for those of us in the 'second wave' of feminism, shulamith firestone's 1970 'dialectic of sex' was crucial. bringing a deep knowledge of marxism to her feminist analysis, she forced her readers to think, to question, to analyze ideas sometimes terrifying in their intellectual scope. she was a fearless writer and thinker, and like all visionaries she was mocked as much as admired. her book came out at the same time as the first of actor shirley maclaine's charming memoirs, and i remember vividly the anger i felt at the highly reputable book critic of the NY Times, who thought it would be amusing to compare the two books. maclaine gave a lovely picture of a liberated life that she and her husband lived, raising their daughter in both america and japan, he explained, while firestone gave ponderous theories of collective child care. he seemed to find nothing ludicrous in comparing the tale of a rich and famous couple with a look at the lives of parents who were lucky if they could both feed and clothe their kids. it was a bit like comparing garrison keeler to karl marx, but after all, this was just female stuff.
over the years, more and more feminist analysis was produced, some as good as firestone's, most at least worthy of reading. and as with all visionary works, some of firestone's visions collided with the specifics of later history. some didn't. some of our history has yet to catch up with her thinking.
she never had a happy life, to my knowledge, and certainly not an easy one. she died fairly young, at 67, after bouts with various illnesses. we were lucky to have her as long as we did.
anyone younger who is interested in feminism and in real feminist theory should read her; all these years later, there are still few among us with the courage to explore the unknown frontiers of her theory. sad that she's gone, and i hope there is peace after this life and that she has found it.