Joanne Ramos on outsourcing the labor of pregnancy and the female body as manufacturing belt.
Picture this: an existence punctuated by yoga classes and country walks, sustained on a quinoa-heavy diet, swaddled in Merino wool. That’s the schedule of the women making possible this promise: the compromise of career or family resolved, without compromise. This is Golden Oaks, known as the Farm, a surrogacy facility that allows the global elite to outsource the labor of pregnancy to surrogates.
The setting of Joanne Ramos’s debut novel, The Farm, sounds like a thought experiment, but it’s better understood as a projection of the current inequalities. In a world of ubiquitous Louis Vuitton, the most conspicuous form of wealth, the truest status symbol, is the ability to buy back time. In Ramos’s novel, gestational surrogacy, a situation where a woman carries a baby that isn’t biologically related to her for compensation, is the ultimate luxury good. For those employed as surrogates, it’s a windfall. It’s a shot at the longest shot: the American dream. It’s also a sinister reversal of the idea of invisible labor—the labor of housework and childrearing that mostly exists below the drag net of economic measurements. That work here is given its due, a dollar value. But surrogacy as work turns its women into more than a labor force—the women become units of capital. It’s the body as manufacturing belt.
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