Presentation on theme: "Transformations: Gender, Reproduction, and Contemporary Society"— Presentation transcript:
1 Transformations: Gender, Reproduction, and Contemporary Society Lecture 3:Who Owns Women’s Bodies? Who Needs Children?
2 Structure Origins of claim to own one’s body Links between claim and social theoryReproduction and biological differenceOther stakeholders in women’s reproductive bodiesPro-natalismAnti-natalismWhich women?Conclusions
3 A Woman’s Right to Choose Slogans of the 1970s women’s movementPolitical demands for reproductive rightsFramed within discourse of modern individualism
4 The Right to Own One’s Body A claim with a historyRests on new concept of ‘the self’ in 18th century Europe‘Possessive Individualism’ (Macpherson, 1962)Separates self from body, where self becomes ownerOwner has sole rights over bodyImagined subject is maleCommodification of labour replacesfeudalismMacpherson interested in role PI playedin capitalism and unequal property relations
5 Example and Limits‘To be free is to be an individual - in the first instance, an owner of one's own person and capacities, but also what one acquires through the use of one's capacities. To be free is to be an owner. Freedom is defined in terms of independence from others, and one is independent only when one has the right to use one's property, including one's abilities, as one chooses.’Carens, Joseph (ed.) (1993) Democracy and Possessive Individualism: The Intellectual Legacy of C.B. Macpherson, Albany, New York: State University of New York, p. 2What rights did employers have over worker’s bodies?Did male citizens owe rights over their body to the state in times of war?Were slave contracts valid?What about women?
6 Social & Sexual Contracts Carole Pateman: women did not own their own bodyand capacitiesThese freedoms were for citizens only(Propertied) men had formed a social contract with thestate, accepting to live under the rule of law in exchange forprotection of rightsThis contract is between men only, women are framed as all that men must masterOriginal social contract relies on a sexualcontract establishing patriarchal rights overwomen’s bodies and propertySexual contract privatized, obscured
7 Richardson’s Pamela Concept of PI created the terms for women to claim rights over their bodiesEg. Samuel Richardson’s novel PamelaWidower Mr ‘B’ seeks to claim sexualrights over Pamela, a servantPamela resists via discourse of PIPamela hides her writings on her personRichardson puts thenrevolutionary claims inPamela’s mouthMr ‘B’ reforms in the end torespect Pamela’s rights overher body and her writings
8 Reproduction and Biological Difference Equality vs DifferenceBiological gender differences generally played downBut key in human reproduction: women’s bodies play major role and their reproductive capacity is a scarcer resourceMen’s reproductive bodies more dispensable than women’sEven though men aged 30s+ are scarcer than womenElstain argues in Women and War (1987) that women should be excluded from combat roles because: ‘The bodies of young females are not expendable: they are what re-creates and holds forth the promise of a future’.Biological difference results in competing claims for control over women’s reproductive bodies, between a woman herself and society/ other stakeholders in reproduction
9 Stakeholders in Children: Activity Are children a private good (or bad) or a social one? Consider the following statements:Falling birth rates means fewer tax-payers and threatens the capacity of the welfare state to pay living pensions.She chose to have the child, so she is responsible for it.Higher rate tax-payers just don’t need child benefit, it’s a waste of tax- payers money.Universal child benefit is symbolic as well as material, acknowledging the work of having and raising children in our society and the benefits of children to us all. Talk briefly to your neighbour about how the statements construct children.
10 Why do we need children? Avoid species extinction At the national level children determine:labour forcetaxationmilitary powercultural reproductionAt the community level children:maintain viabilitymaintain asset basemaintain political positionFor working classes children:- are economic resource, labourBrenner and Ramas (1987) Rethinking Women’s OppressionFor elite classes children: - inherit property- continue family nameFertility RatesUK = blueFrance = orangeUSA = green
11 Pro-natalism Financial incentives Banning abortion Time incentives Family/Community level (Browner)Husband’s preference for large family predominatesCultural norms stigmatize women having few or no childrenReligious opposition to certain contraception and to abortionState Level (King)CarrotsSticksFinancial incentivesTime incentivesService incentivesPropagandaBanning abortionUnavailability of contraceptionFinancial penalties
12 A Woman’s Duty?Singapore: well-educated women are not fulfilling their function of having familiesRomania: one of the most important duties of women, mothers and educators is to devote themselves to the raising of new generations in the spirit of ardent patriotismIsrael: Any Jewish woman who, as far as it depends on her, does not bring into the world at least four healthy children is shirking her duty to the nation, like a solder who evades military service.Women’s bodies constructed as state propertyIncreasingly unacceptable, so see shift from sticks to carrots
13 Which Women?Nationalist and religious discourses may generate racist and eugenicist controls to try to ensure:- women don’t reproduce with ‘wrong’ type of man- ‘wrong’ type of women don’t reproduce at allEthnic nationalism: shared ancestryOnly women from national ethnic group encouraged to reproduce, withmen of same ethnicityCultural nationalism: shared civic and cultural commitmentAll nationals encouraged to reproduce; migrationDisabled women have been seen as ‘unfit’ mothers:- Assumed to be asexual- Assumed would have children with disability- Assumed would be ‘bad’ parents
14 Anti-Natalism State attempts to limit number of children Works in interests of reproductive rights where contraception and abortion services availableMay be coercive eg. China’s one-child policySticksPropagandaSurveillanceFinancial penaltiesSocial sanctionsCompulsory sterilization
15 ConclusionsWomen’s unique capacity to reproduce makes women vulnerable to the appropriation of their reproductive power by othersPossessive individualism provides a language for women to claim rights over their reproductive bodiesThese claims are contested because various groups need childrenStruggles to possess and control reproductive capacity are socially, historically and geographically contextual‘If all women have the right to choose not to bear a child, then all women must also have the right to choose to bear children’ (Kallianes and Rubenfeld)