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Women's Work
April 8, 2014 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Over Easy - "Elite education may impoverish and indebt young women and do little to get them a job, but at least it makes their eggs valuable."
Reproductive Medical Associates of New York, a fertility clinic associated with Mount Sinai Hospital, maintains separate websites for egg donors and egg buyers. The home page of the donors’ site features a large stock photograph of a young woman holding schoolbooks. Behind crossed arms the pretty brunette model is clutching what looks like but is not a copy of Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism, along with a white three-ring binder. She wears a zippered velor jacket in the same shade of blue as the graphic that emerges from behind her head in an oversize font: Become an Egg Donor

The Yale Herald: Not By The Dozen
Among the barrage of events, speakers, and opportunities plastered on the page, I almost missed it. On page eight of the Yale Daily News—the ad page—it was decidedly barebones, with no graphic accompaniment and written in a conservative serif font. It read:
EGG DONOR NEEDED

We are an Ivy League couple seeking the help of a special woman who is healthy, Caucasian, with highest percentile ACT/SAT scores, tall, slender, dark to light blonde hair, blue eyes, and under the age of 28. Please contact our representative at:

info @ aperfectmatch.com Or call 1-800-264-8828

$20,000+ compensation and all expenses paid
College Females[sic] Turn To Egg Donations To Fund School
I Donated My Eggs For The Money -- And I Don't Regret It
An Egg Donor Responds
posted by the man of twists and turns (71 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Truth About Egg Donation And Economics - Jen Dzuira - The Gloss
posted by The Whelk at 8:54 AM on April 8


I still have nightmares about an ER episode called "Survival of the Fittest" (spoiler alert from like 2001) where a young woman who was taking fertility drugs to increase her egg donation stroked out. It scared me off the entire thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:56 AM on April 8


Oh great, now our colleges are becoming little more than staging areas for white supremacists to purchase children?
posted by oceanjesse at 8:57 AM on April 8 [6 favorites]


One of my best friends did this in NYC a number of years back and funded her first documentary with the proceeds.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:59 AM on April 8


Oh great, now our colleges are becoming little more than staging areas for white supremacists to purchase children?

That seems a little uncharitable. I would assume most people looking for egg donors are looking for someone who looks like them, or the best version of what they'd like to be. At least I'm hoping that's what people mean when they say they're looking for “Asian geniuses” or women with “36-24-36 measurements and a love of Mozart.”
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:11 AM on April 8 [6 favorites]


" white supremacists to purchase children?" Extreme crankiness?
Don't people usually expect their kids to look like them, if they're not adopting? My body, my eggs, my choice.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:11 AM on April 8 [10 favorites]


The contrast in language surrounding sperm vs egg donation highlighted in the article is interesting. Egg donation seems to heap on the altruistic terms like gift, kindness, etc, to sort of mask how medically invasive the procedure is. Sperm donation is just giving the men a small token of cash to do what they normally do anyway, no Hallmark moments about wanking your way to giving someone the gift of life.
posted by dr_dank at 9:12 AM on April 8 [3 favorites]


dr_dank, part of that comes from the process of donating eggs. From the HuffPo "I Donated My Eggs for Money" link:
Earlier this summer I decided to sell my eggs. After an extensive background check, therapy sessions, self-administered hormone shots, daily ultra sounds and an egg retrieval surgery
Sperm donation is a lot easier, so no Hallmark moments necessary to sell the act to dudes. Plus, guys create a lot more sperm than women produce eggs, so there's not a lot for a 1:1 comparison here.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 AM on April 8 [8 favorites]


I thought about doing this. I could've charged a lot of money. It made me think about all the ways the egg buyers might not know what they were getting. A family history of depression on my dad's side. A history of thyroid disorders on my mom's. You can disclose these risks - will they say no to anyone who's got any family history of anything? Or will they have to accept some risk? How about the fact that my torso is out of proportion to my legs? The line between healthy and eugenically perfect is a creepy one.
posted by mai at 9:18 AM on April 8 [5 favorites]


I can recall a bunch of articles about this (as well as ads in the student newspaper) when I was in college in the 1990s. A friend was considering it but as far as I know didn't go through with the deal. (I might be wrong, but the very first article I saw on this was actually in Sassy, I think.) So it's not new, but improving technology and a worsening economy might be increasing the pressure.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:19 AM on April 8


I didn't like the tone of this article. Passages like this one:

These are couples who, despite having the unenviable problem of being childless when they don’t want to be, are in the enviable position of being able to buy their way out of it.

seem to totally disregard the enormous pain that leads a couple to resort to purchasing donor eggs. Not to mention the fact that using donor eggs is no guarantee of a successful live birth.

I have been fortunate that I have not required donor eggs, however I have required medical intervention in order to get pregnant. People who have not suffered from infertility have no idea what it's like.
posted by barnoley at 9:22 AM on April 8 [31 favorites]


It seems like the standards urged are part of what's causing this college differentiation. They can't specify "has X IQ/SAT" but they can specify "Is a college student."
posted by corb at 9:25 AM on April 8


I thought about doing this, entertained the idea briefly as egg donation was illegal in Sweden at the time, which I found to be quite odd. I'm of good stock, I figured. Not too tall or anything but if there's someone wanting the chance of green eyes out there I got that gene! But I only ever found ads wanting Asian donors, which made me wonder why are there so many Asian women in need of eggs?
posted by dabitch at 9:30 AM on April 8


I didn't like the tone of this article. Passages like this one seem to totally disregard the enormous pain that leads a couple to resort to purchasing donor eggs. Not to mention the fact that using donor eggs is no guarantee of a successful live birth.

