970 that the sex class wouldn’t be dissolved “by a few reforms or the full integration of women into the work force”, as -surprise!- it hasn’t. However, I have to agree with previous posters that alternative means of reproduction are more likely to aid the patriarchy than produce a post-patriarchal utopia, given that men have historically tried to limit us to a solely reproductive role. I suppose this is a problem with the idea of dialectic itself: in the post-patriarchal utopia, won’t history just keep right on happening?

  143. Maia

    Octogalore – what if we aren’t talking about changing the rules, but changing the options?

    You wouldn’t expect that only married people should be taken seriously on whether gay people should be allowed to get married, so why should only nuclear parents get to be taken seriously on the question whether non-nuclear parenting could be accepted?

    In this imaginary world, those who want to biologically reproduce and maintain the nuclear family can still do so, but those who want to do things differently are also allowed to do so – to artificially reproduce and/or rear children as part of a commune, with surrogate motherhood and adoption being more widely available and practiced.

    (As I suggested in my spamulated comment, people who want to bear and deliver children could find pleasure in doing that without having to then take care of the offspring, and for some of us that might be an attractive vocation.)

  144. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    If someone would be happy to spawn on my behalf I’ll take them all when they’re teenagers! My uterus is hostile territory and the endiapered ones drive me to drink. However, for some reason I’m great with kids 13+. I don’t know why, but this is one way communal parenting could work.

    I used to have this great idea about what do do with problem teenagers: Swap them with a teen in another household! Have you ever noticed how good teens are with OTHER people’s parents? But this idea could also lend itself to a communal parenting situation once parents set their possessive egoes aside and realize that perhaps there are some things they shouldn’t try to teach their kids themselves, such as how to drive, or how to make a moral decision about a romantic problem at school.

  145. BubbasNightmare

    Hedonistic–

    Remember the old saying: “It takes a village to raise a child”?

  146. TP

    My daughter is being raised by us, her daycare center, and her grandparents. Everywhere she goes, she’s at home.

    I can’t agree with sexualizing children. I think that our culture is vastly, unnaturally oversexed because of the patriarchal conditioning that we are implanted with in adolescence. Sexuality should be a stage of life, not an entire life. It’s the pathology of patriarchy that makes us want to inflict it on children, while thinking we are freeing them from an oppression they really don’t feel. And I mean children who are prepubescent, of course. It’s kind of vague term these days, children.

    The first steps to making men become humans will probably start in adolescent behavioral imprinting. I’ve been joking that we need pubic rites all my life, but I’m also serious about the idea.

    I have to admit that I can see little or no downside to criminalizing pornography. And I do mean on a serious, sex-crime level. It imprints men with pathologies that are extremely hard to erase once in place.

    So there’s my suggestion for a very first step in a feminist revolution: Make producing and reproducing pornography a sex crime no worse than pedophilia or rape.

    I do hope it’s OK for a man to make suggestions like this on a feminist blog. It’s just one idea, but one that is born of my own inner paradoxes and problems.

    I know that many people will be quick to say that criminalizing pornography will not eliminate it. But I’m fine with criminalizing, because it will at least stem the tide of constant sexual exaggeration we’re swimming in every day, and make it much more difficult to convince women that it is empowering, not demeaning. It will always exist somehow, but the less of it there is, the happier I will be.

  147. Sasha

    This is all over. I’m late to the thread as I was laboring on the keyboard of the oppressor.

    I read this book when it first came out, carried it around for study for about three years. It wore out. It felt like I wasn’t alone for a bit.

    It is fascinating reading it again as if it were fresh. She seems as young as I felt then. But profound and insightful, if flawed. I am surprised a how well it holds up.

    As for race or any other ism being “built on the sexual” but I do know that the sexual is the only one that is universal and pervasive. In that sense it must serve as a model for everything else, if only because the addiction to control that is developed seems to carry over into control over every damn thing possible.

    Twisty I, too, missed the whole oppressed kid thing back when. In truth I was probably too self-centered to get past myself. Thank you for that connection with Greer’s observation. And while I believe that the oppression of kids and all those other category of “others” is important, I still believe that the basic patriarchial arrangement is one built around the oppression and control of women (of all ages). So forgive me if I’m weary of the extensive discussion of the child and race and other things here.

    I am a sociologist by disposition and training. Even more than back in the dark ages of my first reading I fault Firestone for her dependence on psychology, especially Freudian imagry. I understand that is a tool that helped her get to the point of this book, but I think it neglects the broader social/sociological analyses and solutions. (TrespassersW said something along these lines earlier in the thread.) I keep looking for that mash of Marx and Somebody Else — sociology isn’t sufficiently unidimensional for me to come up with some clever parallelism.

    Jokerine LeGuin’s The Disposessed copyright date is 1974. Shulamith came first. And everybody should read Herland. I’d love some virtual ice cream.

    I have to post this now even though I’m only to last night on the comments because I can’t keep up. I hope I have something more substantial to say when I return.

  148. J

    I think it’s kind of funny that people have at least a mild apprehensiveness about the thought of children being sexual beings, when in the 1950s the Kinsey Reports showed pretty candidly that children are in fact from a very young age engaged with sexual stimulation.

    If, to go with the Freudian element of the book and this thread, we think about it, our whole (at least external) bodies are sensitive to stimulation in the form of pleasure. It’s only after developing a certain sense of what is acceptable pleasure that we can think of an orgasm as the ultimate physical pleasure, or that there even is one. A contemporary theory built around this is Slavoj Zizek’s argument that the Super-Ego is not merely a giant “NO!” to desire, but also a command to enjoy and take pleasure, and in this sense along very determined lines.

    I think the problem with how children are “sexualized” anymore is that this sexualization is really an expansion of the above mentioned Super-Ego command to enjoy. In otherwords, children are sexualized in a way predicated, as one commentator suggested, upon patriarchal assumptions and commands regarding sexual pleasure.

  149. Twisty

    I think the problem with how children are “sexualized” anymore is that this sexualization is really an expansion of the above mentioned Super-Ego command to enjoy. In otherwords, children are sexualized in a way predicated, as one commentator suggested, upon patriarchal assumptions and commands regarding sexual pleasure.

    J is on fire. You go, girl! Or boy.

  150. Sasha

    BDL, while I agree that the internet has the potential for flattening access to others and a publishing venue, there is still a strong patriarchial inclination not intrinsic in the technology but bound into the culture of the internet. And what isn’t built into the system is trained into young ladies who still are steered away from ‘technical’ things. And while women can, in fact, increasingly insist on a presence, they are still pre-trained not to. Training which is more difficult to overcome that it might appear.

    This isn’t the place to get into the “Hello Kitty!” internet and the pervasive exposure to pornography that women (and children) must endure as a price of admittance. It is enough to say that Firestone’s comments on the eroticism in the culture barely hinted at what we find in and around the internet.

    On using science. The notion of taking science and using it is most attractive. Firestone isn’t the first to have noticed the power of science/knowledge/information. After all The Bad Guys are trying like hell to control the definition of all things scientific, what is appropriate science, when life begins, and what we should spend money on. Which draws a direct line back from science to economic power. Sex and class, over and over again. For those who are cynical about the potential of science, let’s see what it can do in its pure form, free and funded.

    And Twisty, I neglected to thank you for this. For just a moment or two I feel less isolated. It’s good.

    It’s a shame we can’t do a Firestone message board. The trolls would go insane.

  151. J

    Thanks, Twisty. I hope that it didn’t get lost in my point that I’m saying that children are, in fact, sexual beings, and that this is problematic to the extent that it (the sexual activity of children) is at once limited and encouraged by, and because of that for the patriarchy.

  152. TP

    J is so right. A child should be free to indulge sensual feelings without repression, but the idea I fear is adults imposing their very different sexual feelings on children who don’t have the same hormonal impetus.

    I also fear the selfish nature of children. Won’t they dominate each other and create a new and innocent patriarchy from scratch without any cues from anything other than self absorption and differences in strength?

  153. J

    TP, that problem (adult – children) is a non-problem in a post-patriarchal society. I mean, the idea that adults have very different sexual feelings from children is, no offense, conditioned by the patriarchy. Not only that, but having any authority or desire to take sexual advantage of another, especially a perhaps unwitting child, is also a problem of patriarchal sexual relations.

    I feel a little less equipped to say anything remotely definitive about children being selfish, but my bet is, to hark back to the psychoanalytic path we’ve begun to trek, that this selfishness is too a product of the process of forming one’s subjectivity in a patriarchal environment. In other words, the majority of selfish behavior in children may come from the way (exposed to children) adults relate among one another and with children. If that’s the case, then in it again is a non-problem in a truly post-patriarchal society.

  154. Sasha

    And, TP, isn’t part of Firestone’s thesis that children reared in non-patriarchy, whatever that looks like, will not of necessity engage in relationships based on dominance and power?

  155. Octogalore

    Maia said “I am pretty sure that if I had given birth to her fully expecting that her “family” would be a bunch of people of which I would be only one, then I think my view would be different. After all, if fathers can have equal input with mothers, then why can’t a bunch of other “parents” have a similar relationship?
    I just spent a weekend away with a big group of friends and my daughter was the only child there – everyone talked and joked with her, and played with her, and helped look after her and everyone loved it, including me. That’s kind of how I envisage the Firestonian household…”

    Maia – interesting perspective. I just think that for you or anyone give birth expecting that scenario, it would have to be more common. And I don’t think there’s much demand. Otherwise, more people who are theoretically open to it would be doing it. I do agree that the weekend you describe sounds like the kind of situation most children, and parents, could really benefit from. Maybe having more community support built into family life would be a way to integrate the Firestonian theme with the reality that most women or parents are unlikely to emerge from pregnancy and bonding with an infant wanting to incorporate a commune.

    Like what TP says: “My daughter is being raised by us, her daycare center, and her grandparents. Everywhere she goes, she’s at home.” My daughter has a similar situation, and I think it’s great.

    Maia said: “Finally – sex with kids. My own take on this is that in the utopia, power and sex and genitals are finally divorced. Genital sexual contact is replaced by total sensual contact. Powerplay that often amounts to or borders on rape is replaced by loveplay that involves loving, consensual physical contact which may or may not involve genitals and orgasms. Kids are allowed to experiment….. Kids are sufficiently mature to know when they are being messed with and to know what they can do about it – and sufficiently powerful and free that they can take steps if anyone breaks the rules.”

    This presumes a real utopia. We’re dealing with human beings here. In not criminalizing incest or sexual activity with children, there’s substantial risk, even if children were as sexually mature as SF posits (about which I’m quite skeptical). Kids are NOT sufficiently mature to know when they are being messed with.

    TP said “I also fear the selfish nature of children. Won’t they dominate each other and create a new and innocent patriarchy from scratch without any cues from anything other than self absorption and differences in strength?”

    I fear this too.

    Maia said: “You wouldn’t expect that only married people should be taken seriously on whether gay people should be allowed to get married, so why should only nuclear parents get to be taken seriously on the question whether non-nuclear parenting could be accepted?”

    My point isn’t that only nuclear parents SHOULD be taken seriously, it’s that they currently have more votes. I mean, are there non-nuclear parents now? It’s the folks with the most to lose, or to perceive to lose, who’ll affect whether this change happens. I think you have to win over the people with most at stake in a particular change to make that change happen.

    That’s why the gay marriage analogy isn’t a good one. The people with most at stake there are folks who cannot get married under straight-marriage laws. So, obviously they’re the ones who are going to be most vocal and who are going to form the base for supporting the change. Similarly, current or soon-to-be nuclear parents are the ones you’d have to convince to segue to the commune sitch, and I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

    TP said “I have to admit that I can see little or no downside to criminalizing pornography. And I do mean on a serious, sex-crime level. It imprints men with pathologies that are extremely hard to erase once in place. So there’s my suggestion for a very first step in a feminist revolution: Make producing and reproducing pornography a sex crime no worse than pedophilia or rape.”

    I agree that’s a concrete step and do think it’s great for a man to make suggestions on a feminist blog. This particular one is one that many female feminists have made. I personally don’t agree with it. Do you have research supporting the “imprinting men with pathologies” analysis? Also, what about sex workers who are female? Criminalizing pornography would drive them and their livelihood into a dangerous and difficult place. Is your theory that, without the evil lure of porn, these women would pick up, get their degrees, and become teachers or well-off feminist bloggers? Not all of them have that privilege. I’m not sure punishing women for men’s alleged proneness to pathology is the best way to go here.

  156. Praxis

    Fascinating discussion on one of my favorite works of feminist theory.

    She was the first, as far as I know, to suggest the possibility of a historical materialist feminism.

    Where I differ from SF is that rather than seeking to place either gendered-class or productive-class as fundamental and basis for the other I look to the idea Marx had (but didn’t follow up on) of production and social reproduction as the basic functions of society. From my view the logical priority of one over the other is unnecessary and untenable from a historical materialist framework. They are co-equally foundational as they are both equally fundamental features of society. Marx pursued oppression on the basis of productive-class but the path, in part first suggested by SF’s groundbreaking analysis, remains open for analyzing gendered-class oppression on the basis of social reproduction (and modes of social reproduction ala modes of production) and I think that SF’s groundbreaking work is a great jumping off point for that.

  157. Antelope

    There are, or anyway were, a lot of cultures where kids are very sexual with one another when they’re pre-pubescent, starting at 6 or 7, then when puberty strikes they have a pretty strict division of the sexes, with nothing but occasional mockery between them. This lasts for however-many years, depending on the culture, and then they start courting.

    This idea doesn’t bother me much because it sounds, in what I’ve read and heard about it, like the little kids treat one another pretty much as equals. It might be more or a form of imitating grown-ups than seeking real pleasure, but if it works to de-mystify sex, or prevent the crazy mystifcation of it we have in our culture from starting in the first place, terrific.

