Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yet More Patronising "Advice for Women"

Do women need any more advice on having babies? Apparently so, the American Society For Reproductive Medicine has teamed up with Comment On Reproductive Ethics and the BBC to patronise us all a bit more.

They want to let us know that having your eggs frozen doesn't "guarantee" that women will be able to conceive with those eggs. Which is probably why only 185 women in the UK have had eggs frozen - many of them cancer patients eager to avoid the mess Natalie Evans got into by being unfortunate enough to be dating a complete wanker at the time she contracted cancer. Out of a UK female population of child-bearing age (15 to 44, I'm counting, assuming that a cancer-suffering 15-year-old might consider egg freezing and that by the age of 45 you're not likely to be freezing new eggs) of around 12million, that's tiny. So I can't help thinking it would be easier to ring the 185 personally than to insist on publishing your story in a national news source. I'm sure the 185 all know this and have had the risks explained to them.

So what is the story really about? Women's "lifestyles". Or in other words how us silly girlies have got it all wrong and should be sat home embroidering doilies and pinging out sprogs as soon as we're old enough to menstruate.

Firstly the BBC says quite matter-of-factly, this is not a quote from anybody, "An increasing number of women are choosing to freeze their eggs for social reasons in the hope they will be able to have a child when they are older." So by "an increasing number" the BBC means less than two thousandths of a percent? For any individual woman, a 0.000015 probability. And that's only if we are allowed to include being diagnosed with cancer as a social reason. When you take those women off the list, the number will be even lower, not to say negligible.

Secondly - still the BBC's words "Critics argue they are delaying motherhood for the wrong motives, such as climbing the career ladder or until they have more money." Sorry - who decides what the right and wrong motives for delaying motherhood are? If a woman decides she doesn't want to have children until she can afford to send them to a good school and raise them in a comfortable home who is the BBC to describe those as the "wrong motives"? And is it even true? A small survey on the Mothers 35-plus website gives the number one reason for delaying motherhood as "Lack of suitable partner".

In fact the evidence doesn't even suggest that women are delaying motherhood really. This chart of data from Scotland shows that older mothers are having slightly fewer children than they did in the 1950s and 60s. The difference is that younger mothers are having significantly less children.

And now some patronising advice from Comment On Reproductive Ethics: "The best solution to lifestyle problems is to change one's lifestyle. Have babies naturally at the time nature intended..." Got that ladies? Magically make the right bloke/financial security/feeling of broodiness come along at your fertility peak.

Now the second worst thing about the article is that it totally focuses on WHEN in their lives women SHOULD have babies. It doesn't say anything about the option of NOT HAVING BABIES! Globally we really don't need extra babies. And a very real alternative for older women who regret not starting a family earlier is adopting an older child in need, there are plenty out there desperate for help. And besides, if you don't want kids at 25, maybe you won't want kids at 35 either, as the chart shows the main trend is that women are really choosing to have less children, not the same number later in life.

But the very worst thing about the article is that it addresses itself 100% to women. What about men? Should we be warning men that if they want kids they should settle down with their woman before she hits 32? I have several women friends who are keen to start a family but are waiting until their partner feels ready too. It takes two to make babies.

And if there's any truth in the idea that women delay motherhood because they feel they can't have a career and a family while they're young then we should be warning employers that they're breaking the law by discriminating against pregnant women and working mothers and failing to offer flexible working hours to those with young children!

1 comment:

Debs said...

Great article! Another point to consider is that more and more couples seem to be experiencing fertility problems, so they made decide that they would like children at the age of 28, for example, but not actually manage to conceive until many years later.