That was intentional due to the politics of the site. It's leftist. They're going to side with the person feeling economic pressures to offer up their own anatomy (with the twist that this is an especially educated pool of marks) over the people who can afford to pay for those parts of other people's bodies. They didn't explicitly mention the fact that not all donor eggs are guaranteed a successful birth because the donor fortunately gets paid once the egg is extracted regardless.

That seems a little uncharitable. I would assume most people looking for egg donors are looking for someone who looks like them, or the best version of what they'd like to be. At least I'm hoping that's what people mean when they say they're looking for “Asian geniuses” or women with “36-24-36 measurements and a love of Mozart.”

What's uncharitable about having a dismissive attitude towards that? That was clearly put in the article to get jeers.
posted by deathmaven at 9:58 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I'm not a performing seal, I'll jeer when I want to. People going through stressful fertility procedures are people I chose to give the benefit of the doubt.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:13 AM on April 8 [9 favorites]


Ideefixe: "" white supremacists to purchase children?" Extreme crankiness?
Don't people usually expect their kids to look like them, if they're not adopting? My body, my eggs, my choice.
"

When I worked for a college newspaper (in the US, fifteen years ago), we used to get a LOT of these, and they virtually all specified, "SATs over 1250 (on 1400 scale), enrolled in college, GPA 3.0 or higher, Caucasian, 5'7" or taller, blond hair, blue eyes." Some of them further required a varsity letter in a high school sport. I only twice saw any that said brown hair was acceptable; I never saw any for non-whites or women with brown eyes. Never saw any for women under 5'6". Often they said pictures required. Sometimes they mentioned weight.

I later interned for a media watchdog organization (about 10 years ago) and one of the projects I did was research on these ads targeted at college women nationally; again, it was 90% people asking for tall blondes with high SAT scores. Further, there was a major, major price differential; on the rare occasions black or Hispanic women were being looked for (still enrolled in Ivy or Ivy-equivalent colleges, of course), their eggs were worth around $5,000 to $8,000. Brunette white women's eggs were worth about $12,000; blond white women's eggs were worth $20,000. (That may be different now; one of the reasons I was looking at these ads for my employer was that state laws were just starting to emerge regulating advertising about egg donation (or egg donation generally) and we were surveying the ground, so to speak; the whole area was changing really fast at the time. There were very few organized ways to get eggs at the time; it was almost all through private advertising.)

I understand about people wanting babies who look like them, but it left a really bad taste in my mouth that 90% of people looking to buy eggs were looking for tall, smart, blond children, and that they placed SUCH a price premium on blondness. It's hard not to link that to eugenics. (I mean, not to Godwin the thread, but these ads were aimed at women in Ivy and Ivy-equivalent colleges -- the most frequent comment I heard when other women in the office read them was, "Oh my, how very Aryan of them!" or "Oh, look, they're trying to breed the Ubermenschen!" If your brain immediately jumped to the Nazis, you're not the only one. That reaction is widespread.) It's hard not to think these are "designer babies." It's hard not to wonder what is going to happen if that child's hair turns from golden to dishwater blond, or if they're born with a big facial birthmark, or if they turn out to be a dunce at math ... if the child doesn't match the parents' carefully-selected genetic criteria, will the parents still want that child? Or, worse, will the child know he was shopped for according to these specific criteria, and grow up with the sense of not quite being good enough when he can't get As in social studies?

It also gave me a very strange feeling of being "less than." Now, granted, I looked at literally thousands of these ads, which most people do not do, so it messed with my head in ways that any non-stop diet of narrow and specific media will do, but I met all of these ads' criteria for intelligence -- but never for height (I'm short) or hair color (it's red). It was hard not to think, "These parents don't care how smart I am, how kind, how funny, how successful -- all they care about is that I'm too short and my hair's the wrong color, so they consider my genes inferior and they wouldn't want a child like me."

I don't know. It left me with really mixed feelings, and also with a really gross feeling about the whole thing. If there had been some DIVERSITY in what people were looking for, I might have felt more comfortable about the whole thing, but there wasn't; 90% of people wanted tall blondes.

Side note, one of the things I found interesting was that only very rarely did seeking-egg-donors ads mention religion (either of the couple seeking eggs or the desired religion of the egg donor), but want-to-adopt-your-baby ads almost always did, which is sort-of a strange thing if you think about it. Eggs don't have a religion but newborn infants do? Seekers believe that donors are more likely to give a baby to someone of the same religion but will hand out eggs to anybody? Or that women donating eggs are unlikely to consider religion important while women giving up a baby for adoption are more likely to be religions? Religion isn't carried in the genes but does magically adhere to a newborn? I mean, I think people were just trying to target their ads for maximum response, but it was interesting to me to think about what those ads reflect about our societal beliefs about religion and children. Religion of the infant-to-be-adopted was so often treated as immutable, unchangeable; but not so with the eggs. Does giving birth to the infant grant the birth mother's religion extra and specific deference? It's a strange thing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:29 AM on April 8 [75 favorites]


seem to totally disregard the enormous pain that leads a couple to resort to purchasing donor eggs.

But what's interesting about this is that there is all the pain and sadness and desire for kids -- but through that, just as important than finding a healthy donor with a good family history, is finding someone tall and blonde and skinny. Which is an interesting side of the "we just want a [healthy] kid!" -- well, no, you have many more specific requests than that.

