When I lived in New York, I got a lot of mail addressed to my apartment’s former tenant. One bitter winter afternoon, I mistakenly opened a letter to her from a fertility clinic on the Upper East Side. The weight of the paper suggested that it was a fancy place. The letter reported that her frozen eggs were doing well and noted that several thousand dollars would be automatically deducted from her credit card to cover another year’s storage. It was a weird thing to know about a woman you’ve never met & only lightly google stalked.
Last year, some of the big tech companies announced that they’d cover the costs for their female employees to freeze their eggs and delay child-bearing. As with many things having to do with women and their bodies, it provoked controversy. Even in 2016, a woman’s ability and desire to conceive a child is integral to her femininity.
Even in my early 20s, female friends began (smartly, I think) to make career choices based on how best to position themselves for the kind of family life they want in their 30s.
I’m a firm believer in the ‘you do you’ school of feminism. Women are best placed to make decisions about their lives and bodies. I want to rain compassion any woman trying to find a way to balance her needs, wants, desires with an eye on both her biological clock and society’s expectations. The whole balance dance would be a lot easier if we stopped screaming at each other about it. Not everyone will make the same choice as you. Don’t interpret another person’s choice as a judgement of yours. There’s no place for that dictatorial kind of feminism with rule books and woman-on-woman condemnation of yore.
That said, I do have concerns.
- Is this another example of corporate culture demanding that women work against their biology? That same biology that fuels their intelligence, productivity and ability to contribute to an organisation. The procedure takes a considerable physical toll, and is expensive, time consuming and painful.
- Will it be harder to follow your own plans when superiors insinuate that freezing your eggs could lead to professional advancement? It undoubtedly complicates the question for women, though that’s a question that women face whether or not the companies fund the treatment.
- The dominant argument insists that delaying children is always professionally beneficial. That’s not always true. Children focus careers. They demand that you make clear choices and prioritise what actually matters. Having less time for your career doesn’t necessarily equate with doing less well.
- This is a privileged people problem. Only women with corporate careers, access to birth control and the kind of middle class life where “family planning” is the norm need to concern themselves with this. Poor women rarely generate this amount of public debate.
You’ll always get clicks generating hysteria about women’s bodies. The rights and wrongs of corporate-funded egg freezing deserves a more nuanced debate.