December 2016

Fertility and Femininity

The feminine identity has throughout history been embellished and defined by the virtue of fertility, the ability to give life and to care without discrimination for a child. In scriptures and religions around the world it is the women who play counterpart to the men, who must in contrast remain virile and strong in order to fulfil the historical roles of protection and provision. One only needs to turn to the bible to see the role that fertility plays in defining the female, and looking further back at ancient religions the same line of thought can be found in the idea of the earth as the mother of us all. We have come a very long way since this time and a number of truly redefining events have turned the tables on ideas of the feminine in societies everywhere. In the contemporary age do we need to worry about such stereotypes, how valid are they in a world that provides assisted reproduction and IVF treatment?



Today women from all backgrounds suffer from issues with their fertility and take decisive action to fight it by undergoing assisted reproduction procedures such as in vitro fertilisation. Men too have the option to go against their infertility and join in on the battle against such deficiencies. The proof is in the number of medical tourists travelling to areas like Prague to receive IVF treatments or for low cost consultations regarding the issue, and it is no taboo to do so. Having said this there still seems to be a stigma around the issue of infertility. First of all it is a matter of distress to women who are unable to find out why they are unable to give birth the natural way, and indeed the issue has been regarded with mystery by many doctors who are unable to sufficiently explain it. Equally so in places that continue to have some level of religious dominance remaining there is a sense of guilt around infertility that can be attributed to the idea of a person's god-given role on the planet.



In addition to this the heterosexual politics of contemporary society expects men and women to be fertile and virile from the beginning. Such expectations however, along with religious ones, are waning in the light of surgical procedures that can help and the public attention that they are receiving. As the societal roles that a person can perform expand at a rate unexpected to all, the role of the mother is becoming something increasingly flexible and open to interpretation. Since so many avenues are open to so many different people and genders there is a relief from the pressure that women once felt to be mothers and nothing more. Liberation of gender through great theorists, writers and activists have helped greatly but so have the scientists and doctors that have perfected the methods that give women the chance to be fertile should they not be capable of doing so.