Dec 02 2008

Spinster aunt thinks two things at once

Lots of the ideas put forth by Shulamith Firestone in The Dialectic of Sex intrigue the fuck out of spinster aunts, but none intrigues the fuck out of them like this one: that in a post-patriarchal society, culture (inclusive, I am happy to say, of art) will become irrelevant and extrinsic and die a long-overdue death, whereupon humans, freed from the prison of domination, will transmogrify into giant intellects pretty much throbbing with contentment.

I mention Firestone’s enchanting speculations for two reasons, both of which originate with blamer comments.

Blamer madeleine wonders how any revolution can be accomplished without violence, and how any society, including a post-patriarchal one, could “function without (voluntary) dominance and submission, in view of the fact that some people know or do some things better than others? And how can you raise children for example, without same?”

For an answer, the obstreperal lobe turns fondly to Firestone and her cultural revolution, which predicts, along with a golden age of “communistic anarchy” and self-determination, the “disappearance of cultural sex, age, and race distinction and of the psychology of power.”

We’ve progressed enough since Firestone’s book was published (1970) to grasp that bagging race distinction would be a good idea, but out with childhood? Out with age? Out with the psychology of power? Is she wack? Won’t human society implode without a hierarchy based on who knows and does stuff “better” than whoever else?

What about the children?

These are legitimate concerns for persons whose experience is confined to the intellectual suffocation demanded by life in a primitive, violent dystopia. Which is just about everybody.

Certainly we couldn’t, at this point in human evolution, just start turning the kids loose in the world. It is unthinkable that they should not spend their idyllic first years in thrall to one or two adults who will educate (socialize) them according to the adults’ personal “values,” meaning, of course, the DNA necessary to replicate patriarchy. This indoctrination period is known as “raising” children, and differs from raising tomatoes chiefly in that tomatoes are given quite a bit more freedom to be themselves.

Raising children is thought to be both a moral obligation and a deeply fulfilling endeavor. When people, especially women, reproduce and fail to take sufficient interest in the deeply fulfilling endeavor of hammering patriarchal ideology into their kids, they are described by people who do do this (i.e. “good” parents) as “bad” parents.

Naturally this is sour grapes on the part of the “good” parents, who, if they are women (and they probably are), have become footnotes to their children’s lives, subsumed by the great drudging melodrama of motherhood at the expense of their own identities. I’d be bitter, too.

But I digress.

The point I set out to make — and let’s face it, when do I ever get it in the first pass? I’m sure there’ll be a post tomorrow stating in clear, concise English whatever it is I’m so abstrusely trying to say today — is that it would be great if we could at least imagine a social order free of dominance and submission. Imagining it isn’t, contrary to what John Lennon asserted, easy, but for fuck’s sake, isn’t it necessary?

So I urge the reader to give it a whirl. I’ll start. Say, for example, that because of changes engendered by the feminist revolution, kids wouldn’t need to be raised at all. They could flit about the countryside according to whim, just like anybody else. Why not? They wouldn’t be kidnaped or raped or sold into sex slavery because, remember? dominance and submission is a thing of the past. They wouldn’t be run over by cars, because future-topia vehicles are accident-proof. They won’t skip school because there isn’t any school to skip. They won’t join roving gangs of thugs because crime doesn’t exist, either. The kids would choose the people they wish to hang out with, which people may or may not include their biological parents. The parents would be relieved of their neurotic, self-absorbed obsession with their own offspring, the kids would be free from enslavement as low-status sub-beings in a nuclear family to which they belong only as an accident of birth.

Firestone asserts that after the feminist/proletarian revolt, humans, unfettered by class and culture and power differentials, will be free to “realize the conceivable in the actual.” We’d become giant pulsating globs of happiness.

Thus would art take a powder! Hallelujah! At least, art as we know it — that ponderous, self-absorbed, interpretation, or anti-interpretation (whatever!), of reality, with an audience manipulated by a creator — would cease to be. Which brings me to my second thought.

This thought popped into my head when I began leafing through a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, through which seminal 20th-century anti-war novel I was leafing because several blamers had recently alluded to the phrase “poo-tee-weet.” I happened to read a passage that made me bust out weeping.

Here is the passage.

When he was gone, Lazzaro promised Billy and poor old Edgar Derby that he was going to have revenge, and that revenge was sweet.

“It’s the sweetest thing there is,” said Lazzaro. “People fuck with me,” he said, “and Jesus Christ are they ever fucking sorry. I laugh like hell. I don’t care if it’s a guy or a dame. If the President of the United States fucked around with me, I’d fix him good. You should have seen what I did to a dog one time.”

“A dog?” said Billy.

“Son of a bitch bit me. So I got me some steak, and I got me the spring out of a clock. I cut that spring up into little pieces. I put points on the ends of the pieces. They were sharp as razor blades. I stuck’em into the steak — way inside. And I went past where they had the dog tied up. He wanted to bite me again. I said to him, ‘Come on doggie — let’s be friends. Let’s not be enemies any more. I’m not mad.’ He believed me.”

“He did?”

“I threw him the steak. He swallowed it down in one big gulp. I waited around for ten minutes.” Now Lazzaro’s eyes twinkled. “Blood started coming out of his mouth. He started crying, and he rolled on the ground, as though the knives were on the outside of him instead of on the inside of him. Then he tried to bite out his own insides. I laughed, and I said to him, ‘You got the right idea now. Tear your own guts out, boy. That’s me in there will all those knives.'” So it goes.

“Anybody ever asks you what the sweetest thing in life is –” said Lazzaro, “it’s revenge.”

I thought about Firestone’s art-free utopia as soon as I finished bawling my eyes out. I had a sudden desperate yearning for an existence where such a passage could never have been conceived. Because that passage is pretty much the definition of patriarchy. So is the whole of Slaughterhouse Five, for that matter, down to Vonnegut’s lone, one-dimensional female character.

Imagine: oppression of children, gone! Imagine: war, gone! Imagine: art, gone! All made irrelevant by human evolution into pulsating, contented geniuses. Gone is the power differential between parent and offspring, homeland and enemy, audience and creator. Blamm! Revolution fixes everything.

Culture is nothing but the realization of patriarchal fantasy.


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  1. Kate

    Sometimes I like to sit around and play with watercolors.

    I dig culture as patriarchy socialization, but I wonder at the relationship. Were we globs of intellectual happiness post-patriarchy, might we spend some of our time with watercolors? Our reality would be radically different, but would still be reality, and might not some spend their happy time reflecting the new reality? Would that be art, and would the art create and influence a culture?

    Is culture necessarily socializing – or necessarily within a patriarchy? Or could they be pure without the perversion of power?

  2. B. Dagger Lee

    When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my Firestone?

  3. TG

    Wouldn’t art be okay if there weren’t a hierarchy? Without aesthetic standards or monetary value attached to art objects, wouldn’t everybody just be able to, you know, do some art stuff without any oppression?

    I’m missing how art is oppressive. I get how The Cannon is a mishmash of the stuff that dead white dudes did. I understand how basing standards on said cannon is a perpetuation of patriarchal nonsense. I’m there.

    Perhaps my attachment is irrational, but if there’s gonna be a revolution, can’t music come too?

  4. kate

    T’would seem to me that art and music like anything else, would just exist and there wouldn’t be a heirarchy of “the artist” or “the musician”. Everyone would be an artist and everyone a musician. If something needs fixing, everyone would try and if one excelled, they’d deign to teach others who wished to know and they wouldn’t own that knowledge, they wouldn’t carry it around on their chest like a badge to market and to demand “respect” because respect would not be something to be demanded, everyone would have it, everyone would get it because they exist and that’s all there is; existence, the beauty of existence in all things as they are.

