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Controlling and Liberating the Womb

An Ecofeminist Perspective on ‘Overpopulation’, Reproductive Technologies, and Antinatalism

Madeline Becker


Pages 193 - 209



Abstract: Many of the current environmental crises are entangled with questions of ‘overpopulation’, population management, procreation, and procreative agency and control. This is not least the case since human and nonhuman fertility has been declining over the last 60 years due to an increasing amount of contaminants in the air, water, and food, and because anthropogenic environmental changes are rendering the planet increasingly uninhabitable. This article explores the upsurge of both reproductive technologies and antinatalism as two divergent ways of responding to the perilous future of humankind. While modern science attempts to find a technological fix by inventing procreative technologies, recent ecofeminist antinatalist movements appear to embrace the possibility of an ahuman future of the Earth. The article argues that the former extends a modern scientific tradition in which procreative technologies were used to manipulate, regulate, control, and oppress womb-bearers, particularly if those bearers are non-white, poor, disabled, or animal, and in so doing reproduces and intensifies global, social, economic, and environmental inequalities and injustices. In contrast, antinatalism – the conscious and moral decision to refuse to procreate for political, social, cultural, or environmental reasons – may not only reclaim womb-bearers’ sexual and procreative agency but further introduce an important conceptual shift by providing an ecofeminist sense of vulnerability, entanglement with, and compassion for human and nonhuman life.

Keywords: antinatalism, reproductive technologies, reproductive agency, environmental crises, ecofeminism

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