Why Is Having a Baby like Running a Marathon? Gendered Embodied Reproductive Achievements and Philosophical Analyses of Achievement

Prof. Fiona Woollard

1st October

During pregnancy, birth and, the early days of parenthood, we do amazing things with our bodies, easily comparable to the achievements of any marathon runner. But pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding seem to be treated very differently from other physical achievements like running marathons.  Sometimes, they are celebrated in the wrong way: treated as yardsticks for motherhood with shame doled out to those who do not measure up.  Alternatively, they may be ignored or diminished, treated as a simple matter of luck or uninteresting biology.  I think pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are all examples of what I call gendered embodied reproductive achievements or GERAs.  My current work seeks to (a) show that pregnant, birth and breastfeeding are indeed correctly understood as GERAs; (b) explore our attitudes towards GERAs.  In this talk, I will discuss the philosophical literature on achievement with an eye on what this literature can tell us about whether GERAs are genuine achievements and whether thinking about GERAs can support amendments to the prominent accounts of achievement in the philosophical literature.