Conditions of Illusion: Agency, Feminism, and Cultural Representations of Infertility in Britain, c. 1960–80

  • Tracey LoughranEmail author


In the 1970s, reproductive control was perceived as essential to women’s liberation. In practice, however, feminist assertions of ‘the right to choose’ usually focused on the right not to have children. In the 1980s, a prominent strand within radical feminism critiqued new reproductive technologies as part of a technopatriarchal conspiracy, and portrayed infertile women as its passive victims. As a result of these critiques, the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) is often depicted as unsympathetic or even hostile to infertile women. This chapter compares representations of infertility in mass-market women’s magazines and feminist publications. It explores the extent to which these publications enabled individual women to articulate their experiences of infertility, the contexts of these articulations, and how these representations of infertility related to wider perceptions of motherhood, biological determinism, and women’s capacity for agency.


Agency Experience Feminism Motherhood Reproductive technology 


Research Resources

Primary Sources


    1. The mass-market women’s magazines discussed in this chapter (Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman’s Weekly) can be consulted in the British Library. The full run of Spare Rib has now been digitized and can be accessed at

    Autobiographies, Memoirs and Feminist Writing on Infertility

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of EssexColchesterUnited Kingdom

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