    No one would give a damn about what one person said over another about what was ‘good’ or ‘great’ because well, no one’s opinion or version of events is any more important than the others.

    Of course with this kind of fluidity with reality, I’d imagine there wouldn’t be a lot of “progress” as we know it, but then who cares? What’s the rush? Does a dog or a cat rush to find the answer to why they can’t sit at a table and eat with fork and spoon? No, they accept what is and are happy.

    That’s what I think it would be. And that scares the living be-jesus outta lot of people.

    In fact, I’ll bet people wouldn’t really have names beyond whatever one determined they might want to be called, but certainly there wouldn’t be “Mary’s child” anymore as each child has an identity of their own that they decide. If said child decides to be called “stick of wood” and then changes later to be called “George” who cares? Its what they want and that’s that.

  5. Orange

    Wait. Can we still watch cartoons?

  6. acm

    I guess that, having given up schooling and learning and all that overly restrictive formative stuff, we also give up the benefits of, say, engineering and technology and all the things that take schooling to create/maintain?

    I can imagine a non-hierarchical non-punitive form of instruction, in which people voluntarily seek out those who seem to know more about particular subjects and pick their brains, but a system that presumes children equal to adults in their ability to frolic freely is one that either loses most of its children or falls apart in a way much demonstrated by the Bush Administration…

  7. acm

    (by which I mean also to point to the results of the cultural revolution, which forceably pulled down any bastions of expertise, and thus left itself with no history and a sort of timeless childhood…)

  8. Rachel

    “that in a post-patriarchal society, culture (inclusive, I am happy to say, of art) will become irrelevant and extrinsic and die a long-overdue death…”

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong or jumping the gun, but are you saying there is no such thing as non-patriarchal art? As an artist, I have to disagree.

  9. Amos

    I’m glad someone is contemplating the abolition of childhood, but I don’t think it could ever happen if it requires accident-proof technology.

    And I second the call for dancing and cartoons in the post-gender utopia.

  10. TP

    I was going to pipe in but kate pretty much spelled out exactly what I was thinking. Expertise would be a result of enthusiasm, rather than the pursuit of pride. Enthusiasm would be more rewarding, because you wouldn’t fear failure. I could see huge technological advances, and all of them geared toward improvement rather than profits.

    Over thousands of years of evolution, the natural parity between men’s and women’s bodies would increase. Women and male athletes would play on a level playing field, where one sex wasn’t favored with superior nutrition and exercise as the male body has enjoyed for millennia.

  11. norbizness

    That’s totally unfair to Vonnegut; there are at least two one-dimensional female characters in that book.

    But it’s neither here nor there; I seriously doubt we’ll even get a person on Mars by the time I kick the bucket.

  12. Flores

    “I guess that, having given up schooling and learning and all that overly restrictive formative stuff, we also give up the benefits of, say, engineering and technology and all the things that take schooling to create/maintain?”

    As Firestone’s vision of the future involves extensive employment of technology, this can’t be right. She wants cybernetic communism, an automated society of plenty. She was a one of the first transhumanists, trying to free humanity from the tyranny of biology. As a matter of fact, it’s unfortunate she doesn’t get more recognition in scene today.

    [quote]Over thousands of years of evolution, the natural parity between men’s and women’s bodies would increase.[/quote]

    As I understand it, the main difference between male and female athletes are overall size and body fat percentage. Per pound of lean tissue, they perform about the same. I’m not sure what would change with better diet and exercise. Females would get larger on average, probably.

    I also see no reason to wait. Easily within a hundred years, technology will let us design our bodies as we please. We won’t be limited to biology, but able to craft forms from countless materials.

  13. nakedthoughts

    thank you for being eloquent when I fail. I was trying to explain anarchy to someone the other day. I feel much more able now…

  14. Rob in Madison

    “… art as we know it — that ponderous, self-absorbed, interpretation, or anti-interpretation (whatever!), of reality, with an audience manipulated by a creator …”

    I don’t want to manipulate anything. I take pictures of trees, mostly, because I love them. Then, occasionally, I send prints of them to friends. Is this an exercise of power?

    I grant that, steeped as everything is in patriarchy, art will serve as one of its conduits; but, jeez: can’t we still make things of beauty without exercising dominance/submission? I don’t even want to dominate myself. I just love my lens.

  15. yttik

    LOL, I’m not sure if children would wish to be treated like tomatoes, even in utopia. It’s scary when you’ve just arrived on the planet and having someone else in charge for a while can be reassuring.

    I’m interested in transforming what power and hierarchy means, what it could look like if it wasn’t always so abused. Inequality has so many negative meanings, it’s hard to even talk about what positive power imbalances in society would look like. But I think of mothers nurturing children as an example of a potential positive example of a hierarchy.

  16. Twisty

    “Maybe I’m reading this wrong or jumping the gun, but are you saying there is no such thing as non-patriarchal art? As an artist, I have to disagree.”

    Do you, or do you not, abide under the auspices of patriarchy?

  17. Jonathan


    Of course with this kind of fluidity with reality, I’d imagine there wouldn’t be a lot of “progress” as we know it, but then who cares?

    On the contrary, society and technology would take off so fast that we’d be colonizing Mars in a generation (all without massive risk to life and limb and while preserving the Martian landscape).

    For you see, we’d finally have innovation. REAL innovation! We would finally get rid of our crushing system where the big-whatever megacorporations crush all competition and exploit everyone in reach while siphoning 99% of tax dollars for well-connected blue-bloods all in the name of “free market capitalism”. Our current system has gotten so bad that it makes free-market capitalism look like a breath of fresh air!

    But post-revolution, advancement of the species would FINALLY be merit-based. You do what you want, and if you are good at it, other people build off of your work. Whether its organizing people, sequencing DNA, writing music, or playing with kids.

    Just imagine what 10 billion minds working together could do! Compare that to our current system where 1 billion minds spend all their effort keeping the other 9 billion ignorant and half-dead.

    All the advances of modern society came when society loosened the yoke of tradition and patriarchal hierarchy by a fraction of a micron. Just imagine what would be possible if the yoke came off!

    Yet another reason why IBTP: for the opportunity costs suffered by all of humanity under their system!

  18. Moz

    I’m not sure I understand the post-singularity environment enough to comment, but I’m going to try.

    I’m curious about how we replace breast milk, and what to do about the poo lovingly scattered about the place by the free children. I assume that Firestone posits some kind of mechanical slave class that is created with just enough intelligence to be useful, not enough to lament its lack of freedom. Thus freeing the slaves of patriarchy, hooray.

    There’s also, I think, a need to ensure that the lack of inter-human dominance is not because we are all subservient to the machines. Whether for good or bad, a world where the machine stops me stepping out onto the road or cooking my own lunch does not sound like fun. I wonder if Firestone has just wished away all the bits she doesn’t like, and avoided thinking about the bits that she doesn’t like thinking about. I’m not sure I wonder enough to bother reading her work, I recall finding it pretty hard going when I was at university.

  19. Ghoti

    If I’m misinterpreting this, please let me know, but it seems that the abolition of art by no means requires the destruction of photography or music or whatever other medium one uses for expression. It just removes the institutionalized branding of such expression as either “art,” which is culturally sanctioned as beyond the realm of criticism by its very definition (if one objects or finds it offensive, they “just don’t get it”), or “not art,” which can be looked at for what it really is and openly branded as vulgar, or simply not worthwhile. Calling something “art” is akin to saying “it’s my religious belief”; it can be pornographic, objectifying and irrational, but pointing this out is considered insensitive or ignorant. Without art, one can still enjoy looking at a canvas with paint on it, but not create a bizarre, untouchable mystique around the canvas that makes it out to be inherently something more than the sum of its parts, and not just a figment of human depth perception and pattern recognition.

