Silent Sorority

Infertility Survivors Finally Heard

October 9, 2020

Tokenism Takes a New Form

Tokenism is an awkward thing to experience.

I never fully understood how prevalent it is for childless women, but the penny dropped a few weeks ago.

So, it started when a Random House marketing manager sent a ham-handed email. She asked if I’d like to read and share The Trying Game as part of October’s ceremonial Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  However, rather than offer consolation and solace, this book and the way it treats women in our shoes triggered and left me sad. Discarded. Ghosted.

Tokenism From the ‘Mommy Club’

The Trying Game Reveals Tokenism, published on Medium explains how and why.

My thinking and writing behind this piece took on greater clarity after a phone chat with Jody Day. Our discussion brought into focus the pronatal forces in our society. My book response, Jody affirmed, was to be expected.

I expressed my frustration at the one-dimensional way women like Jody, Lisa Manterfield, Dr. Marni Rosner, and so many of us are portrayed — not just in this book, but in society more broadly. We discussed how tokenism creates the impression of social inclusiveness and diversity in order to deflect accusations of discrimination.

By the way: how many of you have experienced this in your social interactions?

Time to Ask For More

“Jody,” I said, “squeezing us into the last chapter felt just plain weird.”

Perhaps the better editorial decision, I suggested, would have not to include us at all. That would have eliminated the tokenism and the odd treatment.

Jody took a different view. She proposed that this was, in fact, a step forward as we’d normally not enter the equation at all. Rather, this presented an opportunity to ask for more.

See also  Our Modern Day Betty Friedan Moment

Brilliant, as always!

First Step: Acknowledge the Problem

That said, I sat down and wrote the following:

“Infertility and childlessness complexities (and the multi-billion-dollar industry that surrounds them) are immense. We need more daylight on these topics and the unproven treatments sold to women.

Those of us in Generation IVF are learning as we go to address the cultural misunderstandings and judgements in the trying times we now live. We recognize that in the balance of probability, childless outcomes — circumstantial, social, biological — are increasing and deserve more space and more context. We need this not simply in this book, but in reporting, culture, and research more broadly.”

Furthermore, I’d like to emphasize that this problem is particularly intractable in the United States. I’ve noticed, in my research and conversations, that other countries show a greater willingness to apply a critical eye.

New Horizons

Let me add that finding a home for this piece was not an easy lift. That’s because the ‘mommy-club’ prevalent in the United States today, by and large, act as the gatekeeper in many publishing houses, magazines, and production houses, deciding what does and does not get published and produced. Kudos  then to Anangsha Alammyan, editor of Books Are Our Superpower, based in Guwahati, India, for greenlighting this piece.

Welcome your thoughts.

Book Musings 3 Replies to “Tokenism Takes a New Form”
Pamela Tsigdinos
Pamela Tsigdinos
Writer, blogger and, oh, yeah, infertility survivor. My memoir, Silent Sorority, tells the whole story. There's a movie in there somewhere. Given the quirkiness needed to relate it all I'm thinking Jennifer Lawrence would be a good fit.


3 thoughts on “Tokenism Takes a New Form

    Author’s gravatar

    Well done, Pamela!! I remember Amy’s columns about her infertility treatments in the New York Times some years ago, and how irritated some of us were by them. I saw she had a book out, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. Your review has convinced me that there are many other books I could & should read first! ;)

    When we stopped ttc (in 2001), I searched through my infertility books to see what was said about resolving without children. Not much!! — at most, maybe a page or two within an entire book. I haven’t read many general infertility books since then, but it doesn’t sound like things have improved much on that front, despite the rise of so many amazing childless voices like yours & Jody’s — and (as you have pointed out) the growing prevalence of childlessness, because of infertility & other factors. We obviously still have a lot of work to do…!

      Author’s gravatar

      Yes, Loribeth! I’ve a hunch Amy will be surprised to learn her book landed this sucker punch. Very surprised her editors didn’t flag the copy and suggest a different way of laying it out at a minimum. Isn’t it the editor’s job to provide context and help the writer with chapter development and construction? Shows just how prevalent the blind spots are in our society — still!

    Author’s gravatar

    Thanks for this blazingly accurate depiction of how the world looks and feels through our eyes!!

    Normally I like to know the full context of things. But the comment at the end of the book’s childless section that ends with “I’m a happy woman!!” is so slap in the face simplistic I have no desire to know more.

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