THE ULTIMATE REVOLUTION
Before we talk about revolutionary alternatives, let’s summarize—to determine the specifics that must be carefully excluded from any new structures. Then we can go on to “utopian speculation” directed by at least negative guidelines.
We have seen how women, biologically distinguished from men, are culturally distinguished from “human.” Nature produced the fundamental inequality—half the human race must bear and rear the children of all of them —which was later consolidated, institutionalized, in the interests of men. Reproduction of the species cost women dearly, not only emotionally, psychologically, culturally but even in strictly material (physical) terms: before recent methods of contraception, continuous childbirth led to constant “female trouble,” early aging, and death. Women were the slave class that maintained the species in order to free the other half for the business of the world —admittedly often its drudge aspects, but certainly all its creative aspects as well.
This natural division of labor was continued only at great cultural sacrifice: men and women developed only half of themselves, at the expense of the other half. The division of the psyche into male and female to better reinforce the reproductive division was tragic: the hypertrophy in men of rationalism, aggressive drive, the atrophy of their emotional sensitivity was a physical (war) as well as a cultural disaster. The emotionalism and
passivity of women increased their suffering (we cannot speak of them in a symmetrical way, since they were victimized as a class by the division). Sexually men and women were channeled into a highly ordered—time, place, procedure, even dialogue—heterosexuality restricted to the genitals, rather than diffused over the entire physical being.
I submit, then, that the first demand for any alternative system must be:
1) The freeing of women from the tyranny of their reproductive biology by every means available, and the diffusion of the childbearing and childrearing role to the society as a whole, men as well as women. There are many degrees of this. Already we have a (hard-won) acceptance of “family planning,” if not contraception for its own sake. Proposals are imminent for day-care centers, perhaps even twenty-four-hour child-care centers staffed by men as well as women. But this, in my opinion, is timid if not entirely worthless as a transition. We’re talking about radical change. And though indeed it cannot come all at once, radical goals must be kept in sight at all times. Day-care centers buy women off. They, ease the immediate pressure without asking why that pressure is on women.
At the other extreme there are the more distant solutions based on the potentials of modern embryology, that is, artificial reproduction, possibilities still so frightening that they are seldom discussed seriously. We have seen that the fear is to some extent justified: in the hands of our current society and under the direction of current scientists (few of whom are female or even feminist), any attempted use of technology to “free” anybody is suspect. But we are speculating about post-revolutionary systems, and for the purposes of our discussion we shall assume flexibility and good intentions in those working out the change.
To thus free women from their biology would be to threaten the social unit that is organized around biological reproduction and the subjection of women to their biologi-
The Case for Feminist Revolution 207
cal destiny, the family. Our second demand will come also as a basic contradiction to the family, this time the family as an economic unit:
2) The full self-determination, including economic independence, of both women and. children. To achieve this goal would require fundamental changes in our social and economic structure. This is why we must talk about a feminist socialism: in the immediate future, under capitalism, there could be at best a token integration of women into the labor force. For women have been found exceedingly useful and cheap as a transient, often highly skilled labor supply, not to mention the economic value of their traditional function, the reproduction and rearing of the next generation of children, a job for which they are now patronized (literally and thus figuratively) rather than paid. But whether or not officially recognized, these are essential economic functions. Women, in this present capacity, are the very foundation of the economic superstructure, vital to its existence, f The paeans to self – sacrificing motherhood have a basis in reality: Mom is vital to the American way of life, considerably more than apple pie. She is an institution without which the system really would fall apart. In official capitalist terms, the bill for her economic services might run as high as one – fifth of the gross national product. But payment is not the answer. To pay her, as is often discussed seriously in Sweden, is a reform that does not challenge the basic division of labor and thus could never eradicate the disastrous psychological and cultural consequences of that division of labor.
As for the economic independence of children, that is really a pipe dream, realized as yet nowhere in the world. And, in the case of children too, we are talking about more than a fair integration into the labor force; we are talking about the abolition of the labor force itself under a cybernetic socialism, the radical restructuring of the economy to make “work,” i. e., wage labor, no longer necessary. In our post-revolutionary society adults as well as children would be provided for—irrespective of their social contributions—in the first equal distribution of wealth in history.
We have now attacked the family on a double front, challenging that around which it is organized: reproduction of the species by females and its outgrowth, the physical dependence of women and children. To eliminate these would be enough to destroy the family, which breeds the power psychology. However, we will break it down still further.
3) The total integration of women and children into all aspects of the larger society. All institutions that segregate the sexes, or bar children from adult society, e. g., the elementary school, must be destroyed. Down with
These three demands predicate a feminist revolution based on advanced technology. And if the male/female and the adult/child cultural distinctions are destroyed, we
will no longer need the sexual repression that maintains these unequal classes, allowing for the first time a “natural” sexual freedom. Thus we arrive at:
4) The freedom of all women and children to do whatever they wish to do sexually. There will no longer be any reason not to. (Past reasons: Full sexuality threatened the continuous reproduction necessary for human survival, and thus, through religion and other cultural institutions, sexuality had to be restricted to reproductive purposes, all nonproductive sex pleasure considered . deviation or worse; The sexual freedom of women would / call into question the fatherhood of the child, thus threatening patrimony; Child sexuality had to be repressed because it was a threat to the precarious internal balance of the family. These sexual repressions increased proportionately to the degree of cultural exaggeration of the biological family.) In our new society, humanity could finally revert to its natural polymorphous sexuality— all forms of sexuality would be allowed and indulged. The fully sexuate mind, realized in the past in only..a few individuals (survivors), would become universal. Artificial cultural achievement would no longer be the only avenue to sexuate self-realization: one could now realize oneself fully, simply in the process of being and acting.