  20. Veganrampage

    Elephants. As long as we are fantasizing, elephants live in beautiful matriarchal societies . They live long fruitful lives in extended tightly knit families, until the dreaded species homosapien comes along, and kills them, horribly, for their ivory.

    On another note, pertinent to blogging and patriarchy.: Susannah Breslin , who writes for an abomination of a site called “The Frisky“, nominated Sheila for the best female blogger of 2008 in November. Here is the blurb.

    The Gawkerette: These days, Sheila McClear is the lone female Gawker blogger at the site that invented snark. Unlike the Jezebels, McClear is more interested in covering the news than caterwauling about the patriarchy.

    Well kids, Sheila just got fired. I guess all that non-caterwauling about the patriarchy didn’t do much good.

    Ya can’t caterwaul loud enough for me.

  21. Jodie

    Ah, if we could just be in charge of ourselves!

  22. Cimorene

    I haven’t read Firestone, but I am having trouble imagining a world without school. I can get glimpses of a world without sex n’ gender, if I spend a few minutes squinching up my face and trying real hard. A world without race is easier to imagine. A world without class is even easier. But a world without age, that’s a tough one. Primarily because for the first 10 or so years of a person’s life, at least, they can’t really do the stuff that they would need to to survive. Like get food. Especially babies–babies need someone to be “in charge” of them, though I imagine that post-patriarchy it would be less “in charge” than “hanging with — and getting taken care of by –,” but the idea of one-or-some people’s responsibility for another’s is still there.

    And I can’t imagine learning to read without systematic schooling; jumping around from type to type, without at least some guidance from someone who’s done it already, would make it tough to learn.

    The thing is that I’m nannying a kid who’s got a mild learning disability that makes learning to read very, very difficult. And because it’s difficult, it’s hard and annoying and seems pointless to him, so he just wants to go out and play. Which is great, except that I think that any society that aims for utopia needs to aim for a near universal literacy rate.

    Also it seems like this all would be tough to do this unless there was NO crime, at all.

    But you know, I’m not that imaginative, and I’ve never read Firestone, so what the hell do I know.

  23. Azundris

    «But post-revolution, advancement of the species would FINALLY be merit-based. You do what you want, and if you are good at it, other people build off of your work.»

    Not just post-rev. It’s called open source, and it’s here today.

    That said, I just hope garbage collection will still run after the revolution.

    Oh, and Rob — we totally see through your tree-hugging ways, you know. http://www.motivatedphotos.com/?id=1057

  24. Lemur

    There would indeed be no crime in Firestone’s utopia. Also, everything would be accident-proof. It sounds nice to me.
    By the way, seeing your name made smile- I loved the Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

  25. Lexie


    You’ve never heard of the unschoolers, have you? The segment of the homeschooling population that doesn’t do formal lessons? They learn to read just fine as they go throughout their day, doing things that interest and enthuse them, asking for assistance when needed. Of course, you realize that formal schooling wasn’t a reality for almost anyone until the late 1850s. There was an issue with lack of printed material, yes. But for centuries, people learned without formal schooling.

    As for babies, I think the idea here is not that a woman gives birth (or in Firestone’s world, a child is born through technological invention that circumvents the need for a female gestator) and the infant is left lying on the ground to fend for itself. The idea is more that no one “owns” the baby. There is no official parent or guardian. The idea being that the baby is cared for by the community, to which time when its not. The child, who of course, needs less and less care as they get older, would decide for themselves when to move on, who to get guidance from, what they need most. The child would have full rights of self-determination.

    People (even kids) know what they need. The idea is to let the kid decide (even a crying baby can decide which adult who holds it is most comforting and preferable) and the kid will go to who is ready and willing to meet their needs and perhaps has a need to be met in return (i.e. an older person who might need assistance cooking teaches a child how to cook as the child helps the older person with the physically difficult parts.)

  26. jael

    so basically, if we woke up tomorrow and everything was perfect, then everything would be perfect?

  27. TG

    Yes, we all abide under the auspices of patriarchy. Obviously, all current art is patriarchal because it exists within the patriarchy. I think what we’re asking is this: can art exist without the exertion of dominance over an audience? Can art exist without the patriarchy?

  28. thebewilderness

    “I guess that, having given up schooling and learning and all that overly restrictive formative stuff, we also give up the benefits of, say, engineering and technology and all the things that take schooling to create/maintain?”

    Only if you accept the patriarchy myth that children are unwilling to learn and therefore must be forced to learn in a hierarchical punitive environment.
    A brief peek around the planet will illustrate the absurdity of that notion.

    The purpose of schools, as originally conceived and currently operated, is to provide literate workers for industry.

    People love to learn. From the moment we are born.

  29. Sean

    Tell me if I’m wrong here, but when I hear Twisty or Firestone say that art and crime and childhood etc. will be gone, I think they mean that the concepts contained in those words wouldn’t exist. The words wouldn’t exist, either. And since language shapes our reality, well, it ain’t hard to see the importance of getting rid of such totalizing terms. Making something, whether utilitarian or not, would not be called “art.” It would just be something. Doing something would not be called a “crime.” It would just be an action. Children wouldn’t be forced into the role of submission, and if they needed help with something, they could seek it out of their own free-will, like everyone else does. And remember, “age” is gone, too, so it’s not as if the children are being separated into some vacuum. The distinction between parent and child, adult and child, wouldn’t exist, so neither would the anxieties related to it. Most linguists and cultural theorists show that children everywhere develop language and become fully-functional members of their society regardless of how they are raised, and occasionally, they aren’t raised at all and still turn out alright.

  30. madeleine

    Thank you Twisty, that is very clear. I’ve actually known some small groups that did function in that way, although something/someone always fucked it up after a while. But while it lasted, those were the good times. So it is possible.
    But, but, but… I call myself a theoretical anarchist, because for the whole of humanity I cannot imagine this as anything but theoretic. Twisty, can you now help me to imagine the revolution itself?

  31. Megan

    I’ll read “The Dialectic of Sex” if you read Marge Piercy’s “Woman on the Edge of Time.” Or maybe just blog about it, if’n you already read it.

  32. Vinaigrette Girl

    Maybe I’m not alone in being a biological mother, here, maybe I am, who knows; but if Firestone is suggesting that baby-and-parent relationships are exclusively about dominance and submission, well, no. Lots of parents are more enlightened and mindful than that, and are aware of the power relationships which inform their own actions. Babies start exerting their own power, such as it is, from birth; but the incontrovertible truth is that as embodied persons, they are unable to nurture themselves and survive without help. And ideally – sorry, but there we are – if they can imbibe colostrum from the body which bore them, it is better for them that they do so.

    I don’t disagree with the premise that women punish themselves and get punished when they don’t conform to the dudely ideal of Muh-therrrr-hood – I had PND for 2 years, know this one from the inside – but babies have to be looked after, and they’re all different, and the “neurotic obsessiveness” seems to me to be yet another form of criticism and punishment of women, and indeed of infants.

    So in an ideal world lots of people take care of the baby from, say, 3 days onward; but the baby’s need for consistent care from one or two adults is supposed to disappear too, as is the baby’s need to have a system to fit in to in the first place. Very young babies thrive on a certain level of predictability, and from what appears of Firestone’s thoughts, their needs are dismissed in favour of an adult view of utopia, and a disrepect for the world of the under-twos.

    So, no, I don’t buy it totally. But maybe I’m neurotically obsessed. [shrugs]

    And Art-with-a-capital[ist]-A is a PITA of dominance and patriarchy, but art and the pleasure that comes from it, as well as music and comics and cartoons, would have to be part of my utopia.

