Saturday, September 01, 2012

Shulamith Firestone 1945-2012

Radical feminist and author of "The Dialectic of Sex" Shulamith Firestone has died aged 67.
"Firestone wanted to eliminate the following things: sex roles, procreative sex, gender, childhood, monogamy, mothering, the family unit, capitalism, the government, and especially the physiological phenomena of pregnancy and childbirth. She wanted to mechanize reproduction -- gestating fetuses in artificial wombs -- and raise the offspring communally, treating them no differently from adults at the earliest possible age."

In my teens I was a big fan. I thought I couldn't love, wasn't happy about it, and she said "men can't love". At 17 you are the world, so I swallowed her ideas whole. After all, a sample of one proved her right.

In hindsight (although I still have the book, long time no read - it's somewhere in the loft with Marx's complete works), her ideas were mostly idiotic - although she was right about the massive link between "the female condition" and childrearing - which isn't exactly an original insight. Her solution was to abolish the link entirely - she was a follower of Mustapha Mond :

Mustapha Mond leaned forward, shook a finger at them. "Just try to realize it," he said, and his voice sent a strange thrill quivering along their diaphragms. "Try to realize what it was like to have a viviparous mother."
That smutty word again. But none of them dreamed, this time, of smiling.
"Try to imagine what 'living with one's family' meant."
They tried; but obviously without the smallest success.
"And do you know what a 'home' was?"
They shook their heads.
The Atlantic obituarist notes the contrast between the success of the late Helen Gurley Brown and the obscurity of Ms Firestone, who died alone and remained alone for the next week until a neighbour alerted the landlord (how's that childlessness thing working out for you?).
The Laban take is that, while the HGB brand of Bridget Jones feminism is in many ways as toxic as Ms Firestone's, it at least is grounded in biological and evolutionary reality.

Remember this post ?

If I understand these evolutionary biologist chappies aright, before the Great Cultural (and contraceptive) Revolution women really really wanted two things (from an evolutionary biology perspective ... remember we've only just come out of the trees ...)

a) a chap with top genes to father her children - a real alpha male to produce alpha babies

b) a chap who'd provide for said children and stick around to help raise them, or at a minimum to facilitate her raising them

and from the same evolutionary biology perspective men wanted

a) only one thing

the point of both approaches being to maximise the survival of your genes

Now you might have noticed a potential issue with the female strategy - that Mr Alpha and Mr Provider may not necessarily be the same chap.

While your mileage may vary, it's safe to say that most women don't want to be celibate or to raise children in glass bottles. On the other hand, they do want to have the good things in life, including the attentions (however defined) of high-status (however defined - may be different on the estate to in the boardroom) males. Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmopolitan was one of the first  "how-to" guides for hypergamy - aka mating upwards. HGB got famous (and rich) by giving women what they really want, because it addressed real women's desires.

Firestone's feminism was not grounded in most people's reality. Which is why she was, in Andrea Dworkin's view : "poor and crazy. She rents a room in a house and fills it with junk, then gets kicked out and moves into another room and fills that with junk."

Whatever the intentions of its original visionaries, feminism in practice has had the effect of reducing the costs of hypergamy to a woman, and transferring those costs to men in particular/society in general*. As the feminists would say, "it is no coincidence".

UPDATE - comment on the Villager :

"I was the neighbor who alerted the landlord; there were no neighbors-- plural -- who did so, There was no strong odor which alerted me; only a rent check that hadn't left the crack in the door since August 1. Despite the lack of odor in the hallway, she had been dead for well longer than a week . I saw the body and she didn't die peacefully in her bed. (I mention this only because the article is graphic, and false). No one, no friend, had been around - I don't know this Lopez woman, nor did I ever meet any of her family. I did talk with her network of feminist friends, two of whom came to the building (I called one) on Tuesday night and paid their respects as the body was taken away. They were, are, good women. Bob Perl I won't comment on. Shulamith was a tormented woman living with severe mental illness, and I lived with her screams and pain for years."

(*It's exemplified on a micro scale by a friend of mine, whose wife left him and got the house and child custody. He now lives in a one-bedroomed flat - but he still gets to have the kids - whenever she's jetting off for a weekend in St Petersburg or Prague with her new boyfriend. I know another guy, a great father to his kids - at 47 he's in a council flat in the worst part of town while new man is in his old house, bed, and ex-wife - and he's just lost his job when it was outsourced. Great.) 


Anonymous said...

The only way to become free is by accepting death.

Laban said...

I guess we're all slaves of existence... but I quite like existence, thanks very much.

bensix said...

How fortunate women of the Shulasmith variety must feel to have grasped the awfulness of love, family and motherhood. How much happier they must be than the sorrowful millions who've been married and had children. Naturally, I'll go and apologise to my mother at once...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember reading "Dialectic of Sex" when I was young and stupid. Sad way to end, but she was barking ...

DJ said...

Heh. Never thought I'd see 'hypergamy' used here!

You're right though. This is why social conservatism is such a bust. Ditto, mainstream churches. They're all acting like this is still the 1950s when the truth is women kind of like modern life, with the chance to spend twenty years chasing alphas, then (they hope) landing Mr Big, or at worst, marrying a beta, squirting out a few kids, then kicking him to the kerb for cash and prizes and another round on the carousel.

Social Cons & Priests have no answer to all this, other than to berate the regular Joe for not 'manning up' and marrying those skanks.

Anonymous said...

DJ - remember your mileage may vary. Not all women are the same, despite the Colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady. We're talking statistical tendencies, not an iron law.

But I've never said that (for example) the gigantic bastardy rate was men's fault. Women are the gatekeepers... of our circle of friends the ones who haven't split tend to be the more Catholic ones - but of our NCT group of 7 middle class couples from 20 years ago, only 2 couples are still together.


Anonymous said...

And, DJ - to be fair, "hypergamy" has been noted and noticed a long time before the word was coined. What's the theme of Jane Austen and a chunk of Thackeray? Not to mention Eartha Kitt...

DJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJ said...

Oh, sure, hypergamy is perfectly natural, it's just that for most of history there were civilisational restraints in place.

Compare the simple finality of 'Reader, I married him' to 'Sex & The City 2'with it's underlying message that marriage to a handsome, alpha billionaire might be kind of OK, but a girl needs more.

joe90 said...

When Andrea Dworkin says you're bonkers, you've gone wrong somewhere.

Secondarymodernist said...

Quote: yesterday’s mental illness is today’s social policy.

joe90 said...

What Firestone was for glum American girls, Ayn Rand is for creepy boys.

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten Shula took Dr John Money seriously.


Anonymous said...

Shulamith was a tormented woman living with severe mental illness

If only that little detail had been made clear 40 years ago a lot of nonsense would have been avoided.

Anonymous said...

And, DJ - to be fair, "hypergamy" has been noted and noticed a long time before the word was coined. What's the theme of Jane Austen and a chunk of Thackeray? Not to mention Eartha Kitt...

Didnt someone say that girls (some of them) want bad boys, the job of a civilised society is to limit that so that at least they dont breed with them (too much).

cheap umrah packages said...

You're right though. This is why public conservatism is such a break. It's the same, popular chapels. They're all performing like this is still the Nineteen fifties when the fact is females type of like contemporary life of today, with the opportunity to invest many years pursuing alphas, then (they hope) getting Mr Big, or at most severe, getting married to a try out, treating out a few children, then throwing him to the kerb for cash and awards and another circular on the slide carousel.

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