A Variety of Futurologists: "Feminist" Speculative Fictions in the Wake of the Pill

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Abstract Summary
Clustering around the introduction and proliferation of the birth control pill in 1960 U.S., I present a cultural history of this invention’s enduring consequences for the liberatory imagination through an intertextual conversation between an unexpected trio: science fiction novelist Ursula Le Guin, radical feminist Shulamith Firestone, and the Pill co-inventor Carl Djerassi. This talk explores three of their experiments—Le Guin’s 1969 novel Left Hand of Darkness, Firestone’s 1970 manifesto Dialectic of Sex, and Djerassi’s 1998 play An Immaculate Misconception—which employ speculative literary techniques to interrogate the naturalness and immutability of female sex, and to envision a radical future vis-à-vis gender, reproduction, and technology. What emerges is a distinct dialogue about a science- and technology-assisted dismantling and unmaking of the fundamental constituents and functions of biological sex. In their own way, they each feature a radical undoing and refashioning of biology, helping their readers dream of a world in which women’s biological reproductive function is not a given, presenting an alternative tech-utopian feminism that runs counter to much of the modern Western feminist tradition—finding a path to liberation via biologistic thinking. In this story about the cultural aftereffects of oral contraceptive technology, we see an instance of a larger story about the interaction between technology, speculation, and freedom. Technology and imagination can work iteratively, in tandem, in pursuit of social progress. In this case, the introduction of a new technology is the very thing which opens up an imaginary space for fantasies about future liberatory technologies.
Abstract ID :
HSS187
Submission Type
Chronological Classification :
20th century, late
Self-Designated Keywords :
Feminist political thought, reproductive biology, speculative future-making

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