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


Lucy van de Wiel

About Lucy van
Lucy van de Wiel is a funded PhD candidate at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam, under the supervision of Mieke Bal, José van Dijck and Esther Peeren. Her research focuses on changing understandings of ageing and the reproductive body in public discourses surrounding egg freezing. The dissertation is structured around the journey of the egg in oocyte cryopreservation, from the anticipation of the age-related decline of in vivo eggs, to their extraction and cryopreservation, and from the fertilised eggs' in vitro selection to their implantation and global redistribution. She holds a BA (English Language and Culture, cum laude) and Research MA (Cultural Analysis, cum laude) from the University of Amsterdam. She pursued postgraduate studies as a HSP and Fulbright grantee in Rhetorics at the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with distinction in the MA Film Curating at the London Film School and London Consortium, University of London. More information on her work can be found at
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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. van ., 2014. For Whom the Clock Ticks: Reproductive Ageing and Egg Freezing in Dutch and British News Media. Studies in the Maternal, 6(1), pp.1–28. DOI:
Published on 01 Jan 2014.
Peer Reviewed


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