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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > Summer 2018 > Mothering

Mothering

the gender of gestating is ambiguous. I am not talking about pregnancy’s deepening of one’s voice, its carpeting of one’s legs in bristly hair, or even about the ancient Greek belief that it was an analogue of men’s duty to die in battle if called upon. I am not even thinking of the heterogeneity of those who gestate. Rather, in a context where political economists are talking constantly of “the feminization of labor,” it seems to me that the economic gendering of the work itself—gestating is work, as Merve Emre says—is not as clear-cut as it would appear.

As Paul B. Preciado points out in Testo Junkie (2008), the feminizationof-labor thesis, which describes global trends toward job precarity— sorry, flexibility—and emotional labor is not very helpful. It presumes what femininity is; but even on its own terms, the waged baby-making workplaces of the twenty-first century do not fit well into that model. The commercial gestational surrogates who are doing pregnancy for pay in the comfort of their homes (in California) or in clinic-dormitories (in Nepal, Kenya, Laos) are working 24/7. They are not “flexible.” They are supposed to be pure techne, uncreative muscle. Dreams of artificial wombs may have been largely abandoned in the 1960s, but ever since the perfection of in vitro fertilization (IVF) enabled a body to gestate entirely foreign material, living humans have become the “technology” component of the euphemism “assisted reproductive technology.”

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About Boston Review

From the breast pump to egg freezing, new technologies have long promised to “liberate” mothers, but the results are often uneven, freeing some women while worsening the oppression of others. Once and Future Feminist considers how technology offers women both advances and setbacks in the realms of sex, career, and politics. In the age of Silicon Valley, these issues are more pressing than ever, and this collection pushes readers to consider not only whether emancipatory feminism is possible today, but what it might look like.