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November 11, 1970 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-11-11

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4 Wednesday, November 11, 1970

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Hoge Five

We~s~, oebr 1 90 H IHIA ALYPg v

Dia

Shulamith Firestone, THE
DIALECTIC OF SEX: T H E
CASE FOR THE FEMINIST
REVOLUTION, William Mor-
row, $6.59.
By CAROLYN C. LOUGEE
The Dialectic of Sex is the
latest of the feminist writings
that aspire to join Sexual Poli-
tics on the bestseller list. Un-
fortunately, The Dialectic of
Sex is simplistic, often preten-
tious, and far below the quality
of Kate Millett's work. I t s
informative sections are deriva-
tive, its original ones uninform-
ative. Its primary value lies not
in its thesis or scholarship but
in its insights into the problems
women face 'and the issues
which concern both moderate
and radical feminism.
When Millett's work m i g h t
be called the "Manifesto" of the
new feminism, Shulamith Fire-
store offers its German Ideology:
an effort to free the movement
from the value judgments of
utopian-reformist feminists by
penetrating to the REAL sci-
entific-objective bases of human
history - the dialectic of sex.
According to this new dialec-
tic, the most fundamental divi-
sion in human history is the di-
vision of labor between the sexes
for the purposes of ,childbreed-
ing: husband as owner, wife as
means of production, and child-
ren as labor. This sexual division
precedes the division into eco-
nomic classes and determines
all of cultural history. "Beneath
economics, reality is psychosex-
ual"; a true materialist v i e w
y of history can only be based on
the "sexual substratum of t h e
historical dialectic." Correct-
ing Marx and Engels, Firestone
declares:
Historical materialist is that
view of the course of history
which seeks the ultimate
_ cause and the great moving

Fi
ectic o
power of all historic events in'
the dialectic of sex: the divi-
sion of society into two dis-
tinct biological classes for pro-
creative reproduction, and the
struggles of these classes with
one another; in the changes
in the modes of marriage, re-
production and childcare; in
the related development of
other physically-differentiated
classes [castes]; and in the

sex:

nomic modes of production
and exchange of goods and
services. The sexual-reproduc-
tive organization of society
always furnishes the real
basis, starting from which we
can alone work out the ulti-
mate explanation of the whole
superstructure 'of economic,
juridical and political institu-
tions as well as of the relig-
ious, philosophical and other

Making
ideas of Marxism and of the his-
torical process will be convinced I
that sexism is "the ultimate
cause and the great moving
power of all historic events."'
It is a shame that this gim- 1
mick obscures so much of the
sense of the book.
Beneath the paraphernalia of c
the dialectic, Firestone's basic c
argument is that of other radi- 1
cal feminists: the argument that c

it

on

A

book

first division of labor based
on sex which developed into
the [economic] class system.
All past history was the his-
tory of class struggle. These
warring classes of society are
always the product of t h e
modes of organization of the
biological family unit for re-
production of the species, as
well as of the strictly eco-
for the
(Oh say can you see the ele-
ments of Greek tragedy?)
At first life in the commune
ran sweetly to the beat of crude
dances and easily-manufactured
drugs. New converts spread the
word all along the East Coast,
as similar groups sprouted. Then
somehow, Corey's carefully built
structure came crashing around
their heads, as inner corruption
and the 'police eliminated the
tribe.

Marge Piercy, DANCE THE
EAGLE TO SLEEP, Doubleday,
$5.95.
By HANNAH MORRISON
Dance The Eagle To Sleep is
the literary version of skim
milk: it attempts to 'mention
all the current issues, but mere-
ly becomes less rich in the pro-
cess. This "now" novel focuses
on everything from communal

