Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing, is the “newest” new reproductive technology—a form of flash-freezing that allows human eggs to be successfully stored in egg banks, thereby prolonging a woman’s reproductive life span. Egg freezing is being heralded as a “reproductive backstop,” a “fertility insurance policy,” an “egg savings account,” and particularly as a way for older career women to “rewind the biological clock.” Younger women, in their twenties and early thirties, may also utilize egg freezing to potentially “put their fertility on hold,” “slow down their biological clocks,” and “postpone motherhood” in order to achieve their educational and career goals. Indeed, egg freezing has been heralded as a feminist technology with a reproductive “revolutionary potential” equivalent to that of the birth control pill. However, not all feminist scholars—nor women who are actually turning to this fertility preservation option—are equally sanguine. Based on an ethnographic study of more than one hundred American women who undertook egg freezing, this paper argues that fertility preservation is rarely experienced by women in feminist terms. Highly educated, professional women may be committed to gender equality, but they are “reluctant feminists,” who do not claim the feminist label and do not view egg freezing as a form of “reproductive liberation.” Rather, as will be shown in this paper, egg freezing may be a costly technological concession to growing global gender inequalities, whereby educated women are literally “buying time” while experiencing a kind of “reproductive waithood” beyond their individual control.