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The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

“A landmark manifesto” — Susan Faludi, New Yorker

An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics.

Beginning with a look at the radical and grassroots history of the first wave (with its foundation in the abolition movement of the time), Firestone documents its major victory, the expansion of the franchise in 1920, and the fifty years of ridicule that followed. She goes on to deftly synthesize the work of Freud, Marx, de Beauvoir, and Engels to create a cogent argument for feminist revolution.

Ultimately she presents feminism as the key radical ideology, the missing link between Marx and Freud, uniting their visions of the political and the personal. The Dialectic of Sex remains remarkably relevant today—a testament to Firestone’s startlingly prescient vision. The author died in 2012, but her ideas live on through this extraordinary book.

Reviews

  • “No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical, inflammatory second-wave landmark.”
  • “A must-have for those interested in feminist theory, both past and present. Its reappearance now, during yet another period of ‘ridicule’ towards women’s rights, is perhaps even more pertinent than its first publication.”
  • “Without so much as a single fanny joke or wacky dating anecdote, The Dialectic of Sex gripped and electrifed thousands of people, giving the so-called Second Wave of feminism much of its initial impetus and energy.”
  • “Firestone’s vision of a future without natural inequality or the nuclear family is breathtaking in its scope as well as in its conviction that technology holds the key to the emancipation of women and children.”
  • “A landmark manifesto.”
  • “Betty Friedan proposed letting someone else make the bread; Firestone imagines a new society … With a name like Shulamith Firestone, how could you not change the world?”
  • “Written at fever pitch over the space of several months, The Dialectic of Sex is a visionary document that theorizes ‘sex’ as a category of gender apartheid: that is, the systematic segregation and enforced social, political and economic discrimination against women in society.”

Blog

  • Feminism for the 99% and the Compulsion to Repeat: Reflections on Gender, Labor, and Language


    Gender Strike, San Francisco, March 8 2017. via It's Going Down

    Feminist politics and movement making has a history of compulsively
    repeating, reinforcing, and reconstructing systematic forms of exclusion, as well as shallow calls for inclusion. Women of color feminisms, transnational feminism, transfeminism, and feminist disability studies have all, in different ways and through various methodologies, critiqued and reframed the ways in which the category "woman" is invoked and politically deployed in relation to race, class, sexuality, gender identity, dis/ability, mental health, capital, neo-colonial rule, and the nation-state form.1 These critiques contest the dominant interpretations of the category “woman” within feminist thought and political organization in order to conceive a feminist politics that is truly liberatory. The March 8 International Women's Strike was not only a strike against women's visible and invisible labor, but it was also an international call for the reinvigoration of a radical feminism for the 99% (referred to by some, and in the rest of this piece, as F99).

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  • [Video:] Nancy Fraser on the International Women's Strike and "feminism of the 99%"



    At the beginning of March, in the run up to the International Women's Strike, Left Voice spoke with Nancy Fraser — author of Fortunes of Feminism and Henry A. & Louise Loeb Professor of Political & Social Science at The New School — about the motivations behind the strike, and the call for a "Feminism of the 99%" that Fraser co-wrote with other organizers (including Angela Davis, Barbara Ransby, Cinzia Arruzza, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Linda Martín Alcoff, Rasmea Yousef Odeh and Tithi Bhattacharya).

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  • Staff picks: Feminist books for International Women’s Day

    In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March, the women workers of Verso and New Left Review share some of our favourite feminist books in tribute to the radical roots of the observance. 

    - Jo  Spence/Rosy Martin, Mother as Factory Worker, 1984-88

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