    But kids and grown-ups? No. It’s absolutely true that kids can and should have a lot more respect and a lot more autonomy than they get, and they will become a lot more mature surprisingly fast if we all treat them that way. I just feel really, really strongly that what would still happen in any utopia involving human beings, and what should not happen, is a situation where the kid is having a sensual relationship with someone who is also a role model for adult behavior. No matter how many other models they can look to, that one is going to take on a special, “first among equals” sort of role, and then there’s power-relations in the garden again.

    Doubling-back a little, though, when I get specific about it, do I think there could be more general all around hand-holding, foot rubs, hugging, and even head rubs (mmm, head rubs), without things crossing the line and becoming overly sensual? Yeah, that would be great.

    But it would probably also come with a really strong temptation for us creaky older folks to get a lot more than we give from the limber young folks. Is that okay as long as the kids will get their turn in time?

  158. msxochitl

    I read this blog everyday. This is the first time I’ve posted–hi everyone!

    I absolutely loved the first chapter of SF’s book. I’ve been wondering: Is childbirth another example of a cultural practice that is harmful to women? If boob jobs & starvation diets & high heels are harmful cultural practices (and I believe that they are), doesn’t it seem like childbirth belongs on this list as well? And it seems to me that the arguments by feminist in favor of childbirth are the exact same arguments used by those in favor of the other forms of harmful female cultural practices–it makes me feel better about myself, it makes me feel complete, etc.

  159. msxochitl

    “Most if not all modern new developments (technological or otherwise) that have great potential to free us from patriarchy end up being used as yet another oppressive tool of the patriarchy.”

    This is true. But there are cases where modern technology is more beneficial than harmful to women. If you spend some time in parts of the world where women don’t have access to much modern technology, you’ll see what I mean.

    Talk to women in rural parts of the Global South, observe how much time they spend (either alone or, if they’re rich, with the help of poor women from lower castes) growing and preparing food, keeping the house warm, washing clothes, and boiling water for baths. Ask them how much time they have left in a day after doing the housework. Even when the housework is equally divided among all members of the household (which is rare, but does happen in some places, although the type of housework done still varies according to age and gender), you’re still spending most of your day doing onerous household stuff.

    I’m from the US, living in South Asia, and while I do love it here, I gotta say–all this housework has completely rid me of any romantic notions I may have had about the modern technology-free lifestyle.

    I loved SF’s claim that “natural” does not always mean better. Through the glorification of “natural,” patriarchal thought disguises itself as a lefty, progressive concern for the environment. Scratch the surface of that earth-lovin’ dude’s rhetoric and you see what he really wants is to send us back to the home, because we are so picturesque when we get up at dawn, walk a mile to fetch water, spend hours pounding the grain into flour, and why can’t Western women be all-natural like this?

  160. J

    “I loved SF’s claim that “natural” does not always mean better. Through the glorification of “natural,” patriarchal thought disguises itself as a lefty, progressive concern for the environment. Scratch the surface of that earth-lovin’ dude’s rhetoric and you see what he really wants is to send us back to the home, because we are so picturesque when we get up at dawn, walk a mile to fetch water, spend hours pounding the grain into flour, and why can’t Western women be all-natural like this?”

    Yeah, but this isn’t natural either. The more appropriate word is “traditional.” Natural would mean next to none of this technology stuff we got going on even in hippiest of communes. Sedentary life is really quite unnatural for, well, most animals, including humans. That too has to go. What you have left is not a necessarily easy life, if easy means handed to you on a technological manufactured plate, but a life less encumbered with the tedium of making sedentary life work. It would mean getting by with what the land gave you. IT would also mean that there is no need, no social structure really to make possible a division of labour even based on sex, since each individual has to basically be a jack of all trades to make things work. This is in no way, however, an endorsement of pre-agricultural naturalism. It’s just a point I thought I’d make.

  161. Catherine Martell

    I’m slightly late to the sexualisation debate. But there is a great difference between *sexualising* children and *removing taboos from their own sexual behaviour*. Under the patriarchy, we see a lot of sexualisation of children, i.e. the projection of the desires of an adult on to a child. In Firestone’s view, the child in is a being who has been developmentally retarded by artificial means. She is certainly not arguing that, right now, it would be acceptable for adults to have sex with children.

    Her point is that, if one liberated children and treated them as sentient beings, one ultimate consequence of that (a long way down the line, as she makes clear) might be that they would choose to participate in sexual relationships. It’s one of the bits of the book that sounds most shocking, but bear in mind that she’s not necessarily debating anything much more revolutionary than the age of consent. Currently, the age of consent varies a great deal around the world, from 12 to 21. The implication of this, of course, is that definitions of childhood vary widely – evidence in itself that childhood is a construct.

    Firestone is not, repeat not, advocating paedophilia. In her vision of a post-patriarchal society, the very serious problem of dirty old pervs manipulating and abusing little kids would not exist: first, because the kids would be recognised as small adults with full rights, including the right to say no; second, because unconsensual sex is a patriarchal hate-crime, and the recognition of all human beings as fully sentient and valid would effectively bring that to an end. In a perfect Firestonian society, sexual abuse of children by adults would fall, not rise.

    Disclaimer: these points are philosophical rather than necessarily practical. And personally I’m not sure what I think about full child liberation: it’s definitely one of the most fascinating and challenging aspects of TDoS.

  162. TinaH

    Twisty said: “TinaH, feel free to either relate the Sherri Tepper to the Shulamith or to put a sock in it, girlfriend.”

    You’re right, my bad. I will do a better job minding my manners in the future.

  163. BubbasNightmare

    Octagalore said:
    ‘TP said:
    “I have to admit that I can see little or no downside to criminalizing pornography. And I do mean on a serious, sex-crime level.”‘

    ‘This particular one is one that many female feminists have made. I personally don’t agree with it. Do you have research supporting the “imprinting men with pathologies” analysis? Also, what about sex workers who are female? Criminalizing pornography would drive them and their livelihood into a dangerous and difficult place.’

    Applause. Like so many other human endeavors, you take out of it mostly what you brought to it. I have yet to see an decently objective study that indicates any kind of “pathological imprinting” going on. Exposure of pornography will almost certainly exascerbate pathologies that already exist (k*ddie porn waved under the noses of pedophiles); this sort of activity is already criminalized.

    Be very careful about invoking prohibition where it is not needed. This country has been down that path once, with the ludicrous criminalization of a harmless weed and major-league organized crime. If you want to properly, thoroughly rid a society of bad behaviors, you do it with a societal approach, not a legislative one.

  164. hedonistic

    Whee, I’m in! I thought I was firewalled!

    Something was bugging me during my long commute and I wanted to throw it on the table before the thread dies: Everyone so far is discussing child s*x abuse as though it were exclusively a power problem. Is this because it’s taboo for radfems to bring up anything that falls on the nature side of the nature/nurture debate?

    I have two offenders in my family:

    A) Perv #1 is a skeevy power abuser who makes his moves on teenaged girls.

    B) Perv #2 is sick the way a schizophrenic is sick. He’s attracted to children and is so compulsive about it (like an addict) that, although he’s filled with shame he can’t stop (actually he might be dead now because after an unsuccessful attemt to treat him he disappeared, and it’s taboo to inquire of him at family gatherings).

    My proposal on how to deal with each type is the same (euthanasia, but that’s because I’m a bitch) but I just wanted to point out that although a change in power dynamics will weed out perv #1 (or at least grant teenaged females the agency to make informed choices about whether or not to become involved with grown men) our Feminist Utopia is not going to breed out folks like perv #2. Are we not discussing this because we presume technology will eliminate the problem, or because it’s taboo to bring up the “wired differently” argument on a radfem site?

  165. Elle

    J –“I loved SF’s claim that “natural” does not always mean better. Through the glorification of “natural,” patriarchal thought disguises itself as a lefty, progressive concern for the environment. Scratch the surface of that earth-lovin’ dude’s rhetoric and you see what he really wants is to send us back to the home, because we are so picturesque when we get up at dawn, walk a mile to fetch water, spend hours pounding the grain into flour, and why can’t Western women be all-natural like this?”

    I agree with J that often the liberal dude “back to nature” approach often means the guys are working away on their laptops while the women are supposed to be pounding laundry on the rocks down at the stream (I know this from experience.)

    But, for the most part, the patriarchy has spent a great deal of time and energy positioning itself as separate from, superior to, and in control of a nature which includes women who are after all, from the patriarchal perspective, slaves of their reproductive systems.

    It appears to me that if you accept the Man/Nature dichotomy and make it your main aim in life to de-nature yourself like the guys, then the terrorists, oops the patriarchs, win. However, another approach is to accept the obvious — that humans and everything we make and do are all part of nature — including, especially, males, whose “natural” testosterone is creating havoc right and left — the destructive effect enhanced by the absurd delusion that they are outside nature and can therefore escape the consequences of their actions.

  166. Catherine Martell

    hedonistic: “… our Feminist Utopia is not going to breed out folks like perv #2. Are we not discussing this because we presume technology will eliminate the problem, or because it’s taboo to bring up the “wired differently” argument on a radfem site?”

    Neither. I don’t think technology will eliminate the problem, nor am I living in the fairyland that says perv no 2 will be bred out of any Feminist Utopia. I don’t say he won’t exist. I do say there might be fewer like him. In a patriarchal system like ours today, men are positively encouraged to see women and children as lesser beings whom it is acceptable to control, manipulate and physically inflict pain on. They are encouraged to be completely unrestrained in their urges; in fact, the more brutal their urges, the more macho they become.

    Thus a change in power dynamics would have some possibility of limiting the number of pervs like no 2. I wouldn’t argue for a minute that there will be no bad people in the Feminist Utopia: nature throws up infinite variations, however we formulate our societies. But I do believe that a post-patriarchal society would do much less to aggravate that sort of behaviour. It wouldn’t disappear, but it would, I think, happen less often.

  167. Elle

    Oops, Sorry J, It was msxochitl’s comment I was responding to. By the way, when I hit the Blame button and then try to edit (which I just tried to do when I realized my mistake), I get a little WordPress box asking for username and password — and it does not accept my username Elle. Also, I do not seem to have the editing tools some of you have for quotes, etc. I use Firefox. Is that the problem?

  168. J

    “They are encouraged to be completely unrestrained in their urges; in fact, the more brutal their urges, the more macho they become.”

    Eh, I’d say it’s more like, they are WHOLLY restrained in their urges, and what you call urges are really patriarchal codes of conduct that they are compelled, if not practically required to respect.

  169. BubbasNightmare

    Catherine Martell:
    ‘I don’t think technology will eliminate the problem, nor am I living in the fairyland that says perv no 2 will be bred out of any Feminist Utopia. I don’t say he won’t exist. I do say there might be fewer like him. In a patriarchal system like ours today, men are positively encouraged to see women and children as lesser beings whom it is acceptable to control, manipulate and physically inflict pain on.’

    Hooking this to a “criminalization” comment upstream, I would see a Feminist Utopia requiring the death of anyone who suffered from perv #2′s issues that refused treatment. Further, I’d require the death of perv #2 even if he submitted to treatment and couldn’t be cured.

    Harsh, I know, but (IMO) forced confinement is far more cruel and unusual than death. There is a rule about species survival: there must be a way to remove those who are incapable of surviving in the species’ environment from that environment. So it’s either death or imprisonment.

    Conventry sounds just too patriarchal for my taste.

  170. BubbasNightmare

    That last line should read:
    “Coventry sounds just too patriarchal for my taste.”

    Conventry–well, that’s just weird.

  171. Mar Iguana

    The boys have already figured out how to make an artificial vagina. If they figure out how to make an artificial womb, women will be lined up for the ovens.

  172. J

    “There is a rule about species survival: there must be a way to remove those who are incapable of surviving in the species’ environment from that environment.”

    That’s utter hogwash. The idea that we should have mercy-killings, ultimately for the sake of merciful and not thosed actually killed, is a vieled patriarchal scheme to destroy that which doesn’t fit in, which doesn’t give credit to the patriarchy.

  173. BubbasNightmare

    J–

    It’s not a matter of “doesn’t fit in”, it’s a matter of “cannot fit in” or “won’t fit in”.

    Every utopia must have a way of dealing with those who cannot conform to that utopia. What would *you* do with perv #2 if he couldn’t be cured? Imprisonment is no less patriarchal than death, and banishment isn’t practical in the 21st century.

  174. Twisty

    “The boys have already figured out how to make an artificial vagina. If they figure out how to make an artificial womb, women will be lined up for the ovens.”

    Dworkin theorizes that this line of reasoning is responsible for the existence of right-wing women.

  175. TrespassersW

    Mar Iguana, I agree about the ovens. All women heading for ‘em except for those who will be chained up as sex toys. Artificial wombs while patriarchy still exists could be as much of a disaster for woman as a blessing. I agree with the end SF was envisaging their use for, but I think the means of acheiving it would be twisted long before we got there. Other posters have pointed out how good patriarchy is at co-opting technology for its own unpleasant ends.

    Bubba’s nightmare, I don’t agree with any kind of death penalty. Murdering morally corrupt people is lowering ourselves to their level. If I have to kill people to maintain my utopia, I probably don’t deserve it.

  176. Twisty

    Killing people to maintain society is pretty much what the US is doing right now, n’est-ce pas?

  177. J

    The only way that this Feminist Utopia makes sense is if the pervert is allowed to live freely. In the Feminist Utopia that we’re talking about, is society not absolutely transparent? There is no ideological interest to protect, and if there is this is no Feminist Utopia but a feminist version of patriarchy. You could take this as an example of how Utopia is impossible, and how striving for it is precisely the patriarchal/ideological imparative. No Utopia can exist unless we absolutely dominate, cover up or in your case kill that which denies the Utopia’s completeness.

