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The Science, Fiction, and Science Fiction of Unsex Mothering

5 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2012  

I. Glenn Cohen

Harvard Law School

Date Written: June 19, 2012


In her novel Woman on the Edge of Time, the Canadian Feminist writer Marge Piercy’s protagonist, Connie Ramos, incarcerated in a mental institution, time travels to a set of possible futures that reflect utopian and dystopian visions of social make-up. Among other things, the more utopian possible future world has embraced many of the ideas explored by Darren Rosenblum’s Unsex Mothering: sex roles, gender hierarchy, and motherhood as we know it have been eliminated; children are no longer born by women, but instead incubated in a “brooder” and raised by three genetically unrelated “co-mothers,” at least two of whom, regardless of their sex, take hormones allowing them to nurse such that even men breast feed. Ethnic and cultural heritage too has been reconfigured and distributed geographically, such that all citizens of a particular city regardless of their ethnic backgrounds follow the Native American ways, while another city might follow the ways of a different cultural or ethnic background.

I think of Rosenblum’s fascinating paper as beginning the legal scholarship twin project to Piercy’s novel. In this short response, I want to use science fiction to examine a set of possible future worlds with various kinds of unsexed motherhood and press Rosenblum on the normative criteria by which one might choose between them, something his article does not focus on.

Keywords: Motherhood, Science Fiction, Reproductive Technology

Suggested Citation

Cohen, I. Glenn, The Science, Fiction, and Science Fiction of Unsex Mothering (June 19, 2012). Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, 2012. Available at SSRN:

I. Glenn Cohen (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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