In the most recent manifestation of–patriarchy and advanced capitalism intersect to absurd and tragic effect, Facebook and Apple will cover the cost for female employees of freezing their eggs. Let’s put aside the questions of whether individual women working at those companies or in tech more generally will benefit from this policy shift for now.
Instead, let us just take a moment to ponder the meaning of such a policy given the unreasonable pressures that women face to be (a) mothers and (b) workers. This policy maintains the illusion that it is possible for women to both be mothers and also to “lean in” to the corporate ladder, without addressing some of the much bigger structural constraints working women face, like the cost of child care. (Not surprisingly, Facebook, despite all of its employee perks, does not offer any on-site childcare, because the cost is too high.)
And this policy does not fundamentally challenge the patriarchal notion that a woman’s worth and identity is dependent on her ability to reproduce. If anything, it affirms the importance of “women as mothers,” while also affirming the importance of “women as corporate employees.” The choice presented is binary–reproductive labor or productive labor. Here, it seems like Apple and Facebook have figured out how women (lucky us!) can have it all . . . to their great benefit.
Indeed, my biggest complaint about Lean In and the dominant work/life balance discourse is the lack of consideration for time that is neither productive nor reproductive. What about the time for pleasure, and art, and activism? I suppose those will never come in the form of a “perk.”