Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eggz Over Eazy

It's never a good idea to write about things which have affected the author very, very intimately. Trying to see all parts of the question is hard enough when this is not the starting-point. For instance, this piece about the "global fertility crisis" is not terribly evidence-based, and the reason may well be that the author herself was sterile by age 32. The final sentences in the article are, in fact, the thesis of the article:

But after a Ph.D., a law degree, and a year on Wall Street to pay off student loans, I was already 32, and sterile. I have begun telling the young professional women who seek my advice not to follow my example too exactly.

What's tricky about this thesis as the framing of the "global infertility crisis" is of course that very, very few women get a doctorate and a law degree in their twenties. Indeed, very few women fall into that career group in the first place, the one that the conservative anti-feminists dig out when they complain about (white) dearth of babies: Those uppity women should not go to school. They should stay at home and have more (white) babies.

And of course most men or women are not infertile for age-related reasons at age 32. But if you start writing about the "global infertility crisis" from the angle of the quite small group of "highly educated" women delaying their childbearing too long, well, you are going to end up with a biased piece.

There's another bias in the piece: Note that all the close-and-personal interviews are with women (men don't care about infertility?) and that the expert quoted is a man. But in fact something like forty percent of the infertility found in couples who try to conceive is caused by the man, not by the woman! Men's fertility drops with age, too!

I have never read one of these pieces where that fact is made completely clear. It's as if women are a separate species from men, solely responsible for procreation, and it's also as if the society cannot change at all to allow these women both to go to school and to have children. The society is arranged for the male career pattern but that, too, goes unnoticed.

Instead, we get these kinds of red-warning-flag articles. I fully understand the reason for them. But I'd love to read a more balanced article on these questions, one which actually notes how women are not the sole problem in this world.