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Technology

Technology in some instances of our texts represents a threat when misued (Adrienne Rich’s depiction of the profitable “hands of steel,” Carol Stabile’s discussion of how the mother figures in fetal imaging , Nikki Giovanni’s desire to get out of the hospital) and in others instances it represents a means to survival, freedom and equality (Piercy’s brooder, Vilar’s access to abortions, Hertz’s single mothers who choose artificial insemination). Write an essay in which you consider the double-edged quality of technology and how you feel society should best envision its use in reproduction, in light of your reading of several texts.
• Irene Vilar- “Impossible Motherhood”
• Nikki Giovanni- “Don’t have a baby till you read this”
• Adrienne Rich- “Hands Of Flesh”, “Hands Of Steel” and “Alienated Labor”
• Marge Piercy- “Woman on the edge of time”
• Rosanna Hertz- “Excert from Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice”

2. According to French feminist psychoanalyst Luce Irigaray’s essays “The Culture of Difference,” and “On the Maternal Order,” the female body models “tolerance of the other within” as an alternative to the patriarchal social body, which “constructs itself hierarchically, excluding difference.” Irigaray defines a “placental relation” as an alternative to the “patriarchal order,” for the placenta plays a mediating role in which the mother is not fused with or threatened by the fetus, but respects and generates its difference. By contrast, the paternal cultural imaginary portrays the mother-child (where the child figures as male) relation as a lost fusion that leads to adult psychosis, chaos or insanity without the intervention of the father’s law and order.

Compare examples of patriarchal and placental relations in a range of texts. How does Irene Vilar’s relationship to her children differ from her own experience as a child in relation to her father, and then I relation to her “Master”/husband? How does Robin Lim’s discussion of the placenta illuminate why a “placental” relation would differ from a “patriarchal” relation? How does the Yucatecan midwife Doña Juana(Buscando la Forma) or Ina May Gaskin envision the role of the father and the placenta, and how does this privilege a broader set of social relations that might reverse the privileged position of the father as imposer of order? You may discuss other textual comparisons and you need not address these specific texts when comparing patriarchal and placental relations.
• Irene Vilar- “Impossible Motherhood”
• Ina May Gaskin- “Birth Matters”
• Jordan Brigite- “Buscndo La Forma”

3. Does maternal reproductivity curtail or inspire creativity? Draw on examples from Mamaphonic and other texts from our course as you address this question. Be sure to give your own point of view.
• Essays From Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts

4. How does the legacy of colonialism and global inequalities affect reproduction? Take texts that address the global imbalance of power as a point of departure for their representation of the politics of reproduction: Deanne Borshay Liem’s (“First Person Plural”)account of post-war U.S. adoption in Korea; Devi’s depiction of Jashoda’s fate as a “Breast-Giver” in post-colonial India; Vilar’s description of the effect of forced sterilization in Puerto Rico on her mother, and on herself, among others.

5. If according to Foucault, modern social institutions such as schools, hospitals, families, churches, psychoanalysis seek to produce “docile bodies,” how does this imperative affect reproductive practices? What strategies do some of our texts offer for interrupting this programming of sexuality and of bodies?
• Michel Foucault- “ History Of Sexuality” Vol. 1

6. For Irene Vilar, the act of writing and editing her memoirs liberates her from a state of “impossible motherhood,” and from her addiction. How does writing or other acts of creativity permit the women who engage in them to move out of relations of dependence?
• Irene Vilar- “Impossible Motherhood”

