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Issues to Keep Your Eye on Concerning Gender and the New Technologies

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By Marsha J. Tyson Darling, Center for African-American and Ethnic Studies, Adelphi University, United States


Plenary #2: Feminist Approaches to Reproductive and Genetic Technologies: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

By Marsha J. Tyson Darling, Ph.D.

Director, Center for African American & Ethnic Studies, Adelphi University

It should come as no surprise that the stunning array of technological innovation directed at enabling a capacity for human, plant and animal genetic intervention and modification comes in an age of intense pressures for the expansion of capital intensive markets and aggressive pursuit of intellectual property rights. At the same time, the same stunning array of biotechnology is being directed at developing eugenical population control strategies for especially low income and poor women of color globally, and reproduction enhancement options for economically and racially privileged women in the global North. Hence, when we talk about gender and the new technologies, the increasing polarization of the disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots,” and the accompanying constancy of white skin privilege compel us to consider that a class and skin color divide is inextricable from how we think about gender and new technologies.

In an age preoccupied with concerns about the relationship between resources and global population growth, population control advocates have targeted the bodies of women of color in the global South first, then in the global North for experimental medical drugs, risky and invasive scientific procedures, and immune system altering fertility vaccines trials. The neo-Malthusian population control policy that targets poor women’s bodies for experimental biomedical modalities derives its emphasis on reducing the fertility of only some women from this century’s unfortunate eugenics legacy.

Fertility reduction and population control of those women less well off and “colored” stands in stark contrast to the ambitious use of medical technology to increase and genetically enhance fertility for well off women. For years, the in-vitro fertilization industry has been creating reproduction options, including fertility enhancement protocols for the well to do. Over the past several decades, the multi-million dollar IVF industry and multinational chemical companies have been engaged in privatizing and implementing efforts to develop sophisticated techniques for embryo transfer, and fetal tissue research. Where several years ago the centerpiece of IVF technology focused on embryo transfer following non-reproductive sex fertilization,