ideas of a given historical
period.
It is difficult to paraphrase
this dialectic of sex because it
so easily lapses into parody. It
is not a true dialectic, despite
the elaborate charts. The mis-
use of Marxist apparatus adds
nothing to Firestone's analysis
except to attach her to Marx's
coattails. And few with c le a r
"
movies
look, fur rugs for that Tribal
Pow Wow, genuine (more or
less) buffalo greatcoats for
Shaggy Male Splendor ...
This analysis of advertising
ties in with a later explanation
of the generation gap: "For
years the culture had been tell-
ing everbody through every boob
tube that only youth was sexual
and beautiful, and that all an
over-twenty-five shmuck like
like you could do was buy
Brand X to look a little more
youthful . . . Thus is a people
conditioned to hate its young
and focus its frustrations down
upon them in a vast dream of
those half-dependent. half-in
dependent children, demanding
and rebelling and threatening.. .
It was Them Versus Us: the
first step in the psychological
conditioning for war."
In their turn, the youth re-
belled because of social pressures
that transform people into sub-
humans. As Corey said, "It's bet-
ter to live your own death than
somebody else's life."
The novel also makes some
relevant points about the tend-
ency of groups to suffer picay-
une ideological splits, at the
time when unity is most needed:
"The more threatening the si-
tuation grew and the graver the
danger of imprisonment and
death, the more the kidsdseemed
to want to stay huddled in
familiar rooms arguing theory
with each other, each reaf-
firming his own militancy and
dogmatism in the face of his
'enemies,' the other . faction
across the room."
All the statements were scary,
but the worst was the violence.
It stalked through the pages,
reeking. The same can be said
for the sex scenes. Whatever
this book lacksas a novel, it
could make a great movie, if
handled in the right way. Can't
you see it now, in technicalor
and Panavision?

sexual inequality and the de-
velopment of two personality-
power systems (dominant and
submissive) do not spring di-
rectly from two different
psychosexual essences. Q u i t e
realistically, she argues t h a t
oppression of women results
from the natural functioning of
the female reproductive p r o -
cesses: women who produce
children and, through the ethos
and organization of the biologi-
cal family are required to care
for them, cannot escape in-
equality and oppression.
Therefore, oppression can be
solved only by the complete eli-
mination of the sex distinction
itself ("a synthesis of human
sex") and of the family. Once
reproductive processes are total-
ly eliminated, the sole differ-
ences (genital) between men
and women will be entirely
without importance.
In Firestone's view, the eli-
mination of sexual reproduction
is a real possibility. For birth
control and artificial reproduc-
tion will enable women to aban-
don the bodily functions which
have so long kept them enslaved.
Now (or soon) for the f i r s t
time in history the "precondi-
tions" exist for "freeing women
from the tyranny of their sex-
ual-reproductive roles."
Moderate feminists will ques-
tion whether it is necessary to
go so far. As the family has re-
cently become the culprit for
all of women's troubles, it has
become unfashionable for a
woman to admit that sex-repro-
ductive roles have any satisfac-
tions at all. But a great deal of
the extreme anti-reproductive
argument is nonsense. Consider
this from Firestone :
Pregnancy is barbaric . . .
Childbirth hurts. And it is
not good for you . . . Child-
birth is at best necessary and
tolerable. It is not fun.
Granted that the cult of child-
birth, the mystique surrounding
it, have been powerful tools for
keeping woman in her place -
still, is it necessary, in order
to overcome the tyranny of
these roles, to abolish the roles
entirely? Of course, here we
Today's Writers ...
Carolyn Lougee, a doctoral
candidate in history, is writing
her dissertation on 17th Cen-
tury French feminism.
Hannah Morrison, a soph-
omore, is a reporter for the
Daily.

