Ben's Reviews > The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone
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's review
Jan 21, 2008

it was amazing
Read in May, 2003

A wonderful combination of Marxism & Feminism. A radical (sometimes to the point of absurdity?), powerful, honest, dated, and frequently very funny work.

Pregnancy is barbaric. I do not believe, as many women are now saying, that the reason pregnancy is viewed as not beautiful is due strictly to cultural perversion. The child's first response, "What's wrong with that Fat Lady?"; the husband's guilty waning of sexual desire; the woman's tears in front of the mirror at eight months -- all are gut reactions, not to be dismissed as cultural habits. Pregnancy is the temporary deformation of the body of the individual for the sake of the species.
Moreover, childbirth
hurts. And it isn't good for you. Three thousand years ago, women giving birth "naturally" had no need to pretend that pregnancy was a real trip, some mystical orgasm (that far-away look). The Bible said it: pain and travail. The glamour was unnecessary: women had no choice. They didn't dare squawk. But at least they could scream as loudly as they wanted during their labour pains. And after it was over, even during it, they were admired in a limited way for their bravery; their valour was measured by how many children (sons) they could endure bringing into the world.
Today all this has been confused. The cult of natural childbirth itself tells us how far we've come from true oneness with nature. Natural childbirth is only one more part of the reactionary hippie-Rousseauean Return-to-Nature, and just as self-conscious. Perhaps a mystification of childbirth, true faith, makes it easier for the woman involved. Psuedo-yoga exercises, twenty pregnant women breathing deeply on the floor to the conductor's baton, may even help some women develop "proper" attitudes (as in "I didn't scream once"). The squirming husband at the bedside, like the empathy pains of certain tribesmen ("Just look what I go through with you, dear"), may make a woman feel less alone during her ordeal. But the fact remains: childbirth is at best necessary and tolerable. It is not fun.

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