Sunday, June 17, 2007


It is both ironic and revealing that the word "empowered", the most overused word in homebirth and natural childbirth advocacy, is used improperly. Mistruths, half truths and deception are integral to both natural childbirth and homebirth advocacy. Such deception is necessary to make natural childbirth and homebirth look better and safer than they are. So it's hardly surprising that "empowered" is used inappropriately to make natural childbirth and homebirth advocacy less obviously obsessed with self-congratulation than it actually is.

According to, the definition of empowered is:

"1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority.

2. To equip or supply with an ability; enable adds this usage note:

"Although it is a contemporary buzzword, the word empower is not new, having arisen in the mid-17th century with the legalistic meaning "to invest with authority, authorize." Shortly thereafter it began to be used with an infinitive in a more general way meaning "to enable or permit." Both of these uses survive today but have been overpowered by the word's use in politics and pop psychology... Since people of all political persuasions have a need for a word that makes their constituents feel that they are or are about to become more in control of their destinies, empower has been adopted by conservatives as well as social reformers. It has even migrated out of the political arena into other fields. The Usage Panel has some misgivings about this recent broadening of usage... But in contexts that are not political the Panel is markedly less enthusiastic... The Panel may frown on this kind of psychological empowering because it resonates of the self-help movement, which is notorious for trendy coinages."

Saying that you are "empowered" by unmedicated childbirth is using the word improperly. A woman who has unmedicated childbirth is not being invested with authority and is not being permitted to do something. "Empowered" in this context really stands for admiring yourself. "I feel empowered by natural childbirth" actually means "I admire myself for having natural childbirth." It is yet another form of the pervasive self-congratulatory motivation of natural childbirth and homebirth advocacy.


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