>>> (Intro) -- (Part 1) -- (Part 2)
-- (Part 3) -- (Conclusion)
Under capitalism of the 21st century, the body has turned into a package of parts such as milk, blood and sperm; and these parts have become commodities for sale.
So, here one needs to find out how spaces of motherhood are created in body parts instead of in body per se. To tackle this issue, one could begin with the most negligible aspect of the mothering experience, which however has been assigned the utmost value under patriarchy – sperm.
We have heard cases of men at sperm banks, during the interviews, passionately marketing their sperm as precious merchandise, trying to persuade the interviewer that besides being brilliant and gifted, they are also "real" men with a belligerent disposition. Substantial profit made on the sale of some bodily fluid and a short marketing time.
The commodification of the woman’s uterus and the child can be noted in the following scenario: A surrogate mother has been rented to carry and bear a child for a millionaire and his wife. He badly needs an heir and his wife does not want to “ruin” her beautiful body by pregnancy and childbirth. Hiring a mother for nine months is the best solution. Around the time of delivery, the surrogate mother is afflicted by an acute blood poisoning that would kill her and the millionaire’s unborn child. In the hospital, the rich couple are demanding that their supply, the baby, be saved notwithstanding the surrogate’s possible death. The baby is saved by caesarean section and the surrogate mother dies.
The surrogate mother's body, set apart from the foetus’ body it was sheltering, had little value. Her rented property, her eggs and womb and whole body was hers, but it was cheap. Her value rested in her carrying a merchandize that belonged to an affluent man.
While the surrogate’s womb becomes a rented space during pregnancy, throughout history of capitalism, images of the breast have been used to both reinforce and criticize the capitalist ideology regarding motherhood. In earlier centuries of Western capitalism, upper-class women hired wet-nurses from lower classes to feed and take care of their babies.
Simultaneously, these upper-class women were deterred from breast-feeding because the prohibition of sexual contacts during the nursing of a baby impeded husbands' marital rights. Moreover, the alleged contraceptive role of breast-feeding impeded the obligation of giving birth to male heirs. As a result, the use of wet nurses transformed woman’s breast into a merchandize and became a way of bolstering class divisions. In this process, the status of bourgeois women as the property of their men under patriarchy was basically upheld
Today’s mothers who are members of La Leche League oppose the capitalist and technocratic ideologies, and believe that medical science and the infliction of hospital births have disgraced women's bodies. Moreover, the invasion of technologies and merchandizes such as breast pumps and sterilized bottles has jeopardized the relationship between mother and child.
An alternative to this risky motherhood would be La Leche League’s perspective of embodied motherhood, which acknowledges that the baby needs her mother’s presence and both the mother and the baby need to have a physical and intimate relationship. Breastfeeding is the natural way to satisfy these needs.
Unfortunately, enticed by patriarchal ideology, members of the League use labels such as "awful yuppie mothers" to portray mothers who have a career, work all day, send their children to full-time daycare, and specifically do not breastfeed. They do not appreciate mothers who live in expensive houses and work outside in order to pay their mortgage. They would live in an expensive house only if their husband can afford it.
These opinions seemingly mean the refusal of materialism. However, the concept of "awful yuppie mothers" represents a series of middle-class strains and anxieties, and the power struggle between the maternal body-as-body and the maternal body as symbolic means of boosting one’s social class.
The social spaces that form our ideas about good and bad mothers are created in the above talks and images of the mother's body, and to a lesser degree the mother's breast. These images of motherhood, their connection to capitalism and resulting spaces of mothering, demonstrate the intricate relations between image and ideology.
The capitalist ideology imposes itself equally in the work of mothering as social space. In the West, the 19th century saw the degradation of the poor mothers who worked in factories to support their families. Both their paid factory work and their mother work were devalued. They were described as negligent mothers. Mother-work was defined as both voluntary and sacred. The voluntary and unsalaried aspect of mothering led to the devaluation of women’s bodies, and the sacred aspect of mothering relegated women to the private space of the home. Simultaneously, only a small number of middle and upper middle class women were qualified for the space of sacred mothering, indicating the influence of the class division in the work of mothers and the spaces of mothering.
The concurrent commodification and depreciation of the lived experience of mothering is obvious in the child-care practices of the 21st century as well. Over half of all women with children in Western countries work outside of the home. Consequently, domestic work as an unpaid occupation has been shifted into the workforce. However, yesterday's unpaid home-maker now works outside of the home to pay the home-making services of another woman.
Although women were promised equality by entering the workforce, this rearrangement has caused the depreciation of the role of mothers in capitalist society. The reality of this situation becomes palpable if we consider who carried out paid mothering and domestic labour. Mother work is considered a commodity, but a cheap and undervalued commodity. Plus, a great deal of this substitute mothering service is carried out by women whose socio-economic status is lower than the mothers who hire them as babysitters, nannies or au pairs. The function of this fact is to bolster class divisions, thus actualizing the capitalist ideology in the daily activities of mothering.
Continued >>> Conclusion
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Thanks Azadeh jan.by Anahid Hojjati on Wed May 18, 2011 02:23 PM PDT
Yes, your articles provide a good background for future discussions. Thanks for writing them and for taking time to reply to my comments.
the scenarioby Azadeh Azad on Wed May 18, 2011 01:17 PM PDT
Anahid jan: there have been many cases of complications regarding the hiring of a surrogate mother in the United States. I decided not to mention specific cases, because I did not want the reader's attention to be focused on "specific cases" as you are doing now. I have combined several cases and created one scenario in order to convey my idea.
My goal here is to convey the commercialization of people's body parts. I hope this article would be a background for the discussion of future specific cases.
Azadeh jan, would you please clarify where this happenedby Anahid Hojjati on Wed May 18, 2011 12:53 PM PDT
IIn this article, you wrote"The commodification of the woman’s uterus and the child can be noted in the following scenario: A surrogate mother has been rented to carry and bear a child for a millionaire and his wife. He badly needs an heir and his wife does not want to “ruin” her beautiful body by pregnancy and childbirth. Hiring a mother for nine months is the best solution. Around the time of delivery, the surrogate mother is afflicted by an acute blood poisoning that would kill her and the millionaire’s unborn child. In the hospital, the rich couple are demanding that their supply, the baby, be saved notwithstanding the surrogate’s possible death. The baby is saved by caesarean section and the surrogate mother dies."
Could you please tell me in which specific location, this happened.