    When we talk about the dominance of biology and liberation from it, I can’t escape from knowing that all mammals need 32 trace elements to survive, and that without, say, the valency of metals, we would not exist. Even Firestone’s utopia is a form of culture: we can’t get away from metal-catalysed enzyme interactions, or our own mitochondria. When people bandy about terms like “freedom from biology” they’re really talking about “freedom from certain cultural constructs around biology” and I wish they would say so.

  33. Twisty

    VinaigretteGirl: “the “neurotic obsessiveness” seems to me to be yet another form of criticism and punishment of women, and indeed of infants.”

    No no no! Not a criticism of women! A criticism of the system that creates the condition. I have always maintained that people tend to do the best they can with what they’ve got. Women, however, particularly women with children, don’t have access to the full menu of choices. In our culture “motherhood” is a kind of prison. Mothers, for instance, are more likely than non-mothers to be murdered, unemployed, and poor. This is in addition, of course, to the general degrading drudgery of housewifery and concomitant fascination with Oprah and Dr Phil.

    As for freedom from biology: I get what you’re saying, and I suppose true freedom from biology would be non-existence. However, there can be little argument against the notion that females bear a disproportionate burden, biology-wise. That women have to do the pregnancy is not a “cultural construct.” What Firestone and others have postulated is that until women are liberated from this burden, their personal autonomy will always be compromised, not just by the state or some dude laying claim to their uteruses, but by actual physiological process of hosting a parasite for nine months.

  34. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Post-patriarchy there is no poop, because there is no waste. It’s transmogrified into chocolate.

    Over here in the cheap seats Firestone sounds like another utopian – dare I say it? – godbag. “But I mean that in the nicest of ways!” Let me try to explain: Last time I checked, human beings were STILL animals with the typical antagonism to perceived threats. We deal with this elemental fear every day by organizing and creating structures and rules that make us less scared.

    I do believe that all Patriarchal behavior stems from an elemental fear of anarchy. Unfortunately, every structure is (by definition) an imposition. Every imposition requires an enforcer, including and especially “the revolution” that is supposed to get us from point A to Firestone’s point B.

    I invite all to envision a typical sermon. Instead of “heaven,” we insert “post-patriarchy,” as in “We will be released from (insert fear-based organizing system here) when we DIE!” I figure we’d have to be dead, because only in “heaven” could we exist in throbbing contentedness without some other entity harshing our vibes.

    I imagine that before we can transcend Patriarchy we’ll need to transcend the fear/survival instinct. Scientists could invent a drug that makes humans completely fearless. Our having taken this drug, the need for fear-based organization schemes would fall away.

    How would we accomplish this feat without IMPOSING it? Revolution. Patriarchal revolution. Wait, what? OK, EVERYBODY accidentally ingests a mushroom that makes us fearless. At the same time.

    The resulting anarchy would cull the human population, not from fear-based violence but from random accidents and infections from stepping in children’s poop. These deaths would be characterized as being from “natural causes.” Then we’d die off as a species, since without boinking, and without a CONTROLLED program of machine-based breeding, we’d never quite get around to replicating ourselves. There would always be something more interesting to do.

  35. sandi

    breath of fresh air which upon intake has frozen my nose hairs and seared my sinuses in a 32-degree (Fahrenheit) blast because of course “art” will just be “be-ing” and children will just be people and all that stuff…so now I’m going to finish my espresso and brush my teeth and go to work with a clear brain…let’s see how long I can sustain this state of brain!

  36. mir

    Imagining a post-P world is tough for me. I try but all I come up with are rationales for why I, personally, must retain the things that I love. And by ‘love’ I think I mean ‘own’, or maybe ‘have power over’ and ‘have power over me’.

    I want scorching hot sex, music with magical ass-shaking power, fresh espresso and sharp cheddar cheese. I am so much attached to physical pleasures that my obstreperal lobe is weak. I cling, and I blame. Cling, blame, cling, blame. But I’m trying.

  37. HazelStone

    Azundris, re: garbage collection and other folks re: where the kids poop

    “Waste” as a concept is sort of like “weeds.” In the wrong place, they are poison or at least ooky. But in the right place they are resources, or food, or habitat for the biosphere.

    In this hypothetical world, I think all humans would at least have to be taught by some caregiver (humans who happen to like raising kids and so run creches? robots? cybernetic web interactive cranial implants?) how to poop outdoors and not transmit cholera. And we’d have to have very thoughtful technology doing things like safely composting our poop and making sure manufactured products are either easily biodgradable (and then handled properly) or can be recycled safely (and THAT is handled properly).

    One thing I worry about is the tiny percentage of people who are born broken, like sociopaths and so forth. One can argue that this would disappear but I’d wager even if only one or two of them are born out of the billions on the earth, someone is going to have to get Heirarchical in reining in their maladjustment.

  38. yttik

    Well, children may not wish to be treated like tomatoes, but for me it sounds absolutely delightful. Left alone on the vine to blossom, to become what I was intended to become without outside interference?? Fabulous! I definitely would love to be a tomato.

    I do see the patriarchy in art. To begin with, much of women’s art and creativity isn’t even acknowledged. For centuries we’ve been weaving, painting, embroidering, things viewed as “womens work”, not necessarily viewed as art. Then there is also the sexism, women who create fabulous meals for their families out of nothing are called “wives” and “cooks”. Men create fabulous meals and they are chefs, often with a salary to match their title. And yes, we do now have some female chefs but we also still have millions of women who work their “art” in obscurity and without pay whose efforts are dismissed as simply what is expected of them. And lastly, the patriarchy dictates what kind of art women are forced to participate in. They say poverty is the mother of invention, well much of women’s art was in response to not having. You weave because you have no clothes, you embroider so you can try and trade something beautiful for some eggs so your family doesn’t starve.

    Now if people were free to create without the dictates of patriarchy, I can’t even imagine what it would be like. It reminds me of Virginia Woolf and A room of One’s Own.

  39. ivyleaves

    Having actually read The Dialectic of Sex, Firestone posits families and other kinship-style groups that come together for, say, a period of 7 years by contract. The purpose may be to sponsor a child, raising it collectively by agreement. Since the means of reproduction are external and by choice, children would not be a problem, only a solution in that they would be chosen. Then the obligation is dissolved. I found the book absolutely delightful to read.

  40. ivyleaves

    Hmm, my editing mixed up my thoughts a little, please re-sequence.

  41. caitlinate

    I heartily enjoy engaging in dreaming of a/the post-patriarchal world and explaining these distinctions to others. Nothing like spending an evening with friends getting down to the nitty gritty of it all.

    Yet I feel like here it’s all talk of ‘imagine when this happens’ and ‘won’t it be so great when…’ I guess I try to strive more for the ‘enacting the change I want to see’. Saying it will be better because of a, b and c is much easier than trying to enact that into your daily life as best you can. This blog should be a good place to start but so often it seems like everyone is still just preening and presenting their knowledge and higher education qualifications and their thinking on the future rather than well, actually doing it now. But then maybe it is just the internet.

    Education, learning, skills, food, support, information, everything should be shared freely and easily and not maintained as a badge of superiority. If you know how to do something offer to teach others, whether people you know personally or advertising the sharing of these skills. If you have food, share it with the person next to you who might not have any and even if they do have some. If someone makes a mess help them clean it up or if they are unable to for whatever reason do it for them. I think the way this should work with children (ho may not yet be able to speak or express themselves so that adults can understand) is community – where the child as an infant might receive nutrition and ‘primary’ care from the people biologically responsible for it but that a wider community of people also provide these things and more to the child and its ‘parents’. As time goes on the child is provided with a wider community to lean on, learn from and be supported by in any and all of its decisions or ideas. With art it recognises that everyone can and will make something and not placing a hierarchy of good, bad or better. For me anarchism and the such isn’t about destroying everything and everyone is left as an individual to fend for themselves. It’s about trying to even out the playing field, recognising others as equals, sharing what you have – no matter how it is you learnt it. Breaking down hierarchies of power and respect to allow enjoyment and love as communities that help and support each other.

