Ecomasculinist Pregnancy tackles the larger issue of masculine destruction of the Earth and biospecies through depicting the development of a caring, self-reflexive masculinity that is confronting his violent past full of ecosystem crimes.
We find ourselves in a world slowly recovering from climate catastrophe, and with humanity in need of redefinition and redemption. Sea level and temperatures have risen unsustainably and ocean biodiversity is depleted. Humankind can no longer simply adapt—it needs to fundamentally change its connection to, and place within nature.
Various voluntary co-operative schemes exploring new relationships with the Earth have been founded across the depleted planet, amongst them the Campaign for Sustainable Masculinities. Through voluntary surrogate mothering of an infant, the baby sea-lion Mononoke, the ex-hunter/fisherman Yiluak goes through a conscious intervention on his body leading to further physical and mental transformation, development of a bond with a person of another species, and a new ethical consciousness, care ethics, that subverts old West’s individualistic rhetoric and ecological transformation of the societies on Earth. Humankind has harnessed its centuries-old technical and scientific knowledge not to exploit nature, but to enable it to survive, paying back the debt and realigning humankind’s new ethical positionality within it. Here, the sea-lion, recently extinct, has been regenerated using careful genetic manipulation, allowing it to survive in the new conditions of the oceans and enabling a lack of rejection between the two species even on a biological level. Rather than use science to differentiate, humankind has learnt to use it to embrace, tolerising the human reproductive system and the sea-lion oocyte to enable successful interspecies gestation and birth. Both, then, are a form of cyborg, and these changes have brought these species closer together, forming coalitions.
Yiluak first undergoes hormonal transformation with oestrogens, progestogens, allowing his gonadotrophic rhythms to echo those of previous mothers. When his body is ready, he is implanted with a womb grown from his own stem cells-yet these are cells which Yiluak has voluntarily provided, and in which the single transcription factor SRY, which made him develop his male gonads and soma, has been inactivated. He becomes pregnant with the implantation of the cyborg egg in his cyborg womb, and enables the growth of the foetus with traditionally female hormones; he lactates, injecting himself with prolactin and oxytocin, and forms the maternal bond.
Yiluak gives birth to their child and cares for the newborn, including producing milk for its sustenance, then freely releases it into the ocean. After its release into the wild, Mononoke contributes to the ecosystem and the healing of the vulnerable Earth through her very existence: Like a cyborg ocean police, Mononoke reports back to scientists on ocean patterns and on any potential mistreatment of ocean life in a sustainable way, whilst breaking down dangerous metabolites in a way necessary for ecosystem survival. Mononoke lives, dies and then biodegrades, a true collaborating with humans in a hope to make the oceans a more liveable place for each and every species that exist on the planet Earth in the era of post climate change. Mononoke does not further procreate, fostering a system of co-dependence between human and sea-lion—without one, the other can no longer survive. Life is precarious, but it is this very precariousness that helps foster the new ethical conscious that is caring and reflexive.
Ecomasculinist Pregnancy aims to open up debate on alternative mothering practices, how this might challenge conventional gender stereotypes and prevalent human exceptionalism, and whether we can hope for masculinities that are not destructive but caring, empathetic and just. Discussing cyborg existence beyond human exceptionalism, it imagines a future where cyborg humans and cyborg animals will work co-dependently for the benefit of the Earth, and thus of themselves.
Informed by the works of Donna Haraway, Paul B. Preciado, Dunne & Raby, Ai Hasegawa, Richard Twine, Paul M. Pulé, ANOHNI, Ecomasculinist Pregnancy follows the design fiction methodology, illustrating a near future scenario to deliver a critique on masculine destruction of biospecies and the Earth and helps us imagine a feminine, environmentally just, sustainable future making.
Ecomasculinist Pregnancy was co-authored with Charles John McKinnon Bell of Cambridge University Girton College, and was exhibited as part of the group exhibition ‘Cyborg Encounters’.