Week 9 response

Some not-quite-organized thoughts:

I found the two pieces by Waldby and Cooper particularly intriguing, and I appreciated that they applied Cooper’s reproductive/regenerative distinction to highlight the different labor provided by women to the IVF and stem cell industries.  I always knew that there was something fundamentally different between women supplying oocytes (for example) for reproduction vs research – beyond just the mere difference in purpose – but I could never articulate it.  Analyzing how bodily potentiality is reconfigured differently by regenerative labor, to borrow Cooper & Waldby’s language, helps me.

Due to the grave risks and what I consider seriously deficient compensation, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the solicitation of women for oocyte “donation”, be it for either reproductive or regenerative goals.  When Waldby and Cooper observed that regenerative egg sales open the market to women of color, who are typically excluded from reproductive egg sales, I was struck by the realization that this could actually be viewed as good/empowering.  Has there been any academic discussion to this effect?

Whenever I hear complaints about the shortage of oocytes for stem cell research, I always wonder (ignoring for now any objections to animal use/exploitation for research), “Why not use rabbits?”  Rabbit oocytes are supposed to be pretty close to human oocytes such that theoretically you could use SCNT with a human nucleus and an empty rabbit “eggshell” and end up with an almost entirely-human clone.  (I say “almost human” since the resulting organism would have rabbit mitochondria, but what do mitochondria really do differently in rabbits anyway?)  I had always thought that assumptions of human purity/superiority or fears of monster chimeras were what was keeping us from pursuing this source of research material, but now I’m wondering if there is a feminist objection to women losing this opportunity for paid labor — especially from any women who currently depend on oocyte sales for their livelihood.

Random thought:  The discussion of unappreciated body-labor that includes the quote, “only the intellectual labour of the scientist who manipulates tissues in the laboratory appears as valuable activity,” from W&C’s biopolitics of reproduction, really describes what happened with the HeLa history we read before.

A final chicken/egg question: Which was originally the premise and which the conclusion?

Argument A – Only labor of the mind, not of the body, is worthy of pay.  Women naturally labor of the body.  Thus, women’s labor should not be paid.


Argument B – Women’s labor should not be paid.  Women naturally labor of the body.  Thus, only labor of the mind, not of the body, is worthy of pay.

It doesn’t make much difference now how the original reasoning went — women’s labor is not valued and that needs to be addressed — but I am curious just how central a role misogyny played in ancient philosophy.


One response to “Week 9 response

  1. I didn’t know any of that about rabbit oocytes and find that really interesting. It would definitely be even more interesting to learn what specific objections are posed to using rabbit oocytes. I would expect the “fear of monster chimeras” angle would be pretty central, but yeah, maybe there are other arguments being made as well.

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