Vicky Margree, University of Brighton

22 November 2016

Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex burst onto the feminist scene in 1970 and proved immediately controversial. The book’s key thesis is that the origins of women’s oppression lie in biology: specifically, in the fact that it is women and not men who conceive, gestate, give birth to and nurture children. Firestone’s solution is revolutionary: since it is biology that is the problem, then it is biology that must be changed, through technological intervention that would have as its end the complete removal of the reproductive process from women’s bodies. With its proposal for the development of artificial wombs, its call for the abolition of the nuclear family, and its vision of a socialist, cybernetic, society, Firestone’s manifesto may seem hopelessly utopian and out-dated. This lecture, however, will argue for the book’s continuing significance for feminism today, as a text that asks  provocative questions about gender, biology, sexuality, work and technology, and the ways in which our  imaginations in the 21st century continue to be in thrall to ideologies of maternity and the nuclear family.

Dr Vicky Margree lectures on the Humanities Programme at the University of Brighton. Her talk is based upon a forthcoming book on Firestone, which in turn draws upon her experience of teaching Firestone’s text on the ‘Feminisms’ course on the Self and Society Option pathway. She also researches in the areas of late 19th and early 20th fiction.

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