An intelligent and rigorous feminist discussion of social, legal, and medical issues surrounding motherhood; a well-based...


RECREATING MOTHERHOOD: Ideology and Technology in a Patriarchal Society

An intelligent and rigorous feminist discussion of social, legal, and medical issues surrounding motherhood; a well-based conclusion offers starting points for change. Rothman (In Labor; The Tentative Pregnancy) takes as her starting point her reflections and discussions with other feminists on the Baby M case: not just the legal questions of parenthood and custody directly addressed by the court, but also the drastic difference in reaction to Mary Beth Whitehead versus Elizabeth Stern (""Yes, Whitehead was being treated shabbily. 'But what about Elizabeth Stern?' one of my colleagues asked. 'After all, she's one of us' ""). Rothman doesn't think that feminism should be ""tailored to the needs of the Elizabeth Sterns of the world""--it should recognize the needs of all classes of mothers. Rothman goes on to identify and examine three ideologies that shape our understanding of American motherhood: those of patriarchy; of technology; of capitalism. At present, she argues, ""legal, social and technological changes are being used to devalue motherhood, to commodify children and parents' relations with children."" She proceeds to examine in depth developments in selected areas of current concern: abortion, adoption, infertility, midwifery, child care, and fatherhood, among others. Finally, Rothman argues that we must recognize maternity claims (""birth mothers have full parental rights, including rights of custody""); allow adoption only after the birth of the baby, and preferably after a fixed waiting period; banish surrogacy (the woman who bears the child is the mother, says Rothman, regardless of the source of egg or sperm); and reexamine fatherhood (if men want children, they will have to either develop the technology to become pregnant, or rely on relationships with women). Rothman also makes recommendations regarding infertility, pregnancy, newborn medical care, and child care. Responsible scholarship and discussion; worthwhile not just as a starting point for change, but also as an aid in helping concerned readers sort out for themselves the torturous issues so wrenchingly exemplified by the Baby M quagmire. (For a more favorable view of surrogacy, see Andrews' Between Strangers, above.)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988