    Perhaps technological advances will mean there are ways to get robots to the things we don’t want to be doing – cleaning up shit, finding ways to dispose of garbage – but even that strikes a wrong note with me. We are the ones producing the shit and the garbage and should be taking responsibility for it rather than yet again handing over to ‘garbage people’ or even robots to deal with it because we don’t want to. Perhaps technology should help us find more sustainable ways of doing this so that we’re not continuing to destroy and pollute the planet but it should still be our responsibility. Anarchy and a post-patriarchy isn’t about everyone being free to do whatever they want whenever they want and fuck everyone else. It’s about the freedom to do this whilst also maintaining collective responsibility for the people around you that you respect and share a world with.

  42. Twisty

    I agree, caitlinate, that thinking about it doesn’t make it so, but then again, not thinking about it doesn’t make it so, either. I mean, somebody’s got to think this shit up in the first place, or it’s definitely never gonna happen.

    That said, thinking about it and doing it are not concepts which are at odds with each other; I think we may be arguing the same side. Although nobody here is advocating a do-what-you-want-and-fuck-everyone-else society. Where did that come from?

  43. Rachel

    ““Maybe I’m reading this wrong or jumping the gun, but are you saying there is no such thing as non-patriarchal art? As an artist, I have to disagree.”

    Do you, or do you not, abide under the auspices of patriarchy?”

    Okay so, thing 1 exists, check. Thing two also exists within thing one ergo, thing two is automatically completely ruled by thing 1. This idea works in theory, after all a piece of poop existing in my colon is ruled by my colon, but simply because I exist as an artist within patriarchal confines does not automatically mean that I am ruled by those confines.

    Certainly the active rejection of patriarchy means that I am ruled by it — just as Satanists who actively reject Christianity are completely ruled by it since turning it on its head is still acknowledging that it has power — but if I neither accept nor reject it, how does it have power over me? I believe in an aesthetic that may or may not be influenced by the patriarchal culture in which I live, but that doesn’t mean that I am incapable of any thought independent of that culture.

    I don’t disagree that art has been a major vehicle of patriarchal world views, but there’s still a great deal of art that neither accepts nor rejects patriarchy, thereby stripping it of its power. I don’t consider myself a non-patriarchal artist, but I really don’t think that all art, or art as a pursuit is horrible and awful because it upholds patriarchy. By that logic, “blam[ing] the patriarchy” upholds patriarchy because it exists within it. By that logic, all blogs, all pursuits uphold the patriarchy, so why should we even bother?

    No. I can’t agree with that at all. Art is a vehicle. Art is emotion. Art is whatever you want it to be, and while you can argue that some art and some artists (and most patrons over the history of art) have been interested in maintaining the power structures that kept them in power, you can’t say that all art is bad because all art is just a patriarchal vomit on canvass. It’s impossible to classify all art into a single category without ignoring a significant chunk of it.

  44. Twisty

    Firestone’s idea is that art would become obsolete, because “self-expression” would be obsolete, because — I’ll say it again — conflict, and therefore drama, would no longer exist. Instead, people themselves would be the “art”.

    I know, I know. Everybody loves art. But what is it, really? An attempt to transcend reality. So if transcendence actually were to occur, art wouldn’t be needed no more. See?

  45. HazelStone

    I have a hard time believing humans can exist without any conflict. I think in the Hypothetical Post-PatriarchyVerse (HPPV) it would be vastly different, possibly unimaginable conflict. But there would certainly still be conflict.

    At least heated discussions about, say, the best use of shared resources? Philosophical disputes? “By golly I find it annoying when that person plays their music so loudly near my hammock when I want to sleep. Then I have to move my hammock. Rats!”

    I mean, am I crazy?

  46. The Rowan

    Without going into the back and forth discussions et al. I just have to say that I think I need to re-read some of Mr KV’s stuff again.

    I vivdly remeber a back and forth between two characters, or it could’ve been a remanicance in the introduction by Mr KV himself on a plane going to some sort of reunion.

    One person reading Time Magazine (circa -1960-something)
    “It says here there’s going to be 10 Billion humans on the planet by 2000 (actual date slips memory!)”
    Mr KV or Billy: “Oh, I suppose they’ll all want Human Rights too….”

    I think about that ….LOTS…

    (There may also have been as many as 3 2-d female characters, more than in “Player Piano”!)

  47. Hattie

    What about satisfaction? Or is that too mundane? We mothers are very careful not to divulge the secrets of our satisfaction with children (and im my case grandchildren)because we are misunderstood as smug or enslaved by the patriarchy or something like that.
    I know the rules of polite society, though.No showing pictures around. Talking derisively about the restrictions that motherhood places on the unfolding of my wonderful self. I coulda been a contenda! Understanding the dangers of overpopulation (which I do understand.) Congratulating those without children on their freedom and independence (a big one!)
    As far as art goes, art is dead. Sharks in formaldehyde? Faugh!!

  48. thebewilderness

    I think it would be very satisfying to live in a world where children were considered people by people who consider themselves people.

  49. Flores

    When modern transhumanists say freedom from biology, they really mean freedom from biology. Brain uploading or transformation, diamondoid bodies, and so on. Firestone herself doesn’t go this far, but she does take the development human-level artificial intelligence as a matter of course. Knowledge has advanced since the book’s publication, and we now see the vast potential of nanotechnology.

    All this mocking talk of utopia makes me a bit uncomfortable. I see little reason to assume everything would be perfect after the patriarchy. I’d be plenty happy with better. Folks too often characterize radicals as utopian in an attempt to discredit them. “Things could never be that good! You’re nuts. Now shut up and accept bosses and brutality.” One of the many tricks used to maintain the status quo.

    Furthermore, why swallow the notion that we’ll never achieve anything like the ideal? People seem to take for granted the impossibly of ending oppression, even of satisfying the entire species’ physical needs. This view has some basis in history, but none in science. No natural law prevents a joyous utopia of freedom and plenty. The amount of energy and matter required would be utterly insignificant on the cosmic scale. The organizational intelligence required would be well below theoretical limits.

  50. Shereen

    Okay, I’m new to Firestone, but there are a couple of things that trouble me, and maybe there’s a nuance I’m not getting.

    Firstly, the attitude that child-bearing is a burden, and that women cannot truly transcend until they get past it, sounds to me like typical patriarchal thinking. Pregnancy is only a burden when yoked with obligatory marriage, secondary status, lack of extended community support – a lack of resources and autonomy, in other words. While we’re imagining, let’s imagine a world where women only get pregnant if and when they want to – they get to choose the partner and the method of insemination, the structure of their home life, and how much support they’d like during the pregnancy as well as during the child-rearing. Let’s indeed imagine that the children would have a whole safe interconnected community to help raise and love them. How, then, is child-bearing a burden? Structures like this have existed at various times in different places on the planet. It doesn’t free women from child-bearing, but it also doesn’t look at child-bearing as an objectively negative thing that we need to be freed from.

    Secondly, I don’t understand where in this utopian picture lies the fact that we still need to feed ourselves, build ourselves shelter, manage limited resources, deal with disease, and generally live with the fact that we live within an ecosystem food chain, which means that we’ll be eating some animals (and plants), and being eaten by some other animals. Patriarchy or no, the details of daily life do not lend themselves to being a pulsating glob of happiness. Being a pulsating glob of happiness is not, in fact, the point of human existence, as much as we in Western culture (ack – there’s that word again) keep insisting that it is.

