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    Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

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    Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback le Lun 12 Jan - 8:24

    http://teoriaevolutiva.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/firestone-shulamith-dialectic-sex-case-feminist-revolution.pdf

    « Tout comme le but final de la révolution socialiste n’était pas juste l’abolition des privilèges économiques de classe mais l’abolition des classes elles-mêmes, le but final de la révolution féministe ne doit pas juste être […] l’abolition des privilèges masculins mais l’abolition des différences sexuelles elles-mêmes. »

    Shulamith Firestone, La Dialectique du Sexe (1970)

    "Feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organization of culture itself, and further, even the very organization of nature."

    "For feminist revolution we shall need an analysis of the dynamics of sex war as comprehensive as the Marx-Engels analysis of class antagonism was for the economic revolution."

    "Marx and Engels outdid their socialist forerunners in that they developed a method of analysis which was both dialectical and materialist. The first in centuries to view history dialectically, they saw the world as process, a natural flux of action and reaction, of opposites yet inseparable and interpenetrating. Because they were able to perceive history as movie rather than as snapshot, they attempted to avoid falling into the stagnant "metaphysical" view that had trapped so many other great minds."

    "In the classless society the interests of every individual would be synonymous with those of the larger society."

    "That women throughout history before the advent of birth control were at the continual mercy of their biology -menstruation, menopause, and "female ills", constant painful childbirth, wetnursing and care of infants, all of which made them dépendent on males (whether brother, father, husband, lover, or clan, government, community-at-large) for physical survival."

    "The natural reproductive difference between the sexes led directly to the first division of labor at the origins of class, as well as furnishing the paradigm of caste (discrimination based on biological characteristics)."

    "Just as to assure elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the underclass (the proletariat) and, in a temporary dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, so to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: not only the full restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, but also their (temprary) seizure of control of human fertility -the new population biology as well as all the social institutions of childbearing and childrearing. And just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the emilination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital différences between human being would no longer matter culturally [...] The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefith of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would be born to both sexes equally, or independently of either, however one chooses to look at it ; the dependance of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependance on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strenght would be compensated for culturally. The division of labor would be ended by the elimination of labor altogether (cybernation). The tyranny of the biological family would be broken."

    "In the radical feminist view, the new feminism is not just the revival of a serious political movement for social equality."

    "[Radical feminism] sees feminist issues not only as women's first priority, but as central to any larger revolutionary analysis. It refuses to accept the existing leftist analysis not because it is too radical, but because it is not radical enough: it sees the current leftist analysis as outdated and superficial, because this analysis does not relate the structure of the ecenomic class system to its origins in the sexual class system, the model for all other exploitative systems, and thus the tapeworm that must be eliminated first by any true revolution."

    "The special tie women have with children is recognized by everyone. I submit, however, that the nature of this bond is no more than shared oppression."

    "Matriarchy is a stage on the way to patriarchy, to man's fullest realization of himself ; he goes from worshipping Nature through women to conquering it. Though it's true that woman's lot worsened considerably under patriarchy, she never had it good ; for despite all the nostalgia it is not hard to prove that matriarchy was never an answer to women's fundamental oppression. Basically it was no more than a different means of counting lineage and inheritance, one which, though it might have held more advantages for women than the later patriarchy, dit not allow women into society as equals. To be worshipped is not freedom. For worship still takes place in someone else's head, and that head belongs to Man."

    "The term family was fist used by the Romans to denote a social unit the head of which ruled over wife, children, and slaves -under Roman law he was invested with rights of life and death over them all ; famulus means domestic slave, and familia is the number of slaves belonging to one man."

    "Rousseau among others developed an ideology of "childhood". Much was made of children's purity and "innocence". People began to worry about their exposure to vice. "Respect" for children, as for women, unknown before the sixteenth century, when they were still part of the larger society, became necessary now they formed a clear-cut oppressed group. Their isolation and segregation had set in. The new bourgeois family, childcentered, entailed a constant supervision ; all earlier independance was abolished."

