Model, TV presenter and superchef Chrissy Teigen recently underwent IVF, and people on the internet are furious. I wish I could say I was shocked that a woman making choices involving her reproductive system has provoked such a backlash, but alas, I’ve spent far too much time online to claim such naivety.
In this particular case, the controversial issue is the fact that Teigen specifically chose to have a female embryo implanted. She spoke openly about her decision in an interview with People magazine, explaining: “Not only am I having a girl, but I picked the girl from her little embryo. I picked her and was like, ‘Let’s put in the girl.’” Critics on social media have accused her of “playing God” and, in some cases, of being “sexist” for choosing to have a daughter rather than leaving it up to chance.
Honestly, what a load of complete and utter nonsense. The accusation that she’s doing something immoral by “interfering with nature” is particularly absurd, given that without medical assistance she wouldn’t have been able to have children at all. What’s more, we “interfere with nature” constantly. If you don’t have a problem with antibiotics, chemotherapy or the contraceptive pill, you can’t reasonably object to Chrissy – and her husband, singer John Legend – using the technology available to have the child they both desperately want.
Another reason I hate Chrissy Teigen, choosing the sex of your baby? That's unnatural! It's gone come out like a science experiment! #SILYMI— Sterling G. Collins (@SterlinGabriel_) February 25, 2016
@chrissyteigen @BaBy_C_69 WHY WHY WHY! What if you were originally supposed to have a baby boy and your child grew up wanting to be a boy. ?— Yung Thot (@FvckboiSlayer) February 26, 2016
@chrissyteigen unnatural idiot picking baby's gender, as if you chose girl over boy— consummate Pro- (@Ultimus_Romano) February 25, 2016
The second criticism, that she’s done something “sexist” by choosing to have a girl rather than a boy, is equally unfounded. As Chrissy herself pointed out on Twitter, the doctors supervising the procedure are well aware which embryos are male and which are female. She was offered two options: either choose the sex of the embryo yourself or let us choose at random. What reason was there not to make the decision herself?
from reading everything tonight, i think i made a mistake in thinking people understood the process better than they do, which is my fault..— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 25, 2016
we didn't create a little girl. we had multiple embryos. girls and boys. we simply chose to put in a female first (and second)...— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 25, 2016
you'd be surprised at how many people you know go through this. also every doctor knows the sex of the embryos, it isn't some grand secret.— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 25, 2016
There are valid concerns to be raised about sex selection in pregnancy – whether through selective abortion or IVF – but they’re mainly only relevant in cultures where one gender is widely devalued. It’s possible to believe that women should have automatic access to abortion without having to justify their decision, and also find the disproportionate termination of female foetuses in countries like China, India and Pakistan problematic. Primarily, because it’s stark evidence of a wider issue of gender inequality, but also because of the practical problems created as a result of the demographic imbalance.
Absolutely none of this applies to Chrissy Teigen’s decision. For a start, her choice wasn’t made in the context of a society that routinely devalues boy children. Indeed, there are no societies where this is actually the case. Chrissy’s personal preference – based on a desire to see her husband form a special bond with his daughter – has no wider sociopolitical implications.
What’s more, she has explicitly stated that she’s also hoping to have at least one son. In a tweet she hit back at critics, telling her followers: “we didn’t “throw away” anything and would still love to have more of both in the future. hard to explain such a complicated process here.”
The way I see it, it’s ridiculous she even felt she had to explain herself like this. Her reproductive decisions are nobody’s business but her own. (And, presuming they remain a couple, her husband’s – but he doesn’t seem to have got any of the backlash.) The fact she decided to share some exciting news in an interview shouldn’t mean she has to justify her actions to every arsehole with an opinion and an internet connection.
I genuinely long for the day when a woman speaking publicly about decisions involving her own uterus is not at risk of provoking any backlash at all.
Main image: Instagram.com/chrissyteigen