by Karen Weingarten
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Pub Date 09 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2023
A cultural and historical exploration of the overlooked object at the heart of the sexual revolution.
In the 1970s, the invention of the home pregnancy test changed the meaning of pregnancy. For the first time, women could use a technology in the privacy of their own homes that gave them a yes or no answer. That answer had the power to change the course of their reproductive lives, and it chipped away at a paternalistic culture that gave gynecologists—the majority of whom were men—control over information about women’s bodies.
While science often wants to promise clear-cut answers, the reality of pregnancy is often much messier. As Karen Weingarten shows, the advent of the pregnancy test had far-reaching implications for the nature of pregnancy and our understanding of the timeline of fetal life. In this compelling exploration, Weingarten reveals how a fierce marketing and medical campaign made this object central to our reproductive lives. Essays examine the history and cultural representation of the pregnancy test to show how the object radically changed sex and pregnancy in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
This book is the latest in the Object Lessons series. Published in association with the Atlantic, it explores the hidden lives of ordinary things and what they can teach us about ourselves and the modern world.
Karen Weingarten is associate professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York. She is the author of Abortion in the American Imagination: Before Life and Choice, 1880–1940.
“A kaleidoscopic and entertaining volume. It’s all there: life and death, feminist empowerment and patriarchal coercion, scientific discovery and sci-fi dystopia. Weingarten shows how a seemingly modest yet ingenious technology has profoundly shaped—and even brought into being—some of our most intimate, vulnerable, and meaning-filled moments.”— Lara Freidenfelds, author of The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy
"As anyone who has anxiously shut a bathroom door to take one knows, the home pregnancy test is a riveting plot in and of itself: within its pages, lives are made and unmade. With insight and compassion, this book tells the fascinating story of how this intimate technology came to be, suggesting that the strange mix of reproductive agency and reproductive surveillance the home pregnancy test has enabled in US culture will be of central importance as these private dramas become ever more encroached upon by the state."
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