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O'Brien, Mary

  • By: Luca Prono
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Mary O'Brien is a feminist philosopher, activist, and founding member of the Feminist Party of Canada, whose iconoclastic work The Politics of Reproduction (1981) challenges Marxist and Hegelian theory to offer a dialectical and materialist view of reproduction. O'Brien's study takes issue with Marxist feminists focusing on production, domestic values, and surplus value. It also criticizes radical feminism for preaching women's liberation only through sexual revolution and artificial reproduction. A professional midwife turned philosopher, O'Brien finds that the concept of giving birth has been systematically excluded from philosophical conceptualization. Comparing this exclusion with the theoretical importance given to other biological occurrences such as death and sexual intercourse, O'Brien detects a sexist bias against birth. Thus, as she put it, her mission became to labor to ...

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