    And lastly – my ignorance is vast – I’m not understanding culture as a patriarchal construct entirely. To some extent, culture exists as an unspoken worldview that is connected on some level to the place and time where you live, no? Certainly in this place and time it’s steeped in patriarchy, but are you suggesting that, once patriarchy is finished, my outlook on the world will coincide perfectly with a woman in Papua New Guinea? I live in Canada, where there’s winter almost half the year. A woman in Papua New Guinea doesn’t even consider the concept of food storage or hoarding, because you can’t because of the heat, and because there’s always something to eat. Always. So are you telling me that even after the patriarchy, things like that (it’s a simplistic example, but it was just off the top of my head) won’t result in differing worldviews that might even be called different cultures?

  51. Jonathan


    Furthermore, why swallow the notion that we’ll never achieve anything like the ideal? People seem to take for granted the impossibly of ending oppression, even of satisfying the entire species’ physical needs. This view has some basis in history, but none in science. No natural law prevents a joyous utopia of freedom and plenty. The amount of energy and matter required would be utterly insignificant on the cosmic scale. The organizational intelligence required would be well below theoretical limits.

    We’ll said!

    Mocking the visions of a better world feels to me like a deceptively easy way to throw support to the status quo.

    Does it really matter whether we can work out all the details for a post-patriarchal world? If I can envision, even dimly, a better future on the horizon, then I can start to move in that direction now. Once I know which direction to pull, the less-than-obvious micro-steps (the steps that aren’t immediately obvious to anyone with a sense of compassion or justice or logic) that I can make today to help bring about that world are much easier to find.

  52. caitlinate

    Flores – yes! Yes!

    Twisty – Oh yes, of course people have to think this up and I’m one of those that spend a lot of time thinking and talking about it. I guess I was addressing those leaving comments rather than you yourself. There is a certain.. smugness? that abounds sometimes which makes me distinctly uncomfortable. Plus it seemed like some were saying ‘but you can’t take this away from me!/what about all the children and the poop!/beware the deranged sociopaths!’.. I guess it links to what Flores sort of says where as soon as someone mentions utopia/revolution/post patriarchy etc there is a gut reaction of people to immediately say ‘but that is impossible!’ and then come up with reasons why it isn’t rather than putting their energy into making it happen. I think I was responding more to that than to you. I don’t think we’re on different sides at all! Just musing and muttering over here.

  53. Sev

    What would happen with sociopathy? How would someone with biologically impaired empathy from birth fit into this picture? I’ve sometimes wondered how much this cruel culture effects the way they behave. What would a sociopath be like having lived from birth in a post patriarchal society?

    I suppose the transhumanist ideal could help here by giving people the option to alter the structures of their own minds however they wanted.

  54. Rachel

    “Everybody loves art. But what is it, really? An attempt to transcend reality. So if transcendence actually were to occur, art wouldn’t be needed no more. See?”

    Yes. I get your point now. I still disagree, but I see where you are coming from with it.

  55. funambulator

    I’m rusty at blaming, and I don’t want to be all old meme like “why are you complaining about _____, when _____ is so much worse/more important?”

    I agree that we need people to think up this stuff in the first place, even if it takes generations for it to actually trickle into people’s brains. And I’m thankful blogs like this and blamers like youse are here to do that!

    But I wish I knew of some resources for in the meantime. I’m raising a boy who is 12 and starting to shrug off his school work, and lying to me about it. I can’t afford to unschool him, or even private school or homeschool him. Is he doomed?

    I apologize – this is probably a threadjack. I’m just really bummed at the moment.

  56. larkspur

    Shereen, good points. I am thinking about them. Currently, I have nothing but bronchitis to add to the discussion, but this whole thread is interesting. ::cough cough::

  57. Megan

    “I know, I know. Everybody loves art. But what is it, really? An attempt to transcend reality. So if transcendence actually were to occur, art wouldn’t be needed no more. See?”

    *Is* art an “attempt to transcend reality”? Many artists create art as a way to deepen their experience of reality–and, in the very act or process of creating, are adding a new element to reality–theirs and others. Still more artists create in order to retool, revision, reshape–to allow others to see that, if it can be imagined, it can be created, on some level, in some way.

    As a mother, I found Viniagrette Girl’s observations right-on, but have to say that I also agree with much of Twisty’s response to her. Within this American culture, seemingly “affluent” and “developed,” our societal practices concerning motherhood (and all “woman’s work”), childhood, and childcare are grossly inadequate and denigrating. Being a mother is hard–much harder than it has to be, or should be, just as being a woman or a child and/or a “minority” in this society is hard.

  58. estraven

    Science and technology will be kept alive by people who like science and technology – because nobody will be taught anything, so no girl will be taught that she can’t understand maths. But those who know how to teach will be surrounded by children interested in what they teach.

    Most newborns will be breastfed by their mothers – because this is actually a very natural thing to do, and pleasant to both. However, women who aren’t interested in nursing and/or have problems doing it, or just can’t, will not nurse; their place will be taken by all the women who like nursing, and have more milk then their baby can use. As they grow up, children may stay with their parents, or spend more time with others they fit better with.

    For those who like reading about utopias where children are nurtured but not owned, may I suggest (re)reading UK LeGuin’s “The dispossessed”.

  59. Vinaigrette Girl

    @funambulator, (with apologies to the spinster aunt, feel free to forward this or delete it)

    It is incredibly hard to seem facilitating and non-controlling to any 12 year old kid. Biology, dammit, again.

    No, he isn’t doomed.

    Chances are good that something has happened which has triggered the shrugging-off of schoolwork and the lying. (I wish we could find a way to communicate more directly.) There are all kinds of books and so on; but if you can find a neutral space (if you have a car, then driving is a good one because the Near-Adolescent doesn’t have to look at you and you can’t look at him) then initiating “Could it be that …” statements will begin to draw him out. You can start crazy/impossible and slowly get more realistic: Could it be that you actually want to get a blue Mohican and wear a safety pin in your nose/ join the Air Force / move to LA … down to “could it be that someone has been giving you grief and you haven’t wanted to say anything about it?”.

    They like “could it be” statements, and starting silly helps defuse things.

  60. Vinaigrette Girl

    More on-topic: the thing is that even post-patriarchy is a cultural construct, and has arisen out of culture, in its broadest sense.

    The technology that transhumanists call upon arose entirely from accepted notions of dominion over nature, the inherent superiority of humankind over other species, and the separation of church and state which was advocated by numerous theologians and philosophers, and which opened the way for the state to over-ride all religious objections to scientific experimentation (I’m talking about the time of Roger Bacon onwards, but observing that Milton’s effective campaigning for that separation was accompanied by a huge rise in experimental science). Without assuming dominion over nature and assuming that nature could be analysed by rational thought and manipulation, we would not have the science and technology we have now.

    It all comes *from* a culture of dominion, and although the patriarchy has conditioned the academy it has to be acknowledged that “freedom from biology” can’t exist, full stop, and that even using technology to overcome *some* aspects of biology is itself a form of dominance, and is a form of culture. Let’s call a spade a spade.

    With regard to pregnancy: I don’t accept that a foetus *is* a parasite. It isn’t a different species battening on another, and pregnancy confers some advantages to the mother as well as disadvantages, whereas parasitism (in distinction from symbiosis) is a one-way exchange. Considering the foetus to be a parasite is “othering” what will be a person when it is viably born, and creates a precondition of devalued actuality. The idea that birth somehow makes people go from labelling the “parasite” (bad) to “person” (worthy of respect) doesn’t ring true.

    Lastly, how does effectively saying that a pregnant woman is a parasite-carrier confer any form of respect? In what way is that not denigrating?

