Ticking Clocks: Rhetorics of Tenure and (In)Fertility

Steph Ceraso, Pamela VanHaitsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay initiates a critical conversation about (in)fertility in academia. We argue that four patterns of discourse exacerbate the challenges for women and trans* academics struggling to conceive while navigating so-called “biological clocks” and “tenure clocks” simultaneously: conflicting rhetorics regarding egg quantity and quality in relation to the typical age one starts a tenure-track job; sexist and transphobic rhetorics of fear-mongering in medical and academic settings; rhetorics of silence surrounding the impact of miscarriage, which often accompanies infertility; and cisheterosexist institutional discrimination in the face of exorbitant treatment costs. We use feminist “strategic contemplation” to reflect critically on these patterns of discourse in relation to our lived experiences of (in)fertility. In doing so, we validate those struggling, educate those who are not, and seek a more just reproductive landscape for academic women and trans* people whose clocks are ticking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRhetoric Society Quarterly
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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