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Over My Shoulder #24: from Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex (1970)

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex (1970), one of the first published books of second wave radical feminist theory. It’s wrong on many counts; right on many others. It also features one of the most breathtaking opening paragraphs in political writing:

Sex class is so deep as to be invisible. Or it may appear as a superficial inequality, one that can be solved by merely a few reforms, or perhaps by the full integration of women into the labor force. But the reaction of the common man, woman, and child—That? Why you can’t change that! You must be out of your mind!—is the closest to the truth. We are talking about something every bit as deep as that. This gut reaction—the assumption that, even when they don’t know it, feminists are talking about changing a fundamental biological condition—is an honest one. That so profound a change cannot be easily fit into traditional categories of thought, e.g. political, is not because these categories do not apply but because they are not big enough: radical feminism bursts through them. If there were another word more all-embracing than revolution we would use it.

—Shulamith Firestone (1970), The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (ISBN 0374527873), p. 1.

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