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Mary Harrington:

"In truth, feminism is a rich and internally fractious political tradition. By far the majority of pre-1960s writers and thinkers acknowledged sex dimorphism and our reproductive asymmetry not as obstacles to be overcome, but immutable political facts of central concern to women.

This common-sense consensus was acknowledged in 1966 when the original National Organization for Women released a Statement of Purpose that both acknowledged the transformative effects of modern technology on sex relations, but also the importance of motherhood to most women. Technology, it declared, “has reduced most of the productive chores which women once performed in the home” and “virtually eliminated the quality of muscular strength as a criterion for filling most jobs.”

As a result, NOW argued, it was only just to open “old and new fields of society” to women lest they become “permanent outsiders” in the emerging social order. But “childbearing and rearing” still mattered: it “continues to be a most important part of most women’s lives,” the statement argued.

We might characterize NOW’s 1966 perspective as “biorealist”: a stance that seeks a just settlement for the sexes under changing conditions, but also recognizes some stable biological realities.

NOW put forward this biorealist view in 1966, summarising a perspective with a feminist tradition reaching back to Wollstonecraft, and which remains common-sense among ordinary women today. But the same decade saw the widespread rollout of technologies that promised emancipation from female biology. And once these were materially available, calls to embrace their emancipatory power grew ever louder. By the end of the 1970s, the women’s movement was inextricable from the ideal of radical bodily autonomy, especially concerning reproduction."