Infertile motherhood

Shirley Shalev, Dafna Lemish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This study explores the socio-cultural arena following legalization of surrogate motherhood in Israel by analyzing Israel's most popular television series: A Touch of Happiness. The qualitative analysis presented here reveals a constant tension between women's reproductive and sexual bodies. This analysis demonstrates how social institutions of marriage, divorce, and motherhood are serving as instruments that reward fertile and punish infertile women. Advances in medical technology and modern surrogacy enable the infertile female to achieve motherhood even though her body remains infertile. Thus, paradoxically, if a woman selects to avail herself of these medical advances, she becomes an infertile mother. Viewed more broadly, the implications of such hybrid conceptions pose a threat to the patriarchal order, and therefore it was negated in this television series by a rich array of narrative and rhetorical devices. Derived by deeply rooted cultural-religious beliefs, the ideological stance applied in the series de-legitimizes female infertility and non-biological motherhood achieved through surrogacy. In doing so, it perpetuates notions of the inferiority of both types of women in the social order and cultivates the perception of biological determinism as a primary measure in determining all women's destinies, solely by the state of their wombs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-336
Number of pages16
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


  • fertility
  • Israel
  • motherhood
  • reproduction
  • surrogacy
  • television


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