    "For contrary to popular opinion, the development of the modern school had little connection with the traditional scholarship of the Middle Ages, nor with the development of the liberal arts and humanities in the Renaissance. (In fact the humanists of the Renaissance were noted for the inclusion in their ranks of many precocious children and learned women ; they stressed the development of the individual, of whatever age or sex). According to Ariès, literacy historians exaggerate the importance of the humanist tradition in the structure of our schools. The real architects and innovators were the moralists and pedagogues of the seventeenth century, the Jesuits, the Oratorians, and the Jansenists. These men were at the origins of both the concept of schooling and its institutionalization, the modern concept of schooling. They were the first espousers of the weakness and "innocence" of childhood ; they put childhood on a pesdestal just as femninity had been put on a pedestal ; they preached the segregation of children from the adult world. "Discipline" was the key-note to modern schooling, much more important finally than the imparting of learning or information. For to them discipline was an instrument of moral and spiritual improvement, adapted less for its efficiency in directing large groups to work in common than for its intrinsic moral and ascetic value. That is, repression itself was adopted as a spiritual value."

    "Before the advent of the nuclear family and modern schooling, childhood was a little as possible distinct from adult life."

    "The pseudo-emancipation of children exactly parallels the pseudo-emancipation of women: though we have abolished all the superficial signs of oppression -the distinct and cumbrous clothing, the schoolmaster's rod- there is no question that the myth of childhood is flourishing in epic proportions, twentieth-century style: whol industries are built on the manufacture of specail toys, games, baby food, breakfast food, children's books and comic books, candy with child appeal, etc. ; market analysts study child psychology in order to develop products that will appeal to children of various ages ; there is a publishing movie and TV industry built just for them, with its own special literature, programs and commercials, and even censorship boards to decide just which cultural products are fit for their consumption ; there is an endless proliferation of books and magazines instructing the layman in the fine art of child care (Dr. Spock, Parents' Magazine) ; there are specialists in child psychology, child education methods, pediatrics, and all the special branches of learning that have developed recently to study this peculiar animal."

