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Feminist Paradoxes

MERVE EMRE REJECTS the concept of “the natural” in the realm of human reproduction. She also challenges the reader to look beyond gendered binaries to think about the human experience of reproduction in an expanded way—one that includes single individuals, same-sex couples, and trans and gender-nonconforming people—for a maximally inclusive feminist solidarity.

I appreciate this undertaking even if Emre’s rejection of the “natural” is not new. Feminist anthropologists, such as Sylvia Yanagisako and Jane Collier, have long critiqued ideas of “natural sex,” gender binaries, and “natural” male and female procreative roles. It seems to me though that Emre’s dictum, “all reproduction … is assisted,” may unnecessarily limit what can be meant by a term as capacious as “natural.” One could contend, for example, that it is natural for a lesbian couple or single woman without a partner to conceive with the help of a donor sperm. As one woman I interviewed told me: “Of course we used a sperm donor. How else would a lesbian get pregnant?” It is likewise natural for a person who faces difficulties conceiving to pursue whatever technology is available to help with having a child.

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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.