Many earlier Radical feminists believed that reproduction was at the root of women's oppression and that we would be emancipated if we could free ourselves from "the tyranny of reproduction" (Mandel, p.33). At that point in time, "Technology was viewed as liberating women" (Mandel, p.33). Things have changed since those days, and today the more popular consensus is that technology is not the liberation Radical feminists thought it would be. Instead of freeing women, our bodies are simply being controlled by men in even greater capacities in the areas of in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and other technological methods of reproduction by predominantly male doctors and scientists. (Mandel, p.33). This, however cannot be said for all Radical feminists. According to Tong, there are two main streams of Radical feminism, which hold very different beliefs on almost every subject from pornography to womenıs reproduction. These two streams are Radical-Libertarian feminism and Radical-Cultural feminism. In the following section I will briefly look at how these two sub-categories of Radical feminism view reproductive technologies.

Radical-Libertarian Feminism

According to Tong, Radical-Libertarian feminists tend to hold the Radical feminist views of the 1960's and 1970's. They often argue that women's reproductive capabilities and sexual roles and responsibilities serve to oppress them in a patriarchal society, and limit their ability to be full human persons. They long for androgyny and hence embrace reproductive technologies as they can help women escape from the chains of motherhood and childbirth. "As we shall see, radical-libertarian feminists are convinced the less women are involved in the reproductive process, the more time and energy they will have to engage in societyıs productive processes." (Tong, p.71) A prominent theorist in this area is Shulamith Firestone who insisted "nothing will change for women so long as natural reproduction remains the rule and artificial or assisted reproduction the exception. Natural reproduction is neither in women's best interests nor in those of the children produced." (Tong, p. 73) For further reading on Shulamith Firestones' theories on reproductive technology and how motherhood and childbirth are the root of women's oppression see her book, The Dialectic of Sex.

Radical-Cultural Feminism

This group of feminists sees femaleness as empowering and therefore believe women should embrace the values traditionally associated with femininity such as community, sharing, and body to name a few. Radical-cultural feminists see women's power to create new life as the ultimate source of our power and believe it is in womenıs best interests to procreate naturally. To take this power from a woman and put it in the hands of doctors and scientists via reproductive technologies is to strip women of our power and to continue to make us vulnerable to men's power. Radical-cultural feminists theorize that women's oppression is not caused by female biology and reproductive possibilities but rather by men's jealousy of women's reproductive abilities and their desire to control them through new reproductive technologies. Michelle Stanworth discusses what she thinks of reproductive technologies,

"By manipulating eggs and embryos, scientists will determine the sort of children who are born ‹ will make themselves the fathers of humankind. By removing eggs and embryos from some women and implanting them in others, medical practitioners will gain control over motherhood itself. Motherhood as a unified biological process will be effectively deconstructed: in place of 'mother' there will be ovarian mothers who supply eggs, uterine mothers who give birth to children and, presumably, social mothers who raise them. Through the eventual development of artificial wombs, the capacity will arise to make biological mothers redundant. Whether or not women are eliminated, or merely reduced to the level of reproductive prostitutes, the object and effect of the emergent technologies is to deconstruct motherhood and to destroy the claim to reproduction that is the foundation of women's identity." (Weedon, p.49)

One of the critiques of this perspective is that it supposes that motherhood is at the centre of a woman's life, it is a place where she finds her idsentity as a woman. We know this is not the case for all women, not all women long to be biological mothers and not all women have the physical abiility to bear children. Are women who are unable to reproduce therefore not women at all? This type of radical feminism thinking can be clearly linked to ecofeminism which places women's identities in their biological bodies.










Amy Saracino
Honours B.A. Women's Studies and Communications Studies
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3