Thursday, January 18, 2007

What is normal birth? Part 2: The feminist critique

Natural childbirth advocates tend to think of "normal" birth in opposition to a medical model. However, there are feminists who criticize the idea of "normal" birth. Katherine Beckett, in Choosing Cesarean: Feminism and the politics of childbirth in the United States, (Feminist Theory, 2005, vol. 6(3): 251–275) writes:
...[Feminist] critics argue that the idealization of ‘natural childbirth’ rests on the assumption that both women and childbirth have a true essence or nature that is respected by the natural childbirth movement but violated by the medical establishment: birth activists then ‘assert a nature to which birthing women must conform’...

... [Criticism] of high-tech obstetrics also reflects a troubling construction of technology as inherently patriarchal... [Feminists] point out that women can and do find the use of obstetric technology to be an empowering experience. To ignore this, they argue, is ... to treat some women’s use appreciation of technology as indicative of a kind of false consciousness, a violation of their true (essential) nature... [F]eminists argue that women’s choice/positive experience of high-tech births confirms that technology ... can serve women’s needs and purposes...

Pain is a recurring issue for feminist analysts of childbirth ... [Feminist] scholars, drawing on their experiences with alternative ‘birth culture’, have criticized the alternative birthing community’s knee-jerk rejection of (pharmacological) pain relief and understand this rejection as indicative of a kind of machisma, a belief that birth is ‘an extreme sport’...

... [T]he tendency of ‘birth junkies’ to valorize the experience of natural (i.e. painful) childbirth is not only moralistic, but unrealistic... The idea that women do (or should) savour, enjoy, or feel empowered by the experience of labour and delivery ... assumes an emotional and physical reality (or posits an emotional and physical norm) that does not exist for many...

In short, some feminists perceive the alternative birth movement as rigid and moralistic, insistent that giving birth ‘naturally’ is superior and, indeed, is a measure of a ‘good mother’. The perceived moralism of this stance is quite troubling to some; according to one feminist critic, the ‘natural’ philosophy ... is as tyrannical and prescriptive as the medical model, but pretends not to be by emphasizing women’s right to individualized and alternative births.
I find this critique to be quite accurate. The obsession with "normal" and "natural" birth is inappropriately moralistic, and consciously or unconsciously serves to elevate the personal choices of "natural" childbirth/homebirth advocates, while denigrating the choices of most women.

Labels: ,

1 Old Comments:

I all the time used to read post in news papers but now as I am a user of net so from now I
am using net for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

My web blog ... Louis Vuitton Handbags

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 PM