  178. Antelope

    I don’t for a second believe that men would do away with women as soon as the vagina and the womb are replaceable.

    That implies that they also wouldn’t feel any need to have women around for changing diapers, burping babies, soothing owwies, handling toddler tantrums, helping with homework, and generally otherwise making fatherhood irrelevant until the kid is good and ready to learn some specialized form of ball-throwing.

    Who would do that? Lower-caste men? The masters would be too afraid of getting killed in a massive revolt sooner or later.

    Now if they can find a way to get them from birth to age 7 really quickly, and with very little human intervention, THEN we’re in trouble.

  179. Catherine Martell

    J says: “Eh, I’d say it’s more like, they are WHOLLY restrained in their urges, and what you call urges are really patriarchal codes of conduct that they are compelled, if not practically required to respect.”

    Yep, you could certainly look at it that way. I agree with you, actually. I had in mind the autobiography by Ayaan Hirsi Ali that I keep meaning to read. She apparently argues that, in her experience of the Muslim world, the women are forced to be responsible for the guardianship of all social and cultural propriety, while the men are encouraged to act as unthinkingly and unrestrainedly as possible. But you’re probably quite right to point out that such macho behaviour is conditioned.

    BubbasNightmare says:
    “I would see a Feminist Utopia requiring the death of anyone who suffered from perv #2’s issues that refused treatment. Further, I’d require the death of perv #2 even if he submitted to treatment and couldn’t be cured.”

    Oh, no no no. I don’t see that anything about the FU (ha! Anti-feminists would just love that acronym – we’re going to have to coin a better name for it) condones the government-sponsored extermination of civilians. Surely the death penalty is inherently patriarchal? Pronouncing judgement, administering state-sponsored violence, etc?

    100% opposed to it myself, of course, but I really can’t see how it’s a logical consequence of feminism in any scenario.

  180. BubbasNightmare

    TrespassersW:
    ‘I don’t agree with any kind of death penalty. Murdering morally corrupt people is lowering ourselves to their level. If I have to kill people to maintain my utopia, I probably don’t deserve it.’

    One more comment, and then I’ll shut up about this.

    Take the ‘utopia’ out of the argument. Make it ‘a society successfully striving toward equality wherever humanly possible’.

    You can’t just let perv #2 walk about doing what he/she wishes. Whose 12-year-old daughter will he drag into an alley next?

    You can’t force them to take effective treatment they won’t accept. At least, not yet.

    Prison? That’s not a moral choice. That’s where we concentrate most the moral and ethical perverts now.

    What’s left?

    Remember the old saw. “Only two things you can do with enemies. Make friends of them, or take them out of your life by most expedient means; everything else just makes for trouble later.”

    This has proven itself true to me (hell, it’s practically rubbed itself in my face) over and over in my 50-some-odd years of life.

    (Note to self: add “death penalty” in list of topics never to bring up in comments. Underline twice.)

  181. BubbasNightmare

    Okay, okay! One more comment, and then I really will shut up about it.

    Catherine Martell:
    “Surely the death penalty is inherently patriarchal? Pronouncing judgement, administering state-sponsored violence, etc?”

    The only morally proper function of government is to provide security (both external and internal) for its citizens, and to provide a means of settling civil disputes. There’s nothing faintly patriarchal about that.

    And I’ll ask again: what do we do with perv #2?

  182. Andrew

    Twisty says:

    Killing people to maintain society is pretty much what the US is doing right now, n’est-ce pas?

    Not always true. Sometimes the US locks them up in inhumane conditions, physically and/or mentally torture and abuse them, while never making even an attempt at rehabilitation. All this assuming that a person’s “crime” is all that bad to begin with, and not simply looking different than the mythical norm.

    But I digress. Where was I anyway?

  183. J

    I quote myself:

    “The only way that this Feminist Utopia makes sense is if the pervert is allowed to live freely. In the Feminist Utopia that we’re talking about, is society not absolutely transparent? There is no ideological interest to protect, and if there is this is no Feminist Utopia but a feminist version of patriarchy. You could take this as an example of how Utopia is impossible, and how striving for it is precisely the patriarchal/ideological imperative. No Utopia can exist unless we absolutely dominate, cover up or in your case kill that which denies the Utopia’s completeness”

    By admitting the pervert you are denying Utopia. In other words, this so-called Utopia is no Utopia, but an ideological struggle with its own impossibility, which you propose to win, in the classical manner, by rubbing out that which ruins everything.

  184. finnsmotel

    Elle sez:

    “However, another approach is to accept the obvious — that humans and everything we make and do are all part of nature…”

    Agreed.

    How could it be any other way?

    Patriarchy is natural, too. Whether or not it’s good is an altogether different question that gets answered differently within different cultures (and subcultures such as this one).

    People who try to make the natural/unnatural distinction are usually only one step away from imposing a cultural standard to prove their classifications of everything.

    There is an implied value given to natural as preferable to unnatural. Presuming to hold the key to this value judgment supposes a position of power for the presumer. I see it as a false dichotomy, though. Everything is natural. Even the complicated chemical stuff that we created that kills us.

    Irony is natural. Nature is ironic. Or whatever.

    During this discussion, I’ve been trying to imagine a world where gender didn’t exist. (Isn’t that pretty much the predicate for a post-patriarchal world?) I do imagine it to be a better world, though I doubt all social ills would be alleviated.

    Humans currently structure cultural heirarchies to dominate and submit along about every line of difference we can manage (gender, race, geography, age, economic class, etc.). Eliminating one of those delineations would certainly improve things, but, I have to believe we’d come up with some new one or other to take its place.

    “Hey, Big Ears, don’t scratch the paint while you’re parking my car!”

    Seriously, though, there are a couple inherencies in human existence that mean we will always be in competition with each other:

    - limited resources
    - limited existence

    We can manipulate things like gender. And, race will eventually dissolve as the population continues interbreeding. I don’t think we’ll ever get around the limit of resources (unless somebody finds a way to colonize other planets). And, the limited existence thing is beyond my comprehension.

    -finn

  185. TrespassersW

    What do we do with perv No 2? This is a tricky one and morality does love heading down slippery slopes.

    In my present non-utopia, mentally ill people can be sectioned and treated without their consent if they have actually harmed others. Morally dubious but better than killing them IMO. I still think prison, while hardly a moral picnic, is a better option than killing people. The death penalty is not the mark of a civilised nation and countries who use it certainly don’t have fewer pervs committing crimes.

    But moving on, perhaps we might enter the land of genetic engineering. Identify the perv-psycho genes and screen them out; prevention is better than cure. This is no more sci-fi than artificial wombs. And why don’t we do a bit of testosterone-reduction and territorialism-minimisation gene-twiddling while we’re at it? Ah the megalomaniac in me is coming out now. Who was it who said power corrupts? Because I believe them. Listen to me getting all eugenicky. This is why I would rather be the oppressed person who disagrees with state killing on deontological grounds than a person in power who pragmatically agrees with a bit of extra death to keep things the way they like them.

    As for death/imprisonment being patriarchal, if a society ruled by women used the death penalty to get rid of pervs, wouldn’t the death penalty become by definition a matriarchal tool of control? In which case it’s not patriarchal per se, so I would agree with you there Bubbasnightmare.

    Oh and good point about the baby care, Antelope.

  186. Sasha

    BubbasNightmare, I take perv #2 and all the other perv #2s and put them on an island together. Then I don’t much care what they do.

  187. Octogalore

    Msxochitl said: “I’ve been wondering: Is childbirth another example of a cultural practice that is harmful to women? If boob jobs & starvation diets & high heels are harmful cultural practices (and I believe that they are), doesn’t it seem like childbirth belongs on this list as well? And it seems to me that the arguments by feminist in favor of childbirth are the exact same arguments used by those in favor of the other forms of harmful female cultural practices–it makes me feel better about myself, it makes me feel complete, etc.”

    I have not heard anyone on this board claim completion as a reason for childbirth. It seems quite presumptuous to posit that women’s motivations for childbirth stem from some kind of insecurity, and also quite sexist. Because this is something women alone can do, it’s somehow lesser, and people who feel strongly about it must be insecure?

    This is a slippery slope. In going down the path of eliminating a genetic female characteristic (ability to give birth, generally), calling it a “harmful practice,” and substituting a male one (inability to give birth), we’re basically saying the default is male and women who like anything that’s not male are insecure.

  188. LJN

    Sasha wrote:
    “On using science. The notion of taking science and using it is most attractive. Firestone isn’t the first to have noticed the power of science/knowledge/information. After all The Bad Guys are trying like hell to control the definition of all things scientific, what is appropriate science, when life begins, and what we should spend money on. Which draws a direct line back from science to economic power. Sex and class, over and over again. For those who are cynical about the potential of science, let’s see what it can do in its pure form, free and funded.”

    And the reason I’m here and thinking, hard, is that I’ve been doing a course aimed at getting women back into Science/Engineering/Technology. The unexpected result has been to wake me up to the need for a continuing feminist revolution. It seems that this is the most difficult field for a woman to make progress in, and to get back into if she choses to leave for any reason. Wonder why?!

    You can see my course notes at t160.wordpress.com – and I’d appreciate input from anyone who has experience!

    Back to lurking and learning.

    L

  189. finnsmotel

    “BubbasNightmare, I take perv #2 and all the other perv #2s and put them on an island together. Then I don’t much care what they do.”

    Why is always the bad people who get the islands?!?!

    I want an island! Do I have to become one of the pervs to get it?

    ;-)

    -finn

  190. Sasha

    Word, Finnsmotel. I want an island too. How about a cave, somewhere close to the Arctic circle?

  191. Octogalore

    LJN said “I’ve been doing a course aimed at getting women back into Science/Engineering/Technology. The unexpected result has been to wake me up to the need for a continuing feminist revolution. It seems that this is the most difficult field for a woman to make progress in, and to get back into if she choses to leave for any reason. Wonder why?!”

    I think this is a fascinating topic. I think reasons women find it challenging to advance in or return to a technical field start at childhood. Boys are more likely to be given science or building kits rather than dolls or dress-ups. They are also given more encouragement to go to an engineering school or math program – my high school physics teacher told me that the engineering school I planned to go to was “not a place I’d want my daughter at.”

    I do know that this school, whereas when I went there in the late 80s women were 25% of the school body, now has 45% women. But I’m not sure how soon, or if ever, this will reflect itself in % of women in tech careers.

    Also, there is more emphasis on men being the primary wage earner and women going into “helping” careers like teaching, or “creative”careers like humanities or art. Not, of course, that these aren’t valid too, but just that there’s more of a sense among women that careers should be rewarding, whereas men tend to feel more pressure to be the breadwinners. Obviously, this is just speaking broadly, there are plenty of objections and hopefully this will shift.

    As far as why it’s difficult to get back into this kind of field, I think there are a couple of reasons. One, the speed of advancement renders skills obsolete even more quickly than in other fields. Also, there’s more of an emphasis on work pace and a prejudice against non-traditional paths in technical fields, which can adversely affect women who take pregnancy leaves more than a couple of months, or other kinds of leaves.

    LJN, what are your thoughts about how progress for women in sci/eng/tech fields (and would you add business/law?) could benefit feminism? I am a strong adherent of this line of thought and would be eager to hear your views.

  192. msxochitl

    Octagalore: “It seems quite presumptuous to posit that women’s motivations for childbirth stem from some kind of insecurity, and also quite sexist. Because this is something women alone can do, it’s somehow lesser, and people who feel strongly about it must be insecure?”

    Okay, you say it is sexist for me to question whether childbirth is a harmful cultural practice. Is it also sexist for me to say that that working at Hooters is a harmful cultural practice? I’m not sure I understand the difference.

    Not insecurity–I don’t know. Maybe for the same reasons we do all the other female things that are harmful to us, then defend our “choice” to do those harmful things? I guess I’m just really intrigued by the idea of liberating women from giving birth and what, in the context of women having control of that technology, life would be like for women if that did happen.

    BTW, I’m not trying to piss off mothers, just trying to get to the root of our oppression. And I think SF might be on to something.

  193. Shiloruh

    As a 44 yr old woman who never has given birth, and lives completely happy and autonomous. I am now going to quote Firestone whenever some nosy person asks me why I haven’t reproduced. I will say ” I simply see no reason to inconvenience myself for the sake of society” and then I will add “After all what has society done for me?”

    As to perv #2: Wouldn’t the fabulous reproductive technology control for “bad” genes? Otherwise I vote for death.

    As a woman in Science: I am a chemist and there are many women in this field, and more every year. My graduating class of chemists was all women. But it is true the career is very unfriendly to alternative career paths. Women tend to stagnate in their positions more than men. Slowly but surely I believe this will change as the old guys die off.
    Firestones chapter on Science however has many problems. That particular chapter is one I’d edit to add the hidden history of women in science. We have always been there and are a part of the story that isn’t told. Long after TDofS there have been books written on feminist scientific philosophy and the stories of women as far back as the 18th century participating the growing knowledge of the universe. A sort list can be found here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/,

  194. Jezebella

    On the subject of conditioning and language, I quote BubbasNightmare not to pick on her, but because this just leapt out at me as an instructive turn of phrase:

    “You can’t just let perv #2 walk about doing what he/she wishes. Whose 12-year-old daughter will he drag into an alley next?”

    Does it matter “whose” (possessive) “daughter” a perv drags into an alley? Suppose she is no-one’s daughter. Or everyone’s. Or Perv Two is dragging a boy into the alley. This is where our conditioned use of the language denies children agency – the problem with Perv Two is that he is dragging *A* 12-year-old [of any gender] into an alley and abusing said person.

