August 22, 2019

The End of the Family

“Towards the end of her new book Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against the Family, the social theorist Sophie Lewis, whose utopian anti-family ideals have made her a figure of hate for the religious right (as well as attracting scorn from a certain sort of “podcast” leftist), relates the following anecdote from her childhood:

“The probable origin of my years-long pursuit of alternative — utopian — surrogacy is a memory from childhood I only lately realized I’ve been harboring. It is a memory that pertains to a traumatic conversation with my father. He was driving me, my mother, and my brother home from an amateur play that some friends had staged in their garden. Musing incredulously on its themes, I recall cheerfully asking from the back seat: ‘but, Dad, it’s ridiculous. If you found out that we (my brother and I) were actually the biological children of the milkman, you wouldn’t love us any less all of a sudden, would you?’ I had meant it as a rhetorical question only. But there was a stony, awkward silence that made clear to me I was not going to get the answer I needed. I felt so devastated that, for the rest of the drive, I could not speak.”

At the risk of sounding psychologically reductive, in a sense the whole of Lewis’s book can be read as an attempt to prove her father wrong: to show that when it comes to family, biology need not enjoy the privileged status we typically assign it. Or actually, something even more extreme than that: that the privileged status we afford biology is a direct consequence of how the bourgeois family, as a capitalist institution, is making it impossible to love and be loved as we ought to. That in fact, if Lewis and her brother had been the biological children of the milkman, there would have been nothing to stop their father loving them even more.”

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