On Nov. 30, The Tech decided to publish an ad titled “GENIUS ASIAN EGG DONOR.” The ad sought a donor of the Asian race with an exceptional academic record. The ad reeks of privilege and ignorance, as a couple seeks to manufacture its dream baby by placing all hope on a stereotype. We wrote this letter to highlight the racist and sexist roots of the ad, to protest its placement in The Tech, and to expose the creator’s offensive posting.
The capitalist system we live in allows people to place a market value on a product they desire — in this case the eggs of an imagined, Ivy League, perfect-SAT-scoring, 21-year-old Asian woman.
The posters of the ad specifically demand an Asian woman, preferably Chinese, who will fit their bill. Under this system, the onus is on an individual, in this case a young college student, to take care of herself financially through supposed “choice” — that is, choose from a position of financial vulnerability (the position of so many students) to do something that would otherwise be unthinkable. We should not tolerate a system that permits racial profiling for the benefit of those with wealth, while dumping responsibility upon those with less power.
Making a choice requires adequate information. What is not mentioned in the ad is the highly hazardous health consequence such a young woman would face were she to go through this procedure. Egg donations are high-risk, invasive procedures that subject women to a barrage of hormone treatments, a process that may be linked to infertility and reproductive cancers. The long-term risks of egg harvesting have not been well-studied, and there is no way of knowing what other potentially devastating effects women should expect many years after donating their eggs.
Because the ad commercializes the reproductive capacity of Asian women, while failing to provide important information relevant to the donor’s health, it is a sad reminder of a long history of the sexualization, stereotyping, and objectification of Asian women. We are reminded of the model minority myth, the widespread acceptability of fetishizing Asian women (“yellow fever”), stereotypes of dragon-ladies and China-dolls, the popularity of sexual tourism in Asia by Western men as a continuation of customs rooted in past instances of armed aggression, and other ways in which Asian women are so frequently reduced to their race and gender in narratives and practices that obliterate their individuality and disrespect their humanity. When this couple requests a “GENIUS ASIAN EGG DONOR,” they are perpetuating a colonialist and predatory lore with only the sheerest façade of false reverence.
Furthermore, this couple’s ad perpetuates a line of “race thinking” — racism under the guise of science. Yes, even a supposedly “positive” inflection on race, associating Asians with intellect, is destructive and debilitating. The assumption that all Asian people are “smart” lumps broad swaths of people under the supposed commonality of racial heritage, when in actuality the umbrella term Asian includes people with distinct countries of birth, citizenship status, immigration stories, and ethnicities.
This model minority myth of the “Asian genius” obscures real difficulties that Asian Americans and Asian immigrants face in the U.S. For example, among women age 15–24, the suicide mortality rate is highest for Asian American women across all ethnic groups. Yet, Asian Americans have the lowest utilization of mental health services across all ethnic groups in the U.S. The stereotype that Asians are “smart,” hence face no real oppressions in the U.S, masks real issues affecting Asian Americans and Asian immigrants. The ad’s obnoxious proliferation of this harmful stereotype does not belong in an MIT student newspaper.
As we were reflecting on this ad, we found a similar egg donor advertisement printed in The Tech in 1999 that received a response very similar to our own. It is shameful that we as an educational community continue to allow the posting of ignorant advertisements like these, over 10 years later.
Furthermore, even the most cursory Internet sleuthing shows that this ad may not be quite what it seems. The website www.eggdonorneeded.com contains almost an exact copy of the ad which ran in The Tech. A quick domain registration check shows that this URL is registered to a person called Will Naylor. According to the U.S. Tax Court, Will Naylor heads an organization which donates his sperm free of charge to recipients of his choice. To quote the Tax Court records regarding Will Naylor’s organization, “Preference is given to women ‘with better education’ and no record of divorce, domestic violence, or ‘difficult fertility histories’ and are from families ‘whose members have a track record of contributing to their communities’; who are in ‘a traditional marriage situation’; who are under age 37; who are ethnic minorities.’”
Needless to say, this raises serious suspicions regarding the ad’s author. He may not be who he claims to be in the ad (a white man and Chinese woman couple seeking to have a child), not to mention the blatant racism, classism, and sexism in his preference for sperm recipients and his creation of a noticeably egotistical sperm donation program. The writer of this ad may in fact be trying to get into contact with young, intelligent Asian women for more dubious reasons than egg donation alone.
Before running future egg donor ads, we ask that The Tech considers the safety of MIT students above all else. For one thing, it is inappropriate for a university publication to publish a solicitation for student egg donations from anything other than a licensed clinic, let alone an apparently unverified private individual. To put it succinctly, a school newspaper is not the place for this kind of advertisement. Taking safety into account also includes printing a disclaimer on any future egg donor ads about the potential negative side effects of becoming an egg donor, just as is required in states like California. It includes providing a link to a website that would provide readers with more information or referring them to MIT Medical. The best solution would be to simply not run ads that ask our students to subject themselves to danger for financial compensation.
This letter was written on behalf of the executive board of Feminists@MIT.