    "How does this phenomenon "love" operate ? Contrary to popular opinion, love is not altruistic. The initial attraction is based on curious admiration (more often today, envy et resentment) for the self-possession, the integrated unity, of the other and a wish to become part of this Self in some way (today, read: intrude or take over), to become important to that psychic balance. The self-containment of the other creates desire (read: a challenge) ; admiration (envy) of the other becomes a wish to incorporate (possess) its qualities. A clash of selves follows in which the individual attempts to fight off the growing hold over him of the other. Love is the final opening up to (or, surrender to the dominion of) the other. The lover demonstrates to the beloved how he himself would like to be treated. ("I tried so hard to make him fall in love with me that i fell in love with him myself"). Thus love is the height of selfishness: the self attempts to renrich itself through the absorption of another being. Love is being psychically wide-open to another. It is a situation of total emotional vulnerability. Therefore it must be not only the incorporation of the other, but an exchange of selves. Anything short of a mutual exchange will hurt one or the other party.
    There is nothing inherently destructive about this process. A little healthy selfishness would be a refreshing change. Love between two equals would be an enrichment, each enlarging himself through the other: instead of being one, locked in the cell of himself with only his own experience and view, he could participate in the existence of another -an extra window on the world. This accounts for the bliss that successful lovers experience: Lovers are temporarily freed from the burden of isolation that every individual bears.
    But bliss in love is seldom the case: For every successful contemporary love experience, for every short period of enrichment, there are ten destructive love expériences, post-love "downs" of muche longer duration -often resulting in the destruction of the individual, or at least an emotional cynicism that makes it difficult or impossible ever to love again. Why should this be so, if it is not actually inherent in the love process itself ?
    Let's talk about love in its destructive guise -and why it gets that way, referring once more to the work of Theodor Reik. Reik's concrete observation bings him closer than many better minds to understanding the process of "failling in love", but he is off insofar as he confuses love as it exists in our present society with love itself. He notes that love is a reaction formation, a cycle of envy, hostility, and possessiveness: he sees that it is preceded by dissatisfaction with oneself, a yearning for something better, created by a discrepancy between the ego and the ego-ideal ; That the bliss love produces is due to the resolution of this tension by the substitution, in place of one's own ego-ideal, of the other ; And finally that love fades "because the other can't live up to your ego-ideal any more than you could, and the judgment will be the harsher the highter are the claims on oneself." Thus in Reik's view love wears down just as it wound up: Dissatisfaction with oneself (whoever heard of falling in love the week one is leaving for Europe ?) leads to astonishment at the other person's self-containment ; to envy, to hostility ; to possessive love ; and back again through exactly the same process. This is the love process today. But why must it be this way ?
    Many, for example Denis de Rougemont in Love in the Western World, have tried to draw a distinction between romantic "falling in love" with its "false reciprocity which disguises a twin narcissism" (the Pagan Eros) and an unselfish love for the other person as that person really is (the Christian Agape). De Rougemont attributes the morbib passion of Tristan and Iseut (romantic love) to a vulgarization of specific mystical and religious currents in Western civilization.
    I submit that love is essentially a much simpler phenomenon -it becomes complicated, corrupted, or obstructed by an unequal balance of power. We have seen that love demands a mutual vulnerability or it turns destructive: the destructive effects of love occur only in a context of inequality. But because sexual inequality has remained a constant -however its degree may have varied -the corruption 'romantic" love became characteristic of love between the sexes. (It remains for us only to explain why it has steadily increased in Western countries since the mediaval period, which we shall attempt to do in the following chapter).
