There’s a movement happening. #feministbirth.
Birthworkers across the UK are joining forces to declare their feminism and what it means to them in their work with women.
But what does it mean?
Feminist come in all shapes and sizes and this one loves everyone – menincluded. I have two fab sons who are feminists too I think. I wear make-up, fight with my weight, and am not very confrontational. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to standing up for myself, but I am learning. So let any stereotypes go.
What I do believe though that our bodies are just that. OUR bodies. Our wisdom as women is instinctive, yet maybe lost under years of modern culture. And our ability to grow, birth and protect our babies is as old as time.
Yet somewhere along the way of developing ways of preventing illness and death in childbearing, we have got to a place where women are afraid to trust their instincts. Insurance companies hold power over who you can choose to care for you in labour, and you have to FIGHT to be heard when you choose to decline another ‘routine’ intervention. Because it’s for your own good. Who decided that a third party can tell a woman what is for her own good when giving birth?
I’m not a sociologist or expert but it looks a bit like this…
- Gender differences – the how and why women’s experience in society is different to men. We are different so we experience things differently.
- Gender inequality-our experience as women is not only different butunequal to men.
- Gender oppression– women are not only different from or unequal to men, but that they are actively oppressed, subordinated, and even abused by men. (I would add personally that oppression occurs by women too.)
- Structural oppression– women’s oppression and inequality are a result of capitalism, patriarchy, and racism.
Blimey, that’s deep. I haven’t studied this since college.
So what’s this got to do with having babies?
Gender differences : we have vaginas and wombs so only women have babies.
This paper argues that in order to sustainably reduce MMR and improve the overall life chances of poor mothers, policy and programs need, as a matter of urgency, to address two interrelated,root causes of maternal death: poverty, which creates the conditions for inadequate, inaccessible and costly maternal health services in poor and underserved areas, and gender norms that tend to privilege the well-being of men and boys at the expense of women and girls, leading to women’s lack of economic options and lack of autonomy.
Gender oppression: Subordination and oppression in birth? Being expected to conform to guidelines, policies and procedures. Being expected to ‘fight’ for the right to have you baby at home. Being told to lie on your back during labour when you want to stand up. Being chained during labour because you are a prisoner. Being forced to have a caesarean by court order.
Structural oppression: Knowing that we could lose the right to choose an independent midwife because lawyers and insurance companies deem it so. Knowing that many of the things we do as midwives have no basis in evidence, science or women’s wisdom because policies attached to insurance companies expect ‘compliance’. Because it is thought to be more cost effective to centralise everything, including place of birth.
What it means to me.
I just believe we have the power within us to grow and birth healthy babies.
- I want my daughter to grow up knowing she has this power within her.
- That it is her choice when, how and with whom she chooses to bring a baby into the world.
- That she will be able to tell her care provider ONCE about the choices she is making. Because they trust that she is an intelligent, competent human being, who loves her baby.
- That she will never feel bullied into accepting a procedure.
- That social services will not be wielded as a weapon to conform.
- That once and forever the state will not expect women to comply with policies that seek to control pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
And before anyone asks this is not an issue about home versus hospital, natural versus caesarean. It’s about fundamental respect for choice, whatever path a woman walks down.
Are you feministbirth follower?