Review: The Means of Reproduction

From Amazon

Hey Lovers, sorry I missed last week’s review. Work got crazy. I think I’m starting to develop a Lil Wayne problem but we’ll discuss that some other time. Keep reading for my latest review. I first learned of the author, Michelle Goldberg, by seeing her on my favorite weekend shows on MSNBC. When I heard the title of the book “The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and The Future of the World” I knew I had to read it. This book chronicles the complicated history of sex and reproduction in both the developed in and developing worlds.

Early in the book there is a chapter called “Sandanista Family Values” which tells the history of abortion in modern Nicaragua. The chapter begins in 2006 with the story Jazmina Bojorge who had a 4-year-old son and was 5 months pregnant when she began to bleed. She was not allowed to deliver until there was evidence that the fetus was no longer alive. By that time her placenta had detached and she later died. Goldberg then details the changes in Nicaraguan law that made actually obtaining an abortion even when the mother’s life is in danger is, functionally impossible. Reading this chapter made me think of the trap laws that have been recently introduced in places like Texas.    

Goldberg examines the role of culture and religion in reproductive decisions and policy. Most interestingly she explains how American politics and values have impacted the reproductive policies in countries abroad. Apparently, American Right Wing ideology has been exported to places such as underdeveloped regions of Latin America, Asia and Africa. Many groups were organized in America or were founded by Americans who then went directly to the people through missionary work or NGO’s. Most of these groups never had tremendous success until the early 1990’s when they found a friend in Daddy Bush. I like the fact that America exports iPhones but we would probably be better off letting the culture war die a swift death on U.S. soil.  

My favorite chapter was about female genital mutilation. The combination of history and anecdotes from victims was vivid enough to bring me nearly to tears. While it easy to blame White men in power for many of the world’s reproductive policy, this chapter demonstrates that those in power are not the only culprits. Female genital mutilation is still common in some African regions. Most of the girls are taken to be mutilated by female relatives. Most of the quotes show that genital mutilation continues as a practice because of ignorance about female anatomy. One older woman explained that she was happy about her procedure because without it her clitoris would have grown so large it would have made it impossible to walk. Aside from the facts that many of these procedures are botched which could lead to disfigurement, infection or even death, can we just agree that a life without orgasms probably isn’t worth living?

This book was great for my personal edification but I really wish I had it as a reference when I wrote my law school thesis: Family Planning as a Human Right. The book ends by bringing everything full circle. Goldberg reminds us that all the world’s major religions view women’s equality as something unnatural. While the AIDS epidemic is still ravaging Africa, over two centuries ago, Thomas Malthus posited that lower class people should be encouraged to not plan their families. He realized that population explosions would present a problem and thought lower class people would extinguish themselves if left to their own ignorant devices. Every time I read about him I think he’s Darwin’s evil brother; I digress. Overall at 236 pages, The Means of Reproduction is digestible for anyone who is interested. It presents facts and shows connections that may not be explored by the “mainstream media.”

Buy the book here.

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