This paper is focused on redefining surrogacy(1) in American culture, using queer theory and Judith Butler's theory of performativity. The rise of technology has not been lost on the industry of making, having, and caring for children. For those who cannot produce children themselves, these innovations have created opportunities to still experience parenthood. Gestational surrogacy, the focus of this study, is one option prospective parents may come across in their exploration of alternative childbearing practices. However, intended parents-- those looking to acquire a child-- are not the only piece of this complex puzzle, or triangular relationship, in the words of Butler; the process of creating a child has developed more ties, people, and experiences to navigate. When an intended parent or parents choose to take part in gestational surrogacy, another individual is added to the equation, a surrogate, “who carr[ies] a child (or children) for another individual or couple, with the intent to give the child to the intended parent(s) at birth” (Men Having Babies, Inc., 2018, p. 3). Online, surrogates have begun to create their own space, rhetoric, and identity within motherhood, parenthood, and baby-making, using social media (e.g., personal blogs, Instagram, Facebook). In these spaces, a new narrative has taken shape, one that changes or, in the words of Eve Sedgwick, queers the entire concept of motherhood and the womb itself. Using these social media spaces, surrogates share pregnancy photos, cravings, thoughts, and experiences meeting the prospective (intended) parents of the child they are carrying for nine months. Does this documentation, though limited in duration, make one a mother, at least for nine months? Do women feel emotionally connected to the child they are carrying and eventually let go of? How do finances play into this equation? The answers to each of these questions, in these women's social media communications are almost identical in meaning, downplaying financial elements of the surrogacy process and happily accepting the end result of passing the baby to the intended parents. Furthermore, many surrogates discuss questions asked by friends, family members, or followers about their surrogacy journeys and reply to them publicly on their blogs and social media accounts. Many of the answers to these questions are similar in nature, a pattern seen in my own questionnaire responses as well. In this way, surrogate bloggers have ritualized the acceptance of questions posed by onlookers as well as the answers to those questions. Most importantly, however, these answers ritualize an accepted feeling and emotional response that surrogates must feel toward surrogacy and the unborn child they are carrying. Moreover, this process of ritualization or, perhaps, standardization of the surrogacy process does not begin there. In order to become a surrogate, fertility clinics vet women using their mental and physical health history, intimate relationships, and support system. In the end, as seen through their social media representations, many of the women chosen for this duty have a similar profile in terms of medical history, relationships, and religious ties. The combination of each of these factors has created an ideal example for the study of American Christian rhetoric and heteronormative ideals surrounding alternative birthing practices in the United States.
(1) Gestational surrogacy where “The child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate” is the focus of this study (Men Having Babies, Inc., 2018, p. 7).
Girard, Gabrielle, "Mothering Without Ownership" (2019). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 8536.
mother, american, social media
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
© Copyright 2019 Gabrielle Girard