Elizabeth Day’s conversation with Russell Brand about fertility is an essential listen

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Talking to Russell Brand on his podcast, Elizabeth Day has explained how the language used around fertility medicine is “designed to make women feel like failures”. 

How to Fail author and podcaster Elizabeth Day isn’t afraid to speak out about failure. In fact, she’s written a whole book on it, which is now a Sunday Times bestseller. Day also encourages others to share their mistakes, lessons and failures on her hugely popular podcast. And she recently nailed the big difference between how men and women view failure during a talk at Stylist Live LUXE.

But the writer – who usually asks all the big questions – found herself in the answering seat this week, as a guest on Russell Brand’s Under The Skin podcast. 

Day openly talks about her IVF treatments and miscarriage – which she used to consider as failures – as part of a mission to break the stigma and taboos around these experiences.

In the conversation with Brand, she further the problems with being treated by men who “physically don’t understand” what it’s like to miscarry.

“Once I got into the fertility treatment world, I began to understand what my experience was going to be, I was going to be treated by 98% men,” she said.

“And they – because they are men – didn’t have any experience of what I was going through. So a miscarriage would be compared to experiencing a heavy period by a man. And I’m like: ‘You don’t know what a heavy period is and you’ve definitely never experienced a miscarriage. So where are you getting this language from? You physically don’t understand, so someone must have told you that, or you read it in a medical textbook, but there’s no reality.’

Day then discussed the language that is used around fertility treatment, continuing: “It’s an incredibly traumatic thing. A lot of the language around around fertility medicine was the language of failure. It was designed to make me feel like a failure as a woman. 

“So I was told that my womb was inhospitable because it’s a certain shape. My friend was told that she had an incompetent cervix. I was told repeatedly that I was failing to respond to the drugs.”

She added: “And actually, it was my friend Fran who said: ‘Maybe you’re not failing to respond to the drugs, maybe the drugs are failing you’. And it was a really momentous shift in my thinking because I’d been made to feel so diminished by all of this and it was horrible and lonely and isolating and I wanted someone to have told me that. And so that’s why I wanted to write about it.”     

Elizabeth Day talked to Russell Brand about failure on his podcast.

Day then gave an incredibly thought-provoking answer when Brand asked what her experience of IVF proved about the patriarchy.

“I think it says it’s deeply, deeply embedded and the reason I talk about it so much is that I want to excavate our shame and hold it up to the light so that we’re no longer ashamed of it,” she replied.

“We’ve been made to feel like failures as women because we’re not fulfilling biological imperative. It suits the patriarchy for us to feel like that. It’s suits the patriarchy to keep us as brood mares just popping out their children while they rule the world. And that kind of language has meant that – quote unquote – ‘women’s conditions have been marginalised’.”

You can listen to the full interview on Under The Skin via Luminary Podcasts from Saturday 4 January.

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Images: Jenny Smith photography

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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