    I’m all in favour of a post-patriarchal world, and I’m not mocking utopia; but actual freedom from biology isn’t possible, nor is it patriarchy-neutral.

  61. HazelStone

    “Most newborns will be breastfed by their mothers – because this is actually a very natural thing to do, and pleasant to both. However, women who aren’t interested in nursing and/or have problems doing it, or just can’t, will not nurse; their place will be taken by all the women who like nursing, and have more milk then their baby can use. As they grow up, children may stay with their parents, or spend more time with others they fit better with.”

    Uh, bullshit!? Almost every woman I’ve ever met has had problems with breastfeeding. Problems like searing pain and persistent infection. I have a hard time believing women will be doing it much themselves or volunteering for others in this totally free society.

  62. rows

    Quickie suggestion–I think some of the confusion in this thread surrounding the conception of motherhood as something necessarily damaging might be cleared up by a perusal of Claudia Card’s The Atrocity Paradigm, particularly the chapter “Terrorism in the Home.” I don’t actually think I agree with all of her conclusions–the contractual parternship and distributed child-rearing stuff is maybe not even radical ENOUGH, and is somehow at the same time guilty of ignoring a lot of real-life class structures–but her description of what is structurally and inescapably wrong with the institution is very apt. Even if you take what she offers in a very different direction as far as its real-life applicability in terms of reform/revolution, her description of the institution of motherhood alone could clarify a lot in this discussion.

  63. Flores

    Vinaigrette Girl, freedom from biology depends what you mean. Imagined posthumans wouldn’t have to worry about many of the problems we associate with traditional life. They wouldn’t rely on the same complex chemistry as we do. In that sense, they would be free from biology. At its broadest definition, though, biology is the study of life. I would certainly consider anything that thinks to be alive. So the creation of artificial general intelligence would initiate the new biology.

    Of course, Firestone merely seems to intend freedom from the most unpleasant aspects of natural life, such as childbirth and material want.

  64. Flamethorn

    Uh, bullshit!? Almost every woman I’ve ever met has had problems with breastfeeding. Problems like searing pain and persistent infection

    But those won’t happen in the POST PATRIARCHY because, uh… something.

  65. Dr

    Please, please, please.

    It would do caretakers of children a world of good if feminists could start distinguishing between mothering (a chosen and empowered practice of raising children not liked to sex or gender) and patriarchial motherhood which is all the crap twisty raised in her post but doesn’t have much to do with my actual relationship to my children.

    Babies are baby mammals. They need care, physical affection, and all the rest of the stuff every person reading this blog got. I think our fear of acknowledging our enormous debt to the people who gestated us, fed us every couple of hours, kept us clean.

    p.s. Hazelstone – anecdotal evidence of “almost every woman you met” is not proof of jack. I loved breastfeeding.

  66. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Vinaigrette Girl, you’re not alone: Any time transhumanism comes up in conversation as the solution to X Problem one of my eyes opens wider than the other. It’s a reflex; I cannot help it. The solution to your Icky Body and your Messy Mind is to cease to be human? Well, yes, I suppose one cannot argue the logic, but do we really want to go there?

    This is why I compare utopian thinking to religion, but my aversion goes deeper than that. ANY time a political “ism” is brought up as a solution to another “ism” I get this little pain. Feminism, socialism, capitalism, elitism, fascism, communism . . . All are included on the list of things that give me brain pain despite the fact that I like some isms and hate others. They are REACTIONS to something (oppression), but our solutions to oppression are oppressive! We’re caught in an immense dialectic and it seems we can’t get out.

    Fundamentally I think, this is why I’m a hedonist. “Harm None, Do As Thou Wilt.” Increase pleasure, avoid pain, and figure out how to do this without getting in the way of other beings who have the same right. The devil, of course, is in the details, because we live in a Savage Garden where organisms are constantly devouring each other, birthing and dying in endless cycle. Which of course is why I fail at Harm None every day. I’m sure the chicken took exception to having the eggs that I ate this morning stolen from her.

  67. Sev

    With regards to breast feeding, the problem is that most researchers within the patriarchy don’t find it important to create an “artificial” alternative as good or better than breast milk (as important as, say, inventing even more viagra knock-offs).

    All living things manipulate their enviroment for their own (perceived) benefit. We’ll never be able to stop doing that while we’re alive. What we can do is manipulate it for the benifit of all species, not just our own. Which means letting go of some of the things we want in order to give them a even chance to survive and thrive. It’s hardly our fault that, currently, we’re in the best position to change things on this planet.

    Eventually, we may be able to uplift animals to our capabilities but even that would be bending them to our will. Would it be in their best interest for us to do so?

    When feminism destroys gender, species may be the next big hurdle.

  68. Deanna

    Okay, I’m digging the post-patriarchal joyousness, but I’m not getting how we can avoid that some people would have knowledge that would need to be passed down somehow. Unless we decided that roaming the savanna and eating grass is the only way to go, we need to know how to farm. We’ll need the tools to farm – both mechanical ones and knowledge-based ones. I’m assuming that in a pp world, we’ll be skipping the livestock based ones.

    Now maybe the only ones who need to learn are the ones who want to learn, and you learn to do by doing, yadda yadda and we all sing kumba ya when we’re done – but food production is pretty darned labour intensive – and that’s just a minimum requirement thing (aka everybody gots to eat).

    Unless the post-patriarchal world oppresses robots instead, and the future turns into some WALL-E world.

  69. ma'am

    Wow, I am SO sorry to have read this post, Twisty.

  70. LCforevah

    How many who post here are in a service industry? I get the feeling that a lot of you are in ivory tower jobs–not much interaction with the public.

    I work in a showroom where people from all sorts of ethnic groups and many kinds of backgrounds come in to buy. I have, over the past fifteen years, had to deal with the adult children of parents who were permissive and gave every opportunity they could to their children. There may be some who become wonderful, social people but the great majority I have had to deal with are narcissistic little fecks. No social nicety, no acknowlegement of my humanity, no understanding of having to wait for a special order product–five-year-olds who want it now-now-now.

    I read Firestone’s work, and found some really inspirational concepts that I respect to this day, but her last chapter on her utopian vision was just a disaster. It felt rushed to me, and poorly researched. She didn’t explore how the most basic of relationships, that between parent and child really work. It was obvious she had either not studied or rejected outright psychology, sociology, evolutionary behavioral instincts, etc.

    It is now coming to light in Israel that many children raised in kibbutz do not now interact with others very well, and have trouble forming intimate relationships with friends or prospective mates. I agree that patriarchy is hurtful on oh so many levels, but throwing out all cultural norms without finding out how they benefit from being freed from patriarchal rules is just not workable.

  71. Rosa

    Not just in the kibbutz, but there are a fair number of children raised in the ’70s by people influenced by the “children should be free” ethos who have written about the negative aspects of it.

    I gave birth to a little boy who, if given free range to his desires, recreates the patriarchy from scratch with himself in the God-Emperor position.

    It is in his own interest (though he doesn’t see it that way) and in the interests of everyone he comes in contact with that we put a lot of time, thought, and energy into socializing him into the kind of person who is happy in a cooperative society. Parenting him to *not* be an entitled, unempathic, violent person is part of our project of working against the patriarchy.

  72. Tigs

    I think that freedom from biology can have different meanings, and that it might be fruitful to think about freedom from biology as most fundamentally meaning freedom from death–or more importantly, freedom from fear of death.
    I say this because the desire to be free from death is the center of human domination across Western civilization. Indeed, the ‘problem’ with humanity is that while we are eternal (in our ability to reason) we are also fundamentally finite (we’ll all rot some day). From Plato to Hegel to Heidegger, this is the problem.