I don't think that suffering means that all your actions get to go undiscussed, especially here, where we're not talking about any specific couple.
posted by jeather at 10:41 AM on April 8 [16 favorites]


I so would not pass the genetic testing.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:41 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I wasn't trying to minimize the experiences of egg donors/egg seekers, but it's hard to deny the eugenicist undertones of those ads. Tacky at best.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:42 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I'm not a performing seal, I'll jeer when I want to. People going through stressful fertility procedures are people I chose to give the benefit of the doubt.

I'm just saying it's weird to use examples that were clearly added to make people seem disgustingly shallow. It's not "fine" that people feel comfortable ordering up a human being who has “36-24-36 measurements and a love of Mozart", so it doesn't prove that it's "fine" that only white women are desired for donation.
posted by deathmaven at 10:52 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Eyebrows McGee.That was fascinating beautifully put. Those ads always made me extraordinarily uneasy, and your comment helped me figure out why. It also explains the horrified fascination I've had with trying to do it - who wouldn't sort of want to know *exactly* how much they, and their genes, are worth on the open market?

Also, I don't know if I'm the only one who's noticed this, but I used to get "Donate Your Eggs" ads targeted at me on Facebook all the time...until the day I turned 30, when all of those ads instantly transformed into ads asking me anxiously in capital letters if I might be INFERTILE.

Ugh, burn the world down.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:53 AM on April 8 [32 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "I don't know. It left me with really mixed feelings, and also with a really gross feeling about the whole thing. If there had been some DIVERSITY in what people were looking for, I might have felt more comfortable about the whole thing, but there wasn't; 90% of people wanted tall blondes."

The ability to actually ask prospective recipients why they were looking for intelligent, blonde children would probably have been beneficial to you.

I used to work for a chain of fertility clinics which also ran an egg donor program. In the course of my work, I literally interviewed hundreds of couples and single people who were dealing with different fertility issues on a variety of topics. I learned quite a bit about the process, including the various biological issues that can influence fertility, people's stated motivations and biases regarding infertility and adoption as well as ways shame and taboo can influence people's decisions. The experience was quite helpful to me, when several years later my wife and I needed a bit of assistance in conceiving.

There are cultures where it is absolutely taboo to speak of infertility issues. In some Middle Eastern countries and cultures there is a very strong stigma attached to failure to conceive naturally. In some other cultures, it is extremely common for people who are not Caucasian to seek out Caucasian children to adopt or conceive with donated eggs. Or Asian children. In the assumption that being Caucasian will grant a child clear advantages in a majority Caucasian country. Or an assumption that being Asian (an "acceptable" minority in many cultures, compared to being African/Caribbean-American, Latin, etc.,) would automatically mean that a child would have above-average intelligence. At this chain of clinics, the number of people who looked for Caucasian, college educated donor eggs was FAR higher in minority applicants. At a ratio of over 8:1.

When my wife went through some issues during her pregnancy, a very wise friend of mine commented that you become a parent before your children are ever born. Sometimes you need to make decisions that will affect the life of your child before they arrive. And as responsible parents we do our best to make sure that our kids will not have a difficult time in their lives. We stop smoking during pregnancy, etc. We try to get them into better schools and school districts. We make sure they are vaccinated, etc., People who go through fertility treatments in order to conceive are no different. And there is a perception in this country, especially among minorities who have experienced racism and bias firsthand, that Caucasians have an easier time of it. Especially Caucasians that do not look as if they belong to a darker complexioned ethnicity. We also know that a person's intelligence quotient also affects whether they are successful in life by a variety of metrics. Given these factors, and given that people can pick and choose ways their kids can get ahead in life, it's not surprising that they would do so.

Choosing potential genetic aspects based on stereotypes and racial biases is sad and problematic for many reasons. But in my experience, the people looking for white, intelligent blondes weren't other white people.
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on April 8 [11 favorites]


weren't other white people.

I got, from your tone, the feeling that these revelations were supposed to be surprisingly benign for some reason, instead of horrifying and depressing, but couldn't figure out why until these last words.

You know that still doesn't preclude, and actually further supports "now our colleges are becoming little more than staging areas for white supremacists to purchase children"?
posted by deathmaven at 11:05 AM on April 8 [8 favorites]


Zarq, I was intrigued by your suggestion that non-white people were the ones primarily searching out blonde, white egg donors. I did a little bit of research and while I couldn't find anything directly on the topic, I did find a fair number of studies suggesting that white people are heavily over-represented when it comes to seeking fertility treatments (not surprising, given how expensive and demanding they are). So while you may be right that it's not only white people searching to buy eggs from blonde white people, it's not only non-white people doing so, either. Either way, agree with deathmaven that the whole situation is depressing and dystopic as hell.

Speaking of which, I taught Olivia Butler's Blood Child in class today, and it is cross-pollinating in my brain with this discussion in a very unsettling way.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:21 AM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Honestly, $20,000 is not even close to the highest offers that were in my undergrad newspaper. The one I really took note of was $150,000 for a young, athletic, attractive Jewish woman with high SAT scores and a friendly personality to donate her eggs.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:22 AM on April 8


Seekers believe that donors are more likely to give a baby to someone of the same religion but will hand out eggs to anybody?

Why is that surprising? I don't think it's weird at all that people would treat unfertilized eggs a lot more casually than an actual infant.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:23 AM on April 8


There's nothing odd about looking for tall and smart; they are both enormous advantages in terms of getting ahead in the US. Who wouldn't give their kids the advantage, or at least a better chance of the advantage? Criticize the blond part, maybe, but did you expect parents to look for short dumb people?
posted by tavella at 11:39 AM on April 8 [3 favorites]


I have many fond memories of college: parties, making new friends, playing frisbee on the quad, watching Klansmen raffle off a baby, pulling all-nighters, bar crawls.

