Society problems

Women Still Blamed for Society’s Fertility Problems | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

FCambridge single-sex university student Murray Edwards must attend fertility seminars because they “risk not having children” if they leave maternity “too late”. This is annoying news – seminars are just the latest example of the myth that women need to “remind” that our ability to procreate will not last forever, as if a baby is something we simply lost in the process. bottom of the sofa.

This idea that women might “forget” about having a baby is carried on in modern culture. My generation spent much of their teenage years being told not to get pregnant lest it “ruin your life”. In our 20s this changed almost overnight and we were told not to leave it too late lest it (again) “ruin your life”. As women enter their 30s and 40s, they face a whirlwind of misogynistic peer pressure, from “when are you going to have a second child” to “isn’t it unfair to have a baby in the middle?” quarantine ? “, Not to mention the classic levied free of charge for children:” but who will take care of you when you are old?

College principal Murray Edwards said questioning a woman about her plans to have children had become “almost forbidden.” “We have gone too far in a way. We have rightly encouraged girls to get a good education and have great careers. But it came to be seen as old-fashioned and negative to tell girls things that an older generation used to say like, “Are you courting?” or ‘When are you going to have a baby?’ “

It is true that asking a member of my generation about the inner workings of her uterus is considered bad form, because who knows what private pains she may have suffered: miscarriage, stillbirth, IVF, mental health issues, for n ‘to name a few. It is unfair and mean to embarrass women and their partners in this way, and it is nobody’s business. Keeping your own advice isn’t the same as being blissfully ignorant about it. We all know that fertility is not eternal and that a significant proportion of childless women have not chosen this situation.

Where does this condescending belief that women need to be taught or reminded about their fertility come from? There are a number of factors, one of which is overcorrection led by older women. My mother remembers that in the 1990s and early 2000s the newspapers were full of “career” women (as I always say, the term “career man” does not exist), raised in the conviction that they could have it all, lamenting that they “left it too late” to have a baby. One need only reread Bridget Jones to understand the “post-feminist” cultural context of women’s lives: growing emancipation coupled with extreme social pressure to form a couple and start a family.

As a result of this overcorrection, women of my generation have been bombarded with the ‘fact’ that your fertility ‘falls off a cliff’ at the age of 35, although this statistic is based in part on a study of peasant women. French women living 300 years ago. , which has been largely debunked. I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t internalized this misinformation, which caused a fertility panic, and while we are well aware that fertility declines until our 30s and 40s, we apparently still need it. to recall it. It doesn’t help that the media narrative continues to be dominated by the voices of the baby boomer generation; as a result, the barriers to parenthood that exist for young adults, such as high house prices, zero-hour contracts, and exorbitant childcare costs, are not fully appreciated or discussed.

Another reason women are regularly reminded of their fertility is a growing panic over the birth rate, which has been touted in the media as a “baby shortage” with drastic economic consequences. Yet little effort is being made to make the structural changes that might better support expectant parents. This fear is compounded by the growing number of women who choose not to have children and refuse to be stigmatized for this fact.

There are much more fruitful discussions we could have about why many young people feel unable to have children. Instead, the myth that women need to remember their fertility continues to be perpetuated. The issue here is not the concept of a fertility seminar; giving women more information about their health is not a bad thing. But no one ever seems to think that men might need to talk about this too. Some scientists are concerned about declining sperm count, while male infertility contributes 40-50% of all infertility cases and declining sperm quality as men age is implicated in a number of development issues. Many men – especially those with older mothers – seem to think women can continue to conceive into their 40s. What about the men? Where are their seminars?

As usual, it is up to women of childbearing age to address societal concerns about fertility. If only people would listen to us, they would hear that the question of whether or not to reproduce is a constant buzz in women’s lives. The real conversation we need to have – about remedying the inhospitable society that has been created for young parents – continues to elude us. If there is one thing that is left too late, this is it.