Notes on the Desire for ‘Biological’ Progeny in Capitalism

26.05.2011 § Leave a comment

In the last five years, would-be parents from as far as Istanbul and Uruguay have turned to healthy young mothers from Illinois to carry their children.

The babies are born U.S. citizens, surrogacy agency officials say, but that’s not a primary motivation for the parents, who typically come from European and Latin American countries where surrogacy is illegal or unavailable. The parents have exhausted other options and are willing to pay about $50,000 to $100,000 — part of which goes to the surrogate — to have biological children.

– Chicago Tribune

Diyamn, The Nothing wonders what the rate of exploitation is on that one. What’s the surrogate making, 20%? And who is doing the exploiting in this one? Oh: Family Source Consultants LLC.

A testimonial from the site:

Zara from Family Source Consultants gave me hope when I had none left. That hope and encouragement kept me going and if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up the pieces and move forward. And because I did, thanks to Zara, I’m now expecting the greatest gift I’ve ever been given – a baby girl. I didn’t know what to expect and I was so vulnerable at times, but whenever a situation would come up, Zara handled it with professionalism combined kindness and her warm personality, which always put my mind at ease.

Abby – Intended Mother via Gestational Surrogacy

On desire in capitalism….

That is the difference between desire and drive: desire is grounded in its constitutive lack, while drive circulates around a hole, a gap in the order of being….At the immediate level of addressing individuals, capitalism, of course, interpellates them as consumers, as subjects of desire, soliciting in them ever new perverse and excessive desires (for which it offers products to satisfy them); furthermore, it obviously also manipulates the “desire to desire,” celebrating the very desire to desire ever new objects and modes of pleasure. However, even if it already manipulates desire in away which takes into account the fact that the most elementary desire is the desire to reproduce itself as desire (and not to find satisfaction), at this level, we have not yet reached drive. Drive inheres to capitalism at a more fundamental, systemic, level: drive is that which propels the whole capitalist machinery, it is the impersonal compulsion to engage in the endless circular movement of expanded self-reproduction.

Zizek, The Parralax View, p. 61

The baby is like this ultimate desire which reproduces itself as desire.

Also, incredible but predictable, it seems the surrogates are expected to act as if they are doing this out of the goodness of their own hearts, rather than for the cashmoney, some excerpts of testimonials of surrogates:

I am a married mother of 4 girls who, even though every blessed, still felt something was missing in my life.  I had a dream about having a baby, but it wasn’t mine, rather it was for a couple who couldn’t have one themselves.  Seeing them hold the baby and looking so overwhelmingly happy made me feel so blessed, beyond what words could ever say.

— Chrissy

My experience with this agency has been nothing less than a blessing in matching me with a wonderful family to help.  I started off by hearing an ad on the radio about these women who were going to be egg donors and surrogates.  I am a single mother with three boys of my own and when I heard about this on the radio I thought to myself, what a wonderful way to help a family who is really looking to have a child when my family is blessed with so many children.  How could I turn down this opportunity or at least try to help?

— Dawn


The Black Anti-Abortion Movement; Killability; Black Women’s Historic Pro-Abortionism

30.03.2011 § Leave a comment

Interesting article from colorlines about the black anti-abortion movement — totally fraught, but some nice historical points:

In 1941, the National Council of Negro Women became the first national women’s group to endorse birth control. Prominent female political figures in the black community came out against the rhetoric of their male counterparts when it came to reproduction. “Black women have the right and the responsibility to determine when it is in the interest of the struggle to have children or not to have them and this right must not be relinquished,” declared Frances Beal, head of the Black Women’s Liberation Committee of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil right movement…

More broadly, there is the crucial point that criminalizing abortion actually poses a greater threat to the African-American lives. Before the procedure was legalized, “Illegal abortion was the cause of 25 percent of the white women’s deaths due to pregnancy, 49 percent of the black women’s, and 65 percent of the Puerto Ricans’,” as Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in Congress and a strong supporter of reproductive rights, wrote in her memoir. In addition, the legalization of abortion resulted in significant improvements in maternal and fetal mortality rates. “Maternal mortality in New York City dropped by more than half during the first year [abortion was legal], to an all-time recorded low. Infant mortality also dropped to a new low,”

The article ends up just caving into The Standard Non-Analysis. While really there are so many continuities to follow. excluding the young lords, almost every single nationalist poc group in the sixties held this exact same line. women of color have historically not only lacked reproductive control, but things would happen where they’d go to the hospital and come out without a uterus. to be black is to be killable. (See Wilderson)

obviously, the article frames this campaign has completely ideological, having to do with a woman (wtf is that?!)’s right to her ‘own’ fleshsack. but is there a way that we can take these histories into account and develop a more rigorous position or critique?
Important is the smothering of radical black  feminisms. Diane K Lewis wrote in a 1977 footnote:
“A 1972 Poll showed that black women were more sympathetic than white women to efforts to upgrade women’s status in society (62 % to 45 % respectively) and that black women were also more supportive than white women of the attempts by women’s liberation groups to do so (67 % and 35%, respectively)”

more on MALE SABOTAGE of birth control, the myth of the “femme fertile”

