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Misogyny and birth

post #1 of 113
Thread Starter 
I'm doing some writing about the misogyny that underlies the culture of birth in the US. I'm interested to hear other people's thoughts (but only if you don't mind my shamelessly ripping them off! ). I'm considering a number of things: the indoctrination of fear that causes women to mistrust their own bodies; the control that the "system" has over women's bodies before, during and after birth (and the simultaneous pooh-poohing of any real interrogation of that system); the devaluation of the pain of birth as a rite of passage; media images of birth, particularly on television shows; the condescension, manipulation, and outright lies many women face during a hospital birth; and so on.

I'd be particularly interested to hear birth stories where mamas faced some of these issues--especially cases where women felt demeaned, manipulated, or belittled by a doctor or hospital staff member.
post #2 of 113
* Deleted (cause it doesn't compare to the other stories).
post #3 of 113
Condescension (sp?) is the main issue I dealt with. My OB gave me the most rudimentary explainations and answers to my questions, often repeating information to me that I had just expressed my knowledge and understanding of in our conversation. It was like he wasn't even listening to me thoughts or concerns, just honing in on one word that I had used in order to present to me a stock answer that he had ready. When I started bringing up my desires for the birth, he was always smiling and nodding and supportive, but followed all that with "unless something goes terribly wrong" or "as long as that is still safe" Over all, he always spoke to me in a sing-songy voice like I was a preschooler.
post #4 of 113
I don't have much to add, just wanted to say that it is a brilliant idea and I'd love to read it when you are done, if you feel comfortable and are able to post it. I actually think mysogyny in regards to womens health goes above and beyond birth issues though I know you are focusing on that right now. So great to see anyone delving into this at all!!!

Laohaire... I am so sorry for your experience!
post #5 of 113
Oh boy. I have to say, as a feminist, I thought I knew what misogyny looked like.

Then I got pregnant.

Lord knows how I will feel about it post-birth. I feel very lucky to be able to get midwifery care.

A lot of it comes down to the idea of women's bodies being fundamentally flawed, with pregnancy, birth and nursing being the epitome of the differences that make our bodies inferior to the male models. When I hear men tell me that their wives had to have C-sections because they didn't have the "right kind of pelvis" for natural birth, and that their doctor told them that most women don't have the "right kind." The quickness with with they do C-sections and episiotomy. The "be a good little patient" mentality that keeps women silent and compliant in the hospital. When people look at machines instead of the women they are supposed to be caring for.

I'm thinking about even little things. My MWs giving me copies of my chart, and letting me read the notes they make. I've never had a doctor do that.
post #6 of 113
I'm not in the US, and don't have much to add...but have you thought of also approaching the very fact that a pregnant women is considered a medical patient? Why does the fact that our bodies are performing such a basic function qualify us as "ill"? I haven't noticed anybody recommending that I go see my doctor when I have to pee...
post #7 of 113
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Herausgeber View Post
I'm thinking about even little things. My MWs giving me copies of my chart, and letting me read the notes they make. I've never had a doctor do that.
Yes, isn't that amazing? (I chuckled when I read the notes from my birth..."A. arrived at 11:30 pm and was having difficulty coping." Darn straight, I was! I went through transition in the car! ) And being able to weigh yourself and write it down? the first time I did that, I felt like this huge burden had been lifted.

It's pretty sad, when you think about it.
post #8 of 113
Informed consent often goes out the window. I can't tell you how many women I know whose doctors have swept their membranes without telling them until after, let alone asking for informed consent.
post #9 of 113
Quote:
Originally Posted by NYCVeg View Post
Yes, isn't that amazing? (I chuckled when I read the notes from my birth..."A. arrived at 11:30 pm and was having difficulty coping." Darn straight, I was! I went through transition in the car! ) And being able to weigh yourself and write it down? the first time I did that, I felt like this huge burden had been lifted.

It's pretty sad, when you think about it.
Yeah my mws give their clients their charts. I didn't have to weigh myself. I tested my own urine and did my own gbs swab.
post #10 of 113
Routine Episiotomy
post #11 of 113
I had midwives and they were no more respectful than an OB would have been. From stripping my membranes without getting consent or even telling me they were going to do it, to doing vaginal exams against my will and trying to manually dilate my cervix against my will, to giving me an episiotomy against my will, to giving me drugs without my consent, to not following my wishes, to coercing me into doing things I didn't want done, to not advocating for me to the nurses and letting them take my baby away from me right after the birth before I could even touch or hold him, to not caring about breastfeeding at all or bonding, to being on the side of any other hospital staff member that wanted to yell/scold/complain about me/take my baby away from me, at any given time during the birth and immediate post partum time period. My written wishes were totally ignored and no one in the room even seemed aware of them. My opinion was never asked, I was just told to do things and then they would get mad if I didn't comply. Most confusing to me was that my dh was respected, and HE was asked for opinions, told what was happening, and would gently have things explained to him, and they would even stop to allow time to show him and tell him what was going on, meanwhile acting as if I was not even a person, and refusing to even hear anything I had to say. They even told dh, 30 minutes after ds was born, that HE could hold him now. Umm, hello, what about ME!!! I just pushed him out, when do I get to hold him? It was like I wasn't even there, even though the whole event centered around me. It was the oddest, most confusing, most bewildering, most traumatic thing I've ever experienced in my life.
post #12 of 113
I think it's a great idea. I've been collecting stories about women being lied to, treated like children, and walked all over even when they did try to stand up for themselves. It's a seven page document so far and growing all the time. It's disgusting that it's so easy to find stories like these. And like my collection of anti-NIP articles, a disgusting thing to have to document but the work is too valuable not to do. It has to be taken out and shown for the sick sick thing it is.