Good times.
posted by dr_dank at 11:41 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Pretentious illiterate - I was just thinking how much I would have loved to be able to read Octavia Butler's take on this stuff! I guess Lilith's Brood is the closest I'll get...

As someone with ova who fits the general criteria required of egg donors, and also as someone who's watched relatives and friends struggle with fertility treatments, I'm not sure which side of the grar I should naturally fall on here. But what was fascinating to me about the New Inquiry piece was the consumer marketing of the eggs, just like any other luxury good. Because if it's a Lexus or whatever, of course the ads are implying how much the product will improve your life, but they're also stressing how other people will see you as more powerful/desirable when they see you driving your Lexus down the street. So, regardless of the reason the actual would-be parents have ended up in the clinic, the way the donors are presented and the way desirable characteristics are shared, the egg purchasers as consumers are being sold a similar kind of dream. Is it a healthy baby that will complete the family and improve the parent's life? Or is it a 5'6 blonde honor roll cross country runner that will reflect well on his or her parents? As with most things, the actual answer will vary wildly depending on the individuals seeking treatment, but there's no denying that the undertone is there.
posted by theweasel at 11:44 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Ah, yes, back when I was in college these ads ran in our campus newspaper all the time. A (blonde, blue-eyed) friend of mine did do this, for enough money to clear her college loan debt and take 6 months off to travel the world after she finished the procedure. She doesn't regret it all, or at least she didn't when we talked about it at the time, and it's hard not to see why it seemed like an enticing decision to someone who so perfectly fit the demands.

At the same time, I ran a student organization that was pertually in the red, and my co-leaders constantly grumbled that even though I had the same prestigous degree and assumed intellegence markers as my classmate, because I am nonwhite my egg was worth more than $20,000 less than hers (and not enough to clear our longstanding debts!). (And no, I never donated).
posted by TwoStride at 11:47 AM on April 8


deathmaven: " I got, from your tone, the feeling that these revelations were supposed to be surprisingly benign for some reason,

That wasn't my intention. I was pointing out that an assumption I thought was being made in this thread was not accurate in my experience. And yes, I do think the motivations involved matter. Even if they're terrible.

"You know that still doesn't preclude, and actually further supports "now our colleges are becoming little more than staging areas for white supremacists to purchase children"?"

White supremacists are typically Caucasian. I thought oceanjesse's original comment was in reference to white people seeking to have white babies. So no, my comment doesn't exactly support that statement. Unless you're trying to say that there are African American and Latin white supremacists.

I agree with you that it's depressing. And as I said earlier, sad and problematic on many levels.


That said, most parents who go through fertility treatments are focused on one goal: having a healthy baby. And most RE's encourage their patients to keep that goal in mind. Above all, you want to have a baby and you want it to be as healthy as possible. All else is secondary. Many, (perhaps most) clinics will not do IVF sex selection for their patients. Egg donation allows parents more latitude in their choices, which isn't always a good thing.
posted by zarq at 11:50 AM on April 8


You know that still doesn't preclude, and actually further supports "now our colleges are becoming little more than staging areas for white supremacists to purchase children"?

I'm not saying that minorities wanting their children to be lighter so as to have an easier time in the world is without its problems, but there is absolutely, 100%, a difference between minorities trying to have their children have lighter skins to avoid the prejudice they've faced, and white supremacists. The difference is so great that I'm not even sure how you can conflate the two.
posted by corb at 11:50 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I don't even understand how an anecdote about minorities wanting white babies wouldn't immediately disavow anyone of their misconception of what white supremacy is; a fringe, extremist personality type rather than a global phenomenon that colors all parts of our lives across the world. I couldn't even begin to see what's the imagined difference between "minorities trying to have their children have lighter skins to avoid the prejudice they've faced, and white supremacists". What else is supposedly convincing minorities to have lighter skinned babies (to the point of requesting white egg donors)?
posted by deathmaven at 12:01 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


pretentious illiterate: " I did find a fair number of studies suggesting that white people are heavily over-represented when it comes to seeking fertility treatments (not surprising, given how expensive and demanding they are). "

Yes, but the fact that someone is having fertility treatments does not automatically mean, "requires donor egg" to conceive. Most don't. The large majority of ART procedures (ART=Artificial Reproductive Technologies) do not use donated eggs, including procedures like IUI and non-donor IVF. 25% of all infertility issues are related to abnormal or irregular ovulation, that can be regulated with drugs, or perhaps a procedure like a hypersalpingogram if there is a physical blockage. In addition, 40% of infertility is male factor (sole or side cause) where egg or uterine viability is not necessarily an issue.

It's also worth noting that the generic "white people" includes many cultures that experience prejudice here in the US, including some Middle Eastern ones.
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on April 8


deathmaven: "I couldn't even begin to see what's the imagined difference between "minorities trying to have their children have lighter skins to avoid the prejudice they've faced, and white supremacists"."

