Mary Harrington on the Feminism We Need in the Cyborg Era Tech Transition

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"Yascha Mounk and Mary Harrington debate whether or not societies have made significant progress towards gender equality."


Mary Harrington:

"The logic of second wave feminism emanates from a specific tech transition, into what I call the cyborg era, which is to say the contraceptive era. I think this is wildly underpriced as a transformative shift in the entirety of culture because it just completely rewrote interpersonal relations at an absolutely fundamental level on so many different axes, and had a huge number of downstream consequences commercially, legally, politically, and economically. It's integral to women's access to the workplace on more or less the same terms as men. There's a huge raft of social changes and equality legislation and cultural transformations which are downstream of all of that. Most of all that is good. Now, to be crystal clear, when I say I don't believe in progress, I mean that things are necessarily getting worse. My argument is that when you vote for any given gain that you make, there are probably some trade-offs somewhere, and that sometimes those trade-offs land asymmetrically, and often they're obscured by a simplistic narrative of directional moral improvement. When I talk about the contraceptive era, to be clear, there are a great many benefits from that. I'm a beneficiary of a great many of those improvements. I'm a graduate woman, there are opportunities which are open to me downstream (all of those social transformations) which wouldn't have been if I'd been born in 1920, or would have been at considerably greater personal risk and cost. It would have been considerably more challenging to do, actually, most of the things I've done with my life since I left school.

I'm not saying that all of these things are bad, but the logic of the contraceptive era has also been to present women with an understanding of ourselves and our embodiment, and of what it means to pursue the good, which is constitutively at odds with our biology, which is to say we’re offered a version of emancipation which means we end up waging war on our own bodies as a precondition for being able to pursue that form of emancipation. The logic of that has been broadly beneficial for several generations of women, but it's now, following through its own logic, arrived at a point where it's reversing into net negative gains, in my view, at least for some women."