are at the heart of the disagree-
ment between radical and mo-
derate feminists.
But even revolutionary fem-
inists should question whether
Firestone's utopia is desirable,
even if the test-tube can make
the womb obsolete. Her advo-
cacy of a technocratic utopia is
disturbing. She has faith that
this utopia will succeed where
others have failed because it
alone eliminates the family and
sexism (we are treated to a two-
page summary of why the Rus-
sian Revolution failed). And it
will avoid the horrors associat-
ed with 1984 because technol-
ogy will be in the hands of revo-
lutionaries themselves: the ap-
parently magic antidote to all
the dangers of technocracy.
The utopia is most disturbing
because Firestone is very anti-
nature, both human and exter-
nal nature. As she says, men
need not be slaves to nature:
men can and should control na-
ture in the interest of human
values. "Natural" is not neces-
sarily "human". But she g o e s
further than this is negate na-
ture through technology, to
overcome a nature she sees only
as a hostile force. Ecology means
to her the creation of a n e wv
artificial environment through
the destruction of nature: fem-
inism means the replacement of
human nature.
Perhaps we see here the ul-
timate extension of the mental-
ity that would "engineer"
everything, even "the funda-
mental biological condition of
humans."
Apart from the dialectic and
the utopia, The Dialectic of Sex
does raise crucial issues. T h e
discussion of modern concep-
tions of childhood, while mostly
a paraphrase of Philippe Aries.
is particularly valuable. One of
the weakest points of K a t e
Millett's book is its poor histori-
cal sense: not only the ve-r y
pedestrian way in which she re-
counts the history of Anglo-
American feminism, but also her
failure to see that both the
modern feminist problem and
the radical objections to it
crystallize before - long be-
fore - her 1830 starting point.
Firestone at least points to the
formative period for the nuclear
family: the seventeenth cen-
tury. But if feminists are going
to understand where theyare
and how they got there, they
need in addition to study the
surprising seventeenth-century
feminist debate: the extreme
feminism of the ladies of the
For the student body:
FLARES
by
' Levi
' Farah
Wright
STads
Sebring
CHECKMATE
State Street at Liberty

one s (
French salons, who resisted
family duties and the depend-
ence of children on them, and of
the Cartesians, who defended
women's public role against
Fenelon and Madame de Main-
tenon, who sought to bar women
from culture and from all public
influence.
In the chapter on the history,
of American feminism Firestone
again uses historical insights to
clarify current problems. Ap-
plying the lessons learned by
the last generation of femin-
ists, she implicitly rebukes wo-
men who shun the movement.
Women who prefer other re-
form movements, Firestone says,
are "in a sense viewing them-
selves as defective men:
women's issues seemed to them
'special', 'sectarian', while is-
sues that concerned men were
'human', universal'." To those

own
eager to get women to join
them.
And'to the woman who chooses
to "go it alone", Firestone re-
joins that the problem is not a
personal one but a social one,
and therefore is not amenable
to the "private solution".
To which is should be added
that perhaps the greatest danger
the feminist movement faces
today is its increasing isolation
from important scientific re-
search. Firestone argues that
sex-reproductive roles must be
abolished because they unjust-
ly oppress one of the two human
sexes which, aside from the re-
productive proccesses, are iden-
tncal. This is the most crucial
7 point in Sexual Politics as well
as in The Dialectic of Sex: both
brands of revolutionary femin-
ism stand or fall on the prem-
ise that psychosexual differenc-
es do not exist apart from cul-
tural conditioning. But sub-
stantial amounts of current
research in genetics and endo-
chinology simply do not support
the identity thesis. Therefore
it may be risky for the feminist
movement to build on its foun-
dation. Feminists need to build
a vigorous case for female equal-
ity and liberation on a basis
which neither totally denies
sexual differences nor, at the
other extreme, lapses into
counter-productive functional-
ism.

who prefer partisan political
activities she answers with a
quote from Charlotte Perkins
Gilman:
The power women will be able
to exercise lies with their not
joining a party system of men.
The party system of politics
is a trick of men to conceal
the real issues. Women should
work for the measures they
want outside of party politics.
It is because the old political
parties realize that woman's
influence will be negligible on
the inside that they are so

ARTISTS
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IGANENSIAN, U. of M.'s Yearbook. No limit
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:...r:} ............"r...« n ...PIY:.::r..r.a"..r.."h""::.:};4""}"n"r::{.."""... . :". :4. . . ..ti" d~:{". {

