Lolita Buckner Inniss (Cleveland-Marshall, Ain’t I a Feminist Legal Scholar, Too?, Visiting Prof at Pace Law School) and I have posted to SSRN our working paper, Multiple Anxieties: Breaching Race, Class and Gender Norms With Assisted Reproduction. Here is the abstract:
Nadya Suleman and her octuplets are the vehicles through which Americans express their anxiety about race, class and gender. Expressions of concern for the health of children, the mother’s well-being, the future of reproductive medicine or the financial drain on taxpayers barely conceal deep impulses towards racism, sexism and classism. This essay describes eight socio-legal anxieties that coalesce in response to Suleman’s story: (1) race and racial hierarchies; (2) the contingency of white privilege; (3) the nature of white motherhood; (4) the role of doctors as agents of the state; (5) reproductive technology and class; (6) bodily perfection and class markers; (7) the bounds of the traditional family; and (8) geographical differences.
The bounds of tolerance strain and break when individual autonomy collides with majoritarian notions of civic and moral virtue. Derision of Suleman reveals the limitations of tolerance for women who deviate from prescribed norms, including norms of “choice.“ Suleman’s story is not just about multiple births, then, but about society’s multiple anxieties when a woman breaches the bounds of racial, class and gender expectations.
The full paper is available here.
This is one of those projects that started as a casual conversation and took on a life of its own … and the reason that having visiting colleagues is a great privilege!