    Who says Feminist Utopia must allow Perv Two to engage in his sick and violent behavior? We shoot rabid dogs, don’t we? I know capital punishment is a big ol’ can of worms, so let me circle back around to the book, which I have not yet finished: Does Firestone address capital punishment?

  195. Christopher Bradley

    It took me a while to opine on this, because it took a while for me to actually remember what Firestone said, hehe. It actually took more than a full day for me to remember that I read Dialectic of Sex at all. They say that the memory is the second thing to go, and I don’t remember the first.

    But, in the fullness of time, I did remember.

    I need to read it, again. I’m not sure I’m all aboard with her idea that we treat children as fully functional members of society – if a child is running traffic, we’re supposed to respect the child’s decision; I don’t know if I buy that – but I fully think she’s dead on when she says that women have had their biology used against them as one of the key elements of control.

    I’m also fully on board of non-sexual reproduction. Indeed, I’m for more than that. I think that we should work on eliminating childhood altogether. Yes, the tyranny that childhood imposes on both mother and child need to end. (This will be one of the key reasons why artificial intelligence will surpass us in all areas; an AI, from the very beginning of it’s sentience, will have comprehensive files and programs that either wholly contain or concisely summarize the existence of other fully functioning artificial intelligences. They will have no childhood; it will be a meaningless term for them.)

    Additionally, humans need to live long enough to see history happen or we need radically more efficient information transference systems allowing us to have large degrees of transparency into other people’s consciousnesses. How many problems have occurred, and then reoccurred, because we die and take all our experiences with us to the grave! But we die and things are forgotten. It is only when we can process each other’s existences wholesale or we live long enough to see the consequences of our actions play out.

    Everything else that leads to progress is just setting the stage for liberation from the tyranny of the flesh.

  196. Octogalore

    Msxochitl said “Okay, you say it is sexist for me to question whether childbirth is a harmful cultural practice. Is it also sexist for me to say that that working at Hooters is a harmful cultural practice? I’m not sure I understand the difference.”

    Well, that’s not quite what I said. I said it’s sexist to say that women’s motivations for childbirth stem from some sort of insecurity.

    The right word for your “question[ing] whether childbirth is a harmful cultural practice” is “invalid.”

    “culture” (according to wiki) is “the universal human capacity to classify, codify and communicate their experiences symbolically … the way people live in accordance to beliefs, language, history, or the way they dress.” Pregnancy is not some kind of belief system. It’s the way we give birth to children.
    So any kind of analogy of pregnancy to a cultural behavior is simply invalid. Something done everywhere, by all species even if not by every member thereof, is not a behavior but the way all mammals bring about new life.

    Pregnancy could only be accurately stated to be a cultural practice when there is another way for us to do this, and as far as I know, it’s now the only game in town. I doubt it will be replaced anytime soon, or at all. Although I’m a hard sciences kind of gal, I vaguely remember reading about why the womb is the best place for a child. I have a feeling that even if an alternate location were discovered, most parents would not want to take that chance.

    But one hasn’t been discovered yet, so pregnancy is *not* a cultural practice.

    “Is it also sexist for me to say that that working at Hooters is a harmful cultural practice?”

    Nope, but if you’d said that working in a strip club was, then yes.

  197. msxochitl

    The reason I’m calling it a cultural practice is because women have the option of not having babies, whether through birth control or abortion. So the fact that the overwhelming majority of women all over the world give birth–even when the option of *not* giving birth is available–means it isn’t just a biological thing, it is also cultural.

  198. Octogalore

    Msxochitl — that’s creative, but I think the instinct not to let human life become extinct is a little more than just cultural.

  199. msxochitl

    And I’d respond that the “maternal instinct” is yet another cultural myth.

    “Pregnancy is barbaric. Pregnancy is the temporary deformation of the body of the individual for the sake of the species … Moreover, childbirth hurts. And it isn’t good for you. Childbirth is at best necessary and tolerable. It is not fun. Like shitting a pumpkin …”
    –from The Dialectic of Sex

  200. Ide Cyan

    Christopher Bradley wrote: “Everything else that leads to progress is just setting the stage for liberation from the tyranny of the flesh.”

    Hello, Saint Paul. Nice of you to join us.

  201. Catherine Martell

    TrespassersW says: “As for death/imprisonment being patriarchal, if a society ruled by women used the death penalty to get rid of pervs, wouldn’t the death penalty become by definition a matriarchal tool of control?”

    Yes, and if a matriarchal society trained male drone soldiers to use rape as a weapon of war, rape too would become a matriarchal tool of control. But this doesn’t really matter, because neither Firestone nor, as far as I can see, anyone here is advocating a matriarchal society. Quite the opposite: the Firestonian vision is explicitly opposed to matriarchy which, as any fule kno, has nothing to do with feminism. (Simone de Beauvoir’s excellent chapter on ‘Early tillers of the soil’, The Second Sex, part 2, ch 2, sets out in extremely clear terms how matriarchy is the origin of the Other-ness of women.)

    Don’t let’s confuse post-patriarchal with matriarchal, otherwise we’ll get into a right old mess.

    I would happily engage in the capital punishment debate, but Firestone doesn’t address it, so it would be pointlessly off-topic. Let’s leave it for another time & place.

    I will, however, engage with this, BubbasNightmare:
    “The only morally proper function of government is to provide security (both external and internal) for its citizens, and to provide a means of settling civil disputes. There’s nothing faintly patriarchal about that.”

    Think again, friend. “The only morally proper function of govt”? You are presenting an inherently right-wing, capitalist perspective, diametrically opposed to Firestonian political philosophy. It is one that I would venture to suggest is extremely patriarchal: what it effectively produces is unregulated free-market capitalism, a very strong army and police force, and the protection of private property. SF advocates a radical sort of Marxist-communalist-cybernetic-feminist alternative. It’s fairly obvious that her vision of “morally proper” government involves an extremely high level of governmental social responsibility in all areas of life, and the end of private property. As far as I remember she does not address internal or external security.

    Please don’t assume that right-wing capitalist principles about the function of government are universally accepted moral absolutes that somehow transcend patriarchy. They are not and they do not.

  202. su

    “Pregnancy is barbaric. Pregnancy is the temporary deformation of the body of the individual for the sake of the species … Moreover, childbirth hurts. And it isn’t good for you. Childbirth is at best necessary and tolerable. It is not fun. Like shitting a pumpkin …”

    I apologize in advance for commenting on a chapter I clearly haven’t read yet but this is where Firestone and I depart wildly in our views I absolutely agree that women should not be made to exclusively bear the burden of childrearing but childbearing is not simply “at best necessary and tolerable”. I am one of the fortunate few who found the experience incredibly powerful and I don’t mean that in any kind of sentimental way. Childrearing however has been a horrendous experience, not least because I have been rearing children who have a disability in a society which places them at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Perhaps Firestone’s view was a product of her experiences as much as my view is based on my own personal experience.

  203. su

    Just to weigh in on the sexuality of children; children are undeniably different to adults. Their sexuality arises within a brain that functions differently and is even morphologically distinct from an adult’s brain. I do not accept that childhood is merely a cultural artefact. It takes a lot of time and physiological change for a child’s mind to morph into that of an adult. There is so much we don’t know but it is certainly safer to set age limits on who a child may express their sexuality with.

  204. cassy

    My first comment was a lead balloon, the style was all Airless Spaces style by Miss Firestone. What a powerful book that is to be read in little bite-size morsels. I found the story about the mother who enjoys involuntary commitment to the psych ward to be brilliant. SF does not hypothesis why, she gives the story and lets you work. As with all her short stories in that book. Brilliant and deeply moving.

    I read my first comment over and realized the statement ‘off my meds’ was a loaded one. Didn’t intend it that way. I wanted to let you know how much growth I have seen in myself by being part of this community. Mainly as a reader.

  205. Mar Iguana

    “Everything else that leads to progress is just setting the stage for liberation from the tyranny of the flesh.” Christopher Bradley

    “Hello, Saint Paul. Nice of you to join us.” Ide Cyan

    Heh, heh, hehyeah. Thank you Ide Cyan. I needed a good chuckle this morning.

  206. B. Dagger Lee

    Whoa Nelly!

    The overwhelming majority of women around the world DO NOT have access to birth control, abortions, sex and health education or have the personal autonomy to implement these things.

    yrs, BDL

    And excellent point, Jezebella.

  207. Mar Iguana

    Antelope, the AVs (Artificial Vaginas) would do the shit work of childrearing for several years in exchange for their surgeries. Gelded, non-white males would do the rest of the grunt work. A very small number of actual women would be kept around as a very expensive caviar-like delicacy, status sextoys, per TrespassersW.

  208. Octogalore

    “I think the instinct not to let human life become extinct is a little more than just cultural.”

    msxochitl said “And I’d respond that the “maternal instinct” is yet another cultural myth.

    Not responsive. The instinct to continue life is different from maternal, or parental, instinct.

    And I’d also disagree with parental instinct being a cultural myth. I do agree that the idea that it’s just a *maternal* one is cultural.

    Also, SF’s “pregnancy is barbaric… and it isn’t good for you quote” was, all respect to SF, an unscientific opionion insubstantiated by any experience with what she’s describing. For one thing, going through pregnancy does have a reductive effect on various cancers, so the “not good for you” thing is at best a wash.

    As Su says, Firestone’s beliefs were based on her own experiences, and I’d add: or lack thereof.

  209. LMYC

    Who would do that? Lower-caste men? The masters would be too
    afraid of getting killed in a massive revolt sooner or later.

    Sure they would. Wouldn’t keep them from doing it. Quarterbacks have been shitting on waterboys since the dawn of time. Part of the patriarchy is to kiss the rod, like the soldiers who come back form Iraq legless and defend W’s politics because otherwise, they’d have to face facts that they lost their legs for a lie.

    And fears of slave revolts didn’t stop the south from buying and selling people like furniture. They loved them — a patriarchy loves fear more than any other emotion because, as Firestone says, they are not capable of love. Fear makes people malleable. It means that not only can you buy and sell the untermenschen, but you can buy and sell a few of the ubers as well, as long as you can keep them askairt and then convince them you can protect their asses.

    Regards Perv #2: I think in a SF-esque society, perv #2 would be found out and squished a lot sooner. He wouldn’t get to the point where he’d be dragging 12 year olds into the alleyway, because there would be no macho-patriarchal smokescreen behind which one could handwave his torture of animals and schoolyard bullying at the age of 6. In a patriarchy, those warning signs are business as usual and ignored. Then, after allowing assholes like that to ferment and develop for over a decade, we act shocked-by-gawd-shocked when they grow bored with their skinning of neighborhood dogs and begin to move on to the 8 year old girl down the street. In a decent world, those warning signs would be seen, understood, and respected as the warnings they are. And the little motherfuckers would either be counseled or euthanized.

  210. Kali

    “I think in Firestone’s time and also now, the childbearing responsibility is accompanied by obstacles that help put in place the power differential. But I think it makes more sense to work on the obstacles rather than remove the pregnancy from the womb. The latter is infeasible in all kinds of ways. Automatic job reinstatement, longer paid leave, better incentives for dads to take leaves, better accomodations for breastfeeding, and less pressure on women who decide not to… again, lower hanging, and more realistic, fruit.”

    The first two in that list (Automatic job reinstatement, longer paid leave) will simply lead to the further ghettoization of women into mommy-track jobs.

    As long as we live in a capitalist society, any kind of disproportionate child-rearing responsibilities for women are bound to keep them subject to the rule of men (as a class). And by “capitalist” I mean not just the modern day money-based transactions, but everything including the barter system of pre-history. That is how patriarchy came about in the first place. Any kind of half-way socialist policies will not be much help either. To the extent that power/resources can be traded in terms that are negotiable (which is the basis of the capitalist system), to that extent women will be screwed over by participating disproportionately in the non-negotiable tasks of child-rearing. (Child rearing tasks are non-negotiable in the sense that you do them regardless of whether you get anything in return or not.)

  211. thebewilderness

    LMYC: And the little motherfuckers would either be counseled or euthanized.

    I have missed you.

  212. Jezebella

    Re: pregnancy

    “Also, SF’s “pregnancy is barbaric… and it isn’t good for you quote” was, all respect to SF, an unscientific opionion insubstantiated by any experience with what she’s describing. For one thing, going through pregnancy does have a reductive effect on various cancers, so the “not good for you” thing is at best a wash.”

    This is a VERY whitey-centric point of view. Maternal mortality is rampant on most of the planet, and has only in the last century decreased dramatically in the developed nations. One of the primary reasons for increased life expectancy anywhere is reduction of maternal mortality.

    Obstetric fistula, anyone? Pre-eclampsia? Gestational diabetes?
    Pregnancy is dangerous and frequently lethal. The word “barbaric” may be unscientific, but the facts – the scientific facts – are undeniable. Pregnancy can and will kill you.

  213. J

    “Christopher Bradley wrote: ‘Everything else that leads to progress is just setting the stage for liberation from the tyranny of the flesh.’

    Hello, Saint Paul. Nice of you to join us.”

    Yeah, I can’t help but see this line of thinking that sets apart, demonizes and opts to sub-ordinate nature as no less patriarchal than that line of thinking that sets apart, demonizes and opts to sub-ordinate women. This happens to include Firestone’s own arguments about the tyranny of women’s biological capacity to bear children. It gets back to the point I brought up a long time ago that if Twisty’s interpretation of patriarchy is valid, which to me amounts to ideology in general, as a global hierarchy of domination and submission, then the so-called natural world is at the literally dirt bottom.

  214. Octogalore

    Jezebella: “This is a VERY whitey-centric point of view. Maternal mortality is rampant on most of the planet, and has only in the last century decreased dramatically in the developed nations. One of the primary reasons for increased life expectancy anywhere is reduction of maternal mortality.”