There's a difference between a white supremacist who thinks non-white people are subhuman animals and an actual non-white person (wrongheadedly) wanting to give their child an advantage in a world where they would otherwise be an oppressed, mistreated minority.
posted by zarq at 12:13 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


You're talking like their child would be less oppressed if they were more white because of some weird happenstance of nature.
posted by deathmaven at 12:18 PM on April 8


I'm saying that people who have been oppressed their entire lives because of their skin color or ethnicity may have complex feelings about their children growing up in a similar situation. And yes, visible minorities often experience more racism/sexism/etc than invisible minorities.
posted by zarq at 12:31 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


To be clear: the minority individuals in question might be trying to have their child be lighter might be in response to white supremacy, but it does not make them personally white supremacists.
posted by corb at 12:33 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


I know a baby with a white father and a mother with one white parent and one Asian parent. They were able to find an egg donor with one white parent and one Asian parent. They had to deal with fertility issues, but they now won't be forced to discuss those issues for the rest of their lives unless they wish to.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:33 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


A RE friend of mine always thought the weirdest question future parents seeking donors asked was about teeth. They have already narrowed their requests in such a way that it is almost assured the prospective donors have had orthodontics.
posted by atomicstone at 12:34 PM on April 8


Yeah you know I hate to point this out again but I am a white woman, born blonde to boot, and I could not find anyone who wanted my eggs because not asian.
posted by dabitch at 12:34 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


corb: "To be clear: the minority individuals in question might be trying to have their child be lighter might be in response to white supremacy, but it does not make them personally white supremacists."

Yes. But also, the perception they may have that being white is better (even if it's just in response to an aspect of being a minority in a Western country) is also awful -- and then they're passing that devaluing, demeaning attitude on to their children, which is even more terrible.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Oh, yeah, no doubt - and there are actually a lot of icky ideas around that, and around how people react to different shades of skin within those communities. But I think it's important to see it as a different thing rather than as part of the same thing. The tag of white supremacists should be reserved for the monsters that they actually are.
posted by corb at 12:38 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


To be clear: the minority individuals in question might be trying to have their child be lighter might be in response to white supremacy, but it does not make them personally white supremacists.

And what's the significance of being a card-carrying white supremacist vs. acting like one? On preview, what zarq said?
posted by deathmaven at 12:39 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


But I think it's important to see it as a different thing rather than as part of the same thing.

Why? What's the difference?

The tag of white supremacists should be reserved for the monsters that they actually are.

As if they're a mythical creature. I feel like this desire is for someone else's benefit.
posted by deathmaven at 12:43 PM on April 8


White supremacists are not a monstrous other who run around lynching people who aren't white. They're people (usually white people, but the world is a weird place) who think white people are better than everyone else. That's it. Actual lynching is not required.
posted by rtha at 12:53 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


rtha: "They're people (usually white people, but the world is a weird place) who think white people are better than everyone else. That's it. "

Except that's not where the definition of white supremacy ends. It ends with, "and believe that white people should be economically, politically and socially dominant over non-white people."
posted by zarq at 12:59 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


Side note, one of the things I found interesting was that only very rarely did seeking-egg-donors ads mention religion (either of the couple seeking eggs or the desired religion of the egg donor), but want-to-adopt-your-baby ads almost always did, which is sort-of a strange thing if you think about it.

I don't have any citations to back this up, but I was thinking this might also be related to health practices for the pregnant woman, being that some religions forbed certain foods from being consumed (one example: Mormons & caffeine). I could be totally off-base with that idea, but if I were to adopt a baby I would want some reasonable assurance that the baby's in-utero nutrition was significantly better than cheetos & Moutain Dew. Also, it might have been code for wanting someone who was less likely to consume drugs or alcohol while pregnant - the idea that a practicing religous person might somehow be more responsible about their health while pregnant.
posted by vignettist at 1:01 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Back in my 20s, when I was blond, slender, blue-eyed, and pretty smart, I would have loved to do this. Because I'm also an asshole, and any kids resulting from my eggs would have given their parents a real run for their money.
posted by Kokopuff at 1:06 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Except that's not where the definition of white supremacy ends.

Yeah, but it doesn't *begin* with a requirement that a believer kill or harm nonwhite people; it begins with believing white people are superior, and people who believe that are not rare monsters who can be conveniently put *over there*, psychologically speaking.
posted by rtha at 1:09 PM on April 8


I think it begins with believing white people are superior, and should thus naturally be in, as zarq says, dominant positions over nonwhite people. Someone who thinks white people are better than non-white people is just a garden variety bigot. Someone who thinks white people are, on the whole, treated better than non-white people, is just accurately assessing the realities of our current society.

If someone thinks that white is better, that's a person who can be talked to, and maybe explained out of their views. If someone thinks that white is better and that's why they need to keep non-white people down? That person has crossed a line in the sand. And I do actually think those people are pretty rare and vastly outnumbered these days, which I'm pretty thankful about.
posted by corb at 1:19 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


rtha: " Yeah, but it doesn't *begin* with a requirement that a believer kill or harm nonwhite people; it begins with believing white people are superior, and people who believe that are not rare monsters who can be conveniently put *over there*, psychologically speaking."

No, they're racists. But white supremacy means something specific. It's a philosophy (if that's the right term for it?) that not only says, "white people are superior" but also attaches the corollary, "and non-white people should be subservient to whites in every aspect of our society."

I hope you understand, I'm not trying to be pedantic. And I'm not trying to diminish the problems we're discussing. I truly think this distinction matters, especially when we're talking about non-white people believing and perpetuating the idea that white people in America are playing with a stacked deck, so to speak.
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


If your reaction to the existence of white supremacy is to make sure you give birth to a child that is more white than you are, you are clearly complicit in perpetuating white supremacy in a way more dramatic than any other I can imagine.

If someone thinks that white is better, that's a person who can be talked to, and maybe explained out of their views. If someone thinks that white is better and that's why they need to keep non-white people down? That person has crossed a line in the sand.

