For Whom the Clock Ticks: Reproductive Ageing and Egg Freezing in Dutch and British News Media

Abstract

The last century saw struggles for women's reproductive choices both to avoid childbearing (i.e. abortion, contraception) and to achieve it (i.e. IVF, artificial insemination). Now, after the turn of the millennium, these two approaches to regulate reproduction are combined in oocyte cryopreservation (OC), or egg freezing. With it, a new reproductive question has emerged as egg freezing simultaneously represents an active choice not to have children at present and a commitment to a future, possibly assisted, reproduction. Women's usage of OC to preserve fertility is itself an act of refusing current childbearing, thus calling into question an easy distinction between reproductive and non-reproductive behaviour. In this article, I discuss the representation of this new choice by using a selection of Dutch and UK news media pieces, focusing specifically on the implications of egg freezing for conceptualisations of the female reproductive body as site of a gendered politics of ageing.

Firstly, I address the rhetorical divisions between 'medical' and 'social' motivations for egg freezing and then I argue that the media narratives around these divisions create new subject positions related to reproductive identity through which medical authority becomes extended into new parts of social life. Secondly, I address the discursive construction of the decision to use egg freezing technology in relation to the notion of the 'biological clock' and the reconceptualisations of age-specific (non-)reproductive bodies, which focus on the ovum as the locus of fertility. The news coverage of OC thus reveals a gendered politics of ageing, predicated on reproductive ability as the organising principle for the temporal structuring of life, which not only interpellates (potentially) infertile women who desire to reproduce, but also has an impact on the wider public.

How to Cite

de Wiel L., (2014) “For Whom the Clock Ticks: Reproductive Ageing and Egg Freezing in Dutch and British News Media”, Studies in the Maternal 6(1). p.1-28. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.4

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Lucy van de Wiel ( )

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