Contemporary Feminist Utopianism (Women and Politics)

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About Lucy Sargisson. Lucy Sargisson.

Radical Thinkers: The Art, Sex and Politics of Feminism - Tate Talks

Sociopolitical themes such as government and social structures, gender roles and the distribution of wealth and power are common themes of utopian novels. The primary function of this genre therefore seems to be to teach the reader to think critically and question his or her own society without giving clear-cut guidelines to an ideal life in a perfect world for everyone. Dystopian novels show how social and political inadequacies such as discrimination, fundamentalism and dictatorship can culminate in a scenario of total chaos and mass destruction.

While most readers would probably agree that the dystopias presented in dystopian fiction do resemble a nightmare and should thus be prevented, the question in how far a utopian concept is desirable or not seems to be more open to the choice of the reader and is often dependent on his or her morality and political standpoint.

The focus of this paper will be on two prominent examples of both, utopian and dystopian fiction, by contemporary female authors.

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For example, most utopias are concerned with government and hierarchial issues, societal organization and the distribution of wealth and power in one way or the other. Their main function is to make women aware of their situation while emphasizing the shortcomings of societies where men are still regarded as being in many ways superior to women.

Hogeland ff. One of the most prominent feminist utopian works is Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy which was published in and shall be discussed further in the following chapter. When it was published in , Woman on the Edge of Time turned out to be major success and a milestone in feminist literature. Unlike many other utopian novels where a utopian society is simply contrasted to an imperfect society, the utopia depicted in Woman on the Edge of Time can be seen as a contigent utopia Hogeland ff. The protagonist in Woman on the Edge of Time is Connie Ramos, a 37 year old Latina living on welfare who is brought to a mental hospital after beating up a violent man who prostitutes her niece.

She is picked as a medical guinea pig by a group of psychiatrists who claim to be wanting to cure their patients by operating on their brains to manipulate their emotions. While she is hospitalized, Connie suffers greatly under the circumstances and the medication and while she reflects on her life and her sad role in a patriarchial, discriminating society, she makes contact with Luciente who is a woman from the future. ME: One sex is half a species, Miss Evason. I am quoting and he cited a famous anthropologist.

Do you want to banish sex from Whileaway? MC: I said: Do you want to banish sex from Whilewaway? Sex, family, love erotic attraction—call it what you like—we all know that your peope are competent and intelligent individuals, but do you think that's enough?


  1. Contemporary Feminist Utopianism: 1st Edition (e-Book) - Routledge!
  2. Put Me in the Zoo.
  3. Computer-aided modeling of reactive systems;

Surely you have the intellectual knowledge of biology in other species to know what I'm talking about. Le Guin's novel was published in , the year before Dialectic of Sex ; Firestone probably hadn't read it when she wrote her own book. Russ' novel The Female Man , was written in , and it seems quite possible that she had read Firestone's work. But I don't think it matters that much who did or did not influence whom.

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Contemporary Feminist Utopianism by Lucy Sargisson

What does matter is that Firestone wasn't some kind of mad visionary. Or if she was a mad visionary, she wasn't the only one. Susan Faludi quotes Kate Millett as saying, "I was taking on the obvious male chauvinists. Shulie was taking on the whole ball of wax. What she was doing was much more dangerous. Giving Firestone a context makes her, in some ways, less radical, or at least less unique.

But I think it also can make her more relevant. Her dreams weren't just her own dreams. Her brilliant blending of Marx and feminism, in which she sees women's labor as the prototype of all labor—that becomes not just a singular insight, but part of a conversation in which writers like Le Guin and Russ and Gillman and Marston were actively trying to figure out how biological difference is linked to oppression, and what changing that would mean. Her Freudian insistence that straight sex is not normal sex, and her argument for "polymorphous perversity" was part of the long, fruitful conversation between feminism and queer thinkers.

Firestone's feminist utopia was also a queer utopia, and has only gained in relevance as queer politics and feminist politics have become more intertwined. It's true that Firestone was a visionary; it's true that, for all her analysis of the past and present, much of her energy was focused on the future.

A Feminist Utopia

But I don't think that cuts her off from her own time, or from ours. Looking forward is, on the contrary, one of the main ways we interact with the present. In life, after writing her book, Firestone lost connection with her movement and her peers.