    How does the sex class system based on the unequal power distribution of the biological family affect love between the sexes ? In discussing Freudianism, we have gone into the psychic structuring of the individual within the family and how this organization of personality must be different for the male and the female because of their very different relationships to the mother. At present the insular interdependancy of the mother /child Relationship forces both male and female children into anxiety about losing the mother's love, on which they depend for physical survival. When later (Eric Fromm notwithstanding) the child learns that the mother's love is conditional, to be rewarded the child in return for approved behavior (that is, behavior in line with the mother's own values and personal ego gratification -for she is free to mold the child "creativity", however she happens to define that), the child's anxiety turns into desperation. This, coinciding with the sexual rejection of the male child by the mother, causes, as we have seen, a schizophrenia in the boy between the emotional and the physical, and in the girl, the mother's rejection, occuring for different reasons, produces an insecurity about her identity in general, creating a lifelong need for approval. (Later her lover replaces her father as a grantor of the necessary surrogate identity -she sees everything through his eyes.) Here originates the hunger for love that later sends both sexes searching in one person after the other for a state of ego security. But because of the early rejection, to the degree that it occured, the male will be terrified of committing himself, of "opening up" and then being smashed. How this affects his sexuality we have seen: to the degree that a woman is like his mother, the incest taboo operates to restrain his total sexual/emotional commitment ; for him to feel safety the kind of total response he first felt for his mother, which was rejected, he must degrade this woman so as to distinguish her from the mother. This behavior reproduced on a larger scale explains many cultural phenomena, including perhaps the ideal love-worship of chivalric times, the forerunner of modern romanticism.
    Romantic idealization is partially responsible, at least on the part of men, for a peculiar characteristic of "falling" in love: the change takes place in the lover almost independently of the character of the love objet. Occasionally the lover, though beside himself, sees with another rational part of his faculties that, objectively speaking, the one he loves isn't Worth all this blind devotion ; but he is helpless to act on this, "a slave to love". More often he fools himself entirely. But others can see what is happening ("How on earth he could love her is beyong me !"). This idealization occurs much less frequently on the part of women, as is borne out by Reik's clinical studies. A man must idealize one woman over the rest in order to justify his descent to a lower caste. Women have no such reason to idealize men -in fact, when one's life dépends on one's hability to "psych" men out, such idealization may actually be dangerous -though a fear of male power in general may carry over into relationships with individual men, appearing to be the same phenomenon. But though women know to be inauthentic this male "falling in love", all women, in one way or another, require proof of it from men before they can allow themselves to love (genuinely, in their case) in return. For this idealization process acts to artificially equalize the two parties, a minimum precondition for the development of an uncorrupted love -we have seen that love requires a mutual vulnerability that is impossible to achieve in an unequal power situation. Thus "falling in love" is no more than the process of alteration of male vision -through idealization, mystification, glorification -that renders void the woman's class inferiority.
    However, the woman knows that this idealization, which she works so hard to produce, is a lie, and that it is only a matter of time before he 'sees through her". Her life is a hell, vacillating between an all-consuming need for male love and approval to raise her from her class subjection, to persistent feeling of inauthenticity when she does achieve his love. Thus her whole identity hangs in the balance of her love life. She is allowed to love herself only if a man finds her worthy of love.
    But if we could eliminate the political context of love between the sexes, would we not have some degree of idealization remaining in the love process itself ? I think so. For the process occurs in the manner whoever the love choice: the lover "opens up" to the other. Because of this fusion of egos, in which each sees and cares about the other as a new self, the beauty/character of the beloved, perhaps hidden to outsiders under layers of defenses, is revealed. "I wonder what she sees in him", then, means not only, "She is a fool, blinded with romanticism", but, "Her love has lent her x-ray vision. Perhaps we are missing something." (Note that this phrase is most commonly used about women. The equivalent phrase about men's slavery to love is more often something like, "She has him wrapped around her finger", she had him so "snowed" that he is the last one to see through her). Increased sensitivity to the real, if hidden, values in the other, however, is not "blindness", or "idealization" but is, in fact, deeper vision. It is only the false idealization we have described above that is responsible for the destruction. Thus it is not the process of love itself that is at fault, but its political, i.e, unequal power context: the who, why, when and where of it is what makes it now such a holocaust.
    " (p.128-133)

