The Elusive Embryo: How Women and Men Approach New Reproductive Technologies

Gay Becker, Author, Gaylene Becker, Author University of California Press $24.95 (330p) ISBN 978-0-520-22431-5
Infertility is no longer a neutral term suggesting an inability to conceive, according to Becker (Disrupted Lives; Healing the Infertile Family), but has become a ""disease"" to be cured through a strange marriage of medicine, technology and commerce. In this study of the ""subjective experience"" of using reproductive technologies, based on interviews with more than 300 women and men, she argues that a variety of market and ethical forces conspire to make these treatments look not only deceptively safe and successful, but also morally necessary. Chancy technologies such as in vitro fertilization (success rate: 20%) tap into what Becker identifies as a specifically American tolerance for gambling and risk; at the same time, she suggests, they invoke a more conventional Protestant ethic of perseverance and meritocracy. Becker's interview subjects believe they'll either get lucky or work hard enough to become pregnant, but the time-consuming, expensive and exhausting process leaves the women feeling like machines, dehumanized and violated, while the men feel emasculated and left out. The long quotations from the study's participants are far less compelling than Becker's intriguing argument that anxieties around reproductive technologies encapsulate cultural assumptions about what sorts of people (white, monied, educated) are encouraged to reproduce. Becker's work will interest the increasing number of people considering reproductive technologies, as well as health professionals, cultural anthropologists and general readers concerned with the developing relationship between technology and the body. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
Hardcover - 330 pages - 978-0-520-22430-8
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