To whom is this difference significant?
posted by deathmaven at 1:32 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Punishing people for internalizing their oppression is just wrong however you look at it. These children are not white supremacists. They are the victims, not the oppressors.
posted by corb at 1:41 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


They have internalized white supremacy, yes, and it's not "punishing" them to state that plainly.
posted by deathmaven at 1:45 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


No, they're racists. But white supremacy means something specific. It's a philosophy (if that's the right term for it?) that not only says, "white people are superior" but also attaches the corollary, "and non-white people should be subservient to whites in every aspect of our society."

I am not sure that this matters to anyone at whom this stuff is pointed. Was George Wallace a racist or a white supremacist, and did it matter which one to the kids trying to go to school, or to the adults trying to vote? I mean, in a nation built - literally, built - on the enactment of white supremacy, it feels like a distinction without a difference. Maybe it does matter, on a Grand Political Scale, but down here on the ground, I'm not so sure.
posted by rtha at 2:21 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


"Religion isn't carried in the genes but does magically adhere to a newborn? "

Actually, in halacha (Jewish religious law), whether or not the donor is Jewish does create issues as to the religious status of the baby - and because (as with all complicated issues), there are many opinions on the subject, knowing the religion of the donor mother (as well in some cases as choosing one way or the other) becomes very important. Ask your local Orthodox rabbi, YMMV, etc.

I just wonder whether getting a Yale donor gets your kid legacy status if they apply early action.
posted by Mchelly at 2:35 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


rtha: " I am not sure that this matters to anyone at whom this stuff is pointed.

I believe it does. Calling a group a racist slur in private or public is far different from working politically to deny that same group civil rights. Social rights. Economic rights. Equality.

Was George Wallace a racist or a white supremacist, and did it matter which one to the kids trying to go to school, or to the adults trying to vote?

A white supremacist, precisely because he was preventing kids from going to school and adults from voting. That's the whole point. If he were just your average racist, how much impact could he have? But after leaving the bench he worked tirelessly to get elected and convince people that African Americans didn't deserve to be equal to Caucasians. That they should be separated from white society. And that's what made him a white supremacist.

I mean, in a nation built - literally, built - on the enactment of white supremacy, it feels like a distinction without a difference. Maybe it does matter, on a Grand Political Scale, but down here on the ground, I'm not so sure."

I agree with you that in a case like this, the end results are equally as disturbing and disheartening no matter who is creating them. But on the other hand, you're talking about two different phenomena, and I think there's value in considering and addressing them separately.

You're never going to change the mind of a die-hard white supremacist. The only thing we can do is force equality down their throats. And fuck 'em if they don't want to change. History will render them obsolete and impotent. But we can change our society so that people are treated equally. So that minorities aren't being shown that Caucasian skin is the best possible route to success in this world. And since Wallace we've made quite a bit of progress, I think.
posted by zarq at 3:55 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


People are really, really uncomfortable with "Ivy League eggs". I think because it flies in the face of everything that we're taught about evo-psych -- men are valuable for their intelligence, women for their looks. Here we have people making a reproductive choice specifically on the basis of supposed genetic fitness, and they're going for women with (Ivy League status as a proxy for) intelligence rather than looks (the blond hair thing I always assumed was because the infertile couple was blond themselves rather than because they believed blond was beautiful.) Also, the man is staying with the woman whose "eggs have aged beyond viability" when evo-psych demands that he leave her for the "younger body" she's "outsourcing" to.

And boy, is there some anti-women ageism in that article:

Dr. Witkin is a woman who has undergone thorough and ambitious plastic surgery. Her stretched skin exposes the contours of her skull around glassy, saucer-size eyes, and she speaks to her audience of young women from behind sheaths of feathered blond hair.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:21 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


I fit all those (white, blond, high scores, university educated, slim) criteria and yet there is no freaking way I would donate eggs to someone who required those appearance-based features, unless it was super clear that the only reason they wanted them was because that's what they looked like themselves and they wanted the baby to look like genetically theirs. I think a fair number of people who want those features probably do want them for that reason, though. If people undergoing fertility treatment are primarily caucasian, there is a high chance they were blond as children, if not as adults, and so maybe they want babies that look like they did when they were kids.

As an adoptee who "matched" my parents physically, but with an also adopted brother who looked nothing like them and was constantly being asked about it, I can see the advantages of having kids who resemble you.

But yeah, any whiff of white supremacy or just buy-in to unrealistic beauty models would make me doubt some of these people's ability to parent well, and I'd rather not assist them to make some kid's life a misery.

I did, however, donate my eggs to a friend for free. In Australia it is illegal to pay for eggs beyond the basic compensation for the medical costs, extended health insurance, and inconvenience of e.g. travelling to a clinic, being off work, etc.

Because of how physically stressful and invasive the procedure is (and relatively high risk), I would not do it (again) for even $20,000 unless I needed the money desperately to survive. That means that I suspect many of the people who do do it for the money are basically being coerced through financial need, which is icky, and makes me understand why Australia doesn't let people pay for it. On the other hand, that means it is presumably much harder to get egg donors in Australia (although the friend I donated to had three friends willing to donate for her, so maybe most people can find someone?)
posted by lollusc at 4:21 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


I find infertility, surrogacy treatments and adoption to be much more complex than economics. The one thing conspicuously missing in this over and over are the kids who grow up to discover half their genetic family has been blanked out, and with selective advertising, that they have in a very specific sense been assembled to their parents' expectations.

It's an emerging fault line for families with donated materials as this becomes more publicly discussed and the kids become adults with questions and independence. Family is definitely the people who raised you, but it's also the people who are part of your genetics, and egg donors are not going to remain anonymous in most places, and there'll be increasing social pressure as with adoption to have an open arrangement with full awareness on both sides and a burgeoning grey/black market in anonymized and irregular-sourced or stolen parts.

