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Birth, Feminism, and the place of males in the whole thing - Page 2

post #21 of 85
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Originally Posted by applejuice View Post
I wishe the feminist movement worked for women as pregnant beings and as mothers. It seems the modern feminist movement wants to make women into men instead of honoring the traditional and biological functions of women.
Well there are lots of feminismS and while liberal feminism, for example, is more about childcare and "competing" with men in the workforce, as a radical feminist birthworker I employ a feminist critique of birthing in my work. Of course this makes me a pariah with mainstream birth reformers in this country because they think they can "fix" maternity care and birth will Get Better and I think birth is occurring in the context of women's lives and Australian women's lives suck pretty badly. We have inordinately high rates of rape, particularly packrape, ad seriously low rates of conviction. We have high rates of domestic violence, low rates of parliamentary participation despite having compulsory voting. We can't magically change "birth" we have to support women to change their lives and then we will automatically demand better services thus making redundant all those knife happy surgeons. But this is a HUGE topic and I'm just idly typing over my morning coffee
post #22 of 85
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Originally Posted by ktbug View Post

I also genuinely don't understand why men want to be OB/GYNs, except for the sadism. I really have trouble wrapping my head around a man going through medical school and residency, all that hard work, with the purely altruistic intention of "helping women". It just doesn't compute, and for that reason, I don't trust male OB/GYNs.
By that rationale, no one should do a job they haven't had direct experience of. AIDS workers who have never had AIDS can't be trusted by their patients -- why would they *want* to hang around AIDS patients all day if they've never even had it, ya know? :

I think you may be misplacing some anger onto an entire gender and that's not very fair, considering if a man said the same thing of women we'd be hounding him into the ground. Men are not wholly evil and to pretend they are does feminism a real disservice.
post #23 of 85
I've had a wonderful experience with a male OB, contrasted with an AWFUL, abusive experience with a female CNM (she screamed at me DURING THE DELIVERY for expressing pain during my first child's birth, because I "should have taken the painkillers, #%$^#%$#!"). I have to say that I have experienced about 50/50 good and bad female medical professionals in relation ot my pregnancies and births. There are good ones and bad ones.

As far as routine GYN care, in 20+ years of being a GYN patient (my first GYN appt was at 16), I have to say that most of the female NPs and GYNs I've ever seen have been so unpleasant as to make me surprised when I have a good experience with one (several have been rough, rude, and even outright abusive to me). I've only ever seen three or four male GYNs and the split was 50/50 good, respectful and dismissive, unpleasant (but, oddly, never outright abusive).

I think it comes down to whether a medical person of ANY gender or sexual orientation has a vocation for waht they do, has respect for their patients, and understands what they do and how it affects others. Gender often has little to do with it.

Maura
post #24 of 85
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Originally Posted by amitymama View Post
I've had these thoughts before too and it really is infuriating to hear so many stories about incompetent and authoritative male OBs who ruin the childbirth experience for women in labor. However, there are also female OBs who do the same thing. Maybe it's because they've been schooled in a male-dominated university/medical school/field and have just swallowed the bait, hook line and sinker, I don't know. Or they feel that to get ahead and do as well as the top men, they have to think, act and behave like them as well (aggressive, controlling, insensitive). There are definitely loads of perfectly understanding, lovely doctors, both male and female, out there but people aren't very vocal about their good experiences and that's why we only hear the horror stories. That is worth bearing in mind when it seems that EVERY SINGLE birth is controlled and underminded.

As far as banning male OB/GYNs...while in theory I agree and think it makes sense, in practice it sets a dangerous precedent about gender roles and what we are each 'allowed' to do or understand. I've had two gynos -- one male, one female. The female was rough, distant and cold. The male was gentle, compassionate and professional. Not everyone fits into the gender-specific stereotype and to pretend we do is dangerous, not only for birth but for other areas as well. If we ban men from the business of birth outright, they'll retaliate and want to ban females from doing traditionally male things or dealing with things that pertain to males. Besides, we're all humans and childbirth is the most basic, primal thing -- our species propogating itself. And as much as some people might not like it, men are involved in that process as well. It is their children being born and the future of their society as well, not just women's.

