Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Natural childbirth and the objectification of women's bodies

One of the trends that I find disconcerting in "natural" childbirth advocacy is the objectification of women's bodies. The better part of the last two centuries have been spent attempting to convince men that women are more than two breasts and a vagina. So why, then, are "natural" childbirth advocacy sites decorated with pictures that reduce women to nothing more than breasts, vagina and a pregnant abdomen?

What is the purpose of pictures that look disturbing like "childbirth porn"? What is the purpose of nudity in the representation of motherhood? Does it tell us something about our own culture in which sex in any form is considered titillating? Or does it tell us something about "natural" childbirth advocacy with its relentless focus on the body as opposed to the myriad other aspects of motherhood?

Why does "natural" childbirth advocacy elevate the explusive efforts of an involuntary muscle (the uterus) pushing a baby through a bodily passage (the vagina)? What's so great about that? Is a woman less of a mother because the involuntary muscle of the uterus did not push the baby all the way through? Is a woman who adopts a child any less a mother because she did not carry her child in her body?

If we believe (and I hope we do) that women should not be reduced to their body parts and valued only because of those parts, why should motherhood be reduced to body parts and represented as depending on the functioning of a few body parts? What is the difference between boasting about large breasts and boasting about unmedicated childbirth? Just as the first is irrelevant to a person's value as a woman, isn't the second irrelevant to her value as a mother?

Why do "natural" childbirth advocates fetishize women's bodies in nude pictures and why do they elevate the functioning women's bodies above the content of their minds?

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