What's really fascinating is going to be a few decades from now when there are young adults turning up on the doorsteps of women to say Hi Mom, with lawyers in tow. Sperm donors are already getting into some complex situations.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:37 PM on April 8


For what it's worth, there is apparently a shortage of Armenian egg donors, if the constant multi-year stream of pleading ads in the Los Angeles [i.e. Glendale] Craigslist is to be believed. And when I was at Penn over a decade ago, I remember an ad looking for a donor who had "at least one Jewish grandparent", which I found charming.

Sometimes people just want a donor who matches their ethnic background. There's nothing wrong with that.

Also, I think it's a little weird how everyone focuses on egg donor qualifications over the same kind of "pick your genes from a catalog that is grouped by ethnic background and college major and height" experience that is modern-day sperm donor catalogs. I was able to suss out a friend of mine from one of those catalogs because he was the only person listed with his particular ethnic mix and major.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:06 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


One thing that these ads don't seem to take into account: the gene profile of your parents doesn't actually dictate what you'll look like.

I'm the daughter of a Norwegian mother and English/Scots/Irish father. My maternal cousins are all tall, blonde and slender (classic Norwegians) even though their Irish mom was short with dark hair. My other paternal cousins, with the exception of the genetically developmentally disabled one (probably but not certainly high-functioning Downs) are all tall and slender, red-headed or blackhaired.

Mom was tall, outrageously slim, blue eyes, blonde hair: mostly legs, no torso. Very very beautiful. My Dad was tall and slim and dark, goodlooking too. Both very smart.

They had me: the intelligence transferred but nothing else did. Drab mud-brown hair. Body like chimp, all torso, no legs. Squat body, initially slender but with a tendency to apple-shaped obesity in middle age. 5 inches shorter than my Mom, obviously Norwegian in the facial features but somehow awful when put together. Bluntly put, I'm ugly: I was ugly as a kid and much, much uglier when adult. I do what I can: dye the hair red, dress flamboyantly, get by on friendly intelligent charm. Sex was a challenge: marriage impossible. It's like being a quail in a family of egrets and peacocks.

Seriously, the deep irony of this is that these people are buying a will o the wisp. But really: beautiful parents will NOT produce a beautiful child, and the genes they most want will simply vanish.
posted by jrochest at 10:17 PM on April 8


Also, I think it's a little weird how everyone focuses on egg donor qualifications over the same kind of "pick your genes from a catalog that is grouped by ethnic background and college major and height" experience that is modern-day sperm donor catalogs.

Yeah, I find this pretty troubling. Once again, women get a lot of moral outrage for engaging in a transaction that men can cruise through with barely a nod and a chuckle. People are just as — if not much more! — picky about donor sperm, and the application to become a sperm donor asks the same sort of questions that people ask of egg donors. Not only that:
She asked me where I had gone to college. I said "Harvard." She was delighted. She continued, "And have you done some graduate work?" I said no. She looked disappointed. "But surely you are planning to do some graduate work?" Again I said no. She was deflated and told me why. Fairfax has something it calls—I'm not kidding—its "doctorate program." For a premium, mothers can buy sperm from donors who have doctoral degrees or are pursuing them. What counts as a doctor? I asked. Medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, law, and chiropractic. Don't say you weren't warned: Your premium "doctorate" sperm may have come from a law student.
Men aren't paid particularly well for donating sperm (on the radio here in the DC area, the place mentioned in the Slate article linked above advertises $100 a pop, I believe, but that's presumably if you have really in-demand sperm), although that seems only fair given the extreme difference in invasiveness between donating sperm and eggs.

If you have a problem with people choosing sperm and egg donors, I guess that's a fine position to take as long as you're consistent about it, but the judgmentalism that's heaped on women who donate eggs seems frequently not to extend to men who donate sperm and that seems a lot ickier to me than anything the cryobanks are doing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:55 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


that they have in a very specific sense been assembled to their parents' expectations.

This is the part that grosses me out the most. Everyone wants their kids to be smart and good looking; everyone thinks their kids are the smartest and the cutest. But christ almighty these are people, you get what you get, and you learn to get along.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:09 AM on April 9


If you have a problem with people choosing sperm and egg donors, I guess that's a fine position to take as long as you're consistent about it, but the judgmentalism that's heaped on women who donate eggs seems frequently not to extend to men who donate sperm and that seems a lot ickier to me than anything the cryobanks are doing.

A lot of the judgement is about how people choose a donor, not who chooses to donate. And, yeah, the sperm part is icky too -- again, I have trouble with the "well, we just want a healthy baby" when there are so very many conditions about looks -- but it's a lot less icky, because donating sperm is a lot less work and a lot less dangerous and a lot less likely to have long-term medical consequences. (I wonder, too, how choosing sperm if there's a second parent in the mix vs if there's not one differs, and how it differs if the second parent is a mother or a father.)

I understand the idea of wanting a kid who looks a bit like you, and I'm sympathetic to that to a certain extent -- but that doesn't always happen, even with biological children. My aunt is very fair, her first two kids are dark like their father, and no one believed she was their mother. Her youngest is fair like she is, and no one believed my uncle was her father.

The thing is, I don't really think that infertility strikes tall, smart, skinny blondes more often than other women. (Since we're talking about egg donation, we're not talking about male factors in infertility.)
posted by jeather at 8:20 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I wonder also how much the spending of money at all factors into it?