Thanks for doing this difficult work, please share it with us when you are finished. Women need to be told the truth, and any way I can help, let me know. I'd be happy to share your work with my mother's group, my preschool co-op and link to my site too.
post #13 of 113
I had a standard first appointment with a doctor I had never met before in which he did a vaginal exam. That in itself is weird enough, isn't it? I have no relationship with this person, not even professionally, and it's considered normal for him to be sticking his hand up me? When I have no medical issues? I don't know that I would label that "misogyny", maybe just inhuman. It seems to me that people in general are treated as less than thinking, human beings when in a hospital environment. And I sensed no hostility from the doctor, latent or otherwise. I do wonder, now, what possesses someone like him to enter obstetrics. Clearly he had no interest in me as a human being, nor did it occur to him to have respect for my body or feelings. To him, it was just a clinical job. But why specialize in dealing with women's bodies, then? Why not, I don't know, be a podiatrist or something? I've heard that men tend to go into obstretics because it's considered easier than other specialties. Which reminds me of this: http://upalumni.org/medschool/ob-gyn.html which might be right up your alley for this project. There isn't much mentioned about birth, but about misogyny in women's health care in general.

Unfortunately the midwife I decided to go to instead turned out to be awful, contrary to the sweet gentle facade she presented during our prenatal visits. I hesitate to call that misogyny also, because I think it was a combination of how she was trained and her inability to deal with my style of laboring. I certainly felt demeaned, manipulated, and belittled, though. I wrote a letter to her, not to send, but just to get it out so I could start to move on. PM me if you'd like to read it.

My other experience that is worth noting doesn't have to do with birth but women's care. I had gone to see a nurse practitioner to... I guess to have a pap, and that evolved into the whole exam including a breast exam. She was very abrupt and sort of snorted when she found I'd had my babies at home. She mauled my breasts (so that I ended up with an infection) then asked what birth control we were using which I was kind of taken aback by, because really, if I wanted to talk to her about it wouldn't I bring it up? It felt kind of intrusive and condescending, like she needed to cover all the bases for my sake, it's her job to make sure I'm thinking about these things, you know. I should have just said that I had no concerns or needs regarding that but she was really into the "I am the expert you are the patient" mentality and I was too cowed to assert myself. So I simply answered, said we were using condoms. She said, in this very condescending tone, "well you can't do that forever. You're going to be fertile for a long time and you need to think about more reliable methods of contraception." !!! Here I am, an adult woman, and she's lecturing me! I wouldn't set foot in her office again if she were the last pap smearer left on earth. But I should have written a letter. Not that it would have done any good, probably, but I still should have.
post #14 of 113
I am not sure that it is necessarily a case of misogyny.... more a case of the medical establishment against the "patient". I have had some loving and wonderful care from men, and some horrible, demeaning, make you cry care from women. Just a thought.
post #15 of 113
women can be misogynists.
post #16 of 113
something that was said to a Native America woman who had some braxton hicks contractions and was sent to the hospital by a clinic she was seeing because she was dilated to 3 well she didn't have labor but spent the night in the hospital-- and both the extended families were in the room- the doc did not want her to go home he wanted her to stay and do an induction, so he said a vagina is a "dirty place" and I think that is an underlying thought all the time-- he just voiced it out loud. it is sort of the unknown -unknowable amount of dirtyness that is present, you could have been tested and cross tested but still not ok.
of course this is how this woman became our client- the family left the hospital , telling the doctor they just had a very different belief about a woman's body thank you very much but no thanks..
post #17 of 113
Quote:
Originally Posted by the_lissa View Post
women can be misogynists.
Everyone who treated me in the hospital was a woman, and they were all misogynists.
post #18 of 113
I was going to say that one of the scariest aspects of the misogyny in birth is that women can be the worst offenders.

It all comes down to trust. At this point women are expected to trust their care providers and the care providers aren't expected to trust the women.
post #19 of 113
One of the most amazing things is how reluctant we are to call it for what it is. And it IS misogyny. It is a disdain for women's bodies, for the very thing that makes us women. It's not about individuals even. It's systematic, which makes it so much harder to recognize and fight. Women often walk away feeling uneasy about their birth experience, but they assume it must be because of a problem with THEM, or if they look beyond that, it's THEIR doctor or THEIR hospital.

Control of reproduction is the very core of misogyny, IMO. The struggle is all about who gets to f*ck whom and who owns the babies when they're done. What you frequently see in the labor and delivery room is a naked power grab by men, often with women's assistance, over reproduction.

Look at how quickly they snatch our babies away from us in the name of "hospital procedure"?
post #20 of 113
Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
I was going to say that one of the scariest aspects of the misogyny in birth is that women can be the worst offenders.

It all comes down to trust. At this point women are expected to trust their care providers and the care providers aren't expected to trust the women.
and midwives (even homebirth midwives **gasp**) can be just as bad as OBs. maybe even worse, bc women go to them expecting something better.
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