Since becoming a mother I have acquired this tendency towards cognitive empathy which is the ability to to put yourself into someone else’s situation and imagine their thoughts and feelings. This surfaced again, actually it does almost on a daily basis, when I read about the poverty stricken women in India who are renting out their wombs to make money to keep their families going.

The commercialisation of a woman’s body and babies knows no bounds but the heartache and suffering that goes with it carries no price. In fact, it is not even priceless because it is not costed into the pricing model for surrogacy.

Surrogacy firms in India run a service whereby poor Indian women from slums are recruited to be baby carriers to supply married couples, singles and unmarried couples who want to be parents.

This is how the service works. A man’s sperm is sent to the US where women from the Ukraine or South America are on standby to donate eggs. The embryos are then flown to India because poor Indian women provide the cheapest wombs to rent. The Indian women are then kept in hostels run by the surrogacy clinics/agencies where they are looked after. To many poverty stricken mothers this is the first time that they would have had the simple comforts of a proper roof over their heads and decent food. This is what gets me as well. In a country where maternal care is poor private providers are able to exploit a deficit.

The clinics justify recruiting poor women because they can sell the business idea to them easily and ‘educate the women and their families in a clean slate’. Such an imperialistic attitude belies any consideration for the baby carriers.

The concept of choice, as with so many women’s issues, is illusory because their husbands earn about £130 ($110) or so a month and the clinic pays about 20 times more. That amount will keep a poor Indian family going for years. However, the women suffer public shame and stigma from carrying somebody else’s baby. The Centre for Social Research in New Delhi reports that a high proportion of women are shunned by their families when they return. The report also found that many women had been forced into becoming surrogates by their husbands and were deeply unhappy with the situation. The clinic says that it is careful to not recruit any women who have been forced against their will but the evidence proves otherwise.

Providing babies in this way to service a global need for maternal provision is a caricature of the biological ability of women to reproduce. Firstly, the Indian women are no more than commodities because they may have no say in whether to become a surrogate or not, they are powerless to decide whom they would like to carry a baby for and their emotional wellbeing is immaterial to the economic process of childbearing. The politics of race is part of the equation too because, apparently, most requests are for white babies so the brown baby carrier is a vessel much like the way brown boxes are discarded when the contents are taken out.


I am always struck at the dichotomy between the way feminism is practised in the developed countries and in non developed countries. What we in the former countries consider to be sometimes a pain in the neck chore is, instead, considered an ‘Essentialism’ of mothering for mothers in the latter countries. Cooking and sanitation are two examples but for the purposes of this blog post I will concentrate on cooking.

Save the Children has released a report called ‘A Life Free From Hunger’ which starkly lays out the statistics for hungry children. Nearly half a billion children’s lives will be affected by malnutrition over the next 15 years if world leaders don’t act to tackle hunger. Millions of lives, however according to the report, can be saved through teaching mothers about nutrition.

There is an army of volunteer health workers in Afghanistan who conduct cookery classes. Not for them the expensive Cordon Bleu classes that we in developed countries pay for nor the Nigella Lawson type cookery books which we get as presents. For the Afghan mums their cookery lessons consist of each mother bringing a nutritious ingredient such as carrots, rice, potatoes, egg, oil or salt which the health worker then combines together to produce a shared pot of healthy living meals. In this way, mums are learning how to stave off malnutrition.

The simplicity of this moves me because it demonstrates the purity of feminist mothering which is about doing the best for your child under all circumstances. While mothers in Afghanistan may have no notion of feminist mothering given the extreme patriarchal conditions they live under they still undertake the chores that mothers in developed countries do which begs the question is cooking an Essentialism of mothering?


CNN Contributor Erick Erickson: ‘I Kind Of Like The Idea That Women Aren’t Members Of The Masters’: pCNN contributor and conservative blogger Erick Erickson said he liked the idea of excluding women from The Masters golf tournament, saying, “I don’t want to be hanging out at some women’s event!” The Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the tournament, has never admitted a woman as a member in its history, but its discriminatory […]/p