Feminists debate assisted reproduction

Hold on to your hats, folks.

The editors of Barnard College’s hot feminist journal, the Scholar and Feminist Online, have released their spring 2011 issue, “Critical Conceptions: Technology, Justice and the Global Reproductive Market.” It’s dedicated in part to advancing feminist analyses of reproductive technologies like IVF.

I haven’t finished feasting on the trove of writings, but here are some notes:

1. This blog is mentioned in Gwendolyn Beetham’s article, Reproduction as a Queer Thing! Beetham ends with a reminder that critical users of reproductive technologies — especially the more racially and economically privileged among us — have the responsibility to consider the ways that these technologies solidify power as well as subvert it:

There’s little attention, so far, to the ways in which reproductive technologies also facilitate privilege, such as the super-elite mode of parenting and ever-greater concentration of resources that might be encouraged by parent-to-child ratios that can exceed 4:1 in some of these families, or the naturalization of race that is achieved through the usually implicit decision to seek racially “similar” donors.

2. Sarah Franklin’s article, Transbiology: A Feminist Cultural Account of Being After IVF, is a dense review of four decades of feminist debate on reproductive technology. She emphasizes the ways in which IVF has changed “both the cultural logic of biological reproduction as well as the nuts and bolts of how it is accomplished.”

A small and slightly irrelevant aside on this article: I was surprised by her poo-pooing of the “well below 50 percent” success rates of most IVF clinics. Even 30 percent seems pretty damn good to me, considering that the unassisted success rates of most IVF patients would be close to 0 percent.

3. I approached The Difference that Disability Makes: Reproductive Justice Through a Wider Lens with interest, given the existence of my own profoundly retarded sibling. I was a bit disappointed.

The thesis seems to be that reproductive technology and technology more generally has allowed for survival of more premature and disabled babies which forces families to reinvent their lives outside of conventional narratives. True. But that’s sort of like asserting that witnessing one’s mother’s murder will change one’s entire life, not just the day that the murder was witnessed.

I also don’t get how the existence of reproductive technology has substantively changed the experience of being disabled or caring for a disabled person.

If you’re a 19 year old who wears diapers, is the experience changed by the knowledge that you lived in a neonatal intensive care unit for the first three months of your life? As opposed to, say, losing your bowel function because you were stomped on by a horse as a toddler?

I don’t think these were the questions the authors set out to pose, but that’s what I thought of while reading the article.

Please dig in to this journal and share thoughts here!

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One Response to “Feminists debate assisted reproduction”

  1. Thank you so much for drawing my attention to this journal. I’m just returning to blogging after a lengthy break, and have long been interested in the formulation of a broader feminist discourse on infertility/ART. I’m sure both these articles and your blog will provide me with lots of food for thought.

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