My Thoughts On “We Are ‘Synthetic Children’ And We Agree With Dolce & Gabbana”
Well then, let’s do it! Another touchy subject.
I have recently stumbled upon an essay written by Hattie Hart and Alana Newman, that I found quite engaging. It raises a number of issues, all of them inherently controversial. Here is the article I will be responding to:
For those who don’t feel like reading it, here’s a very short synopsis: Two people agreeing with the latest Dolce and Gabbana’s statement “You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. I call children of chemistry, synthetic children.” and explaining exactly why they support it.
I want to be as objective as possible, but we all know that no person can be completely bias-free. We all have different social and cultural backgrounds that shape our own view of the world, influencing our opinions, decisions, and creating consequences from both of them combined. I am not going to argue with the authors, because it is their personal experience and opinion. On top of that, I can’t relate to donor-conceived children, since I myself was conceived in a traditional manner. Still, it’s a great subject to talk about in the first place and I would love to hear what other’s think about the issue.
Okay, let’s get to it.
First of all, let’s start with the whole “synthetic children” idea. It’s interesting that the authors let us know in their title that they consider themselves synthetic children, but then claim that ““[s]ynthetic” indeed is a harsh and inaccurate description of us offspring born by third-party reproduction”.
Aside from that, I find it troubling that they support Dolce & Gabbana, portraying them as great men “celebrating women and motherhood”, who design “garments made specifically to compliment women’s bodies, […] fitting bustiers to real women’s bodies the last 30 years” and “[t]hey owe their success to their understanding, appreciation, and honoring of the human body”. But then…
Uh oh. Are they really celebrating women, when they release an add that gets banned by the Advertising Self-Discipline Institute, because “the feminine figure is shown in a degrading manner”? (http://metro.co.uk/2015/03/18/dolce-gabbana-in-hot-water-again-after-gang-rape-ad-campaign-resurfaces-just-days-after-ivf-furore-5108624/)
I understand the need to express their problems with being a donor-conceived child, but maybe not by quoting two obviously misguided men.
Let’s forget for a moment how misogynistic this add was and get back to the word “synthetic”. It is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as “(of a substance) made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product”, which we all know IVF and parents using donor sperm or eggs are not. The technicians are not chemically creating the sperm or the egg in the lab and the child born is definitely human in all aspects as Hart and Newman themselves state.
Now that I’ve pointed out the biggest issue I had with the article, I want to talk about the more dramatic aspect of the authors’ concern with a bit less fashion involved. They share with us their childhood hardships of finding out that their father is actually a stepfather and the feeling of “void left by [their] father’s absence”. Hart describes she felt a lack of bond between her and her social father, because of his background, her personality and beliefs, and the lack of biological connection. Most importantly, Hart and Newman say that “[o]ne of the greatest tragedies of donor conception is the loss of belonging: to family, to a culture” and they emphasize it by saying:
“The lack of my biological father’s presence is a devastating reality, a burden I will likely bare my entire existence. And now, knowing the truth of my conception, when I remember my past I remember everything that was absent from it.”
This is not something that can be disregarded. After reading their (somewhat overly dramatic) article, I honestly think that parents when deciding to use NRTs (New Reproductive Technology), should think of how their children are going to feel. It seems to be a similar case to what adoptive children sometimes experience: the betrayal and feeling of being lied to when they find out, then looking for their “roots” or origin. But then, who are we to deny parents having children in the first place? The issue here seems to be the idea of kinship (at least in America), where biology and genetics (blood relations) are considered to be the basis of a familial bond. In my case, bonds created based on the people and how they feel about each other is more important than a genetic relationship. I guess everything goes down to the centuries-old nature vs nurture debate… To put it simply, I feel like the connections I have with other humans whether genetically linked or not, are strengthened or weakened by our backgrounds, personalities, beliefs… (oh yes! throwback to what the authors said… without biological connection).
Now there’s one more thing I disagree with: the scientific research they are quoting. They support their feelings by using evolutionary psychology and the Cinderella Effect (the theory that stepparents are significantly more abusive than genetically related ones). They say “it is natural for me to desire my father, for evolution has blessed those that secure such a bond with better survival rates”. Riiiiight. Well, if you want to let biology rule over how you feel (or the idea of biology) completely, then it will be hard to try and make yourself feel better. Here’s a good article about issues concerning evolutionary psychology:
I understand the authors are troubled due to the lack of “nature” in their origin. However, they have been brought up by loving mothers (as they claim) and hadn’t had an abusive father (that they mentioned). There would be no issue if NRTs weren’t outside of social norms in the first place and these change all the time. There is still a lot of ethical concerns with NRTs that need to be addressed as with every technology that directly affects the traditional views and creates social changes.
In the end, what makes a bond between people special, is not how much genetic material they share, but how much they care about each other by walking through life and experiencing it together. I’m not going to automatically love someone or depend on them “because they’re family”, if I have never met them before. When I meet them, I can decide whether the values they hold and how they behave are cool enough so I can develop a deeper connection with them.
At least, that’s how I feel. What about you guys?