Shulamith Firestone

Shulamith Firestone

Shulamith Firestone (born 1945) (also called Shulie Firestone) is a Jewish Canadian-born feminist. She was a central figure in the early development of radical feminism, having been a founding member of the New York Radical Women, Redstockings, and New York Radical Feminists. In 1970, she authored "The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution".

Firestone was born in Ottawa, Canada at the end of World War II and is the older sister of Rabbi [ Tirzah Firestone] . She attended Yavney of Telshe Yeshiva, Washington University, and the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned a BFA in painting. During her studies at the Art Institute, she was the subject of a documentary film, which was never released. This film was rediscovered, however, in the 1990s by an experimental filmmaker, Elisabeth Subrin, who did frame-for-frame reshoot of the original documentary, having a young actress play the role of Firestone. That version was released in 1997 as "Shulie".

While living in Chicago, Firestone joined with Jo Freeman to organize the Westside Group (a predecessor of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union). In October 1967, she moved to New York to help start New York Radical Women. By 1969, NYRW had become deeply split between the "politicos" (or socialist feminists) and the radical feminists. Firestone was a central figure in the latter group. When NYRW dissolved, Firestone and Ellen Willis started the radical feminist group Redstockings in February 1969, over disagreements about her leadership style and perceived egotism. Firestone soon left Redstockings (named in reference to the bluestockings, women of intellect in previous centuries) in late 1969 to co-found New York Radical Feminists. Firestone broke with NYRF in 1970, over similar issues that she had had with members of Redstockings.

By the time "The Dialectic of Sex" was published in 1970, Firestone had largely ceased to be politically active, but remained active in writing short fiction, and a collection of her short stories was published as "Airless Spaces" in 1998. The "Dialectic of Sex" continues to be an influential and widely quoted feminist work. Kathleen Hanna, among others, often cites it as a critical work.

"The Dialectic of Sex"

In "The Dialectic of Sex", Firestone synthesized the ideas of Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and Simone de Beauvoir to put forth a feminist theory of politics. It became a major text in second-wave feminism in the United States.

Firestone perceived that gender inequality originated in the patriarchy forced on women through their biology: the physical, social and psychological disadvantages imposed by pregnancy, childbirth, and subsequent child-rearing ["Political Ideologies: An Introduction", Andrew Heywood, 2003, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-96178-1, pp 272.] . She stated that women must seize the means of reproduction and advocated the use of cybernetics to carry out human reproduction in laboratories - as well as the proliferation of contraception, abortion, and state support for child-rearing - enabling them to escape their biology. Childbirth was memorably described in the book as being "like shitting a pumpkin", and Firestone described pregnancy as "barbaric". Among the reproductive technologies she predicted were sex selection and in vitro fertilization.

Firestone explored a number of possible social changes that she argued would result in a post-patriarchal society, including the abolition of the nuclear family and the promotion of living in community units within a socialist society.

The book influenced American novelist Marge Piercy's imaginative utopia, Woman on the Edge of Time.


*"The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution" (Morrow, 1970, ISBN 0-688-06454-X; Bantam, 1979, ISBN 0-553-12814-0; Farrar Straus Giroux, 2003, ISBN 0-374-52787-3).
*"Airless Spaces", a collection of short stories (Semiotext(e), 1998, ISBN 1-57027-082-1).


External links

* [ The Women's Rights Movement in the U.S. : A New View] , an article first appearing in "Notes from the First Year" (New York: The New York Radical Women, 1968).

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