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Phoenix Eye View
1"
of Sociology
INTRODUCTION TO THE SCIENCE OF
SOCIOLOGY
Including an Index to Basic Sociological
Concepts Student Edition
Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess
Abridged and with a New Preface by Morris
Janowitz
"Any student of today who reads in it will be
a better sociologist and a more civilized human
being."-New Society $4.75

fth,

CHICAGO SOCIOLOGY: 1920-1932
Robert E. L. Faris
With a Foreword by Morris Janowitz____ _______
The department of sociology at The University J
of Chicago was the first in the United States. :
Faris outlines its history, the main lines of research and teaching, and the major
publications of its members from the turn of the century to World War II, high-
lighting its most productive years. $2.75
URBAN SOCIOLOGY A Selection from "Contributions to Urban Sociology"
Edited by Ernest W. Burgess and Donald J. Bogue
Readings in sociology touching on such aspects of urban} research as ethnic, racial,
and religious tensions, street corner society, prejudice, and crime. Contributors
include Philip M. Hauser, Nathan Keyfitz, William Foote Whyte, and E. Franklin
Frazier. $2.95
The University of Chicago Press
Phoenix Paperbacks

living and drugs to women's lib-
eration, but never r e a 11l y
scratches the surface.
4 The author, a former Hop-
wood Award winner, devotes a
few chapters to sketching the
four principle characters and
filllingrin theirdiverse back-
grounds. The remainder iex-
plores the consequences. Like a
traditionalist, all the loose
threads are neatly tucked away
by the end. It is sufficient to
satisfy the practical reader but
bores the sophisticated.
The two foils, Bill and Corey,
are linked throughout the book,
first during the revolution in
, their high school and later in
the resulting subculture. Corey,
a rebellious half-breed Indian,
has a vision and the charisma
to communicate it: "With the
strength of the buffalo, he was
to destroy the eagle of empire
and lead the tribes to water."
Taking over the school was on-
ly the beginning, a means of
mobilizing support. Later it
would be all (of) society. In the
meantime, Corey tried to sepa-
rate his followers from the pres-
sures of the surrounding cul-
ture by forming communes on
farms as well as in New York.
Bill, on the other hand, had
been a model student before the
"teentsy" revolution. Until Corey
adopted him, he had been soli-
tary in his brilliance. "'hen the
ex-freak and would-be physicist
became Corey's henchman, head
" of the warriors. In this position
he plotted Corey's destruction.

Bill, who had assumed control
in New York,rcommanded his
warriors in a riot on the lower
East Side, causing untold dam-
age. The communes were forced
to disband as members fled West
or were killed. The glorious
dream ended, b 1 e e d i n g and
whimpering.
Despite the triteness of the
plot and shallow characters,
Dance The Eagle To Sleep
makes some frighteningly ac-
curate statements. One concerns
the role of the mass media:
The brunt of the media attack
on them, the 'line' of explana-
tion, was set by a group of
ex-radicals and left-liberals
comfortably housed in various
universities. It was a real ul-
cerated hatred that seethed in
the works they produced that
analyzed the phenomena of
the Indians.
At the same time, teen
magazines pushed the buck
and the squaw look, with
fringed shirts and beads ind
expensive deerskin moccasins
and boots, with beaded head-
bands and feather hats that
looked like run-over chickens
dipped in paint pots, wampun
belts, clay peace pipes, Deers-
layer tunics for that huntress

0

I

16

CHICAGO:
A school system with a goal: Teaching
$8,400 starting salary (10 months)
10 days paid vacation * 10 days sick leave
Paid hospitalization
The Chicago Public Schools will have a representative on campus
o Nov. 18, 1970 . Please arrange for an interview
with the Placement Office.

"

., :.... .:.:.: . .. . ... . . .. . . .. . . . .. ,. . . .. .. . . .. . . .. . . . . . .. . . . . . . . : : . ... t:. . f. : : :._ : .
.... .... :.... . ... ..............:.. ........... ...... ......::::::._-:::".:..:.:,.::..:<;: ::<t::::;:: :::::;"::":mo '- ":" >:. . . ::.
SPECIAL---THIS WEEK ONLY---Wednesday-Saturday, Noy. 11-14
Uair Shapin
Reg. $ 5.00 **.

IN i

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