Thursday, May 03, 2007

Why is "natural" childbirth advocacy so mean?

Is being mean an integral part of "natural" childbirth advocacy? It certainly seems that way. "Natural" childbirth advocacy incorporates a number of tactics that can only be described as mean. These include pejorative labeling, judgmentalism, ridicule and vicious fabrications. Let's look at these tactics one by one.

Pejorative labeling is in the very name of "natural" childbirth. The definition of "natural" childbirth is purely arbitrary, but the name is not. The definition is just the desires and preferences of "natural" childbirth advocates without regard to whether these desires and preferences are actually natural or whether they ever occurred in nature. The name, though, is meant to convey purity, normalcy and superiority (since we currently live in a social mileiu where "natural" is thought to be better). This pejorative labeling is even more apparent when we consider the new terminology that is gradually replacing "natural" childbirth: the designation "normal" childbirth. Just in case the majority of women were confused as to how advocates of unmedicated childbirth look upon them, they've made it even clearer; not only do the majority of women have "unnatural" births, now they're "abnormal", too.

Judgmentalism pervades every aspect of "natural" childbirth advocacy. It often seems like a "natural" childbirth advocate cannot engage in even the simplest discussion with another woman without asking her how she gave birth, or even worse, assuming how she gave birth. I cannot begin to count the number of times that posters on this blog have demanded to know about the births of my four children, as if that has any effect on the truth of my statements.

Ridicule has been perfected by professional "natural" childbirth advocates like Henci Goer and Marsden Wagner. It often pervades the discourse of other "natural" childbirth advocates. The implicit assumption is that people who disagree with "natural" childbirth advocates are not worthy of even the minimum of respect traditionally accorded in public discourse.

Finally, and most obviously egregious, are the vicious fabrications that have been created with the express intent of demeaning, degrading and hurting other women. I would include among these fabrications the claims that women who have C-sections don't actually "give birth", that "more pain means more joy" or that women who do not labor have impaired bonding with their infants. There isn't even the tiniest scrap of evidence to support any of these claims; they are made up for the enjoyment and self satisfaction of "natural" childbirth advocates.

What is truly remarkable is that there is a general consensus in society that these tactics are beyond the bounds of reasonable public discourse. We all agree (or at least we pretend to agree) that those who are different from us should not be labeled as abnormal, that judging the private decisions of others is inappropriate, that ridicule is not an acceptable tool in philosophical discourse. It's difficult to imagine any situation in which most people would find the creation of vicious lies acceptable, either.

I am curious as to why "natural" childbirth advocates think that the usual rules of intellectual discussion do not apply to them. Moreover, I wonder what psychological needs are being met by deploying the tactics of pejorative labeling, judgmentalism, ridicule and baseless, nasty claims about other women and their choices.

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