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The Violence of the Natural

MERVE EMRE OFFERS a sweeping account of over a century of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), from a Progressive Era “artificial womb” to the unevenly distributed dramas and devastations of in vitro fertilization (IVF) today. The near-complete absence of race and racism from the essay, however, obscures both the context and the core of the case that Emre is trying to make.

This is a shame, because there is much here to admire. Particularly potent and timely is Emre’s appreciation of Shulamith Firestone’s 1970 call in The Dialectic of Sex for mechanized gestation as fundamental to the abolition of gender hierarchy. Firestone’s vision stands as a metric of current failures, highlighting the entrenchment of heteropatriarchy, cis-normativity, and class stratification in current uses of ARTs, even as these technologies approach and exceed our forebears’ science-fictional imaginings.

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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.