Thursday, August 30, 2012

R.I.P. Shulamith Firestone

The feminist writer and activist Shulamith Firestone has died at the age of 67. She was a leader in the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, a true pioneer and theorist who was enormously influential at the time, and whose work is still taught in women's studies classes. She is most famous for the book she published at age 25, in 1970, "The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution." In this book, she utilized the work of Marx and Freud, among others, and argued that biology, and women's capacity for reproduction, was used by a patriarchal society to keep women unequal. In her activist role, she was the co-founder of three feminist organizations: New York Radical Women, the Redstockings, and New York Radical Feminists. She was also a painter, and wrote another book, but she found the fame that came to her after "Dialectic" overwhelming. In later years Ms. Firestone's life and work were derailed by mental illness, and for many years before her death she had largely isolated herself. It is very sad that this was so. But her contribution to the women's movement and its intellectual underpinnings, and her influence on so many women, are something to be proud of, and something that will live on. I remember reading this book when I was in college and just discovering the women's movement, and I remember being very impressed by it, with its radical and liberating ideas. She was an important part of those heady years when women felt they could truly change the world and make it a more equal place.

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