It’s a question that Emilie St Hilaire, a humanities PhD student at Concordia University in Montreal, has spent the last three years looking into. Her research concerns the “queer and uncanny” aspects of reborns as a subcultural phenomenon. She’s especially interested in the questions the hobby raises around non-reproductive mothering, adult modes of play and, concurrently, relationships with non-human surrogates. This means she often bumps up against the widely held assumption that reborn collectors are substituting dolls for children. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the hobby that belies deep-seated beliefs about a woman’s role in society.
“If you really try to unpack why a childless woman, particularly one who has something that looks like a fake baby, is threatening, then we start to get to what we see as the role of women: a successful woman is a successful mother,” she says.
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