    Whether something is a harmful custom depends on context. I believe that, if this revolution began, it would likely begin in a developed nation. Therefore, the belief as to whether something were harmful would be based on the state of local medicine. The rampancy of maternal mortality is a tragedy, certainly. But a country and time in which artificial womb technology existed (without which this whole thing is moot) would by definition be one which is very advanced technology-wise, and therefore in which maternal mortality levels are quite low.

  215. LJN

    Octogalore wrote:
    “LJN, what are your thoughts about how progress for women in sci/eng/tech fields (and would you add business/law?) could benefit feminism? I am a strong adherent of this line of thought and would be eager to hear your views.”

    I’m working on it! I’ve only just started reading around the subject, but so far it seems to boil down to:
    1. If you’re an SET graduate, and female, you’re far more likely to be unemployed than a female non-SET graduate.
    2. All the ‘explanations’ for the dearth of women in high level SET positions apply equally to all other high-level positions where the gender imbalance isn’t nearly as large.
    3. That means there’s something in the culture or structure of SET which discriminates against women.

    I’m currently working aroun 120 hours a week (don’t go there!) and trying to do this course (which I’m subverting into a crash-course in how far we, as society, still have to go), so progress is painfully slow for me.

    I’m quite certain that the organisers of the course syllabus didn’t intend for it to be a course in feminist thinking, but that’s certainly the way it’s affected me. The assumption that anyone who has left science has done so to have a family, and is currently not working, left me chewing up iron bars and spitting out tacks. The follow on query as to whether we had considered the effect of extra housework etc on those we lived with left me, to quote, full of barbed wire and vinegar.

    I have a *lot* to learn, and I wish I could work out how to reconcile my desire to be an intelligent woman doing something I’m good at and can be proud of in the wider society (I have a PhD), and my desire to have a family with a man who doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes….

  216. Octogalore

    LJN, thanks for the info. Whom did the query come from about “whether we had considered the effect of extra housework etc on those we lived with”? That’s shocking.
    If a woman is embarking on a SET career, then wouldn’t the question be “whether we had considered the effect of extra money etc on those we lived with.” Extra housework for extra change – seems like a fair deal. And if it’s not, why should WE do it.
    But more importantly, I think women in these careers, especially in the management tracks, have more potential to be able to say F off to any guy who isn’t willing to do his share, more easily than their counterparts in humanities careers, for the most part.
    “I wish I could work out how to reconcile my desire to be an intelligent woman doing something I’m good at and can be proud of in the wider society (I have a PhD), and my desire to have a family with a man who doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes…”

    I don’t know if that’s possible, but I think there are men out there who don’t fit MANY of the stereotypes. Not fitting ANY – not sure about that. My husband does 50% of the combined house and child-care work. He fits some of the stereotypes of those who’ve benefited from male privilege, but not all, and he’s willing to learn. He didn’t have privilege in all respects, which makes him open-minded and flexible in his thinking. Also,I went to geek school and many SET men (although definitely there are some major exceptions) are ex-geeks and used to not fitting in with the cultural norms and therefore more embracing of non-traditional and non-patriarchal ideas.

    Have you found that it’s been difficult to find someone doesn’t fit the stereotypes?

  217. The Constructivist

    Missed the whole thing. Gonna do one on Gayle Rubin next?

  218. Mar Iguana

    “I absolutely agree that women should not be made to exclusively bear the burden of childrearing but childbearing is not simply “at best necessary and tolerable”. I am one of the fortunate few who found the experience incredibly powerful and I don’t mean that in any kind of sentimental way. Childrearing however has been a horrendous experience, not least because I have been rearing children who have a disability in a society which places them at the very bottom of the hierarchy.” su

    I felt very powerful as well, in some way I can’t define. Definitely not sentimental. I was almost 30 when I got pregnant; pill baby. I had no interest whatsoever in becoming a mother. Uh uh. No. Way.

    Bearing was relatively easy and waaay interesting. But rearing? Damn. It was the rearing, as a single mom, of a son with disabilities that did me in. It was pretty much get up almost every gaud damned day and buck-a-system. Moms. They get no respect.

  219. Mar Iguana

    Whoa. I just noticed my name in the links block thingy below, but when I click on it, it says the operation timed out. What is it?

  220. maribelle

    msxochitl: Okay, you say it is sexist for me to question whether childbirth is a harmful cultural practice. Is it also sexist for me to say that that working at Hooters is a harmful cultural practice? I’m not sure I understand the difference.,/b>

    You don’t understand the difference between the biological urge to reproduce life and the desire to make high wages in a strip club?

    And I’d respond that the “maternal instinct” is yet another cultural myth.

    What about lions, tigers, bears, dolphins? Bees, ants, bullfrogs? Salmon travel hundreds of miles, batter themselves against rocks and die to reproduce–why?

    Christopher Bradley Indeed, I’m for more than that. I think that we should work on eliminating childhood altogether. Yes, the tyranny that childhood imposes on both mother and child need to end.

    I read this three times and truly can’t tell if its meant as parody. Please clarify.

    “Pregnancy is barbaric. Pregnancy is the temporary deformation of the body of the individual for the sake of the species … Moreover, childbirth hurts. And it isn’t good for you. Childbirth is at best necessary and tolerable. It is not fun. Like shitting a pumpkin …”
    –from The Dialectic of Sex

    It’s not fun? Neither is much of life that we have to do. While much of the book is eye-opening and inspiring, the immaturity reflected here is mind-boggling. I would think twice (and three and four times) before I would take seriously the thoughts on childbirth from a childless 25 year old.

    It’s a strange day at IBtP when Octo is the voice of reason:

    Pregnancy is not some kind of belief system. It’s the way we give birth to children.So any kind of analogy of pregnancy to a cultural behavior is simply invalid. Something done everywhere, by all species even if not by every member thereof, is not a behavior but the way all mammals bring about new life.

    Part of patriarchy is thinking we’re so above the animals with our reason, cooking skills and ability to agree that scribbles on a page mean words. Let’s not forget our chimpy cousins, who don’t worry about creating new life is “fun” or not. They do it, and do it again, and would die and kill to protect the little ones.

    A group of mammals that are so bound by domination and submission that they must find a new way of reproducing life in order to overcome oppression is destined for extinction.

  221. Jezebella

    “A group of mammals that are so bound by domination and submission that they must find a new way of reproducing life in order to overcome oppression is destined for extinction.”

    Any group of mammals who is delusional enough to believe that it isn’t bound for extinction, sooner or later, is, well, what? Human. That group of mammals could only be human. As humans we have an arrogant notion that, unlike those other, lesser life forms, *we* will not be going extinct, which is absurd.

    Also, in response to this:
    ” And I’d respond that the “maternal instinct” is yet another cultural myth.

    What about lions, tigers, bears, dolphins? Bees, ants, bullfrogs? Salmon travel hundreds of miles, batter themselves against rocks and die to reproduce–why?”

    I think the so-called “maternal instinct” referred to in this thread is not by any means the same thing as the reproductive instinct. Bees may instinctually reproduce, but by no means do they “mother” in the sense that humans do. The term “maternal instinct” has been used to bludgeon women into doing all of the child-rearing by claiming that we, those of us with wombs, are naturally destined to do all of the hard work of child-rearing. By contrast, of course, there is no “paternal instinct” driving men to derive fulfillment from child-rearing.

    So whoever called the maternal instinct a cultural myth: yes. Most humans seem to exhibit a certain nurturing/protective/positive response to Things That Are Cute, whether those things came out of our bodies are not. This is not the same thing as the so-called maternal instinct.

  222. su

    Teresawymore way up the thread said “Why make it so every adult must serve as a cog in some corporate machine, make a covenant with X number of partners, or surrender their economic independence. Why isn’t being a caregiver a position worthy of pay and honor? (I know the answer: because that would make women independent of men.)”

    This is my position- women should be paid (damn well) for childrearing duties. It is no accident that only duties that were, in centuries past, traditionally done by women have remained unpaid.

  223. Octogalore

    Maribelle– as to the substantive portion: exactly, but was your little dig really necessary?

    One of the things I do agree with about Firestone is her statement that while revolutionary movements are often plagued by “backbiting” (p45), the woman’s movement “has a somewhat better record than most.” Let’s try to live up to this, please.

    Jezebella said “As humans we have an arrogant notion that, unlike those other, lesser life forms, *we* will not be going extinct, which is absurd.

    Why is it absurd or arrogant, even if extinction were inevitable, to try to help human life continue?

    “whoever called the maternal instinct a cultural myth: yes. Most humans seem to exhibit a certain nurturing/protective/positive response to Things That Are Cute, whether those things came out of our bodies are not. This is not the same thing as the so-called maternal instinct.”

    The “maternal instinct” should be referred to as the “parental instinct.” And, as many parents here understand, it’s not just about responding to Things That Are Cute. Whether a child comes by being delivered out of one’s body or that of one’s partner, or whether it comes off a plane from China or Guatemala, and I’ve directly experienced both (the latter was my sister), the love that a parent has for this child is not like admiring a cute kitten on the street, and is not some sort of cultural myth.

    Obviously, claiming this instinct belongs solely to women is the cultural myth. Propagated to convince women they have a unique calling that winds up sequestering them indoors while their menfolk go out and cultivate their power in the world outside the nursery. But removing parents’ very unique feeling for their children into the snarky space of a cultural myth is just as unnecessary as removing the baby from the womb.

  224. Octogalore

    Last sentence of previous post, of course, meant removing the babymaking process from the womb, not the baby, who of course does need to come out at some point…

  225. Ide Cyan

    Octogalore: the baby doesn’t need to come out if we’re all living in the Matrix (oo-er, that’s latin for womb!), having cast off the tyranny of the flesh!

    I really have to bring up Delphy again: child bearing/rearing isn’t free because it’s low-status, it’s low-status because it isn’t paid. And it’s unpaid because it’s done within the patriarchal mode of production, that is, the mode of production wherein women’s work is appropriated by men.

  226. Ide Cyan

    More proof of that is that, if you leave the patriarchal mode of production, then childrearing *is* paid: teachers, baby-sitters, nannies, etc. are all paid for rearing children, although the wages they are paid are usually low, because there’s a large force of workers who do this job for free every day, and it’s in the interest of the patriarchy to keep those workers dependent economically.

  227. su

    Just came across this while looking for Delphy.

    As Christine Delphy says, first comes the fact of exploitation; then come various kinds of oppression to keep the exploited weak, miserable (and busy), and hence exploitable. Then (both logically and chronologically) comes the ideology that justifies the oppression and the exploitation in order to pacify the consciences of the exploiters and to muddle the common sense of the exploited, thus mystifying the situation of exploitation and oppression so that the exploited will accept it as natural, God-given, nobody’s fault, morally correct, and inevitable.

    As Delphy puts it, ‘There is no mystery; we [women] are oppressed because we are exploited. What we go through makes life easier for others.’”

    It is Joanna Russ quoted at: http://www.feminist-reprise.org/blog/feb07.html#022507

  228. Kali

    “I really have to bring up Delphy again: child bearing/rearing isn’t free because it’s low-status, it’s low-status because it isn’t paid.”

    100% agree.

    “And it’s unpaid because it’s done within the patriarchal mode of production, that is, the mode of production wherein women’s work is appropriated by men. More proof of that is that, if you leave the patriarchal mode of production, then childrearing *is* paid: teachers, baby-sitters, nannies, etc. are all paid for rearing children,”

    Partly agree. Even without a patriarchy, child-rearing done by mothers would still be unpaid because the mothers are going to do it even when they are not paid. So, there is no motivation to pay mothers to do it, or enforce laws that say that mothers should be paid to do it. A system of paying mothers to rear their own children is, in the long run, unsustainable and unenforceable. Women cannot achieve equality (economic, social, political, etc.) by depending on such a system. The only way for women to achieve equality is by getting men to do their half of the unpaid work. Alternatively, to have a socio-economic system without even traces of capitalism in it, i.e. nobody gets “paid” as such. Everyone contributes according to their ability and receives according to their needs. I don’t see how that is possible though, and what form that system would take.

    “although the wages they are paid are usually low, because there’s a large force of workers who do this job for free every day, and it’s in the interest of the patriarchy to keep those workers dependent economically.”

    Agreed 100% with this too.

  229. LJN

    Octo: the quote can be read here: http://t160studies.wordpress.com/2007/02/23/week-3-what-do-you-want-part-ii/

    I’ve found the man – it’s the decision on when/if to go from couple to family and the effect on me as a person that is giving me grief.

    I think this ought to be in another thread though – the book discussion is way more interesting than my little issues.

  230. Mar Iguana

    “Everyone contributes according to their ability and receives according to their needs.” Kali

    I don’t think this works because “needs” is so subjective. One person’s need is another person’s want, as in “But I need that boat.”

    And: “The only way for women to achieve equality is by getting men to do their half of the unpaid work.”

    Absolutely, but convincing them their balls won’t shrivel up if they are made to feel as responsible as the woman of the house for that sparkling kitchen counter has been a hard sell.

    (Nobody has taken pity on the Luddite here re why I can’t get into that link in the little shaded area above the blame builder.)

  231. Octogalore

    Agree too with Ide Cyan that “child bearing/rearing isn’t free because it’s low-status, it’s low-status because it isn’t paid” and with Kali that even without a patriarchy, it’d still be unpaid, and making it paid would be unenforceable.

    Also agree with Kali and Mar Iguana that a “everyone contributes according to their ability and receives according to their needs” system wouldn’t work.

    A system in which men do their share of housework and childcare, on the other hand, seems a more realistic goal.

