You would think, from reading the extensive debate about Facebook's and Google’s decisions to subsidize any female employee who wants to freeze her eggs, that the companies were trying to correct an error in nature.
Some might say that they are playing God and trying to correct a design flaw, but, for the purposes of this post, we will say that, from a feminist perspective, egg freezing corrects an injustice that is written into the natural order.
By all evidence, God is not a feminist.
For reasons that continue to escape me, feminists seem to believe that men and women cannot be truly equal until they are exactly the same. In part, this explains why they insist on abortion on demand. They are sorely offended to know that a man can walk away from the reproductive consequences of coital act far more easily than can a woman. Abortion on demand will, to their minds, even things out.
Similarly, knowing that the biological clock seems to work against women, they embrace egg freezing because it allows women to postpone child bearing in favor of career advancement.
In many ways, this war against nature is a futile exercise. Like it or not, a man can father far more children than a woman can bear. A man’s reproductive potential is nearly limitless. A woman’s is strictly limited.
That is why, incidentally, we are more willing to send men into harm’s way and why we tend to be more protective toward women. Classically the female body is more valuable, less disposable than the male.
Feminists don’t see it that way, because feminists have very little use for science.
Dr. Chavi Eve Karkowsky explains the injustice:
Because of the longstanding unfairness of biology, men do not have the same time pressure for reproduction. And because of a second unfairness of biology, freezing sperm is easier, cheaper, less invasive, and exceedingly likely to be successful. But as we continue to discover some of the concerns associated with advanced paternal age (generally, health problems more subtle than those associated with advanced maternal age, but still present), perhaps male sperm preservation should become a job perk as well.
True enough, there are some risks with advanced paternal age, but men can produce children far later than women can.
One might ask, because nearly none of the women writing on the topic seem to have considered the issue: might there be a reason why a woman cannot conceive after she enters perimenopause?
For all I know, the biology evolved as it did because an older mother will have less energy and perhaps even less time to raise her children. Since a mother’s presence is more important than a father’s in the earlier years of a child’s life, biology dictates that her children will be more likely to have a mother for a longer period of time.
Of course, no one thinks very much about such matters. Precious few of the articles question whether it is best for women to forgo childbearing in favor of career advancement. Nearly all the articles are looking at the issue from a feminist perspective. They want to know whether the new policy about egg freezing is good for feminism, not whether it is good for women or their children.
Lizzy Crocker shows what the debate is really all about:
It’s also a practical move on the part of tech companies who want to grow the size of their female workforce, knowing that they lose most women around the time they have children.
And if the policy was being implemented in a female-dominated industry, wouldn’t we be celebrating it as a feminist achievement that affords women greater autonomy over their reproductive rights?
A feminist achievement… greater autonomy… more reproductive rights… less enslavement to reality. Call it what you will, Crocker does not ask how well a fifty year old woman will be able to bring up an infant.
Surely, feminism is more about what is good for feminism, and less about what is good for women. If women tend to drop out of the workforce to spend more time with their children, why is that choice, freely taken, a bad thing?
It might be bad for feminism, but what if it is the best for the children?
Feminism does not care.
Nor is it so much about what is good for Google and Facebook. Many who have commented on the new policy suggest that the companies are really doing it to retain their best female employees… by tricking them out of having children when they are young.
And yet, these companies are doing very well right now, even with their workforce skewed in favor of white and Asian males. Do you really believe that they would be doing better with more women, and with more women who are childless and alone?
Moreover, a woman who waits until she is in her 40s is far less likely to find a suitable husband. In a few cases, she will. In most cases, she will not.
If she already has a husband, what advantage accrues to either of them to have children when they are well into middle age?
And, of course, nature still has a say in the matter. The probability of getting pregnant from frozen eggs is still very, very low.
Sarah Elizabeth Richards explains:
“What if it doesn’t work? The technology doesn’t always live up,” says Naomi Cahn, law professor at George Washington University who writes about reproductive technology. “Egg freezing creates the opportunity to transcend the biological clock, but it also creates the illusion that we will always be able to transcend the biological clock.”
Mackenzie Dawson adds:
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, when a woman 38 or younger freezes her eggs, the chance of one frozen egg yielding a baby is between 2 and 12 percent.
As women get older, the pregnancy rate per frozen egg drops even further….
The egg-freezing measure seems to be meant to level the playing field between genders; a laudable goal, but the gender pay imbalance has been shown to only kick in after people have children, making this a bit of a moot point.
Emma Rosenblum offers the most salient commentary, from one woman’s mother:
Her mother, however, would still like her to get on with it. “She said to me, only half-jokingly, ‘I’m glad you went to business school and work 100 hours a week—and don’t have time to meet anyone—so you can afford to freeze your eggs.’ Thanks, Mom.”
The final, slightly paternalistic recommendation: It’s best to conceive through natural intercourse at an appropriate age.
But, why is this advice, coming from a mother, “slightly paternalistic?” It manifests a knowledge of human biology and does not presume to be able to overturn nature’s laws.
The moral of the story is that this is an enormously complex issue. Most of the women who have written about it have done so in exemplary fashion. And yet, their considerations of the implications of the policy suggest that the corporate officers who instituted it have not worked hard enough on the issues.