I'm just now reading this thread and find it very interesting. The huge episiotomy story angers me, and brings to mind that incident where the doctor carved his initials in a woman's abdomen while performing a c-section. It makes me want to hunt him down and take a hot branding iron to some part of him.
Growing up I wasn't happy at how most of the people in positions of authority were male, and how plenty of women seemed happy to keep it that way. My mother even told me once that she would never want to work for a female boss, which really irritated the heck out of me. Then later when she was a manager herself, she got upset when some people seemed not to respect her. Well, gosh mom, maybe they just don't approve of female bosses!
I remember as a very young child saying that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up, and my sister said, "You
can't be a doctor, you're a girl
!" My mom actually corrected my sister and told her I could be a doctor and there were women doctors. This was in the early 70s, and I planned to be a doctor all my life until I was pre-med in college and realized there was no way I'd get into med school with my chemistry, calculus and physics grades. I had to do some major soul searching.
Anyway, I've always said I would only have a female gynecologist, but I knew at least two people who swore they would only have male ones. Part of it was I think they were "hung up" enough to feel like it was some lesbian sex act to have a pelvic exam done by a woman. That was part of the insinuations made. Well, if you are thinking of it in sexual terms, it doesn't seem any better to have some man you don't know doing it. But both of my friends also said that they just didn't think that women were sympathetic to a woman's fears over gynecological exams because they were women themselves and had to get it done also. Men tended to be a little more careful. I think it is just and individual thing.
I was very definite about wanting a female OB. I actually wanted my sister's, because she sounded wonderful and I actually got to observe a birth with her and was very impressed with her gentleness and manner. But I was living across the country when I got pregnant, so I just had to pick one. I picked a woman who was nice and had a child of her own, but ended up scheduling me for an induction when I was something like 28 weeks along. I remember going up to make my co-pay and the woman at the desk said, "Oh, I just scheduled your induction!" I thought she had to be wrong because I was no where near term. It turns out when I was 38 weeks along, I found out my induction had indeed been scheduled for my due date. Then my OB started saying things like I was going to have a big baby and she wasn't going to do anything heroic like let me push for 2.5 hours or use a vacuum extractor. If there were any signs of trouble, I'd have to have a c-section. I cancelled my induction the night before I was to go in, and I went into to labor four days later. The doctor on call was a male and I really liked him. He was very gentle and quiet, didn't do an episiotomy and said that I would have to push for at least 3 hours before they would consider any intervention.
So I guess my thinking now is that in the mainstream hospital birthing world, there can be plenty of forward-thinking, gentle men and women, and just as many that are hideous. In the natural birth setting, however, where women are in touch with their own bodies and birth isn't a medicated procedure to be performed on a mother, I think it is more natural to have female attendants. I would think that men who believed in this model would naturally defer to women as the ones better suited to be midwives.