Medical Humanities: Reproduction, Gender, and Medicine

Debates surrounding reproductive justice endlessly parse the meanings and consequences of abortion. Much less attention has been paid to the rhetoric, politics, and ideologies surrounding the other choice in the pro-choice dyad: participation in acts of reproduction, particularly pregnancy and childbirth. Students will be challenged to consider the gendered rhetoric surrounding ideas such as the biological clock, the pregnancy glow, and drug-free natural childbirth. We will investigate the way reproducing bodies are represented culturally, using media coverage of issues like Serena Williams’ 2017 Australian Open win and Beyonce’s baby bump “reveals,” as well as the homebirth movement, transgender pregnancies, “breast-feeding Nazis,” parental leave policies, and the CDC’s 2016 recommendation that women of reproductive age refrain from drinking alcohol unless they are using contraception. Such case studies will help us ask how these discourses affect not only feminist ideas and activism, but also medical care and the medical system. Students will be encouraged to apply critical thinking to some of the most fundamental and long-standing assumptions of our public culture. Two central questions will guide the course: What assumptions are made about reproductive bodies? What are the social consequences of these assumptions?