    I think what currently drives the fact that this goal isn’t close to realized is the economic power disparity in many households. If the husband is the breadwinner, he has an argument that his time is best spent winning bread, and as the family does benefit from this, and likely begins to define “wants” as “needs” as it moves up in income, this becomes difficult to counter. If she hasn’t been in the workforce for awhile, she isn’t in a position in which she can replace the income, or come close, even if he were to bluff (or really mean) an offer to stay home while she works.

    So I see the most effective way to get beyond this to be for women to enter and stay in high-paying careers to the extent men do.

    There are a ton of obstacles to this, of course. Pregnancy, and leave, for one. In some states, after being at a job for a year, a father can get 6 weeks paid leave, but not in all. And also, the patriarchal system itself, in which mentoring and promotion most often favor men.

    But I still think, after acknowledging these problems, that if the percentage of women in highly paid professions were to grow, the bargaining power would shift, and the leverage to try to change these things would grow. Women would have an easier time influencing their partners to take maximum leave, or take additional unpaid leave after that. Men would no longer be able to argue that their wives’ income doesn’t cover, or barely covers, the cost of daycare. With more women in the power ranks, there would be more role models and better mentoring.

    Mar iguana said: “convincing them their balls won’t shrivel up if they are made to feel as responsible as the woman of the house for that sparkling kitchen counter has been a hard sell.”

    Agree. But if the woman of the house stopped taking responsibility for the sparkling kitchen counter, because she had to close a deal, one of two things would happen. The counter would become less sparkling, or the man would grow a pair and start scrubbing.

  232. J

    “…if you leave the patriarchal mode of production, then childrearing *is* paid: teachers, baby-sitters, nannies, etc. are all paid for rearing children, although the wages they are paid are usually low, because there’s a large force of workers who do this job for free every day, and it’s in the interest of the patriarchy to keep those workers dependent economically.”

    Yeah, but I have a feeling that if we look to the patriarchal logic of stay-at-home mothering, we see that within or without it women (and men) are dependent upon others for their subsistence.

    By this I mean, it would traditionally be argued that the stay at home mother/wife earns the roof over her head and the food in her stomach by being a mother/wife. Being a worker on the market is really not much different, in that working in a capitalist society means being dependent on the market, either by way of the consumers or your employer.

  233. Octogalore

    J said: “By this I mean, it would traditionally be argued that the stay at home mother/wife earns the roof over her head and the food in her stomach by being a mother/wife. Being a worker on the market is really not much different, in that working in a capitalist society means being dependent on the market, either by way of the consumers or your employer.”

    It’s actually a lot different, because the stay at home mom/wife does not earn the roof etc. solely by being a mother/wife, but by continuing to be a certain person’s wife. If that were to change, whether by her decision or his, the roof might go away very quickly.

    Whereas working, although our capitalist society is certainly flawed, does not involve dependency on a particular employer. A worker who has skills with market value can change jobs if it’s not working out with a particular employer. While no employer is perfect, there’s still a lot more freedom and security.

  234. J

    “It’s actually a lot different, because the stay at home mom/wife does not earn the roof etc. solely by being a mother/wife, but by continuing to be a certain person’s wife. If that were to change, whether by her decision or his, the roof might go away very quickly.

    Whereas working, although our capitalist society is certainly flawed, does not involve dependency on a particular employer. A worker who has skills with market value can change jobs if it’s not working out with a particular employer. While no employer is perfect, there’s still a lot more freedom and security.”

    As for your first situation, the woman’s problem is in most respects no different than any employee, who may be fired for a variety of reasons. The only significant difference is there is more commonly contracts and provisions to protect the employee’s job security. In the realm of marriage law though, a pre-nuptial agreement parallels this.

    As for not being dependent on any particular employer, it really doesn’t mean anything. Picking and choosing where and by whom you are exploited is the pride and joy of the capitalist’s so-called freedom.

  235. J

    I forgot to mention that these kinds of parallels are why the apparent gains of women moving into the market place are, in the end, kind of a joke. Like jumping out of the skillet into the fire. I mean, Marx and Engels are very upfront about how the family forms the oldest form of explotation. It is obviously a good thing that women made a step from their (imposed) non-human status in the family in the ’50s and ’60s. The gains are quickly cut back when one realizes that they simply moved from one mode of explotation to another.

  236. LJN

    Research just out in the UK shows a 40% drop in women in senior positions in the 350 biggest companies….

    http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/features/display.var.1247286.0.0.php

    Bugger!

  237. Kali

    “By this I mean, it would traditionally be argued that the stay at home mother/wife earns the roof over her head and the food in her stomach by being a mother/wife.”

    The error in this logic is by conflating mother and wife. The woman “earns” the roof and food by being a wife, not by being a mother. When she stops being a wife, she may very well lose the roof and food but her mothering duties continue regardless. When you lose your job in the market, a major part of your duties do not continue.

    Also, in a system where women work for men as wives and men work for other men in the market, women are disproportionately the employees and men disproportionately the employers. Women are at the bottom and men at the top of the economic heirarchy.

    Also, wife and mother work is not conducive to building power structures. It does not require collaborative heirarchies with layers of specialization. Market work is conducive to building such power structures. Therefore those who amass the greatest power and wealth will almost always come from the market economy, not from the ranks of housewives. Housewives may receive some of that wealth and even power through kinship with men, but that would be based on the discretion of the husband and the laws written and enforced by those in the market economy. As long as people at the top of the power structure are predominantly men, rights exclusive to women will be shortchanged.

  238. roamaround

    I think it’s a major error to equate the status of the wife/mother role with that of the worker. Workers, the proletariat, are wage laborers with some limited autonomy. Wives/mothers are traditionally an underclass equivalent to slaves or serfs.

    How soon we forget! Women have had nothing like autonomy until very recently and in a few places. Women in most times and places are pure property, first of their fathers and then of their husbands. No husband? Get thee to a nunnery (or ashram, etc.) to be property of the church.

    Men have owned the means of (re)production quite literally by controlling women’s sexuality; having a wife is more like owning a steam engine than it is like hiring a laborer.

  239. Octogalore

    Kali said: “Also, wife and mother work is not conducive to building power structures. It does not require collaborative hierarchies with layers of specialization. Market work is conducive to building such power structures. Therefore those who amass the greatest power and wealth will almost always come from the market economy, not from the ranks of housewives. Housewives may receive some of that wealth and even power through kinship with men, but that would be based on the discretion of the husband and the laws written and enforced by those in the market economy. As long as people at the top of the power structure are predominantly men, rights exclusive to women will be shortchanged.”

    Yes! Applause!

    J said: “The only significant difference is there is more commonly contracts and provisions to protect the employee’s job security. In the realm of marriage law though, a pre-nuptial agreement parallels this.”

    Really? Read Terry Hekker’s NYT account of what happened upon her divorce. There are plenty of ways to get around pre-nups so that the wife’s lifestyle is adversely affected. Whereas, while employers aren’t always fair, the golden handshake upon getting dumped is a whole lot better than the divorce court, and the next opportunity, again for someone with skills valued in the market, is much more quickly obtained than in the relationship domain.
    J said: “As for not being dependent on any particular employer, it really doesn’t mean anything. Picking and choosing where and by whom you are exploited is the pride and joy of the capitalist’s so-called freedom.”

    I think the sooner we accept that capitalism isn’t perfect but we are still better off working with it to achieve our ends, the better. If women were to avoid entering the capitalist market out of fear of inevitable exploitation, we’re handing the reins of power over to the menz. Possibly your experience in corporate America has been bad, but generalizing to all people and all jobs is naïve. I’ve been kicked in the ass, hard, by a number of employers, and have sued two of them (successfully, thanks), but in my current job, there’s a fairly satisfactory ratio of kissing up to higher-ups and clients, and them kissing up (down?) to me. It’s not the kind of unconditionally pleasant response that I would get for staying home and baking cookies for the fam, but since it comes with a check, it seems like a fair trade.

  240. roamaround

    “the sooner we accept that capitalism isn’t perfect but we are still better off working with it to achieve our ends, the better”

    The better for you, maybe, but not for the vast majority of women who are relegated to the losing ends of the imperialist class system. Your view of women’s dilemma as choosing between gleaming counter tops versus closing a deal are so far out of the realm of reality for most of the world’s women, in every country including the U.S., that I am almost left speechless.

    At least you’ve come clean with your relentless agenda.

  241. Octogalore

    Roomaround, we’re talking at cross purposes. I was discussing issues facing women in comparison to men at equal places on the economic ladder. Obviously, there are other class-based issues, but that wasn’t the topic.

    Attacking women who are discussing how to deal with the economic power balance within a marriage for not covering global poverty issues in the same breath is going to achieve exactly what all patriarchs with expectations that women be all things to all people achieve: zero.

    Granted: I’m not the best person to discuss global poverty issues or issues faced by women in poor nations. I don’t know much about that. I’d like to learn more. But that’s not really my area of expertise. I do have some fairly well researched ideas about how women who are lower-middle to upper class can improve their bargaining power in their households and in the outer world, so that’s the topic I focus on. Trying to guillotine me for not trying to solve world hunger every time I open my mouth is counterproductive.

    Also: closing a deal could mean a multi-million M&A deal or opening a home bakery business. My nanny just did that, and guess what. She’s now out-earning her husband, who cleans pools, and their marriage has imporved. It’s not all IBM. Running scared from that kind of language, calling women who use it heartless capitalists, and claim how “speechless” it makes us, is not the way to go here.

  242. Octogalore

    And PS, I’m curious: what’s the alternative? Have you redesigned capitalism yet? Let us know when you do.

    Until then, I think women deserve the opportunity to talk honestly about how to improve things for themselves within the current system, without being scolded for getting our hands dirty.

    Women holding each other to a different expectation than our male counterparts do with each other — eg, calling the desire for upward mobility a “relentless agenda” — is exactly what feminism should NOT be about.

  243. msxochitl

    Octagalore: “As Su says, Firestone’s beliefs were based on her own experiences, and I’d add: or lack thereof.”

    All the more reason to listen to those beliefs!

    The whole world tells us that we really want to have babies, that it’s our instinct and/or our duty as women to do so. That’s why I think it’s so important to listen to women who go against the grain & say something like, “I gave birth, although I didn’t really want to,” or “I think childbirth is barbaric & have chosen not to do it.”

    From my experience, in non-White & non-Western communities, I’ve found that most women say they have kids because that’s what they are supposed to do–not because they really want to, not because of any instinct to procreate.

  244. Octogalore

    msxochitl — not disagreeing with your point that some women do not want children, and that we shouldn’t assume it’s some sort of universal desire.

    But the main issue is, again, that Firestone’s suggestion of how children should be raised will most affect those who plan to or do have children. They are the ones who have to be convinced, and my point is that I don’t think that’ll happen.

    Firestone’s being 25 and childless shouldn’t mean her views as to why some women wouldn’t want children aren’t meaningful. But her being 25 and childless DOES mean that her views as to the likelihood of women WHO DO WANT children going along with her plan are to be met with much skepticism.

  245. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Octo, if you could only just see money as one kind of energy instead of the be-all and end-all of power relationships. Here we are, members of a certain race/class/country that tells us that money=power is all that matters, but it’s not true.

    I’m suspicious that the only “power” we can have under THIS System is the energy/power to say NO and walk away from any deal (Negotiation 101, yes?). Here’s the Patriarchal MO: Men co-opt womens energies (practically feed off us like vampires, I mean, DAMN), leaving women exhausted and backed into a corner, completely out of options beyond the cash-flesh exchange (which includes breeding in exchange for a roof under one’s head). The patriarchal control (re)production is one of the PRIMARY ways men achieve this.
    To me at least, feminism is about escaping this sad fate, and of course Shulamith figured this out early too. I think everyone posting here is on board with the plan: Take control of the means of (re)production.

    As for the rest? When I was working on a Dakota reservation the wife of the medicine man told me that whenever a Dakota woman wanted a divorce her husband all she had to do was put his shit outside of the tipi and he’d buy his clue and try to find another place to sleep. The tipi was hers because she made it herself! Pretty much all of the tipis were woman-made and if a man wanted a cushy place to sleep he had to play nice. She had the resources.

    In the western world today a woman needs to buy/rent her own place to have this power, so yes, in this system money is an important resource. However, amassing a lot of money via capitalism is only ONE way to achieve this level of bargaining power. Other resources are just as valuable, sometimes even more so: How about family and social networks? Patriarchy isolates women to prevent them from taking advantage of them. “Play nice or I’m going back to the women’s collective,” could be another way to play out the power drama. Some African tribes used to balance the power dynamic this way, before Western culture bolluxed it all up.

    Another kind of resource is access, and I’m not talking about sex! I could go on and on. Actually from the length of this it appears that I already am. I’ll shut up now.

  246. Octogalore

    Hedonistic said: “Octo, if you could only just see money as one kind of energy instead of the be-all and end-all of power relationships. Here we are, members of a certain race/class/country that tells us that money=power is all that matters, but it’s not true.”

    Of course it’s not true, and I’ve never said it is. In talking about the benefits of equalizing economic power, that’s not saying it’s the only dynamic. Again, the need to chastise other women for talking about how to avoid financial dependence as a key portion of the larger context of getting out of the overarching dependence patriarchy would box us into, is shortsighted.

    As Veronica Monet says “nice girls don’t pursue things like money or sex unless they have humanitarian or nurturing motives. This seems ironic to me, given the long history of oppression of women around money and sex. …This guarantee[s] their financial dependence upon men (their fathers or their husbands), which keep[s] them powerless in other arenas.”

    As you say, “Men co-opt womens energies (practically feed off us like vampires, I mean, DAMN), leaving women exhausted and backed into a corner, completely out of options beyond the cash-flesh exchange (which includes breeding in exchange for a roof under one’s head). The patriarchal control (re)production is one of the PRIMARY ways men achieve this.”

