Oh, and it's got nothing to do with population levels, by the way
To explain this story efficiently and quickly, allow us to create a fictional character called Lina.
Lina is Chinese, 29 years old, and has recently left a long term relationship. She has a hugely successful career,and she’s incredibly ambitious. One day, Lina thinks, she’d like to start a family.
But Lina is also struggling a bit at the moment – and it’s not because of the heartache that came with changing her relationship status on Facebook (/Weibo), and it’s not because she recently had to spend an entire Saturday afternoon packing her ex-boyfriend’s possessions into cardboard boxes. Nope, none of that bothered Lina at all. Instead, she’s struggling with the fact that everywhere she turns, she feels like she’s being told different things about what she should be doing with her body.
Visiting her family last weekend, she was cornered by her older sister, who took the time to tell Lina that she’d heard your fertility levels drop rapidly when you turn 30. On the way home, Lina saw a poster, telling her that if she wanted more than one child, she’d need to gets started on it by the age of 23. Then a song came on the radio about finding a husband ‘before it’s too late’, which segued into an interview with an author, who had written a book about why a woman’s true fulfilment comes from her career. Meanwhile,some of Lina’s friends in rural China have been told that they have to get pregnant in shifts, so that their company doesn’t have to deal with several women on maternity leave all at once. And there’s a rumour doing the rounds on Twitter, claiming that if you’re on the pill for over a decade, you could give yourself the menopause.
Lina decides enough is enough – she’s tired of being told what to do with her body by different people, and she’s tired of feeling panicky whenever she thinks about her relationship status and her fertility and her career. She wants to buy herself some more time. She wants to regain control. She wants to investigate egg freezing.
Only as soon as Lina looks into it, she discovers that’s not an avenue she’s allowed to explore either. Because (wait for it) she’s not married.
We’re going to stop talking about Lina now – simply because she’s making us feel too sad inside. But even though she’s fictional, her experiences aren’t.
And neither is the news that Chinese fertility regulations are so extreme that women are no longer allowed to pursue egg freezing unless they have a valid marriage certificate proving that they’re legally wed.
As laws go, it seems phenomenally unfair. Not only does it take reproductive rights away from any single woman who wants to take her body and her future into her own hands – while living in a society that still prioritises the female role as mother above all else – but it doesn’t add up.
After all, Chinese men can reportedly freeze their sperm ahead of medical procedures that could affect their fertility levels, and they’re not being asked to ‘schedule’ in their pregnancies by their managers for the sake of their careers.
And for couples who want to be together but don’t want to pursue marriage as such? Sorry: no fertility treatments for you either.