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The Feminist Manifesto

Reading Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex, I found the urgency today’s radicals lack

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Of course, Firestone would tell me that these chill sessions are where it starts. In the days following her death, I had a hard time pinning down people who truly felt like they knew her. (At one point I felt passed around the radical feminist underworld like a hot potato—“She was best friends with her!” “No, she was.”) Still, it was clear that Firestone explicitly embraced the power of community in revolution. Atkinson outlined a scenario that echoes my mom and countless other radicals throughout history: “You come to New York, and you’re a weirdo, and you’re so happy to be with all the other weirdos who don’t think you’re weird,” she told me. “[I]t’s surprising, it’s thrilling, it’s like you’ve discovered your twin.”

Ultimately, one of the most radical things about Firestone, perhaps trumping even the Brave New World-like fantasies of reproduction without pregnancy, was the enormous intellectual generosity embedded in her fraught and solitary life. I picked up on this as I scrolled through the three-part Firestone memorial on n + 1. She wrote to Ann Snitow in 1970, in a copy of The Dialectic of Sex: “I, too, basked in your kindness and rare understanding all the long winter that I wrote this book,” even as she scolded such a default female setting. To Alix Kates Shulman, Firestone wrote a handwritten thank you in 1997 for “being a great role model” nestled in a copy of her second book, Airless Spaces, a memoir about her time in a mental hospital.

Reading these made me peek at the pristine copy of The Dialectic of Sex I’d found in my mother’s book collection when she died in 2006, and sure enough, there was a note written in 2002: “Dear Ellen, I’m sending you this complimentary copy of the reissue as I consider you the godmother of this book.” Firestone may have faded from the forefront of the movement, but she left a trail of clues, brief salutes to the relationships that enabled such rapid and radical change, the coalitions that created the improbable scene 43 years later of a father handing his daughter a prescient feminist polemic, lest she miss out on a classic. For people who don’t have dads like mine, there’s always the impetus of loss; a flurry of obituaries tends to breathe life into a fading figure in the form of a slow burn. (It happened to my mother, too.) This piece is itself part of that awakening—hopefully with a few chill sessions to follow.


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Beatrix17 says:

When Women’s Lib was young (and still called Women’s
Lib) I was a pioneer “libber.” Unfortunately, I didn’t write any
best selling books. (I’ve published a book but its not a best
seller). However, liberation was the way I lived my life.

Because there was a war on, my generation had grown
up with wonderful, skilled, independent women who ran the country
while their compatriots, male and female, were winning the war. Then
the war ended, and the women were required to remove their shoulder
pads and return to the kitchen.

Ironically, female movie stars who would have given
up their first born before they sacrificed their careers, starred in
movies encouraging women to return to the home-front. Literally the
home front.

My generation had to endure being called “bra
burners,” which was, I guess, the 70s equivalent of “binder
women.” (“Sexist asshole” for a verbal typo?) We would have
welcomed Romney and his wife. I know Ann never “worked” having
simply raised 5 wonderful children, while dealing at times
with breast cancer and MS.

My generation was thrilled if a woman managed to go
from file clerk to office manager. Todays left wing women completely ignore the
accomplishments of Palin, Bachmann, and Coulter because they’re
conservative. Liberation be damned, they don’t like their politics.
And these right wing ladies reciprocate by treating Pelosi and
Wasserma Schultz like, well, like binder women.

Eastwood’s talking to an empty chair was treated as a
joke by the left until it became an iconic moment in the election.
“Binder women” may once again signify what Romney
intended—dependable women chosen for responsible positions in his

holdmewhileimnaked says:

this is a wonderful article, sadly correct, very sad. i dont know how to fix it–which makes it even sadder.

Pam Green says:

“Ultimately, one of the most radical things about Firestone… was the enormous intellectual generosity embedded in her fraught and solitary life.” Maybe Shulamith’s compliments and expressions of gratitude were not examples of intellectual generosity. Maybe they were cries for help that were misinterpreted and ignored. And maybe instead of ‘fraught’, Shulamith’s life should be described as the predictable result of callous abandonment by her peers.

The lack of “chill sessions” is precisely what brought about the downfall of so-called feminism, IMO. There was no intimacy after awhile, none of the innocent passion of (very) young girls for their female friends, the I-would-die-for-you loyalty and romanticism and idealism so vital to revolution. Can’t we all remember that pre-sexual stage of personality development, or is nothing pre-sexual anymore? Now such feelings would probably be labelled lesbian. We are used to thinking we are sexual from birth.

The only subculture of feminism that seemed to survive was lesbian. I was still in my teens when those ‘radical separatists’ decided to sever ties to their hetero sisters. Straight girls were cunt-teasers, using their gay friends emotionally, was the line I heard. How many budding revolutionaries shriveled under the attack, the threat, the label of homophobia? And once the dykes were gone, who was left? A dumpy, grumpy housewife from suburban Fresno? Politicos greasing the deals of wealthy husbands? MBAs clamoring for access, not change? The “boilerplate feminism of NOW” aborted the entire movement!

latenight20009 says:

Thank you Nona (and Stanley!) — lots to say about the women we’ve lost in the last few years and the energies of that era, but yours is one of the few cross-generational efforts visible, and for those also much appreciated.

Late to the party:

The ‘feminist’ sites you list are not, feminist–anything but. That fuck-your-way-to liberation scam didn’t work the first time around and won’t now either.

Read the about.

And: the writers

Thanks for a good article. I’m the Mark Petroff she wrote about it Airless Spaces.


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The Feminist Manifesto

Reading Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex, I found the urgency today’s radicals lack

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