Emma Cowing: Fertility drive is offensive to women

KATE Garraway, her off Daybreak who is married to Derek Draper, is fronting a new campaign called Get Britain Fertile. It features Garraway made up to look like she’s about 102, sporting an enormous baby bump.
TV presenter Kate Garraway with daughter Darcy in 2006. Picture: PATV presenter Kate Garraway with daughter Darcy in 2006. Picture: PA
TV presenter Kate Garraway with daughter Darcy in 2006. Picture: PA

It is meant to be a disturbing image that will shock women into having children younger. Garraway, you see, left having her children “too late”. She regrets this. Now she wants to educate other women not to make the same mistake.

“I know careers and finances seem important but you only have a small fertility window,” says Garraway. You know, ladies – careers, finances, all the sensible things you might want to have in place before having a baby. She might as well follow it up by saying: “Why not leave the careers and the finances to the men, girls? You should be concentrating on that SMALL FERTILITY WINDOW.”

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Get Britain Fertile is one of the most misguided “campaigns” to hit the headlines in a long time. For a start, it is not so much a campaign as an advert. It is run by First Response, which is a pregnancy testing kit owned by household goods firm Church & Dwight. It also owns Batiste, the dry hair shampoo, Arm & Hammer, the baking soda toothpaste, and Nair, the hair removal cream. What business it has telling the women of Britain what to do with their wombs I’m still unclear on.

Even the title of the campaign is ludicrous. How, exactly, is splashing around an image of an age-progressed TV presenter going to “get Britain fertile”? What does that statement even mean, when fertility is so often not a choice, as every woman who has ever had trouble conceiving a baby will tell you?

And make no mistake, this is a “campaign” that is wholly aimed at women. Not men who, last time I checked, were still somewhat integral to the whole baby-making process. This assertion, that the decision about when to have a baby and not “leave it too late” is one that is solely down to women is so wrong, so misogynistic, so utterly naive, that it smacks of something dreamt up by a 27-year-old advertising executive named Dave who spends his days going to Nandos and trying to pull one of the girls off TOWIE.

No-one is arguing that fertility is not a time-sensitive thing; of course it becomes harder to conceive as you get older. My truck here is not with mother nature, but with Kate Garraway and her chums at Church & Dwight. Because I do not know a woman in their late 20s or 30s who is not fully aware of every tick of their biological clock. Women know what the issues are around fertility. They know they are getting older. They know that time is running out. Fertility surrounds them every day – when a friend gets pregnant, when they are asked to babysit for relatives, when they watch their colleagues go on maternity leave and when they find themselves back in the feminine care aisle at Boots each month, even though they’re doing everything the fertility books tell them to.

The notion that having Garraway suddenly pop up chirping “remember to have a baby!” is going to have millions of thirty-somethings clapping their hands to their foreheads and exclaiming “I knew there was something I forgot to do!” is as offensive a concept as the notion that the dry shampoo stuff is any real substitute for actually washing your hair.

This campaign does nothing to address the issues of those women who have spent a large chunk of their 20s and 30s in a long-term relationship only to have their other half declare six years in that, actually, they don’t want children after all. It does nothing to understand the problems of the single woman who would like to have a child, but has yet to find the man she wishes to have one with.

And it does nothing at all to help those women who have, a little later in life, found the man they want to be with, but are finding it more difficult to conceive now than they might have done when, yes, they were more fertile but they were also 21, single, living in a rented flatshare and earning £50 a week.

Actually, that is not entirely true. Because the one thing this “campaign” will do for all those women is to make them feel like failures. To make them feel that even though they would dearly love to have a baby, they’re not doing enough. They’ve got it wrong. They’ve missed the window. And it’s all their fault. Well done, Kate. That’s one hell of a campaign.