    Don’t you get that pursuing financial independence IS AN OPTION BEYOND THE CASH-FLESH EXCHANGE.

    On your Dakota reservation, women had the resources by making the tipis. In our society, though, technology-wise, we’re a little beyond tipi-making. But it boils down to the same thing: women would be benefited if a higher percentage (not saying everyone needs to make this choice) were to opt to pursue skills with current market value. On the reservation, it was tipi making. The equivalent is a women in our culture who can throw her husband’s shit outside of their tipi, so to speak, and he’d eventually need to play nice because “she had the resources.” We’re speaking the same language, but because I’m using mean nasty words like “closing deals” and not “making tipis,” I’m suddenly the bad, dirty girl, saying money makes the world go round. Not so, and you’re smart enough to get this.

    Clearly, family and social networks are other ways to build a support system. In a way, this board provides a system whereby we gain strength from airing our views and getting honest and smart feedback. There are other such mechanisms that we can build, too. This doesn’t take away from the fact that we should avail ourselves of all the tools we can to feel secure and pursue either lifestyle or philanthropic goals, or both, without feeling that our chromosomes require us to apologize for things our male counterparts don’t. We don’t need any more handicaps than we’ve already been dealt by the patriarchy.

  247. Heart

    Unless human ova were easily obtainable — without having to pump women full of dangerous and pain- and sickness-inducing hormones, and then extracting them in series of similarly painful and invasive medical procedures — artifical wombs will not be liberating for women. Instead they would take the already existing women-as-reproductive-brothel model to a whole new level.

    And, yeah, some women do find pregnancy and birth empowering, transcendant experiences. This is particularly true where women retain complete control of these processes and where men and male institutions, like patriarchal medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, are kicked to the curb.

    As Twisty suggested, in Right Wing Women, in the chapter entitled The Coming Gynocide, Andrea Dworkin predicted that reproductive technologies, instead of freeing or liberating women, would at first force women into religion and ideologies which honor and revere traditional motherhood, in the belief that this is the best deal they can cut under the sex class system. For a while, women will hide behind orthodox religion and will try to pit the theocrats against male science, because at least theocrats still seem to think women belong in the world, whereas male scientists, not so much. But Dworkin predicts that in the end, secular male science and the theocrats will cut a deal which will eliminate women entirely:

    “When these two schools of unconditional male power over women have to negotiate public policy to the mutual benefit of both, the men of theology, with that remarkable resourcefulness that allowed for the burning of the witches, will find great virtue in any program in which fertilized eggs truly do supersede women in importance. They will also enjoy having both sex and reproduction on their own terms: being God in the concrete rather than worshiping him in the abstract. They will also enjoy — for its own sake — the extraordinary control they will have over women…Women will argue like the true believers they are for that old-time religion, but male theocrats will discover that God intended men to be the sole creators of life all along: did not God himself create Adam without female help and is not baptism the religious equivalent of being born of a male God?…

    When women cease to be altogether necessary, politically dissident women become altogether unnecessary. Once women are biologically expendable on a grand scale, political women need no longer be tolerated on any scale. Politically dissident women are considered unnecessary now: this is the mood toward feminists and other women who rebel; someday it will be policy, not a mood.

    – Andrea Dworkin, Right Wing Women, in “The Coming Gynocide”

    Heart

  248. Sam

    “As Veronica Monet says ‘nice girls don’t pursue things like money or sex unless they have humanitarian or nurturing motives. This seems ironic to me, given the long history of oppression of women around money and sex. …This guarantee[s] their financial dependence upon men”

    I think you’re taking this quote by Playboy darling and author of Sex Secrets of Escorts: What Men Really Want out of context in a big way.

  249. smmo

    Octogalore, I’m sure you get strokes for your accomplishments and ideas nearly everywhere. You’re a pretty, educated, wealthy, feminine, Ivy League woman. Did I forget anything? 99.999999% of those you encounter are impressed by those things. You find a few here that aren’t, but so what.

    Your nanny, if she’s still your nanny, now has three jobs: nanny, baker, wife to asshole. I know which one I’d jettison. Don’t you find it unsettling that money improved their marriage? Are we meant to respect people based on how much money they make? I know you will tell me that that is reality, the only game in town, etc, and you’re right. But I don’t find it particularly inspiring. We hold our noses and do what we have to do, but let’s not valorize aping the man to survive in his world.

  250. maribelle

    The paradigm is realigned back at IBtP. Figures.

    RE: capitalism The better for you, maybe, but not for the vast majority of women who are relegated to the losing ends of the imperialist class system.

    This of course is the problem with using male established means to power; the vast majority of women are eliminated from participating. It’s fine if you just want to get ahead yourself, but the system has to be altered dramatically before any real change can be seen for the majority of women.

    HPS– Octo, if you could only just see money as one kind of energy instead of the be-all and end-all of power relationships. Here we are, members of a certain race/class/country that tells us that money=power is all that matters, but it’s not true.

    Amen. And if it IS fundamentally true, feminist revolution has no chance to take hold, nor any other kind of revolution to raise up the oppressed everywhere.

    hedonistic: Chez moi this thing called “unconditional love” is for infants and cats only. Every other relationship gets a cost-benefit analysis.

    This made me feel very sad. And it is the reverse philosophy of the above, no? (even when “cost” is used metaphorically)

    I’m all for women taking charge of the means of reproduction.

    Here’s the most baffling thing to me;

    My sisters; We own the means of reproduction; we always have.

    Why don’t we run the world now? Is it because we have CONCEDED our great and glorious power to men, allowing them to colonize us?
    Is it because some people insist on telling us that the way to power is by pleasing men, by dressing as they tell us, by playing their money and power games and by making them happy?

    Every human ever born has come from the body of a woman. This should give us the power to rule the fucking world. So why don’t we?

  251. maribelle

    Jezebella: As humans we have an arrogant notion that, unlike those other, lesser life forms, *we* will not be going extinct, which is absurd.

    Jezebella, I completely agree with you that humans are going extinct–or will someday. To be clearer, what I meant is that any species that considers their method of reproduction to be *inherently oppressive* has written their own death warrant before evolution has the chance to do it for them.

    I think the so-called “maternal instinct” referred to in this thread is not by any means the same thing as the reproductive instinct. Bees may instinctually reproduce, but by no means do they “mother” in the sense that humans do.

    I concede that bees were a poor example. But just sticking to mammals, the urge to reproduce goes far beyond just the reproductive instinct, shared by males and females alike. Many females and males of given species will attack and kill predators that even threaten their offspring–surely that relates more to a “parental” instinct beyond mere reproduction.

    I don’t disagree that women have been sold a cultural bill of goods regarding the “maternal instinct” and what women should be feeling and doing. But it’s not an “either/or” scenario; there is a biological component to the picture as well that gets overlooked by feminists–often childless ones like Firestone.

  252. Ide Cyan

    Maribelle wrote: “We own the means of reproduction; we always have.”

    There are laws all over the world that dispossess women of the control over own own bodies, let alone our uteruses.

    “Every human ever born has come from the body of a woman. This should give us the power to rule the fucking world. So why don’t we?”

    That kind of essentialist thinking has served other movements for biological supremacy. More importantly, it completely mystifies relationships of oppression.

  253. maribelle

    There are laws all over the world that dispossess women of the control over own own bodies, let alone our uteruses.

    Brilliant, Sherlock. I know this, as does every other woman on this board and my 12 year old daughter. But my question is how do they get us to obey the damned laws when we, ultimately, hold most of the freaking cards? That’s my point.

    That kind of essentialist thinking has served other movements for biological supremacy.

    Great–express a little feminist angst and you get compared to what–were you thinking Nazis or the KKK? Just to be clear.

    More importantly, it completely mystifies relationships of oppression.

    So let’s de-mystify it a little. It is the relationships of oppression that I am attempting to discuss. My theory is that its largely due to men turning all the attention on themselves, getting women to doubt our own power and abilities and believe ourselves to be in need of men for our worth, our material needs, and our very sense of self worth. Strategies for undoing this would need to address these issues.

    Do you have anything productive to add? If so, I’m all ears.

  254. Ide Cyan

    Maribelle wrote: “But my question is how do they get us to obey the damned laws when we, ultimately, hold most of the freaking cards? That’s my point.”

    You’re setting up your question to disqualify any possible answers, there. What are those cards? Being the ones with the uteruses?

    Do we have economic power? (Is our labour our own, or owned by somebody else? What can we do on the market? Are we even participating in the market?)
    Do we have political power? (Seats in government to pass laws about our bodies?)
    Do we have military and police power? (To enforce those laws when others disobey them?)
    Do we have cultural power? (The education to know what we can or can’t do with our bodies, and pass on that knowledge to others?)
    Do we have religious power? (To dictate what is moral and immoral?)

    You say “we hold most of the freaking cards.” I say the deck is stacked against us.

    “Great–express a little feminist angst and you get compared to what–were you thinking Nazis or the KKK? Just to be clear.”

    I think you’re missing the obvious. Men. :-)

    “My theory is that its largely due to men turning all the attention on themselves, getting women to doubt our own power and abilities and believe ourselves to be in need of men for our worth, our material needs, and our very sense of self worth. Strategies for undoing this would need to address these issues.”

    This is the ideological propaganda of oppression, which serves to justify and perpetuate exploitation.

    If men have convinced us to give up “our worth, our material needs, and our very sense of self worth” (have you been reading Matilda Joslyn Gage?), it is because when they take it from us, they directly gain power, and they can use this power to continue their theft.

    Ideology is the result of exploitation, not its cause.

    “Do you have anything productive to add? If so, I’m all ears. ”

    Don’t know about you ears, but you might scroll up and use your eyes to see my earlier references to Christine Delphy’s work.

  255. Octogalore

    SMMO said: “Your nanny, if she’s still your nanny, now has three jobs: nanny, baker, wife to asshole. I know which one I’d jettison. Don’t you find it unsettling that money improved their marriage? Are we meant to respect people based on how much money they make? I know you will tell me that that is reality, the only game in town, etc, and you’re right. But I don’t find it particularly inspiring. We hold our noses and do what we have to do, but let’s not valorize aping the man to survive in his world.”

    It would be unsettling that “money improved their marriage” if that were all I was saying. My nanny, let’s call her Maria, feels better about herself, has been asserting herself more, and her husband, from what I can tell, is doing a lot to support her that wasn’t being done when he was working from early mornings to late evenings cleaning pools. I don’t know him well and am sure he’s not perfect, but concluding that he’s an asshole because someone needed to kill themselves to pay the bills and her business allowed him more time to attend to her needs seems unfair.

    My point, despite the many valiant attempts to box me into an easily disparaged point of view, is not that we are “meant to respect people based on how much money they make.” It’s that if we dismiss women’s entrepreneurial efforts at whatever level, because they use capitalism as an instrument and that’s a flawed system, we’re taking away an opportunity to improve our lives.

    Much has been made about my being “wealthy” and therefore clueless about the fact that, as Maribelle claims, the “vast majority of women are eliminated from participating” in trying to improve their lot economically. I don’t think this is the case. My net worth ten years ago was in the negative six figures. But forgetting about me, my nanny handed in her notice last week (to answer your question, SMMO). She came here from Guatemala five years ago destitute. Maybe I should tell her that aspiring to be a business owner is a “relentless agenda” in which she’s “aping the man.” Possibly the fact that she “closed a deal” to get her first order for a child’s sixth birthday party is not something to be proud of.
    I don’t think I’ll be passing those thoughts along to her.

  256. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Octo, you and I are more on the same page than must appear from my texts here. Sometimes we only manage to find different ways to say the same things.

    I, too think it’s counterproductive to get all snooty about money because it “belongs” to Teh Menz. Put in it’s proper (to me) perspective, money is ENERGY congealed into easily recognizeable and transferrable objects so that we may agree (more or less, see exchange rates for an explanation) on this energy’s “value” or “worth.” I put value and worth in quotes because I know because humankind will always fail at its valiant attempts to make the subjective objective.

    Energy can be used for “evil” or “good” (again, subjective). On this site and with most radfems (in my observation), using energy to weild power OVER another individual is Teh EEEEVIL. Whether or not this is the case is also debatable (again, subjective). In the realm of the Hedonistic Pleasureseeker, throwing a man’s shit outside of his tipi is an exercise of power-over, and as you may imagine I’ve got no problem with it AT ALL. Many counterculture types, if they’re wise, also recognize that the exercise of power-over in this megatheoCRAPtocracy brings them enormous amounts of satisfaction when the System benefits THEM (see Communism for one well-documented example).

    So where was I going with this? Oh yeah: For those out there who don’t want to adopt “money is just energy, kind of like Doritos, so we’ll make MORE!” worldview there is always the option of amassing energy in ways that have little or nothing to do with Teh Eeevil Monies: Social relationships; i.e., the amassing of influence, comfort, safety and pleasure via family and friend networks in ways that have little to do (at least on the surface) with the green stuff.

    THIS APPROACH DOES WORK! IT’S STILL POWER. Energy = Power = Freedom to Manifest. Very magicky! Personally however, I run screaming from the anti-monetary approach because traditionally speaking it’s been the ONLY acceptable way for women to wield power influence within teh Patriarchy. In MY realm freedom amounts to the ability to say “Fuck you, I’ve got my own resources, so BITE ME already.” Often this takes money, so excuse me while I go make some more.

    To bring this little rant back on topic: Firestone is telling women to amass power by taking control of (re)production. Personally I think the radfem pro-woman, pro-choice agenda is the only way we can reasonably accomplish this. Artificial wombs? FEH. Not gonna help. In my mind that was just the (very understandable) musing of one young woman who had absolutely NO interest in shitting a pumpkin, and who can blame her?