What we need is plain and simple -- more education and less propaganda and fear-mongering. Women need to be given the tools (aside from reading 'What to Expect' and watching a few lousy TLC shows) to educate and empower themselves. Males need to do the same. The problem is, they don't want to right now. People are happy living in ignorant bliss and like having someone make their decisions for them, especially when it comes to the human body. We've denigrated the body so much that most women have never even looked at or can name the parts of their genitals and men have no idea where their prostate is, let alone either sex knowing what a body is capable of in birth. Is it any wonder we leave it to these 'demi-gods' to tell us what to do? But that's not entirely men's fault. Women have given up their power without a fight, a long, long time ago, and it is going to take time to get it back. It's tempting to start a radical revolution but for it to be a true, long-lasting movement, it has to be done slowly, from within. We have to get inside people's lives, inside their heads and start, ever so slowly and subtly, putting seeds of doubt in their mind until they start learning for themselves again. I think that's really the best first step at the moment. Blaming men for the entire problem and banning them completely won't help anything right now, IMO.

I know I've rambled a bit here too (only on my first cup of coffee but I do empathise with what you're saying and understand your frustration. I think a lot of us do. Hang in there mama, it will only get better if we have people like you, with such passion, to help fight birth's corner.

What a wonderful, thoughtful post. My second OB was literally a gentleman -- in the sense of gentle man. I had a section due to a number of issues which existed even before I got pregnant, but he never lost sight of the fact that there was a human woman on the other end of the scalpel. He treated me like an intelligent human being, and with genuine compassion.

I agree with so much of what this PP said that there's no way to improve on it.
post #25 of 85
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post #26 of 85
Honestly I've run into worse female OBs than male. My male perinatologist was heaven-sent and just what I needed at the time (truly very high-risk twin pregnancy). I saw two very wonderful female midwives for my next birth and now feel I don't need an attendant beyond my very attentive husband. I don't want another woman there, I don't get along with women well enough.

I guess I'm just not a feminist if it means that men or women can't choose their own profession. I thought feminism was about choice. If women don't like the OB they have (or don't want an OB period or don't want a midwife period), choose otherwise. The dollars seem to make the ultimate decision these days.
post #27 of 85
I am not a feminist (at least not in the sense that is used one MDC most often), but I agree with you.

And I am proud to say that my "patriarchal" husband was this for me: there as her advocate and soldier.

Without him, I would almost certainly have been badgered by female caregivers into an induction or c-section. He was the *only* person in my off-line life that fully believed in my ability to birth my baby and in my body's "rightness" (for lack of a better word) for that. His railings against the US birth system and complaints about the treatment I got rival those frequently seen on this board.

I can understand mistrust of male OB's, and I personally wasn't comfortable with the one male OB I ever have, but I've never really had a good experience with a baby doctor ever, anyway, male or female. And there is a male midwife in our town who a feminist friend *raved* to me about, how awesome he is.
post #28 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
Without him, I would almost certainly have been badgered by female caregivers into an induction or c-section.
Mine too, actually. Though we were in a hospital and he was holding up my left leg while an evil nurse held the right. He was the only thing that prevented me from having a section. Not that he did that verbally, at all, but his presence there just empowered me to do what I knew I could do, and not listen to the docs and nurses and medwife.

It occurs to me, now, that my position on this is really pretty far from what is generally understood as classical neofeminism - that is, gender equality and female enfranchisement/empowerment. I really feel, in my heart of hearts, that this is something that those of the male gender (for the most part) are less qualified to do than those of the female gender. That's acutally not very feminist at all, come to think of it.