16.03.2011 § Leave a comment

Leyla W. couldn’t figure out where her birth control pills kept going. One day a few tablets would be missing; the next, the whole container. Her then-boyfriend shrugged and said he hadn’t seen them. She believed him—until she found them in his drawer. When she confronted him, he hit her…

Despite his role in getting her pregnant, when Leyla decided she did not want to have an abortion, her boyfriend did a 180, screaming at her belly that he didn’t want the baby to live, threatening to “kick the baby out” of her stomach and even, one day, pushing her down a flight of stairs…

— From a really fascinating article over at the Nation,  “When Teen Pregnancy is No Accident”. Artfully shows that this insane abusive practice of sabotaging birth control is NOT about becoming fathers even at all! but about “control”:

Their goal: not to settle down as family men but rather to exert what is perhaps the most intimate, and lasting, form of control. (“Control” may also include attempts to force both pregnancy and abortion, even in the same relationship.)

It seems like this sets in relief really one of the biggest and most difficult questions for those of us trying to systematically understand patriarchy (that is, racial, patriarchal capitalism, or what have you) — how incredible it is that a social system can produce with such consistency these kinds of individualized control practices – can so regularly create men who are compelled to exert this kind of control in the most intimate of realms on women in their lives. It is not natural, it is not biological, but nonetheless has structured our lives so, so, so meticulously.

Leyla’s story turns a modern fable on its head: that of the woman—call her the femme fertile—who conspires to get pregnant, perhaps by “forgetting” to take her birth control pills, as a way to “trap a man” and force marriage—or at least keep him in her life. In reality, experts researchers on dating violence and unintended pregnancy say, it’s Leyla’s version of that story is all too common. Two new studies have quantified what advocates for young women’s health have observed for years: the striking frequency with which it is in fact young men who try to force their partners to get pregnant.

quite convenient that there hasn’t been made the FUCKING OBVIOUS connection between the abortion/reproductive rights crap and this crap. Like its always about ‘women dont have access to contraception or sex ed” and crap like that, but what about straight up male sabotage? that doesn’t sound so Planned Parenthood quotable.

fucking crap.

finally: this article barely mentions race&class, and  implies that perhaps this practice is cross-cutting and not confined to any particular demographfuckitic group. noteworthy


Comrade Suzyx comments further here.

DANG: “Texas wants undocumented workers but only for household chores”

05.03.2011 § Leave a comment

Since we’re on the topic of women’s labor, domestic work, and migration patterns, check this article on feministing.

“A proposed immigration bill in the Texas state House is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows. The bill would make hiring an “unauthorized alien” a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, unless that is, they are hired to do household chores.”

Of course, this doesn’t also offer any labor/immigration protections for domestic workers. It’s just creating another weird exploitative grey area in a state that has a whole frightening maquiladora industry anyway.

Interesting to think through this in regards to Domestic Workers United (see website) here in NYC – the bill they got passed last year protecting domestic workers doesn’t cover undocumented domestic workers (in fact this was a huge concession necessary to make the bill pass), and also doesn’t cover people who get paid in cash/”under the table,” which often overlaps with undocumented workers but not always.

Some theories on the abortion conspiracy

26.02.2011 § 3 Comments

(1) Ideological Battle; (2) Control of the Labor Supply; (3) Capital-as-hierarchical-gender-divide

She’s a Marxist recently broke down some of the different positions on “why all the crackdown on reproductive rights?” (full article here: Abortion Banned in Us = Capitalism’s best Interest?). She gives us two possible positions:

(1) First position: This is an ideological fight between the right and centrist social forces within the ruling class. I think this is the most common position within the left (at least that I’ve heard). It assumes that this issue is purely ideological. It assumes that the battle over abortion is at its heart dictated by ideological interests being battled out within the ruling class.

She’sa is right fucking on the money here, critiquing this position, which we’ll call “Ideolgical Battle”, for the vapid suggestion that capital doesn’t really give a fuck one way or the other about what happens to women’s reproductive rights –

I think this position assumes Capital processes (M-C-M) are fundamentally sex/gender/race blind, and thus, Capital acting in its most truest interests is ruthlessly pragmatic and not really hemmed in by ideological interest in any one religion, race, nationality, gender, etc. It wants profit and profit don’t have no gender, race or religion.

She’sa continues to argue for an alternative position,

(2) Second possible position:… different factions of capital have more than just an ideological interest in the outcome of this fight, since the issue [of reproductive rights] critically affects the make-up of the labor force in the U.S. which has an impact on capital here and abroad.

This argument, the “Control of labor pool” argument, that capital is interested in controlling women’s reproduction centrally in order to control the reproduction of labor power, control the labor pool, the reserve army, etc, is an important one. And She’s A Marxist’s intervention, that “concerns about the family, and concerns about gender are not just ideological concerns. They are directly and critically related to the labor needs of capital,” is totally essential and should be tatt’d on the asses of whatever marxists haven’t gotten that yet, but there still seems something more we can say about this.

