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In order to become ethically acceptable, surrogacy must change beyond recognition. But we need more surrogacy, not less!
The surrogacy industry is worth an estimated 1 billion dollars a year, and many of its surrogates work in terrible conditions, while many gestate babies for no pay at all. Should it be illegal to pay someone to gestate a baby for you?
Full Surrogacy Now brings a fresh and unique perspective to the debate. Rather than making surrogacy illegal or allowing it to continue as is, Sophie Lewis argues we should be looking to radically transform it. Surrogates should be put front and center, and their rights to the babies they gestate should be expanded to acknowledge that they are more than mere vessels. In doing so we can break down our assumptions that children necessarily belong to those whose genetics they share.
This might sound like a radical proposal but expanding our idea of who children belong to would be a good thing. Taking collective responsibility for children, rather than only caring for the ones we share DNA with, would radically transform notions of kinship. Adopting this expanded concept of surrogacy helps us to see that it always, as the saying goes, takes a village to raise a child.
About the Author
Sophie Lewis is a researcher, teacher, free-lance writer, translator and activist. Her ESRC-funded PhD was on the topic of surrogacy at the University of Manchester (UK). She is the author of a chapter in the Palgrave edited collection Intimate Economies (eds Hoffman and Moreno, 2017), of four forthcoming research articles (in Signs, Frontiers, Dialogues in Human Geography and Gender, Place and Culture), an intervention in Feminist Review, and four book reviews in Antipode and Feminism & Psychology. For MIT Press, she has translated Antje Schrupp's A Brief History of Feminism and Bini Adamczak's Communism for Children (with Jacob Blumenfeld). Her non-academic cultural critique appears on several platforms including: Blind Field, Jacobin, The New Inquiry, Mute, Salvage and Viewpoint.
“Rooted in historical, site-based, narrative, and political accounts, Full Surrogacy Now is the seriously radical cry for full gestational justice that I long for … Full of brilliant, generative, and also shamelessly biting critique of both bourgeois and communist tracts, feminist and otherwise, Lewis’s voice is unique and bracing.”
“Lewis takes one of the most everyday things about being human and thinks it through from the point of view of a cyborg communism. This book goes far into places where few gender abolitionists have ventured and brings us a vision of another life.”
—McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto
“Full Surrogacy Now is more than an intervention, it is a landmark text of visionary feminist thinking. Sophie Lewis tears down decades of essentialist and contradictory presumptions on labor, motherhood and ownership to offer us the possibility of new ways to live with and for each other. This book is as breathtaking as it is necessary.”
—Natasha Lennard, author of Violence: Humans in Dark Times (with Brad Evans)
“Full Surrogacy Now arrived and I could not stop reading. The crises of our time are crises of reproduction. Radical that she is, Sophie Lewis gets right to the root of the matter—and, radical that she is, finds its roots to be intersecting and entangled, ‘lovely, replicative, baroque,’ as one of her own gestators, Donna Haraway, might put it. But the gestator? Lewis moves expertly through decades of debates, as well as a rapidly growing body of empirical research, on surrogacy to carry us beyond the by-now familiar refrain that this or that activity ‘is work.’ Her goal could hardly be more ambitious: to rethink the ‘natural’ gestation that every one of us comes from. I will reread this book for the sense it gives me that new ways of making one another and the world new might, in fact, be possible. Its verve and wit make me feel sure that Lewis’ reproductive commune will be fun.”
—Moira Weigel, author of Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating
“An extraordinary book, as nuanced as it is provocative. Lewis delivers an incisive analysis, combining sensitivity to the material conditions faced by gestational laborers with a radical utopian vision for what surrogacy might become. It’s an exhilarating read and is likely to have a substantial influence on the field. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
—Helen Hester, author of Xenofeminism
“An instructive and moving book about the work of babymaking and the best possible future for birthing and raising children. It offers both a convincing polemic about surrogacy’s past and present, and a vision of how to make it both more common and more mutually beneficial. Lewis treats surrogacy as a signal example of what will be integral to any common human flourishing to come: unmaking gender and the family as we know them, to build new kinds of sociality and care for what is not ‘biologically’ ‘ours.’ I was floored by it.”
—Sarah Brouillette, author of Literature and the Creative Economy
“Sophie Lewis is at the top of a new generation of scholars and activists thinking the transformation of gestational labor within contemporary pharmacopornographic capitalism. Neither simply natural nor banally cultural, gestation appears as the unthought core of gender and sexual politics, and the key of a forthcoming womb revolution: trans-Marx meets mammal’s politics!”
—Paul B. Preciado, author of Testo Junkie
"Sophie Lewis and her expansive vision of feminism are desperately needed right now. She makes the work of undoing what ‘womanhood’ has come to mean look possible and irresistible."
—Melissa Gira Grant, author of Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work
“Pregnancy. Babies. Families. Nature itself. Like capitalism, communism knows no bounds. Relentless in the task of seizing of the means of reproduction, Sophie Lewis is the Right’s worst nightmare.”
—George Ciccariello-Maher, author of Building the Commune
“Full Surrogacy Now makes a significant contribution to the pressing political project of advocating for the rights of those workers whose labour is so often delegitimised, exploited and criminalised … join[ing] such texts as Juno Mac and Molly Smith’s Revolting Prostitutes in combating the white, liberal, trans-exclusionary, whorephobic, ‘feminist’ discourse which is currently dominating conversations around sex work and gestational labour.”
“Lewis is attempting to do for pregnancy what the Wages for Housework movement did in reconceptualizing the unpaid labor done by women in the home as work. And recognizing surrogacy as work and surrogates as workers is a necessary first step, for if surrogacy is work, then isn’t, by extension, every pregnancy?”
—Esther Wang, Jezebel
“The radical openness of these dreams is alluring … [Full Surrogacy Now] leaves one with the beautiful, liquid possibility of a world that recognizes ‘our inextricably surrogated contamination with and by everybody else.’”
—Times Literary Supplement
“A thrilling new intervention … by placing reproductive labour at the centre of her vision in Full Surrogacy Now, Lewis confronts a central issue that continues to be sidelined in the male-dominated field of futurism.”
“Theoretical, devious, a mix of manifesto and memoir.”
—Jessica Weisberg, New Yorker
—Jenny Turner, London Review of Books