Liberating Women… to Serve Corporate Needs

Is enabling them to freeze their eggs a form of liberating women or enslaving them?

I don’t have a problem with the technology itself and I don’t have a problem with women holding down corporate jobs. But the fact that Facebook and Apple are providing for female employees to freeze their eggs seems potentially abusive.

I’m sure there are health issues confronting some women so that being able to collect eggs might be the only way they can assure themselves they have a shot at motherhood. But all technology can be abused, including technology that supposedly empowers. The smartphone, the tablet, and the laptop are great boons to productivity, but I’ve often wondered if they are sneaky ways to force us to work 24/7 (though, admittedly, the connectedness also can distract us from work). Whereas once a plane trip to a conference might be “down time” for an employee or executive, now he is expected to keep working because he has the capability to do so. Email must be read and answered at all times because now it comes to our phones.

Likewise, if these companies are now providing for women to freeze their eggs, does that not come also with an expectation that they won’t ask for maternity leave? If women can easily delay motherhood without (supposedly) needing to worry about their biological clocks, won’t that mean that they will be expected to delay childbirth?

The Newser.com summary of the story creeped me out in the way it began: “Silicon Valley already leads in tech innovation—why shouldn’t it lead in procreation, too?” Uh, procreation is already a developed technology. Women do it all the time. How does enabling the delaying of procreation count as “leading in procreation”? I don’t get it.

It seems to me that one could easily see this as an attempt by Facebook and Apple to remake women into a suitable life form to meet the needs of corporations. Women’s uteri threaten the stability of the work place. So companies now have a way of freezing the contents of the uterus so that eggs can be stored safely out of the way. Motherhood is available once the productive years have been used up by the company.

And even then, there is the open question of whether this technology merely provides a false sense of security. One medical group has issued a warning that women can’t be sure they will get pregnant using this method. But if they wait too long, it will be too late to try the normal method. They will pay the price of—you know I have to say it—putting all their eggs in one basket, or one refrigerator.

[See also, “If You Think Babies Are Expensive, Wait Until You Pay the Price of All the Missing Ones.”]

demographic winter

Finally, how many of these eggs will such women have time to give birth to, assuming they succeed in getting them fertilized? This seems like a recipe for continuing toward demographic winter. I’m not arguing that anyone should be forced to have more children. But I do think the casual assumption that women should have one child at most, because a lifetime of corporate service is more important, could have negative long-term consequences. These taken-for-granted assumptions are speeding us toward a demographic dead end.