A key artifact of the political contradictions and utopian problematics of women’s liberation and the tradition of radical feminism at the end of the 1960s, Shulamith Firestone’s Dialectic of Sex remains a site of controversies, misinterpretations, and unmet challenges. This essay considers the critical capacity of this text at the present juncture, strongly characterized by the reactionary resurgence of second-wave feminism and a trans-exclusionary brand of radical feminism. While both illuminating and symptomatizing many of the contradictions and failures of radical feminism, Firestone’s text also strongly resonates with the critical utopian interventions of queer-feminist science fiction writing in the early 1970s. This critique of The Dialectic of Sex seeks to rearticulate some of Firestone’s key concepts within a critical utopian framework and to reconceptualize the text’s contributions to radical feminism in relation to a contemporary project of revolutionary feminism. To do this, the author suggests, requires a more nuanced approach to historicizing and engaging with political confusion—marking a matter of great urgency for the current cultural landscape.
The Dialectic of Sex, after the Post-1960s
Madeline Lane-McKinley is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, an editor of Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry, and a contributing editor for Commune. She received her PhD in literature with an emphasis on cultural studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2016. She is the author of Dear Z (2019).
Madeline Lane-McKinley; The Dialectic of Sex, after the Post-1960s. Cultural Politics 1 November 2019; 15 (3): 331–342. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-7725479
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