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This might be interesting to discuss - Dorothy Byrne interview in The Times

13 replies

ErrolTheDragon · 16/10/2021 10:58

This seems like something that might spark some discussion. I'm not really sure why what she said is controversial let alone 'taboo'.

OP posts:

Abitofalark · 16/10/2021 13:45

She is the President of a Cambridge University single-sex College (I didn't know they still had them - see Germaine Greer) who suggested that students need to be better informed about their fertility and their choice to have children. (She herself had a child in her mid forties and had fertility treatment.)

There was a backlash:

"But what Byrne believed to be “perfectly obviously right and a good idea”, others have vehemently rejected. Her assertion that women are not fully informed about their own fertility, or that they might “forget” to have a family has been criticised as “infuriating”, “patronising” and “absurd” by some commentators, with Byrne accused of reducing women to their biological make-up."


ItsRainingProstateOwners · 16/10/2021 15:13

Is it just me or did the article just stop? Felt like I was halfway through and then that was it.

I remember there was uproar when Kirsty Allsopp said something about women having children earlier too.


Theeyeballsinthesky · 16/10/2021 15:19

A lot of people have made the point that women are constantly told how we only have finite fertility and criticised for leaving it too late. Women in particular have pointed out that at the time women are told is the best time to have children (their 20s), men generally are not interested in becoming fathers.


TedMullins · 16/10/2021 15:20

It is ridiculously patronising and tone deaf to suggest women “forget”. Some women just don’t want kids, others that do may have not met anyone to have kids with or more likely, feels that they can’t afford them after their basic outgoings. The friends of mine who want kids but don’t have them haven’t “forgotten”, they’re just not in the right circumstances to have children. A better thing to suggest would be teaching boys from an early age the importance of taking responsibility and an active role if they become fathers because as we see frequently on here that doesn’t tend to happen very often.


LobsterNapkin · 16/10/2021 21:57

It's just factually wrong to say that young women already know all this stuff, think about it, and make informed decisions.

I have talked to women who wished they had thought about having kids in a more careful way earlier, and I've read a number of articles written by women who said the same think. In every case they just kind of assumed that they would follow the usual career trajectory and didn't much consider how they'd fit kids in, in any practcal way.

I don't think it's an uncommon experience, especially in academia where people are often almost 30 by the time they are done with education and starting a career. There is really not any good time to take a few years and have a family.

I suspect that anyone who is the president of a women's college is going to see enough young women that they are speaking from some experience.

I am never sure why it is that when people feel like a statement like that doesn't apply to their own experience, they therefore conclude it doesn't apply to others and is patronizing.


drinkingcherrywine · 17/10/2021 00:10

I certainly know women who just "forgot" in the sense that they were busy living life and the years passed by. I had a disabled child in my twenties so researched a lot and consciously made 35 a hard line I would not cross for further children. My friends were quite aghast at the time and thought me a bit blunt but the following decade saw a lot of heartache, it isn't as simple as "the right time". Babies can take years to arrive once the decision has been made to try and women don't talk about this enough.

Conversely I have relatives and friends who had children very young (late teens, early twenties) and they were looked down on and judged for it. That is wrong and they have all done great jobs of mothering their children.


MassiveHoard · 17/10/2021 00:20

Woman of a certain age expresses an opinion. She was obviously talking about what she has actually witnessed in her experience, which is based in academia. Why do people feel the need to be offended/patronized? If you don't think it applies to you, ignore and move on. Or put another experience forward.


Pineapplepyjamas · 17/10/2021 00:49

I find it odd to suggest women forget. I’d like to have children. I am 29 and single. I have wanted a boyfriend since I was in my early 20s, but I have never been with a man who wanted children. If I never end up having them, it will be due to my life circumstances.


drinkingcherrywine · 17/10/2021 01:11

I think it must seem odd at 29, then all of a sudden you and your friends are in mid 40s and some have children because life circumstances went that way and some have been trying for years with difficulty or just had one and realised there won't be time for any siblings.

That decade in between can pass almost unnoticed but it's a window of opportunity that closes faster than you think. Maybe "forget" is the wrong word, more like meant to do that but it just didn't happen and then suddenly it can't happen.


TedMullins · 17/10/2021 01:13


Woman of a certain age expresses an opinion. She was obviously talking about what she has actually witnessed in her experience, which is based in academia. Why do people feel the need to be offended/patronized? If you don't think it applies to you, ignore and move on. Or put another experience forward.

This is exactly what people are doing, putting another opinion forward! Literally every single female friend I know who wants kids but hasn’t got any most certainly has not forgotten. A lot of them are single, they’re yet to have a relationship that’s endured to the stage of having kids. One is freezing her eggs. Others simply can’t afford it on top of the basic costs of living.

Why is it always women getting the advice/criticism/admonishment? It takes sperm to create a baby as well. All women hear literally all the time from various sources is: dont forget to have kids or your womb will shrivel up. But don’t have them too young or you’re a feckless chav expecting the state to pay. Oh, but don’t have them too old either, or you’ll die before they’re 30. Going back to work after kids? Selfish cow! Staying at home? Lazy bitch.

How about more messaging aimed at men about responsibilities and parenthood? Campaigns to get men to use shared parental leave, more visibility of SAHDs, workplaces ensuring dads have flexibility as well as mums, separated fathers and the responsibility they have to their children. Women are still the ones expected to pick up all the slack - maybe if there was an expectation of men being involved and dedicated parents in the same way there is on women, more women would feel secure enough to have a child. And let’s not forget not every woman is heterosexual or even in a relationship or even wants kids!

NiceGerbil · 17/10/2021 02:51

I note that her interest in talking about fertility was because she 'forgot'!

This is a well educated woman etc etc. In early 40s suddenly thought oops.

We are told constantly from many directions that once you hit 35 your fertility declines.

In an ltr/ get engaged or married people you barely know ask.

No kids and over 30 random people ask and talk about biological clock etc.

I see the piece does not have info on what she wanted to say about fertility.

Sounds like a big reaction so not keen to say either way if don't know more info.


NiceGerbil · 17/10/2021 02:53

The fact that women often delay for a whole load of reasons that are nothing to do with ignorance is the elephant in the room.

Not meet decent bloke
Bloke wants to hold off (seen this a lot)
Money (strong msg to only have if can afford)
Etc etc.


NiceGerbil · 17/10/2021 03:04

Ah. Googled and varsity site had this (extract)-

'An anonymous student at the College said that the conversations might “alienate many of Medwards’ male, non-binary, and gender minority students, as well as heaping an unhelpful ‘reproductive focus’ upon others, especially given the fact that the workshops will be the first engagement new students have with the College during freshers week.”

Another Medwards student, Nieve Brydges, echoed the student's sentiments, saying that it felt like a “kick in the face” for LGBT+ students whose “legitimate desires” to see the College’s “female-only” focus dismantled appear to have been ignored.'

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