By Julia Kaganskiy
In 1970, a 25-year-old radical feminist named Shulamith Firestone published an incendiary manifesto called The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. In it, she identified women’s role in childbearing as the primary cause of their ongoing oppression and proclaimed that “pregnancy is barbaric!”
Firestone called for the abolition of pregnancy and outlined a speculative utopian future in which women would be freed from the forced labor of biological reproduction via the development of artificial wombs. The nuclear family, which she viewed as fundamentally patriarchal, would be replaced by “households”: groups of adults who would share in the communal care of children.
Ani Liu was reading Firestone while pregnant with her first child in 2019. An artist-researcher who had studied body-machine hybrids, cybernetics, and cyborgs at MIT Media Lab, she was well-versed in the theoretical and political frameworks for considering gender, gender stereotypes, and ways technology could allow individuals to transcend the limitations of biology. Nevertheless, she was unprepared for the radical changes her body underwent during pregnancy. The experience marked the beginning of her personal and artistic interest in exploring the relationship between the body, society, gender, and politics.