Academic journal article Hecate

The Productivities of Pregnancy: Reviewing Medical Technologies and Feminist Critiques

Academic journal article Hecate

The Productivities of Pregnancy: Reviewing Medical Technologies and Feminist Critiques

Article excerpt

This article focuses on new understandings of gestation, generated at the intersection of the pregnant body and reproductive technologies. I argue that the operation and activity of the pregnant body have not been central to feminist critiques of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and visual technologies (VTs). Feminist critiques of reproductive regimes continue an epistemological tendency in Western cultures to privilege the activity of the mind over that of the body. Close attention to the materiality of the pregnant body offers significant potential for the extension of feminist thinking about pregnancy in a technological age.

While feminist theorists have comprehensively explored the impact of various reproductive technologies on women in recent decades, much focus in Western feminist theorisations has been on the potential hazards for women involved in these processes, both physically and culturally. (1) Positive potential outcomes for women have centred on questions of choice, rights and wishes. These questions have been opposed to concerns about social coercion, significant health risks and the reinscription of a biological maternal imperative. Attention has been focused on the subjectivity of the reproducing woman and the developing reproductive technological apparatuses. Such contests are ongoing in feminist critiques and in other social and bio-ethical contexts. I do not want to concentrate on those issues in this refiguration of the pregnant body, although they form the political landscape for this project. Instead, I focus on new understandings of the gestating body; the potential and inherent productivity in pregnancy tha t is revealed at the intersection of the pregnant body and the reproductive technologies. I argue that the operation and activity of the pregnant body needs to be foregrounded in evaluations and theorisations of reproductive technologies for women and in cultural conceptions of pregnancy.

Critiques of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and visual technologies (VTs) have underwritten the materiality and activity of the pregnant body in how we understand and interpret the operation of these technologies. I develop this argument in two parts. In the first section, I argue that there has been a relatively narrow focus on how the subjectivity and identity of pregnant women is affected by the use of reproductive technologies. This frame for reproductive debate has implications as it continues to privilege the activity of the mind over that of the body. Gestation offers a key embodied experience where subjectivity is not the prime determinant of the outcome. Here I examine the narrative structures of feminist reproductive criticism at two periods: the mid-to-late 1980s where questions about JIVE and other similar technologies were important locations for feminist thinking and activism, and later feminist responses to visual technologies in the mid-to-late 1990s. The second part of this article argues for a rereading of the pregnant body that addresses some feminist concerns about the use of reproductive technologies. Close attention to the morphology and materiality of gestation offers significant potential for rereading pregnancy in a technological age.

Helping women out (of existence): ARTs and feminist theory

As ARTs such as in vitro fertilisation emerged in the late 1970s, social, churches, bioethicists and others raised moral and ethical questions about their use. Alongside the media coverage of proudly paternal doctors delivering babies to desperate, infertile women, a clear cohort of feminist responses developed that questioned the health risks of such procedures, and the underlying social project and its implications for women's identity. For some theorists, this social project was identified as a patriarchally induced desire to eradicate women through the operation of these technologies.

The future of women as a group is at stake and we need to ensure that we have thoroughly considered all possibilities before endorsing technologies which could mean the death of the female. …

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