The Class Politics of Donating Your Eggs
Under the “Why I Want to Donate” tab on their profiles, young women profess altruism. In the 500-character box provided, egg donors write optimistic, loving, and imprecise declarations of “how much it means to [them] to help someone else realize their dream of having a family.” Sara Ahmed has called this sort of gesture “happiness work.” This is the job of being happy for the successes of other people, even when such successes come at one’s own expense. Donors do not say, at least not out loud, that they want to donate “because I need the money.” It would be professionally dangerous to do so.
Whew, Moira Donegan has a doozy of an essay over at the New Inquiry, whose issue this month is all about MONEY. In “Over Easy” Donegan talks about the work that goes into egg donation and the taboo of acknowledging the financial incentives for doing it. The reality is that the matching process often brings together wealthy couples (who can afford the procedure, often not covered by insurance) with women who, when ideal candidates, are often the financially struggling, aspirational versions of the recipients.
It is not hard to understand that having a degree is no longer any guarantee of a livable income, and that for many it has instead provided a debt obligation that precludes much material comfort. What’s more confounding is the way that the student debt burdens that lead many women to egg donation are the result of the same elite educations that make their eggs desirable, and the way that many egg donors, in their aspirations and experiences, so closely resemble the people who are purchasing their services.