The idea of Ectogenesis (artificial womb technology) has been with us since the 1920s. Its implications have been discussed in Brave New World and even the Matrix. The purpose of this article isn’t to predict the viability of this technology but to highlight the feminist response. The evolution of this technology began to gain momentum about twenty years ago and the feminist response has been quite amusing. Some feminists like Shulamith Firestone believed that anything which would free women from reproduction ought to be welcomed. Soraya Chemaly writes:
In her seminal work, The Dialectic of Sex, written in 1970, Shulamith Firestone argued that inequality between genders, and women’s virtual imprisonment in the home, was the direct result of biological reproductive differences and women’s correlating investments in mothering. For her, ectogenesis, accompanied by revolutionary social changes, was the way to free women from the tyranny of their own biology put in the employ of patriarchal structures, including the traditional family. She noted that, so far, these technical and social changes have been impeded by medicine’s domination by men, who have no vested interest in upsetting the traditional status quo. (Emphasis mine)
It is remarkable that feminists who wage war against their own female biology should have the temerity to brand others “misogynists”, but that is the subject for another post. Nevertheless, we must give Firestone credit for remaining faithful to the tenets of her ideology, demented as it may very well be. Other feminists have responded with great alarm that this technology (when fully developed) would result in the obsolescence of women.
From the same article:
Prominent feminists and activists, including Andrea Dworkin and Janice Raymond, have concluded that not only will women be further marginalized and oppressed by this eventuality, but they will become obsolete.
Fertility, and the ability to be the species’ reproductive engine, are virtually the only resources that women collectively control, they argue. And, although women do have other “value” in a patriarchal society–child rearing, for example–gestation remains, worldwide, the most important. Even in the most female-denigrating cultures women are prized, if only, for their childbearing. If you take that away, then what? This technology becomes another form of violence.
The irony here is delicious. The same feminists that have been broadcasting that “women need men like fish need bicycles” have reduced the worth of women to their reproductive function. You would think that feminists would have greater faith in their sisters’ ability to compete with men on equal footing, but clearly this isn’t the case. Perhaps feminists aren’t as disconnected from reality as we may previously have thought. Dworkin in her own words:
Women already have the power to eliminate men and in their collective wisdom have decided to keep them. The real question now is, will men, once the artificial womb is perfected, want to keep women around?
Australian sociologist Robyn Rowland has argued that the creation of artificial wombs would spell the end of women’s innate power.
“We may find ourselves without a product of any kind with which to bargain,” she writes. “We have to ask, if that last power is taken and controlled by men, what role is envisaged for women in the new world? Will women become obsolete?”
I have my doubts regarding the authenticity of the Dworkin quote, but if she indeed did utter those words a few comments are in order. Perhaps women in their “Collective Wisdom” realize that “keeping men around” entail certain advantages such as lifetime alimony, child support, and a host of other welfare handouts exclusively targeted to women courtesy of the male taxpayer. It would also mean that men would continue doing the heavy lifting that allows women the comfort and security to denounce men as oppressors.
I suspect the real threat that ectogenesis poses is that it threatens to unravel women’s parasitic relationship with men in modern society. HL Mencken famously predicted that gender equality would cause women to lose “their old power to obtain special privileges by sentimental appeals. Men, facing them squarely, will consider them anew, not as romantic political and social invalids, to be coddled and caressed, but as free competitors in a harsh world. When that reconsideration gets under way there will be a general overhauling of the relations between the sexes, and some of the fair ones, I suspect, will begin to wonder why they didn’t let well enough alone. “
We know that this prophecy has not come to pass as women have selectively dismantled those areas of patriarchy that regulate their behaviour and hypergamy, whereas choosing to keep those aspects that coddle and protect their interests. I haven’t heard a single feminist complain about the gender inequality in criminal sentencing. Women demand the benefits of socio/political autonomy while rejecting any responsibility that ought to go with it.
Women’s reproductive function has historically earned them the special privilege of becoming the “protected sex” whereas men have always been the “disposable sex”. Ectogenesis threatens to take us one step closer towards realizing Mencken’s prediction and several steps closer towards rendering women the “disposable sex” for the first time in the history of our species. It is this latter prospect that terrifies the handful of women that have thought the issue through. Outside of reproduction, women serve no real net benefit to our species. We don’t need them to build bridges or lay down underwater cables in the ocean. We don’t need them to design technology nor write the programs that govern that technology’s behaviour.
Feminists are correct in assuming that Ectogenesis (if it ever does become viable)will allow men to divorce women on a species wide level, but only this time, women aren’t getting the kids.