Marcia Inhorn: The Egg Freezing Revolution? Gender, Feminism, and Reproductive Waithood
Departmental Seminar Series features Marcia C. Inhorn, the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University.
The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!
Copyright: Yale University
Over the past five years, single professional women in their late 30s are increasingly opting for oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) as a way to preserve their fertility. Contrary to media reports, which suggest that women’s “selfish” career ambitions are the main determinant of women’s fertility postponement, women themselves offer different explanations for their fertility preservation. Indeed, the growing momentum toward egg freezing masks an underlying but little discussed global reality: Namely, women in countries such as the United States and Norway are outstripping men in higher education by the millions, resulting in the lack of “equal” partners with whom to pursue marriage and childbearing. In this ethnographic study of more than 100 single, highly educated, American professional women, most said that they felt empowered and relieved to have frozen their eggs. At the same time, they lamented the lack of male partners in their lives—the main reason for their pursuit of fertility preservation. Although egg freezing has been touted for its “revolutionary” potential—namely, as an empowering technology that creates new career options and family formations such as “single motherhood by choice” (SMBC)—egg freezing today is rarely experienced by highly educated single women in these feminist terms. Rather, egg freezing may be a costly technological concession to growing gender inequalities, whereby educated women are literally “buying time” while experiencing reproductive waithood beyond their individual control.
A specialist on Middle Eastern gender, religion, and health, Professor Marcia C. Inhorn has conducted research on the social impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Arab America over the past 30 years. She is the author of five books on the subject, including "Local Babies, Global Science: Gender, Religion and In Vitro Fertilization in Egypt" (Routledge, 2012).
— "Marcia Inhorn's fascinating and humane analysis shows us how the specificity of Islamic values, Egyptian class and patriarchal relations, and Middle Eastern medical and scientific networks combine to produce a new framework for high-tech reproduction. Beautifully written, this book demonstrates the potency and power of combining feminist critique with medical anthropology and science studies. It will take its place among the classic analyses of the politics of reproduction." Review by Rayna Rapp.
Currently, Professor Inhorn is conducting a National Science Foundation-funded research study on oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) for both medical and elective fertility preservation. She is also writing a book on Arab refugee reproductive health.
Professor Inhorn comes to Yale from the University of Michigan (2001-2008). She has also taught at Emory University (1994-2000) and the University of Arizona (1991-1994). Professor Inhorn is former Chair of the Council on Middle East Studies (CMES) in the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies (2008-11). She is the founding editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS), and co-editor of the Berghahn Book series on “Fertility, Reproduction, and Sexuality.”