‘Perfect egg’ shouldn’t be on auction block

LOS ANGELES (U-WIRE) — What are the criteria for a perfect child? If you could create your ideal son or daughter, would she have blue eyes and blond hair? Would he have amazing basketball skills and get a 1600 on his SAT? According to ads asking for egg donors in college newspapers everywhere, “Preferred donors will meet the following criteria: height approximately 5’6” or taller, Caucasian, blue eyes, SAT score around 1300, extra compensation available for someone who might be especially gifted in athletics, science/mathematics or music.”
We may pass by these ads without paying them much attention. But silently, they embody the superficiality that plagues our society, and they send us the message that outer beauty is everything.
Before last year, fertility clinics or egg-broker businesses paid egg donors between $2,500 and $5,000 for eggs to give couples who could not have their own child the opportunity to have children. But on Oct. 25, 1999, Ron Harris changed the egg trade into big business. With his Web site, “Ron’s Angels,” Harris created a market for selling the eggs of beautiful women. Now, ads offer up to $150,000 for the perfect egg. Who is Ron Harris?
Before manning his successful Web site, Harris was a photographer in the porn industry and a film director for the Playboy Channel. His background might seem irrelevant, but it underscores the obsession with looks that such ads exude.
As Harris himself remarks on his site, “I know what I’m saying about beauty; it’s what’s already going on in the culture. This site simply mirrors our current society, in that beauty usually goes to the highest bidder.” Harris reminds us that if we wish to get plastic surgery or fake breasts to become more “beautiful,” it’s all about the money. While these decisions are none of my business, when it shifts to formulating your own beautiful child, I think we have to draw the line.
Harris might contend he is simply going with the flow of society, but his backwards philosophies attempt to dictate our values and objectify women and children. “Those things that are wanted most are beautiful women, beautiful children, fine art, real estate, gold, money and power. All these objects are stable and create stability in your life and help to guarantee the success of your genes, to get your genes to the next generation and beyond,” Harris writes. It is this twisting of Darwin’s ideas that the Nazis used to justify their racist practices.
Not only does Harris succeed in equating women and children with objects, but by including beautiful women as a means to create stability and guarantee the success of one’s genes, he alludes to the fact that men are the only ones passing on their genes to the next generation. It might seem that his ideas are so far-fetched that they are not even worth mentioning. But look at Los Angeles, and you will see many people who buy into the idea that beauty and material wealth are everything. Harris’ ideas, along with ads asking for the perfect egg donors, contribute to the notion that value lies only in superficial beauty.
Harris’s Web site pictures consist of beautiful women hoping to sell their eggs for hundreds of thousands of dollars. As Rob Dreher, columnist for the New York Post remarks, “We are fast approaching the point where the poor, the sick and the unbeautiful will be thought of as enemies.”
What ads such as these tell us is that our worth depends on our beauty, and that beauty lies in being tall, blond and blue-eyed. Some might argue that parents are simply aiming to create a child who most nearly reflects their own characteristics. But considering the majority of ads ask for these same white features, it becomes evident that those able to spend the money to get such model eggs are themselves blond and blue-eyed. So, along with the Jaguar and the designer Prada bag, it is now possible to get the top-of-the-line baby to match. Nothing but the best, right?
We must examine what it says about our society that those who can afford it wish to have kids with these certain physical features. I agree that parents should be able to find an egg donor whose characteristics match theirs, yet I am afraid we will fall into a pattern where only the rich are able to create the healthiest, smartest babies.
With the skyrocketing price that people are willing to pay for eggs, what happens to the low-income or even middle-class couples hoping to have a child? Obviously, they can continue to have children who turn out fine by paying less. Thus, there exists no reason for the “perfect” egg business that has arisen. In addition, what happens to the thousands of children waiting to be adopted everyday?
With the ability to buy the perfect egg, many parents who would previously have turned to adoption will instead vie to create the ideal child. This only contributes to the notion that orphans who might have some problems or might simply not look exactly like their parents are not worth raising or loving. It takes a lot of commitment and love to adopt a child. Such ads, however, discourage adoption by suggesting that one must have a beautiful, unblemished child in order to love him or her.
While such advertisements might seem harmless, they add to the bombardment of image of blond and white as beautiful. I’m not saying this is not beautiful. But, what if I have dark skin and black eyes? Or freckles and red hair? Am I worth any less? On Harris’s Web site, while the minimum bid (yes, they auction them off) for a brown-eyed woman is $15,000, for a blonde egg it jumps to $90,000. These ads uphold the idea that there exists a certain standard of beauty. Anything different from this standard does not appear to be worth as much.
Not only are certain physical features praised as beautiful, but since when did physical appearance become our first priority in having kids, anyway? Call me crazy, but I always thought the point of having a child was to raise and love another human being, no matter what they look like or what SAT score they might get.
In addition, a “model” egg does not guarantee a beautiful child. So what if the child turns out to have brown eyes or is not as athletic as promised? Will he be loved any less? Unless we are ready to love a child unconditionally, we shouldn’t be having one in the first place.
Many advances in technology have helped us immensely. The ability for infertile couples to have children is no exception. But we run into dangerous territory when such advancements begin to mirror the negative side of our society, and no one speaks up. I am not saying that advertisements offering up to $150,000 for the perfect egg are the worst thing ever to happen, and we must all boycott the newspapers that run them. But I am saying that to remain silent while superficiality is encouraged and beauty is bought for thousands of dollars is sad. It is sad because we can do better.
By becoming aware and doing our part to send the message that appearance is not everything, we can rise above these tendencies, and let those with brown hair or 900 SAT scores or no athletic skills know that they are OK, and just as worthy of love as anyone else.
Shirin Vossoughi’s column originally appeared in Monday’s University of California-Los Angeles paper, the Daily Bruin.