I'm not here to say men are wholly evil. I just don't want them around my birth process. And this:

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it seems that you believe all men find all women inferior and therefore not worth caring for as patients. Some people are fascinated with the brain. Some with the heart and lungs. Others with the bowel. What's so wierd about being fascinated with the reproductive system?
What's weird, to me, is a man having a clinical fascination with the female reproductive system, so much so that he would go deeply into debt and devote a great percentage of his intellect to the nitty-gritties of gynecology and obstetrics. That stat applejuice quoted is very telling. OB work is profitable and not nearly as challenging as neurosurgery or pediatric oncology. I admit it, I'm a raging man-hater, and I think that deep down, many if not most men are tempted to dominate and control women on some level. Coming from that perspective, it may just be my inherent distrust of men in positions of power that leads me to say things like "men have no place in my birth process". That may be so. It doesn't change my gut feeling, however, that male OB/GYNs are creepy and not to be trusted.

This is not to say that I think many female OB/GYNs are to be trusted simply by virtue of their gender. The things you have to do to become a doctor are richly steeped in patriarchal tradition, and the women who have walked that road have had to buy into at least some of it to get where they are. It makes for a lousy system of care.

Which is why I always say, next time I'm going to the woods with a bottle of wine, my husband, and some towels. If I practiced what I preached, you'd be reading "priestess" in place of "husband". Maybe some pot. No MDs.
post #29 of 85
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And there is a male midwife in our town who a feminist friend *raved* to me about, how awesome he is.
I always wondered if there were male midwives around anywhere!

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What's weird, to me, is a man having a clinical fascination with the female reproductive system, so much so that he would go deeply into debt and devote a great percentage of his intellect to the nitty-gritties of gynecology and obstetrics.
I think this viewpoint is demeaning to both men and women. It implies that women aren't WORTH studying and it implies that men have less-than-stellar ideals when they are interested in the way the feminine body works.

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OB work is profitable and not nearly as challenging as neurosurgery or pediatric oncology.
That may be true, but it doesn't make it less worthy work. For a man or a woman.

I guess I just really despise the idea that either gender is superior to the other. Why can't we celebrate female strength, talent, wisdom, intelligence, etc. without putting men down in the process? If you don't feel comfortable birthing with a man, that's fine. That's your reality. Totally get that. But that doesn't mean that ALL men need to be removed from the birthing arena simply because they are men.

Jen
post #30 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by applejuice View Post
me either...

There are studies that show that the top 10% of medical school graduate usually go into cardiology and internal medicine. Conversely, most of the bottom 10% of medical school graduates gravitate to obstetrics. Why?
Maybe that was the 10% who actually have a heart and want to help bring life into the world instead of watching people die and be sick?
post #31 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktbug View Post
What's weird, to me, is a man having a clinical fascination with the female reproductive system, so much so that he would go deeply into debt and devote a great percentage of his intellect to the nitty-gritties of gynecology and obstetrics. That stat applejuice quoted is very telling. OB work is profitable and not nearly as challenging as neurosurgery or pediatric oncology.
Do people really forget that creating babies is not a solely female endeavour? Birth may be specifically female but women do not have a monopoly on reproduction. To be interested in helping birthing women means they would be interested in not only the female reproductive system but the creation and progression of life. What's so weird about that? We need *more* men who care about things like that instead of opting to become a boob job surgeon.
post #32 of 85
I don't know about male OBs, as I haven't asked their motivation, but I can understand the desire to go into baby-birthing. Having seen births besides my own, they are amazing! Who wouldn't want to be part of bringing new life into the world? So much of medicine is death and dying and here's one that is focused on LIFE!
post #33 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by babymonster View Post
I also find it odd that male OBGYNs are the majority - they specialise in body parts that they don't even have, and processes that they can never go through.
It does seem odd, but for some of them maybe it's the chance to be a part of something they can never go through themselves.

For others, it's probably the $$$, although the hours are crap.
post #34 of 85
I agree that OBs, including male OBs, are not evil or anti-woman, but the obstetric system certainly is. It was established by an all-male medical system at a time when women were regarded as inferior and contemptible, and the entire system is based on that attitude. It has changed somewhat over the years, but not nearly enough.

