[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?