    "Above i have illustrated some of the traditional differences between men and women in love that come up so frequently in parlor discussions of the "double standard", where it is generally agreed: That women are monogamous, better at loving, possessive, "clinging", more interested in (highly involded) "relationships" than in sex per se, and they confuse affection with sexual desire. That men are interested in nothing but a screw (Wham, bam, thank you M'am !), or else romanticize the woman ridiculously ; that once sure of her, they become notorious philanderers, never satisfied ; that they mistake sex for emotion. All this bears out what we have discussed -the difference in the psychosexual organizations of the two sexes, determined by the first Relationship to the mother.
    I draw three conclusions based on these différences:
    1): That men can't love. (Male hormones ?? Women traditionally expect and accept an emotional invalidism in men that they would find intolerable in a woman).
    2): That women's "clinging" behavior is necessitated by their objective social sitaution.
    3): That this situation has not changed significantly from what it ever was.

    Men can't love. We have seen why it is that men have difficulty loving and that while men may love, they usually "fall in love" -with their own projected image. Most often they are pounding down a woman's door one day, and thoroughly disillusioned with her the next ; but it is rare for women to leave men, and then it is usually for more than ample reason.
    It is dangerous to feel sorry for one's oppressor -women are especially prone to this failing- but i am tempted to do it in this case. Being unable to love is hell. This is the way it proceeds: as soon as the man feels any pressure from the other Partner to commit himself, he panics and may react in one of several ways:
    1): He may rush out and screw ten other women to prove that the first woman has no hold over him. If she accepts this, he may continue to see her on this basis. The other women verify his (false) freedom ; periodic arguments about them keep his panic at bay. But the women are a paper tiger, for nothing very deep could be happening with them anyway: he is balancing them against each other so that none of them can get much of him. Many smart women, recognizing this to be only a safety valve on their man's anxiety, give him "a long leash". For the real issue under all the fights about other women is that the man is unable to commit himself.
    2): He may consistently exhibit unpredictable behavior, standing her up frequently, being indefinite about the next date, telling her that "my work comes first", or offering a wariety of other excuses. That is, though he senses her anxiety, he refuses to reassure her in any way, or even to recognize her anxiety as legitimate. For he needs her anxiety as a steady reminder that he is still free, that the door is not entirely closed.
    3): When he is forced into (an uneasy) commitment, he makes her pay for it: by obling other women in her presence, by comparing her unfavorably to past girlfriends or movie stars, by snide reminders in front of friends that she is his "ball ans chain", by calling her a "nag", a "bitch', "a shrew", or by suggesting that if he were only a bachelor he could be a lot better off. His ambivalence about women's "inferiority" comes out: by being committed to one, he has somehow made the hated female identification, which he now must repeatedly deny if he is to maintain his self-respect in the (male) community. This steady derogation is not entirely put on: for in fact every other girl suddenly does look a lot better, he can't help feeling he has missed something -and, naturally, his woman is to blame. For he has never given up the search for the ideal ; she has forced him to resign from it. Probably he will go to his grave feeling cheated, never realizing that there isn't much difference between one woman and the other, that it is the loving that creates the difference.
    There are many variations of straining at the bit. Many men fo from one casual thing to another, getting out every time it begins to get hot. And yet to live without love in the proves intolerable to men just as it does to women. The question that remains for every normal male is, then,
    how do i get someone to love me without her demanding an equal commitment in return ?" (p.135-137)

    "Men are right when they complain that women lack discrimination, that they soldom love a man for his individual traits but rather for what he has to offer (his class), that they are calculating, that they use sex to gain other ends, etc. For in fact women are in no position to love freely. If a woman is Lucky enough to find "a decent guy" to love her and support her, she is doing well -and usually will be grateful enough to return his love. About the only discrimination women are able to exercise is the choice between the men who have chosen them, or a plaiying off of one male, one power, against the other. But provoking a man's interest, and snaring his commitment once he had expressed that interest, is not exactly self-determination.
    Now what happens after she was finally hooked her man, after he has fallen in love with her and will do anything ? She has a new set of problems. Now she can release the vise, open her net, and examine what she has caught. Usually she is disappointed. It is nothing she would have bothered with were she a man. It is usually way below her level [...] "He may be a poor thing, but at least i've got a man of my own" is usually more the way she feels. But at least now she can drop her act. For to catch up to him emotionally, to really mean what she has pretended all along. Often she is troubled by worries that he will find her out. She feels like an impostor. She is haunted by fears that he doesn't love that the "real" her -and usually she is right ("She wanted to marry a man with whom she could be as bitchy as she really is").
    This is just about when she discovers that love and mariage mean a different thing for a male than they do for her: Though mean in general believe women in general to be inferior, every man has reserved a special place in his mind for the one woman he will elevate above the rest by virtue of association with himself. Until now the woman, out in the cold, beggeg for his approval, dying to clamber onto this clean well-lighted place. But once there, she realizes that she was elevated above other women not in recognition of her real value, but only because she matched nicely his store-bought pedestal. Probably he doesn't even know who she is (if indeed by this time she herself knows). He has let her in not because he genuinely loved her, but only because she played so well into his preconceived fantasies. Though she knew his love to be false, since she herself engineered it, she can't help feeling contempt for him. But she is afraid, at first, to reveal her true self, for then perhaps even that false love would go. And finally she understands that for him, too, marriage had all kinds of motivations that had nothing to do with love. She was merely the one closest to his fantasy image.
    " (p.140-141)

