we need a cyborg manifesto for infertility

When I was a sophomore in college, Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto changed my life.  I was 19 years old, and my hearing impairment, which had slowly worsened over the course of my adolescence, took a sudden plunge.  To that point, I had read lips well enough to survive socially and academically in a rigorous school.  But suddenly I couldn’t hear at all out of my right ear, even with the most powerful hearing aids. I decided to get a cochlear implant.

I spent a lot of time pondering what it meant to replace an organ of sensory perception with metal and electrodes. I had a knee-jerk sense that it was wrong (or at least weird) to combine inorganic parts with human ones, but I couldn’t explain why.

Then I read the Cyborg Manifesto.  The Cyborg Manifesto is, among other things, a deconstruction of our fantasies about the human body — about its naturalness and its uniqueness among species, about its dominance over machines and animals, and even the concept of species itself.

I was reminded of the Cyborg Manifesto while reading the postings on Stirrup Queen about the first generation of IVF babies having babies of their own. There was, rightly, a lot of anger from the infertility community at the language being used to describe this phenomenon, particularly at the mainstream media’s obsession with distinguishing natural and artificial conception and the professed amazement that a “test tube” baby could herself produce a “normal” baby.

Cyborg analysis shows us why this thinking is screwed up. It offers an alternative to the commonly-held understandings of naturalness and the human body that are hurtful to those of us who need to conceive our kids in a petri dish and many others, such those of us whose sensory perception is enabled by machines or whose gender has been created by hormones and surgery.

Here’s a quotation:

“In the traditions of ‘Western’ science and politics–the tradition of racist, male-dominant capitalism; the tradition of progress; the tradition of the appropriation of nature as resource for the productions of culture; the tradition of reproduction of the self from the reflections of the other – the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. The stakes in the border war have been the territories of production, reproduction, and imagination. This chapter is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.”

If advanced reproductive technology isn’t about pleasure in the confusion of boundaries between organism and machine, I don’t know what is.


7 Responses to “we need a cyborg manifesto for infertility”

  1. Catherine Says:

    Donna Haraway is so terrific. Check out her essay: “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others.”

  2. I think a lot about re-reading some of the classic feminist texts with my now infertile lens and sort of long for an ‘assisted reproduction reader’ of some sort. Donna Haraway definitely requires a re-read.

    The concept of this blog is exciting. I’ll be sure to check back often as I also think a lot about how to situate ART into reproductive and broader social justice efforts and analysis.

  3. I really enjoy these last two posts and the concept of your blog…

    Jess #74

  4. Interesting and very thought provoking. I have had that conflict myself sometimes, too. But, as a scientist, I think I tend to lean towards bringing the knowledge we have to help as much and as many people as possible.


  5. Sounds like a fascinating essay.

  6. That sounds super interesting. Maybe I’ll add it to my To Read list.

  7. You are an incredible writer. I honestly think that the biggest problem with the human population is ignorance and selfishness. It is amazing to me how many people jump on ANY bandwagon without having any research of their own to prove that whatever bandwagon they’re on is correct. I grew up a misunderstood religion because people choose to be ignorant and believe anything they hear rather than being educated and taking the time to find out what the religion really stands for before they pulled out their torches and pitch forks. Too many times people want to take the easy road and believe everything they hear, and people invest way too much trust in the media. Its sad. Its pathetic. What is even more sad is being on the other side of the ignorance whether it be in race, culture, religion, infertile, whatever it may be.

    Thank you for stopping by to say hello on my blog. I am so glad you did.

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