I, also, don't understand why men go into gynecology. Equating it with specializing in cardiac medicine or podiatry is just ignoring the obvious. Having a strange man put his fingers up your vagina or feel your breasts involves more issues than I can name - modesty issues, power issues, you name it. We have agreed to just pretend there is nothing to it, but that just isn't the case. I think there is something inherently demeaning in a woman being asked to lie down, put her legs in stirrups, and let some man rummage around in there. I am also suspicious of the tendency to advise pelvic exams far more frequently than preventive health care warrants. I'm not saying OB/GYNs are perverts, just that they are acting on the assumption that female organs are suspect and more prone to failure than usual, and need to be constantly monitored.

When women first began going to male doctors for intimate exams and childbirth, it was agreed that the process would offend their modesty, but since only men could be doctors in those days, women were encouraged to suppress those feelings in order to get the health care they needed. Maybe that was a valid point; but today, women are able to become doctors. Women patients no longer have to endure this situation. So why are men still becoming gynecologists?
post #35 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamabadger View Post
Having a strange man put his fingers up your vagina or feel your breasts involves more issues than I can name - modesty issues, power issues, you name it. We have agreed to just pretend there is nothing to it, but that just isn't the case. I think there is something inherently demeaning in a woman being asked to lie down, put her legs in stirrups, and let some man rummage around in there.
But aren't the ideas that women need to preserve their 'modesty' and that being naked in front of a strange man renders a woman powerless derived from the very patriarchal rules that were imposed on women to begin with? It wasn't women who came up with the idea of being ashamed of their naked bodies and being told to hide them away lest they intice unwanted male attention, it was men. Before Eve was made to feel like a slut for not having her fig leaves in the right place, neither she nor Adam probably gave their bodies much thought.

I thougth that part of the movement so intrinsic to MDC philosophy works to redefine shame and modesty with regards to our bodies and their processes which is why we embrace pregnancy and our changing bodies instead of hiding them, regard birth as a woman's primal right of passage and insist that breastfeeding is the most natural, normal thing in the world and has nothing to do with preconceived ideas of what women 'should' do according to outdated notions.

Quote:
I am also suspicious of the tendency to advise pelvic exams far more frequently than preventive health care warrants. I'm not saying OB/GYNs are perverts, just that they are acting on the assumption that female organs are suspect and more prone to failure than usual, and need to be constantly monitored.
Well, in my experience and estimation, our reproductive organs ARE more prone to problems simply because they are much more complex than the male reproductive system. We have a lot going on down there and for men it's fairly simple and straightforward. And frankly, I *do* know a lot of women who have had some kind of problem, be it infertility, ovarian cysts, cancerous cervical cells, ectopic pregnancies, unusual bleeding, infections, etc..Do you know many women who have never had a problem with their reproductive organs at all? Compare that number to men who have similar problems and one can see why there are more professionals dedicated to female reproductive health. It's simple supply and demand, really.

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When women first began going to male doctors for intimate exams and childbirth, it was agreed that the process would offend their modesty, but since only men could be doctors in those days, women were encouraged to suppress those feelings in order to get the health care they needed. Maybe that was a valid point; but today, women are able to become doctors. Women patients no longer have to endure this situation. So why are men still becoming gynecologists?
While I understand what you're saying in a historical context, I still maintain that those feelings of having to preserve modesty and feel ashamed of their bodies came from the patriarchal system itself, not from how women innately feel. So if we have been able to evolve past that shame and taboo (though I understand that not all women have and that's perfectly ok with me if they just don't feel comfy having a male attend to them), why would we want to take a step back?

