Is there an age beyond which parenthood is no longer an option? Science is increasingly saying no, although culture has a panoply of different opinions, which are not all as positive. Yet another Betterhumans post (no, I’m not picking on them, they just put out stuff worth commenting on) mentions and lauds Patti Farrant, a 62 year old British woman who has just given birth to a child conceived by fertility treatment overseas in Italy.
Personally, I have no issues with this sort of thing; if you can afford to raise a child, and are physically able to have one, why should you not? I do feel it’s a little sad that there are an increasing number of orphans awaiting adoption in the world, but I am not a parent myself, and I hence have little personal understanding of the desire for a child of one’s own that is also one’s direct genetic descendent. The sheer volume of demand for it means there is something here that I cannot oppose with any strength of position.
Simon at Betterhumans praises Patti for being a trailblazer, and rightly so – she has defied the conventions of her society, and achieved her desires through the use of technology. Other people’s opinions of the biological issues are largely irrelevent – it’s her body, therefore her risk to take. Again, I’m not so sure that the age gap between mother and child (at this current stage of our development as a society) will be completely problem free, but only time will tell. A child who is genuinely wanted will surely fare better than the hundreds that are born every month in this country for nothing more than an increased chance of getting government-funded housing for their parent(s).
His second point is that she is proving that ‘biology isn’t destiny’. Again, I can sypathise with this point of view, but the depiction of her as an argument for the side of feminism seems like a mistake to me. The bit that bothers me:
“I’m convinced that part of the firestorm around her decision is that it undercuts arguments some might make for keeping women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. If women can have babies at 62, then they don’t have to sacrifice careers for kids.”
I’ll admit that there are still men who would fight the ‘submissive trophy/breeder wife’ corner with all their might, but I think they are in a very small minority, at least here in the UK. Granted, the situation in the third world is nowhere near so rosy. But surely this event actually reinforces the ultimate role of woman-as-baby-machine? After all, to truly transcend that role would be to have no children at all, while providing financial support for those that had them against their will (or for financial reasons, or those of stability and security within a patriarchal society)?
I must reiterate here that I have no problem with Patti, or indeed any mother of children at all…despite the transhumanist dream, we are still very much a human animal, coerced by biological imperatives that no amount of logic can assuage – and parenthood (not just motherhood) is a huge part of that heritage.
But I am not sure that the ability to have children much later in life actually does the cause of feminism the great good that Simon’s post claims it does – surely a bold strike for feminism would be to democratise (or even eradicate) the necessity for the physical process of childbearing, turning it into a choice more akin to a fashion statement or a genuine lifestyle focus? Until women no longer feel under any pressure to procreate at any age, young or old, the barriers between hunter and gatherer will remain strong, as our patriarchal cultures demand and desire. Until women are in a position to either purchase a child ‘off the shelf’ or, better yet, request that their partner bear the child instead, the enforced inferiority of womanhood will always remain in place. When these things are possible, the structures of male control of society will begin to fall.
Patti’s success is a step towards the horizon, but the dawn has yet to crest the hills ahead. I hope her child grows to adulthood in a world more equal than this one.