We have seen in this article how three interwoven ideologies – patriarchal, technocratic and capitalist – have colonized the spaces of motherhood in the 21st century Western society. Given the sexual division of labour, it is predominantly men who design reproductive technologies aimed at women. These technologies have little connection with women’s actual needs and can be harmful to their health and independence.
Since 1980s, feminist scholars and activists have begun a campaign of research and consciousness-raising as spaces of resistance to the new reproductive technologies. They have revealed the problematic social, political, and economic aspects of these technologies. Health risks of fertility drugs, the painful experience of submitting to the in vitro fertilization, and commodification and fragmentation of the spaces of motherhood, demonstrate that these technologies limit women to new unsafe choices. In the context of the foetal rights campaigns and the bid to produce ideal babies, these technologies might also impede women’s power to decline technological intrusions.
The short term purpose of feminists within the spaces of resistance is to stop or slow the production of technologies that aggravate the present gender discriminations. The strategies for slowing the production of technologies are: to encourage women to boycott them; to campaign against their public funding; to outlaw specific types of research, and to stop the opening of further in vitro fertilization clinics.
The strategies for stopping further development of reproductive technologies are: to challenge supporters of these technologies to prove the advantages of their machines; to create social space to say no and resist, as anti-nuclear groups have done; and to propose standards for the acceptance of technologies. Some examples of these standards are: social needs must be placed before profit; technology must be gratifying to work with, not fragmenting or alienating, and must bolster women’s power over their own lives. It must leave decision-making to the community at large.
The long term purpose of the spaces of resistance is to shift the present imbalance of power between women and technocrats. Scientists and technicians could use their expertise according to women’s needs. Hospital employees could be whistle-blowers for the abuses of fertility drugs. Physicians could inform the public about the low degrees of success of in vitro fertilization and the ethical issues associated with research on foetuses. Researchers could avoid conducting further research into the development of new reproductive techniques.
The separation between technocrats and lay women need to be eliminated by valuing women’s wisdom along with technocrats’ expertise, and by putting at women’s disposal the resources to learn more scientific and technical knowledge about reproduction and assisted reproduction.
Feminist scientists, researchers and physicians could combine experience, resources, better safety guidelines, women’s needs and interests, and experiences of techniques such as in vitro fertilization, to transform the purpose and use of the new reproductive technologies.
Benston, Margaret Lowe. “Questioning Authority: Feminism and Scientific Experts.” Resources for Feminist Research15 (3) (1986): 71-72.
Bert, Jean-François . 2007. Michel Foucault, regards sur le corps (histoire, ethnologie, sociologie). Cahiers du Portique, Strasbourg.
Blum, L. 1999. At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States. Boston Press, Beacon.
Conseil du Statut de la Femme.1988. Dilemmas: When Technology Transforms Motherhood.Conseil du Statut de la Femme, Quebec.
Corea, Gena. 1985. The Mother Machine: Reproductive Technologies from Artificial Insemination to Artificial Wombs, Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd, Toronto.
Davis-Floyd Robbie E & Joseph Dumit. 1998. Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots (eds.), Routledge, New York.
Davis-Floyd Robbie E, 1994. “The Technocratic Body: American Childbirth asCultural Expression.” Social Science and Medicine 38 (8) 1125–1140.
Forty, Adrian. 1995. Objects of Desire: Design and Society Since 1750. Cameron Books, London.
Foucault, Michel. 2004. Naissance de la biopolitique : cours au Collège de France (1978-1979), Seuil/Gallimard, Paris.
Foucaul, Michel. 2001. La naissance de la médecine sociale, in Dits et écrits, tome. 2. Gallimard, Paris.
Foucaul, Michel. 2000. L’incorporation de l’hôpital dans la technologie moderne , in Dits et écrits, tome 2. Gallimard, Paris.
Foucaul, Michel.1979. LesMachines à guérir, aux origines de l’hôpital moderne, Pierre Mardaga, Paris.
Haraway, Donna. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, New York.
Klein, Renate Duelli (ed.) 1989.Infertility: Women Speak Out About Their Experiences of Reproductive Medicine. Pandora Press, London.
Lefebvre, Henri. 1974 .La production de l’espace, Anthropos, Paris.
Martin, Emily. 1990. The ideology of reproduction: the reproduction of ideology, in Ginsburg F. & A. L. Tsing (eds.), in Uncertain Terms: Negotiating Gender in American Society, Beacon Press, Boston.
Martin, Emily.1987. The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction. Beacon Press, Boston.
Mies, Maria. 1955. “Why Do We Need All of This? A Call Against Genetic Engineering and Reproductive Technology.” Women’s Studies International Forum 8(6): 553-560.
Petchesky, R. 1997. Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction, in The Gender/Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy. R. Lancaster & M. di Leonardo, eds. Routledge, New York.
Raymond, Janice. 1993. Women as Wombs: Reproductive Technologies and the Battle Over Women’s Freedom. Harper San-Francisco, San Francisco.
Rothman, Barbara.K. 2000. Recreating Motherhood. Rutgers University Press, New Jersey.
Rothman, Barbara.K. 1989. Recreating motherhood: Ideology and technology in a patriarchal society. W.W. Norton & Company, New York.
Rothman, Barbara K. 1986. The Tentative Pregnancy: Prenatal Diagnosis and the Future of Motherhood.Viking, New York.
Sawicki, Jana. 1999. Disciplining Mothers: Feminism and the New Reproductive Technologies, in Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader. J. Price and M. Shildrick (eds.) Routledge, New York.
Spallone, P. 1989. Beyond Conception: The New Politics of Reproduction. Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Granby, M.A.
Spallone, Patricia and Deborah Lynn Steinberg (eds.)1987.Made to Order: The Myth of Reproductive and Genetic Progress. Pergammon Press, London.
Treichler, P. 1990. Feminism, Medicine and the Meaning of Childbirth, in Body/Politics: Women and the Discourses of Science. M. Jacobus, E. Fox Keller and S. Shuttleworth (eds.) Routledge, New York.
VOLPE, Peter. 1987. Test-Tube Conception: A Blend of Love and Science. Mercer University Press,Georgia, USA.