    I think that that there might be fruit in a radical feminist response to Heidegger’s centering on the idea that while our individual experience continues to be incommunicable, it is absurd to fail to account for the proximally communicable–as in social and historical experience—thereby opening up opportunity for meaning-production in life— instead of the death and destruction obsession all Western culture wallows in now.

  73. Tigs

    Sorry. It’s late.

  74. Dr

    Is my comment really that radical that it hasn’t been posted?

  75. Flores

    Deanna, oppressing robots would be the way to go. Machines have already taken much of the labor out of food production. They do the vast majority of the heavy lifting these days. As Solanas wrote in the SCUM Manifesto, we could automate society to minimize drudgery. Only culture prevents this.

    As for service industry jobs, LCforevah, you might be surprised. Wide-eyed radicals appear across social spectrum. We couldn’t disagree more about Firestone’s final chapter. I would describe it as a visionary masterpiece, perhaps the most appealing and inspiring bit of nonfiction ever written.

    As a side note, I can’t help but feel sad when I think of Firestone. Have y’all read Airless Spaces?

  76. Aqua

    “As Solanas wrote in the SCUM Manifesto, we could automate society to minimize drudgery. Only culture prevents this.”

    Solanas is great fun but she was writing during a period of unprecedented optimism and prosperity and knew nothing at all about the bases of that material prosperity or that it depended on what must have seemed like a limitless supply of virtually free energy (that is, oil).

    So, no Flores, peak oil will prevent this, not culture. Reality will prevent this. Besides, we have the most automated society in history and probably the most automated society that we will EVER have – Richard Heinberg, in his book The Party’s Over, about peak oil, notes that every American has the equivalent of 150 energy slaves working for her or him around the clock. Americans and citizens of other first world nations live a life of material comfort that would have made the Sun King weep with envy. The patriarchy hasn’t gone away as a result though.

    There is a very real practical limit to the amount of energy that six billion humans (or more) can pull out of the biosphere in the form of food, heating, transport,etc. All the solar, wind, wave, hydrogen power etc won’t fix that and even if it could there are many other very real limitations that come into play such as peak water, peak soil, peak fish, to name a very few. Just as one example: alternative energy technology depends on the availability of cheap oil to manufacture its high-tech components. Robots and computers etc depend on rare precious metals and so on.

  77. Joselle

    @flores “Machines have already taken much of the labor out of food production.”

    Um, not if you’re an animal about to get killed. That’s a farm animal’s “labor.” And not if you’re a human working in a slaughterhouse.

    UGH. This post and many of these comments just seem so indulgent. I’m sorry. They just do to me.

  78. Cathy

    The HP’s comment about ingesting mushrooms (to make us fearless) reminded me of my fantasy: We genetically engineer (or bring back from extinction, caused by the patriarchy) a mushroom which, when ingested by a pregnant woman, causes a miscarriage, with no harm to the woman. We’d also need something similar which grows in the desert. Abortions become unnecessary. I intend to work on this, since the godbags are determined to “triumph over abortion.” I need help – chemical engineers, biologists out there?

  79. Flores

    Joselle – I fully share your implied aversion to slaughterhouses. I know plenty of folks still work and suffer in food production. This doesn’t change the historical trend. Compared with past times, the Earth currently produces vast amounts for sustenance for little labor. A more just social system would maintain the machines and efficiency while ending oppressive practices.

  80. Martine Votvik

    Love everything you write, but those passages from slaughterhouse five didn’t go so well with bad menstrual cramps… Knives on the inside, that’s kinda how I feel right now. Auchie.

    I blame the patriarchy

  81. V.


    I liked nursing, wet-nursed my niece, and would have wet-nursed other children.

    But there is a LOT of ‘parenting’ that I don’t like.

    I can easily, easily envision a much less burdensome system for young humans to grow safely into older humans without exhausting us.

  82. Sarah

    So you hate art, education, humanity, everything.

    Why do you even bother? I used to think you were a misogynist, considering how much you tell women what they should be doing, but then I realized you were just a clueless, bitter old misanthrope, who doesn’t just hate men, or women, you hate everyone.

    Yes, no school to skip! Who needs education, knowledge, and the wonders it produces? Doctors, pah! Scientists, pah! Astronauts, pilots, engineers, biologists, those are all big dumb useless things!

    Again, you are completely clueless.

    This has GOT to be a parody blog.

    No one could be as willfully ignorant as you are.

  83. Hedgepig

    I think Vonnegut got better at female characters as he got older. Galapagos has at least two 3D female characters. And it even contains a revolution of sorts, resulting in a human condition far more bearable. Worth reading if you are utterly pessimistic about the ability of humans to actively, consciously change our social systems for the better.

  84. caitlinate

    I thought some might this humourous based on the discussion.


  85. caitlinate

    *find this.

  86. Burt Hoovis

    “Naturally this is sour grapes on the part of the “good” parents, who, if they are women (and they probably are), have become footnotes to their children’s lives, subsumed by the great drudging melodrama of motherhood at the expense of their own identities. I’d be bitter, too.”

    Ha ! I wouldn’t expect you to get it, but you clearly don’t get it.

  87. Tupe

    “Until women are liberated from this burden, their personal autonomy will always be compromised, not just by the state or some dude laying claim to their uteruses, but by actual physiological process of hosting a parasite for nine months.”

    What are you proposing as a solution to patriarchy here? Baby Farms? No more children period? Or no more gender called “the one who has the babies”…?

    Also, a la Gerda Lerner, I think we need to remember that the main difference between a hierarchy of age and a hierarchy or any other aspect of identity is that age is cyclical. Within everyone’s (full) lifetime we will all live and learn on the entire spectrum and due to biology it kind of needs to be that way. Consider the fact that toddlers want to put jellybeans up their noses and dog shit in their mouths and need older people to yank sharp knives outta their hands constantly.

  88. Flores

    Sarah – Firestone doesn’t suggest doing away with those things. They’d be essential for her cybernetic communism. Education and science can exist without coercion. The much-discussed end of culture and art could be rephrased as a transcendence or fulfillment. These ideas are strange enough; you don’t need to distort to criticize.

  89. Hedgepig

    Get what, Burt?

    If “it” is what I think it is, just remember: being an aunt is like being a grandparent, except without having to go through the having kids yourself part. You get to dandle them when they’re cute, and hand ’em back over when they squeal. Perfect!

  90. Eirwyn

    Sev: Most ‘sociopaths’ are a product of extremely abusive childhoods where there was no ‘witness’ and no other outlet for their rage and pain. The biological excuse is just another way for people to try to keep the history of the masses repressed.

    Second of all, I believe certain types of autistic people are known to have impaired empathy, and they’re rarely serial killers or the like. Someone can actually be a good person without really understanding what others go through. I suppose the key word there, though, is ‘impaired’, not ‘lacking entirely’. But at any rate, the desire to hurt does not stem from lack of empathy. It stems from anger, (and not just anger, but thwarted anger and a desire for revenge, so simply losing one’s temper shouldn’t be enough for a sociopath to hurt someone) and one doesn’t become angry at the world unless one has been abused. So even a sociopath would be relatively harmless in a post-patriarchal society, just not very pleasant to be around.

    I was looking for a handy link to something explaining Alice Miller’s position on sociopathy, but couldn’t find anything. But my position is heavily influenced by her work. (Alice Miller was a Polish psychologist who studied childhood.)

    LCforevah: Permissiveness is not the same as love. A child who is truly loved and respected will develop the appropriate empathy and interest in other people. Empathy is a natural human trait, it doesn’t need to be socialized into a child, though it helps to teach through direct example, i.e. by showing empathy toward the child. In other words, children will treat others the way they are treated.

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