  257. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Oops, I meant “throwing his shit out of HER tipi.” My bad.

  258. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    One more thing: I find it interesting that the folks in the US most likely to turn up their noses at commerce and money have a BOATLOAD of family privilege propping them up. A minor-and-humorous example from my childhood: My (brilliant, artistic, much loved sister) is very counterculture, much like me only the opposite (it makes sense in a context I’ll explain chez moi someday). When Sis was a teen (the 80′s) she was all New Wave Dark New Romantic Punk Something, posturing as some kind of rad “communist,” talking trash about capitalism and “the Man.” One day my sister wanted to go to a rock contest and got all pissy at my mom and stepfather because they wouldn’t hand over their credit card to finance her adventures. After all, that’s what all her punky-rad-commie friends were doing! Buying their WHOLE AESTHETIC with mummy and daddy’s money!

    In my experience (I’m the first to admit that I watch The Game from some very expensive box seats) that the more privileged a person’s family is the more its beneficiaries are likely to turn up their nose at commerce, pretending their well-manicured hands are oh-so-clean of that dirty business. Oh, I have sooooo many stories to illustrate this (an old paramour, a penniless, doobie-smoking guitarist putting on airs while living on his daddy’s boat comes to mind), but, back to my own blog.

    My parting shot: I think being actively “counterculture” is just one privileged indulgence among many. There is really only ONE culture (Patriarchy) and we’re all soaking in it.

  259. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Apologies for my blather everyone, but I missed something:

    Maribelle, to answer your question about my cost-benefit approach to relationships being the “opposite” of my ideas about power-energy? Not at all! In my mind one (it’s all energy) leads necessarily to the other (cost/benefit). The spending/expending of energy and time (affection, attention, ham sandwiches) are “costs” of maintaining relationships. Costs are not necessarily BAD. Also, in the cosmic sense “what goes around comes around,” so even apparently altruistic gestures given for “free” provide benefits to the giver, so are they purely altruistic?

    Now that I think about it, scratch what I said about cats and babies. Gurgling over them makes me happy, so I’m probably doing a cost/benefit analysis on my interactions with them too. Yeah, I’m selfish! So sue me!

  260. Octogalore

    Hedonistic: yes, many if not all counterculture posturing stems from entitlement. A friend of mine in law school, “Buffy,” was very high and mighty about not going into BigLaw afterwards, and I felt quite guilty about my intentions to do so. Buffy planned to do something extremely alternative, preferably in a third world country, and dressed in ragged undershirts and black combat boots. I had gone to law school fresh from a stint in the auto industry, in which I was asked to get coffee one too many times while male counterparts went out on the exec’s yachts, with the hazy goal of “doing something about women’s issues someday.” Well, after a few financial aid meetings (there was a special room in the school used only for this purpose), it became clear that the combined school debt level wasn’t conducive to public interest work, at least in the following decade.

    Buffy, meanwhile, asked me what this mysterious room was that I kept going into, and thought it was quite interesting that I had to sometimes go to meetings there while she went to the teacher’s lounge to discuss her pro bono internships and seduce young Con Law professors. She also thought it was amusingly Republican of me to have worked summers through high school and college at boring jobs while she did Peace Corps and Vista. The idea of earning to pay for rent and food was tedious and pedestrian to her.

    I haven’t kept track of Buffy, but the reunion magazine said she was living with a dot com exec husband somewhere in the Gold Coast area and was staying at home with three kids.

    Obviously, even getting to the point where you have the luxury to amass huge debt in the first place is a major privilege. I’m certainly not claiming that the example above is a heartwarming income disparity example. But the attitude of many who’d have women delicately turn away from crude moneymaking ventures reminds me of Buffy, every time.

  261. smmo

    “Much has been made about my being ‘wealthy’ ”

    Octogalore, that passive voice is not going to fly. You have made a issue of your income. It isn’t that I’m not happy for your nanny and her family. Good for her. It is that I disagree with your position that financial power will fundamentally change the lot of women. Patriarchy is way too clever for that. After all, your nanny and her husband come from Guatemala, a place made a hell by the fact that some people here in the USA wanted to make their situation better for themselves and we could all have cheap bananas. Excuse me if I’m not wiping away tears of joy that your nanny and her family left their home so they could come here and take care of rich people’s children and swimming pools. I hope she becomes a baking phenomenon and never has to wipe another white kid’s poopy butt again, but it isn’t the revolution.

    HPS: “Personally however, I run screaming from the anti-monetary approach because traditionally speaking it’s been the ONLY acceptable way for women to wield power influence within teh Patriarchy.”

    Is it accepted? Or is it simply less unaccepted? Seems to me like rich women get the patriarchal shaft too, just in different ways.

    Anyway, I assure both your and Octogalore that I’m not some trustafarian looking down my nose on you all in my Prada moccasins. Just another “sure, Comparative Literature majors have a very bright future” fool giving myself wrinkles worrying about my retirement.

  262. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Haaaaaaaaahhhhhh, we’re ALL just a buncha beatniks. We’re privileged artyfartybrainacs, and we smell the stink of the System and hate it, but we don’t quite know what to do about it so we set ourselves apart from the mainstream with our fashion/culinary/music/lit/cinema choices. Then we retire to the coffee shop to light clove cigarretes and bitch, mostly at each other.

    Honestly, when has any low-serotonin artyfartybrainiac culture ever really changed anything beyond aesthetics?

    Meanwhile, where is the peasant revolt? Where are the pitchforks? Where is the REAL revolution? We’d better not get too excited for our own sakes, because for all our posturing we probably deserve to be taken the fuck out too. Do you really think the Revolution (should one ever occur again) will spare the beatnik sympathizers? I rather doubt it.

  263. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    One more thing (GODDESS I need to get back to the housekeeping, but this is so much more fun!).

    SMMO: The fact that college and Comparative Lit were viable OPTIONs for you just reeks of privilege, don’t you think? One need not be a Pradawearing trustafarian to wallow in privilege. Besides, “serious” privilege (the old money privilege we love to hate) doesn’t wear Prada. Big-time privilege leaves the likes of Prada to the “eurotrash.”

    (HPS resists the silly winky emoticon)

  264. smmo

    “SMMO: The fact that college and Comparative Lit were viable OPTIONs for you just reeks of privilege, don’t you think?”

    Absolutely. Public state university debt-incurring privilege, but privilege nonetheless.

    “Honestly, when has any low-serotonin artyfartybrainiac culture ever really changed anything beyond aesthetics?”

    I think the Powers That Be do use Culture to enhance their cocktail hours. But I also think culture, however manifested, inspires us all. Dismissing everything that isn’t hard science, that doesn’t have obvious money making and/or useful potential, is a mistake.

  265. smmo

    “Do you really think the Revolution (should one ever occur again) will spare the beatnik sympathizers? I rather doubt it. ”

    PS – No. But I was kinda sorta hoping that the feminist revolution would look different. No pitchforks.

  266. LJN

    Right, with my flak jacket firmly in place, I’m going back to what Octogalore asked me way back several pages ago: How I think women progressing in Science would benefit the Feminist agenda (sorry, I’m paraphrasing).

    Firstly, until there’s a critical mass of women in *any* field, it is fairly likely that those who make it will have been forced to become ‘one of the boys’. Often this will result in them accepting the status quo for all *other* women – something along the lines of “I did it the hard way, so I’m not giving anyone else a hand up”.

    Likewise, any small group of women in a male environment is extremely visible, and individual quirks, failures etc. will be taken by the PTB to be characteristic of all women, not just those individuals. Again, not conducive to changing the status quo.

    The UK govt. has noticed this, and has put a fair amount of time and money into establishing a commission and resource center on/for women in SET. Most of the research suggests that changes to corporate culture which benefit women are beneficial to all employees, and encourage diversity in the workforce, which is known to benefit the bottom line (creative problem solving etc.)

    Still a very long way to go, though, and the numbers are getting worse rather than better in terms of women in the upper levels of big UK companies. Many seem to be chucking it all in to go self-employed or start up on their own. Again, that will benefit those who can make that choice but not the rest of women in the workforce.

    Science has traditionally been very very male – even medicine has only just started to notice that women and men react differently to drugs, and show different symptoms to even something as common as a heart attack. That’s where I think more women in the field, making decisions on where research money should be spent, will benefit women in general, and therefore benefit our idea that he/she/it should all have the same options.

    Sorry – thinking aloud here, so if there’s anything that needs stomped on or clarified, please shout.

  267. maribelle

    Hedonistic-thanks for clarifying your point. It reminds me of the 1970′s bumper sticker “Cash Grass or Ass–No one rides for free.” It also reminds me that the “hippie” culture was really just patriarchal capitalism in bad clothing.

    Also, in the cosmic sense “what goes around comes around,” so even apparently altruistic gestures given for “free” provide benefits to the giver, so are they purely altruistic?

    But in that case, ones trusts Karma or the Universe or even the dreaded G-word to bring good fortune back around to us. That requires a very different equation than the patriarchal “you give me X and I’ll give you Y—but only if I have to.” Trusting the Universe to balance its energies out is very different then assessing your household members based on what they give you, and giving the boot to those who don’t cough up enough “benefit.”

    I’ll stop now, because apparently you have to go into rehab if you mention the word “spiritual” on this blog.

    PS Ide Cayn–I do not disagree with most of your points. I merely suggest that by virtue of the owning the uterus, we have the ultimate trump card (not the only card). Since you seem to reflect my position as an adversarial one, which baffles me and adds unnecessary heat to the discussion, I respectfully bow out.

  268. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Maribelle I AM doing “you give my X and I’ll give you Y.” However, I’m counting more than just the tangible. Squishy feelings count for something in the realm of the HPS, and so do stories. I also believe in eternity and Divine Karma. Other folk will call me loopy for this but I don’t care don’t care don’t care LA LA LA LA LA!

    Trust me, though: If I had a perfectly healthy adult person in my household who wasn’t pulling his/her weight you’d better believe I’d give him or her the boot. That’s why I’m single.

  269. roamaround

    So women are either choosing between polishing a countertop or closing a deal, or we’re slouching around in cafés posing as rebels and smoking clove cigarettes while spending daddy’s money.

    What planet are you people on? Thanks to such comments, I finally understand why some versions of feminism are deemed elitist.

  270. Octogalore

    SMMO said “You have made a issue of your income.” Of course, the chosen interpretation is “whatever makes Octo look obnoxious,” but in fact, I haven’t discussed my current career except where it was involved in making a point, and I don’t remember even mentioning what it is specifically. You may be PO’d based on assumptions about income range, but NOT based on my dragging my tax returns kicking and screaming in front of anyone.

    “Excuse me if I’m not wiping away tears of joy that your nanny and her family left their home so they could come here and take care of rich people’s children and swimming pools. I hope she becomes a baking phenomenon and never has to wipe another white kid’s poopy butt again, but it isn’t the revolution.”

    Here again you’re thrusting me into having to either bring about the revolution or be totally wrong and materialistic. Kind of a high standard, no? My point was that because she took out a loan and embarked on an entrepreneurial venture, her situation’s improved, and I think that’s generalizable to other women’s lives. I’m not saying it’s the be all end all or the revolution, or that this belief means I’m not all about kum bah yah as well.

    We talked on an earlier thread about microloans helping women in developing nations. I’ve invested in a minor way in one of these companies, and I can tell you, the loans aren’t for women to start drum circles, they’re to start businesses, where they might even have to (gasp!) close deals.

    I also find it interesting that you say you’re “ another ‘sure, Comparative Literature majors have a very bright future’ fool giving myself wrinkles worrying about my retirement.” Your connecting “bright future” with ability to retire seems to indicate that you embarked on this career with certain financial expectations. Yet you object to a proposal that women be educated about financial opportunities. Seems a bit hypocritical…

    I agree with what you’re saying about “culture, however manifested, inspires us all.” If I hadn’t grown up with artsy-fartsy, poor-but-culture-ridden, humanities professor parents, I could easily have gone through my tech school, and the others, without cracking open a classic. I think it’s important for women, and for everyone, to incorporate humanities into their education if they have that privilege, and obviously if someone has a calling in that direction, she should go for it. However, I think the other side of the coin is that women need practical info early on as to the various career paths and their economic ramifications, and also encouragement that they should try to be financially independent. There’s a lot of conditioning of women before making decisions as to their majors that marriage can be a fallback. I think it’s important to say it’s not, that we should plan to fend for ourselves so that whatever happens, we have our own resources for security.

    LJN – thanks for the response. Interesting points. Absolutely, critical mass is key. I’ve definitely seen the “I had to do it the hard way” motif operating. I didn’t know about what the UK govt has been doing, and am not surprised that these changes would benefit all employees. Great examples about beneficial results stemming from more women in medicine.

    I agree that women tend to be more entrepreneurial and sometimes more willing to take risks, sometimes because there’s a second income, other times because they’re facing more obstacles in the big male-dominated companies. So you do see more opting out or going into smaller companies. I’m seeing some limited examples of companies reeling from the blow of losing their training investment and trying to implement mentoring, flex-time, or “getting back in” programs to stem the tide, but I’m not sure how successful these will be.

    I found it interesting that a recent article, I think in the Atlantic or Time, talked about midlife crises in women often manifesting in entrepreneurial ventures — not in a mad rush to the Fortune 500. Hard to say whether the latter will morph into something women feel is worth the downside, or whether women will continue the trend to be business owners. I’d settle for one out of two.

  271. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Roamaround: Many feminisms ARE elitist. No argument there at all.

    Frankly, rich or poor, educated or not, whether we embrace capitalism or some other way of making the world go round (collectivism, whatevah) it’ll make no damn difference at all so long as women are treated as commodities instead of people.

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