Somatophilic Rationality for Reproductive Justice

On Technology, Biological Materialism, and Midwifery




Shulamith Firestone, Reproductive technology, Midwifery, Reproductive justice, Medicalisation of birth, Biological materialism, Biological determinism


A dominant strand of second wave feminism, represented in this essay by Firestone, is tied to a belief in technology to achieve reproductive justice, echoing Western somatophobic rationality. As such, it has difficulty formulating a critique of institutionalized reproductive technologies that have the capacity to perpetuate systemic racializing and misogynous violence, and envisioning a philosophy of reproductive justice where care for the body takes central stage. In this essay, we offer a perspective on achieving reproductive justice from an age-old position largely neglected by feminism: that of midwifery. Midwifery has always been wary of technology in the field of reproduction, having first-hand experience with its consequences in birth and pregnancy, and has developed a field of scholarship critiquing its misuse. Simultaneously, midwifery negotiates technology from a position that prioritizes experiential, embodied, and tacit knowledge. Midwifery’s epistemological standpoint is that of a somatophilic rationality of thinking with the body, guarding women and birthing people’s reproductive autonomy through a specific technē that uses both technology and nature. A certain tendency in midwifery is, however, developing more and more towards an anti-technological essentialism. This essay therefore brings into dialogue Firestone’s Marxist women’s liberation through the elimination of biological sex with the help of technology, and midwifery’s somatophilic epistemic standpoint, to develop a feminist rational engagement with nature that can achieve reproductive justice, on the basis of their shared biological materialism.






Technē and Feminism: Articles (edited by Katarina Kolozova and Vera Bühlmann)

How to Cite

“Somatophilic Rationality for Reproductive Justice: On Technology, Biological Materialism, and Midwifery”. 2024. Technophany, A Journal for Philosophy and Technology 2 (1): 1-32.

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