Vol 35 No 4 (2020)
By Andrea Ford
Through examining childbearing in California’s Silicon Valley, this article describes how seeking “self-actualization” has become a rite of passage for contemporary childbearing people. This approach undermines distinctions between “technological” and “natural” approaches to birth, as people are coached to leverage both logistical and animalistic capacities to produce “self-knowledge” and enact new feminist ways of doing embodiment. Based on fieldwork conducted as a doula, this article describes new rituals, anxieties, and aspirations that draw from both the idea that self-authenticity stems from an unadulterated, primordial nature and that self-realization is enabled by a very modern, reflexive strategy of self-design. In this community, the way reproduction comes to matter has less to do with realizing gendered expectations and kinship relations than with creative self-optimization. This approach facilitates women’s self-determination, while simultaneously introducing new forms of pressure and advancing a dominant cultural discourse that minimizes thinking about structural conditions and mutual accountability.
childbearing; birth; doula; United States; Silicon Valley; neoliberal subject; nature/culture; selfhood; rite of passage