7. According to Audre Lorde, the erotic may serve as a fuel for revolutionary change. (You may see the link to a version of this essay, about which we’ll hear a report on Wednesday). Write an essay in which you show how, in a range of texts, you see the erotic (or its absence) as affecting the fate of characters or authors giving birth to their visions, themselves, or their works of art.
Part Two: Close reading. Write two essays in which you gloss the passage I have transcribed. Read every word very closely. Pay attention to diction, figurative language, verb tense, grammatical structure, historical and literary allusions that construct a tradition of writing about women’s sexuality and reproduction. Why does the passage say? Who is speaking? In what kind of language and with what formal devices does it convey its meaning? What does the passage depict and how does it relate to the narrative as a whole? How do characters figure and relate to each other? How does the passage relate to other texts that we have read, to issues we have discussed in class (including the presentation on paternity and child-support, or either of the documentaries)?
1. Everyone’s devotion to Jashoda became so strong that at weddings, showers, namings, and sacred-threadings they invited her and gave her the position of chief fruitful woman. They looked with a comparable eye on Nepal-Gopal-Neno-Boncha-Patal etc. because they were Jashoda’s children, and as each grew up, he got a sacred thread and started catching pilgrims for the temple. Kangali did not have to find husbands for Radharani, Altarani, Padmarani and such daughters. Nabin found them husbands with exemplary dispatch and the faithful mother’s faithful daughters went off each to run the household of her own Shiva! Jashoda’s worth went up in the Haldar house. The husbands are pleased because the wives’ knees no longer knock when they riffle the almanac. Since their children are being reared on Jashoda’s milk, they can be the Holy Child in bed at will. The wives no longer have an excuse to say ‘no.” The wives are happy. They can keep their figures. They can wear blouses and bras of “European cut”. After keeping the fast of Shiva’s night by watching all-night picture shows they are no longer obliged to breast-feed their babies. All this was possible because of Jashoda. As a result Jashoda became vocal and, constantly suckling the infants, she opined as she sat in the Mistress’s room, “ A woman breeds, so here medicine, there bloodpeshur, here doctor’s visits. Showoffs! Look at me! I’ve become a year-breeder! So is my body failing, or is my milk drying? Makes your skin crawl? I hear they are drying their milk with injishuns. Never heard of such things!”(229).

2. “What I really want…well, I want you to let me write the book I want.”
I spoke with a violence too new to let me speak without shaking.
“What on earth!” He shook his head as if he had run into a maze. “Is that it? You’re so hung up with writing, but don’t you see that it’s all a big lie, you’re falling for something that should never be taken seriously? I warned you, Irene. I knew it!”
…”What irony,” he went on, “what irony…I help you out, teach you all I know, and you resent me for it. To hell with you women” (139-140).

3. Doña Juan says that every woman must buscar la forma (find her own style). For her the midwife’s function is to assist her with whateer method the woman comes to find best.
In Yucatan, the woman’s husband is expected to be present during labor and birth. They say he should “see how a woman suffers.” This rule is quite strong and explicit and we heard of cases where the husband’s absence was blamed for the stillbirth of a child (33).

4. Being pregnant was like carrying around my own little muse. The connections between being pregnant and being creative seemed so obvious, so monstrously real and in my face. The signs were like anvils falling from the sky, big and immediate against random little doubts that crept up in passing conversations that I, once in a while, fretted over. “I guess you won’t be hanging out in smoky bars much anymore, huh?” “It was nice while it lasted, but I bet you won’t want to give up sleep just to gig.” “You’re really gonna keep singing after the baby? You say that now but….” But the energy that was coming out of me at the time was to omuch not to sing. Or write. Everything elicited some type of creative urge, a desperate and joyful need to document and interpret. It was the storyteller inside of me with some great material and a captive audience. And for me, my belly housed the most perfect audience, the one who pushed me to be truthful (he was so close, I couldn’t lie) and inspired me to say it and sing it as beautifully as I felt it (90).

5. Listening to him speak, I felt vertigo and and just as some vertigo victims do at great heights, I took a leap. Walking to the opposite side of the porch, as far away from him as I could, I said I had something to tell him. I did.
Halfway through my confession he began nodding his head in agreement and he kept doing this after I was done talking. He added a Sí, sí…here and there until he finally stood up, put his hands deep in the pockets of his pants and, looking into my eyes, told me the choice was mine, only mine. I could choose to submit to fear and assume a life of motherhood and domesticity. He preferred I didn’t. He saw potential in me. He quoted women, feminist thinkers and authors to support his position.
“Is it my age?” I asked. “Am I too young to be a mother?”
“Not really. I woul tell you the same thing if you were thirty. But then again, if you were alone or with a different man your choice would mean something else. If you are with me, you have to endure the burden of freedom, and that requires, in part, remaining childless. If you are grown up enough to have a child, you are just as fit to be a single mother. But I will not be a victim of your displacement.”
6. I catch the eyes of one student, a young man whose writing and comments show promise. I intend to encourage him to take more writing classes. But his eyes startle me; they are steely, contemptuous. I imagine he is thinking “Pregnant bitch,” “Cow,” “What’s the big deal?” Behind me, the heater grinds loudly and clicks on. When I look back, the student is bent over his papers again. I don’t know what to say. I am no longer who I think I am. My new girth, the loose smock and stretch pants are speaking for me, telling people who I am, what I am and in this role I am supposed to be patient and undemanding, uncritical and unconditionally loving. I’m aware of something else, too, another transgression: I have brought my body—my clumsy, swollen, female body—into the classroom, called attention to the fact that I am a woman in a place where man is still the norm. (130)

 
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