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Japan has experienced floods of fake knowledge about human reproduction in recent times. Most of them are created by professionals in the fields of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive medicine and spread widely through a mass media campaign backed by academic associations. Such a knowledge has also been used by the government as scientific evidence to justify encouragement of pregnancy and childbirth for young women.
“Egg aging” (卵子の老化) has been the key concept in the campaign. This concept is originally a term of biology for the degeneration of eggs (or female germ cells) owing to a long delay in the process of meiotic division. As it acquired popularity, the concept widened its connotation. “Egg aging” today is not limited to the degeneration of germ cells, but covers a wide range of fertility problems experienced by women of an advanced age. It now serves as a magic phrase to represent many aspects of latent biological mechanisms of declining fertility.
In the course of the media campaign, fake knowledge about human reproduction has become popular in books, magazines, and websites giving an impression that it is based on scientific grounds. These are targeted at youths' perception of their body and thereby have an impact on their sexual behavior and family planning. We can regard this as a violation against reproductive rights because it disrupts the reproductive decision-making process with misinformation. It also damages public trust in the medical profession, which will eventually harm the social health system.
This brochure, Unscientific Visual Representations Used for the Egg Aging Campaign in 2010s Japan, is a product of the research project “Unscientific knowledge and the egg aging panic” funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (KAKENHI #17K02069 for fiscal 2017-2019). This project is run by Tanaka Sigeto, an associate professor at Tohoku University, to explore the courses, contexts, and consequences of the egg aging campaign. According to a literature survey of both academic and popular writings, this brochure introduces some instances of visual representations used in the campaign and explains how they have been widespread in the Japanese society to affect governmental policies and public opinions.
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