(3) The nothing offers a third position (in hopes of more to follow): that regardless of what kind of labor pool capital wants (and it is very uncertain whether capital actually moves to produce the kind of labor pool it ‘wants’, or if its even clear what it ‘wants’), capital will constantly be pressing more restrictions and violences on womens bodies whenever it can, because the gender distinction is a constitutive presupposition of capital, and controlling women’s reproduction and perpetrating violence on womens bodies and  is the construction of woman-as-category, is the construction of the gender division.

In other words, capital could give a whatwhat about how many people are in its reserve army (LIKE HELLO THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY RIGHT NOW, SO NOW YOU HAVE EGYPT AND WISCONSIN), it STILL will oppress women. Why? BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT CAPITAL IS. Capital (amongst other things) a new form, a most distilled and systematic form, of patriarchy, which contains as an inherent part, the subordination of women to men. Any attempt to explain attacks on women from capital is to say “capital could just be nice to women, why’s  it being so mean?” But the truth is, it won’t ever be nice to women-as-class.

The reproduction of an increasingly heirarchical gender divide, which is the central cumulative affect of making abortion illegal, is really awesome for capital NOT ONLY IN THAT IT PRODUCES BABIES, but in that THE MORE SERIOUS THE GENDER DIVIDE, THE MORE WOMEN CAN BE EXPLOITED BY CAPITAL, both in the wage-relation, and in unpaid reproductive labor. And capital is FOUNDED on and REPRODUCED BY this hyperexploitation of women, as compared to men.

Silvia Federici has thrown in some chips on the question. In an interesting way, she sets up premises which would move her toward position three, but she seems to throw down position two..

On the positive side, the discovery of reproductive work has made it possible to understand that capitalist production relies on the production of a particular type of worker, and therefore a particular type of family, sexuality, procreation, and thus to redefine the private sphere as a sphere of relations of production and a terrain of anticapitalist struggle. In this context, policies forbidding abortion could be decoded as devices for the regulation of the labor-supply, the collapse of the birth rate and increase in the number of divorces could be read as instances of resistance to the capitalist discipline of work. The personal became political and capital and the state were found to have subsumed our lives and reproduction down to the bedroom

find rest of article over at comrade caring labor

New billboard up in SOHO says that black women’s wombs are dangerous.

23.02.2011 § Leave a comment

Part of nationwide push of the argument that abortion is racist. Surreal argumentative style. This trend recently caught like WILDFIRE and became a really mainstream tactic.

The website is

Rolling phrases on the website’s top bar are:

“Life. Then, Death.”

“God giveth life. Man taketh it away.”

“Heartbeat stops. Hearbreak begins.”

and, a Nothing favorite:

“Spend your nights crying like a baby, with no baby to comfort you.”

egypt’s textile workers; in 2007 the women were the most militant, will the men try to reign them in again?

21.02.2011 § 1 Comment

Men’s oppression (exploitation?) of women keeps showing itself as the internal limit to worker’s struggle.

So in spite of the warnings of Egypt’s military regime against any strikes, the ENORMOUS Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla al-Kubra called a strike of 24 thousand workers 3 days ago (on Feb 16). This is the SAME textile company that went on strike back in 2007, and then it was widely reported that the women workers pushed past the reticence and dilly-dallying of the male workers, were much more militant, and generally tore shit up.

During the 2007 strike, the MEN ACTUALLY PUSHED THE MILITANT, STRIKING WOMEN TO GO HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES INSTEAD OF CONTINUING THE FIGHT.  The women were pushed to go get back to their reproductive labor. This is a very similar situation as was heard from the barricades in the Oaxaca uprising in 2006, where women were militantly defending the barricades, but were pulled home by their husbands and families who demanded they get back to their domestic work (thanks comrade b for that report).

From the libcom article on the 2007 textile strike (which you can find here: libcom on textile strike):

A fighting spirit was in the air. Over the following two days, groups of workers refused to accept their salaries in protest. Then, on December 7, thousands of workers from the morning shift started assembling in Mahalla’s Tal‘at Harb Square, facing the entrance to the mill. The pace of factory work was already slowing, but production ground to a halt when around 3,000 female garment workers left their stations, and marched over to the spinning and weaving sections, where their male colleagues had not yet stopped their machines. The female workers stormed in chanting: “Where are the men? Here are the women!” Ashamed, the men joined the strike.

Around 10,000 workers gathered in the square, shouting “Two months! Two months!” to assert their claim to the bonuses they had been promised. Black-clad riot police were quickly deployed around the factory and throughout the town, but they did not act to quell the protest. “They were shocked by our numbers,” ‘Attar said. “They were hoping we’d fizzle out by the night or the following day.” With the encouragement of state security, management offered a bonus of 21 days’ pay. But, as ‘Attar laughingly recalled, “The women [workers] almost tore apart every representative from the management who came to negotiate.”

As night fell, said Sayyid Habib, the men found it “very difficult to convince the women to go home. They wanted to stay and sleep over. It took us hours to convince them to go home to their families, and return the following day.” Grinning broadly, ‘Attar added, “The women were more militant than the men. They were subject to security intimidation and threats, but they held out.”

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