    "Culture is the attempt by man to realize the conceivable in the possible. Man's consciousness of himself within his environment distinguishes him from the lower animals, and turns him into the only animal capable of culture. This consciousness, his highest faculty, allows him to project mentally states of being that do not exist at the moment. Able to construct a past and future, he becomes a creature of time -a historian and a prophet. More than this, he can imagine objects and states of being that have never existed ans may never exist in the real world -he becomes a maker of art. Thus, for example, though the ancient Greeks did not know how to fly, still they could imagine it." (p.172)

    "In our new society, humanity could finally revert to its natural polymorphous sexuality -all forms of sexuality would be allowed and indulged." (p.209)

    "The failure of the Russian Revolution is directly traceable to the failure of its attempts to eliminate the famility and sexual repression. This failure, in turn, as we have seen, was caused by the limitations of a male-biased revolutionary analysis based on economic class alone, one that failed to take the family fully into account even in its function as an economic unit. By the same token, all socialist révolutions to date have been or will be failures for precisely these reasons. Any initial liberation Under current socialism must always revert back to repression, because the family structure is the source of psychological, economic, and political oppression. Socialist attempts to soften the structure of power within the family by incorporating women into the labor force or army are only reformist. Thus it is no surprise that socialism as it is now constituted in the various parts of the world is not only no improvement on capitalism, but often worse." (p.212)

    "The family is neither private nor a refuge, but is directly connected to -is even the cause of- the ills of the larger society which the individual is no longer able to confront." (p.224)

    "The end of the family structure would necessitate simultaneous changes in the larger economy. Not only would reproduction be qualitatively different, so would production: just as we have had to purity relations with children of all external considérations we would first have to have, to be entirely successful in our goals, socialism within a cybernated state, aiming first to redistribute drudgery equitably, and eventually to eliminate it altogether. With the further development and wise use of machines, people could be frred from toil, "work" divorced from wages and redefined: Now both adults and children could indulge in serious "play" as much as they wanted.
    In the transition, as long as we still had a money economy, people might receive a guaranteed annual income from the state to take care of basic physical needs. These incomes, distributed equitably to men, women, and children, regardless of age, work, prestige, birth, would in themselves equalize in one blow the economic class system
    ." (p.235)

    "Each individual would contribute to the society as a whole, not for wages or other incentives of prestige and power, but because the work he chose to do interested him in itself, and perhaps only incidentally because it had a social value for others (as healthily selfish as it only Art today). Work that had only social value and no personal value would have been eliminated by the machine." (p.238)

    "Under socialism, even if still a money economy, work would be divorced from wages, the ownership of the means of production in the hands of all the people, and wealth distributed on the basis on need, independant of the social value of the individual's contribution to society. We would aim to eliminate the dependance of women and children on the labor of men, as all as all other types of labor exploitation. Each person could choose his life style at will, changing it to suit his tastes without seriously inconveniencing anyone else ; no one would be bound into any social structure against his will, for each person would be totally self-governing as soon as he was physically able." (p.239)

    "The revolt against the biological family could bring on the first successful revolution, or what was thought of by the ancient as the Messianic Age. [...] We now have the knowledge to create a paradise on earth anew." (p.242)
    -Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, 1970.


    _________________
    « La racine de toute doctrine erronée se trouve dans une erreur philosophique. [...] Le rôle des penseurs vrais, mais aussi une tâche de tout homme libre, est de comprendre les possibles conséquences de chaque principe ou idée, de chaque décision avant qu'elle se change en action, afin d'exclure aussi bien ses conséquences nuisibles que la possibilité de tromperie. » -Jacob Sher, Avertissement contre le socialisme, Introduction à « Tableaux de l'avenir social-démocrate » d'Eugen Richter, avril 1998.

    "Il y a, de nos jours, beaucoup de gens qui s'accommodent très aisément de cette espèce de compromis entre le despotisme administratif et la souveraineté du peuple, et qui pensent avoir assez garanti la liberté des individus, quand c'est au pouvoir national qu'ils la livrent. Cela ne me suffit point." -Alexis de Tocqueville, De la Démocratie en Amérique, vol II, Quatrième Partie : Chapitre VI, 1840.


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