Fertility is “a forbidden subject”. At least according to Dorothy Byrne, the new president of Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge. Which brings me back to the pet peeve I touched on last week, and how something can’t be described as ‘forbidden’, ‘stigmatized’ or ‘taboo’ when everyone is talking about it. Do you see how it works?
Byrne does not appear. Because next to the seminars on consent and courses on sexual harassment which are already on the agenda of Cambridge college (two other “stigmatized” and “taboo” subjects that it is difficult to spend 24 hours without knowing plus), the 69-year-old former Channel 4 news chief decided to bank on fertility classes this quarter. Not to scare you, you know, but to “empower” the women at one of the university’s last unisex colleges by letting them know the facts about fertility.
Now I might have been precocious, but by the time I reached Cambridge I had already gleaned a thing or two about the female reproductive system. I was only 11 when these SRE classes were taught, but I have vivid memories of putty-colored anatomical models, sneers, and someone who decided it would be fun to play the game. bowling alley with a silicone ovary. So by the time I was mature enough to leave home and pick a specialist topic around which I could structure my career, I was quite familiar with the entire menstrual cycle, birds and bees – although at the time , things were pretty nice. simplistic, and no one has had to explain to us, to quote a recent meme “about the birds that were bees, and the bees that were birds, and the bee that looks like a bird but still has a stinger.”
I would certainly have been surprised to find myself confronted with a large graphic of an hourglass and a person behind a desk explaining how, as women, we all owed the national birth rate to the declining national birth rate of donning a set of “pregnancy glasses” from our twenties, through which we should examine each suitor, not as a potential life partner, but as a superior sperm donor. Then, in your mid-30s, act responsibly by choosing the closest person, regardless of personal circumstances.
I am casual, of course. Byrne’s seminars, I hope, will do no such thing. Instead, she wants to stress that it is “a woman’s right to choose to have a baby,” she says. “We have gone too far in a way. We have rightly encouraged girls to get a good education and have great careers. But it came to be seen as old-fashioned and negative to tell girls things that an older generation used to say, like, “Are you courting?” or ‘When are you going to have a baby?’ “
I remember those comments by the time I hit 30 – and the irritation they caused. Not all women want a baby, on the one hand (there is a real “taboo” for you), and although I did, I thought it was important to have one with the right one. man rather than the closest. And yes, there was a biological awareness, but there was also the career that I felt was finally on the way to envision, not to mention the fact that I was still living in a roommate at the time.
Society is not prepared for “early” motherhood. Not with childhood stretched out into her early thirties, not with the female career ladder as hard to climb as she still is and that glass ceiling still in place, and not with awards from the real estate as high as they are. Which doesn’t mean you can’t have children at this point in life if that’s what you want. And Byrne has both a personal reason for pointing out fertility issues (she had her 45-year-old single-parent daughter) and a valid point for pointing out how, despite the wonders of medical science, women can cope with a struggle. difficult if they leave trying to conceive for their mid-thirties. After all, according to recent statistics from the British Fertility Society, a 35-year-old woman who wants three children has only a 50% chance of reaching her “family size goal”.
Ultimately, it all comes down to wacky concepts like this – and “life goals.” Which is embarrassing in itself. So (again) Byrne is right to question the current silly narrative that human biology allows any sense of entitlement: that women do not have so much a god-given right as a science-given right ” to choose to have a baby ‘age.
But is it up to higher education institutions and private companies – like UK accounting giant PwC, which, as I wrote last week, now offers ‘menopause training’ to staff – to address our issues. chromosomal limitations? A thousand times no. And since we are talking about “rights”, I would like to have the right to benefit from a university education and a professional life that does not persist in reducing me to my biological constitution.
You can read Celia Walden’s Chronicle every Monday. Click here read last week’s column