As for why men are becoming gynecologists, I suspect some of them do it because they truly care or are interested in female reproduction and want to help them, and some do it because there's a gap there that needs filling and they can get better pay than by becoming a general practitioner. Who knows, there are as many answers to that question as there are gynos so I guess we'd have to survey them to get an accurate assessment.
post #36 of 85
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Originally Posted by amitymama View Post
It wasn't women who came up with the idea of being ashamed of their naked bodies and being told to hide them away lest they intice unwanted male attention, it was men.
Neither men nor women, in this society, can appear naked in public. That was not imposed on one sex by the other; it is a rule that applies to everyone, except very young children. There is no society on earth that does not have some restrictions on nakedness.
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Before Eve was made to feel like a slut for not having her fig leaves in the right place, neither she nor Adam probably gave their bodies much thought.
This is not the place to debate Biblical interpretation, but in brief, both Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness and covered themselves, it was due to a spiritual change and not some new regulation on female dress, and the issue of "sluttiness" had not yet arisen.
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Well, in my experience and estimation, our reproductive organs ARE more prone to problems simply because they are much more complex than the male reproductive system. <skip> Do you know many women who have never had a problem with their reproductive organs at all? Compare that number to men who have similar problems and one can see why there are more professionals dedicated to female reproductive health. It's simple supply and demand, really.
The female rep. system may be a bit more complex, but still not enough to explain the degree of watchfulness and intervention the medical system calls for. For example, as I understand it, men are about as likely to experience prostate cancer as women are to encounter breast cancer. Are boys encouraged to have a prostate exam every six months, beginning when they are 12 or 13? Also, much of an OB/GYN's work consists of intervening in the process of childbirth. Supposedly, female reproduction is fraught with problems, which is why almost a third of us "need" major surgery in order to give birth, or why so many thousands of us "need" a hysterectomy. Sorry, I'm still suspicious.
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While I understand what you're saying in a historical context, I still maintain that those feelings of having to preserve modesty and feel ashamed of their bodies came from the patriarchal system itself, not from how women innately feel. So if we have been able to evolve past that shame and taboo (though I understand that not all women have and that's perfectly ok with me if they just don't feel comfy having a male attend to them), why would we want to take a step back?
Even (I would say, especially) the most confident, liberated, self-aware woman has limits on who can touch her, where, and how. If that were not the case, why would we even have the concept of sexual assault? Those limits almost invariably include strange men handling their genitals in an office setting. Most women and girls maintain the concept of "private parts" and are definitely "not comfy" with having just anyone handle them there.
I have heard many women describe the pelvic exam as demeaning; many girls relate how traumatic it was to be forced by their mothers to go through this supposed rite of passage when they had just reached puberty; and past victims of sexual assault describe the effort it took to endure being examined intimately by a male doctor. They make themselves go through it because they are told that it is necessary to their continued health.

They are also told that sensible, mature women have no problem with it. That is the attitude I find most objectionable: the idea that women who do not want to undress in front of a strange man, have their breasts and genitals examined by him, are actually repressed, backward, and shame-filled.

We hear much the same thing about childbirth, that women who object to having procedures done on them without their consent, who resent the lack of privacy and respect in a typical delivery room, are women who simply have "issues." Maybe they don't. Maybe they are the ones who are the most in touch with their own feelings, and refuse to repress them.
post #37 of 85
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..but a woman who employs a male OB as her birth attendant is in for a special kind of hell.
If you say so. My birth was attended by a male OB and a female CNM. Neither I would really rate better than the other. The midwife was dismissive of my pain before the birth (diddled around with getting the epidural ordered like I asked because I don't think she took me seriously) and the OB of it after (local only took on one side when he was stitching me up). They both sucked like that. I don't think their genitalia had much to do with it.
post #38 of 85
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post #39 of 85
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post #40 of 85
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Originally Posted by Sonnenwende View Post
If you say so. My birth was attended by a male OB and a female CNM. Neither I would really rate better than the other. The midwife was dismissive of my pain before the birth (diddled around with getting the epidural ordered like I asked because I don't think she took me seriously) and the OB of it after (local only took on one side when he was stitching me up). They both sucked like that. I don't think their genitalia had much to do with it.
fwiw, I don't think anyone is trying to say vagina=good birth attendant.
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