I'm planning to have more natural children, and I don't really care what I have. I kind of want a boy since I already have a girl, but if I get all girls, that's okay too. What they look like, at the moment, boggles my mind.

But if egg donors are getting paid $10,000 and up, I can only imagine what the entire process costs - likely something on the order of $50,000. And if I try to imagine myself paying that much money for a baby, I find my feelings getting much more specific. I'd figure that if I was paying so much, I might as well try to get the little edge to make my kids succeed better in life. If I could use Nobel-prizewinning Olympic athletes, I totally would.

I can't even say precisely why the addition of money jerks me up like that, but I know that it does, and I wonder if similar feelings are affecting hopeful mothers.
posted by corb at 8:27 AM on April 9


corb: "But if egg donors are getting paid $10,000 and up, I can only imagine what the entire process costs - likely something on the order of $50,000."

It's hard to estimate because every case is different.

IVF ranges from $8K to about $20K, depending on what's involved, even without a donor egg. It might be cheaper or more expensive in some geographic areas. Infertility usually is a multifactor problem, meaning that when a couple has difficulty conceiving it's usually not one factor that's the cause, but several, working together to prevent a viable pregnancy. A couple may have implantation issues. Hormonal issues. Sperm motility issues. Etc. The costs of an IVF cycle may increase depending on what factors need to be taken into consideration and dealt with. Patients typically take one or more hormone drugs to make sure that ovulation is regulated and abundant.

Cost of the IVF procedure (ICSI, implantation etc) with a donor egg may or may not increase. Theoretically, it shouldn't.

Egg Donation:

If you go through a clinic, they normally tack on a professional fee, for helping you locate and secure a donor, harvesting, etc. That may be as little as $500 or as much as $10K

Legal fees for contracts can range from $1000 to $3000 or more depending on locality and specific arrangements. These fees can climb astronomically when using a surrogate.

Compensation to the Donor includes covering their insurance premiums in addition to their donation fees (from $2K-$10K on average.)

Additional fees from the clinic will include medications (potentially hundreds of dollars), psychological, genetic and physical screening of the donor (also potentially hundreds of dollars), routine doctor appointments (evaluation and monitoring, preparation for ovulation and harvesting -- which may or may not be covered by insurance but if not, at least $1000), medical costs of the egg harvesting procedure ($1500-$5000), tissue storage (have no idea what this might cost), etc.
posted by zarq at 9:14 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Once again, women get a lot of moral outrage for engaging in a transaction that men can cruise through with barely a nod and a chuckle. People are just as — if not much more! — picky about donor sperm

Yep. I've checked out a donor sperm place, I could search possible donors via height, hair, eyes, IQ, extra talents such as musical ability or illustration skills, athletics and so on. There was lists of what they studied or graduated in, and what their hobbies were. It was almost like looking at dating profiles. Except any dating profiles I would look at, wouldn't offer me men born in 1989....
posted by dabitch at 12:02 PM on April 9


I was always really disgusted by those ads when I was in college. Then after years of trying, I was correctly diagnosed with infertility. Now I'm one of those people I judged too quickly as a young person.

When you discover you are infertile, you experience a loss - a loss of the child or children you dreamed of having. People pick an egg donor that has the qualities they hoped their children would have. In contrast to the lack of control you have, when you do invasive and/or painful procedures over and over again hoping they will take, you can at least decide, "Well, at least I'll have a shot at getting a kid with these qualities."

Also -- Did no one consider that the factors that cause infertility also may cause physical issues, such as obesity, that someone would want their child to avoid dealing with? The big one would be polycystic ovarian syndrome, which often causes infertility and obesity. And I say this as a person who is overweight! Yes, it's awful how shallow some people are, but I don't think the many people placing ads represent all prospective egg recipients as a whole. Additionally, I think when Eyebrows was seeing all those ads, it was during a period when ads were the best way to reach people, but the technology was still new, and only those who were very wealthy could even think about the technology. These days I believe most people go through an egg bank or through their fertility specialist practice, and increasingly, it is something that middle class people are doing.

It just seems to me there are a lot of people in the world eager to jump down prospective parents' throats for wanting "designer babies". The next comment is usually something about how you can just adopt a child, if you weren't so presumably shallow. I've done a lot of educating of my friends already, those who think you can adopt a baby as easily as you can buy a bottle of milk from the corner store - explaining the cost and waiting list associated with adopting a baby, as well as the concerns of increasing numbers of adoptees and birth mothers who are trying to improve - or shut down - adoption. Adoption of a healthy baby is often more expensive than going the IVF route. For people who are in a gay relationship, or older, using a donor may be easier than getting clearance to adopt, especially in a more conservative state or location.

Corb, the numbers I was quoted by my doctor was about $25,000 for a single procedure, one that only has a 60-70% chance of success. If you share a donor you can bring the cost down, but you may not have enough to try again if you fail the first time.

No... Gene qualities do not "vanish". Epigenetics is the field that looks at what gene markers are switched on or off by the gestational carrier, whether that's a biological mother who received eggs, a surrogate who received a embryo from two genetic parents, or a biological mother who is also a genetic mother. The same embryo carried by those three distinct gestational carriers, will probably have different gene expressions turned on, or off. So, baby #1 might have blue eyes, baby #2 might have brown, etc.
posted by mitschlag at 1:02 PM on April 11 [3 favorites]


Pretentious illiterate - I was just thinking how much I would have loved to be able to read Octavia Butler's take on this stuff! I guess Lilith's Brood is the closest I'll get...

Speaking of Butler: Two Previously Unknown Octavia Butler Stories Are Getting Published
posted by homunculus at 1:21 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


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