Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Is natural childbirth a feminist issue?

Natural childbirth is often presented as a feminist issue, women taking childbirth back from male concepts of what it can and should be.

We have already seen that Grantly Dick-Read, the originator of modern "natural" childbirth, had a sexist, racist agenda to "educate" women to believe that childbirth was less painful so they would have more children.
Amananta expands on this by discussing male perspectives on women's pain:
The "Natural Childbirth" movement was started by men. Men who claim the pain of childbirth is either all in our silly little heads or not really all that bad, and if we would just be good little girls and do some deep breathing techniques and other relaxation techniques, we could give birth much better ...

This is like so many other things men say and do to women. Our pain does not exist to them, or in unimportant. Premenstrual problems? All in your head! Post-partum depression? You're just lazy! ... Denying the pain of childbirth is just another way men, particularly doctors, have of denying women's pain in general...

...Grantley-Dick Read wrote a book about "Natural Childbirth". Naturally, he knew women had been doing it all wrong! ... the origin of pain was all in a woman's head... Why would a male doctor become so sure he knew whether or not women truly experienced pain during labor? Why, once he attended a birth by a woman who didn't experience pain during labor. Rather than inferring that she was simply a very lucky woman, he decided to use her as an insult to all other mothers everywhere who experienced pain during labor - it was their own fault for being weak and fearful.
Elsewhere in her article, Amananta points out that the use of pain medication in labor was initially backed by feminists in the face of men who refused to give pain medication to women in labor, on the grounds that the Bible said that women should give birth in pain. Queen Victoria herself ordered her physicians to give her access to chloroform, which they were withholding from her.

Feminism is about choice. It is not about telling women what to choose. It is certainly not about telling women how much pain they are or should be experiencing. I can understand why some women want to take childbirth back from doctors who may be restricting their choices. I cannot understand why some women feel that they can judge the pain of another woman or what is the best way for her to deal with it.

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