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What do natural childbirth and global warming have in common?

Science: just another stick to beat ourselves with since the beginning of time. A recent piece in the Guardian, attacking the  so-called obsession with natural childbirth from a feminist perspective, declaring it “just another stick to beat ourselves with” had me thinking about other instances of anti-academics speaking out.

I think similarly the carbon neutral movement is also just a stick to beat ourselves with. These climate scientists should be quiet about “global warming” when most of us are just trying to live our lives the best we can with the technology we have available. We shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about that, should we?

Not necessarily; but we should start to do things differently. Because like global warming research telling us that cutting edge technology every-time, all-the-time might not be best approach, much of the research on childbirth has led to similar conclusions. The World Health Organisation are not hippy dippy spiritualists; they are a group of medical science experts at the top of their game. The are pro-medical advancements, they are pro-medical technology, and they are pro-safe birth. So when the writer attacks them on the basis that women might feel sad about their choices being judged… well it’s just hard to take her seriously.

I am really getting tired of this trend of women crying foul about research because it makes them feel bad. Research is never done in order to make someone feel bad, it is done in the interest of advancement, of improvement for the future. It’s not about you; so stop being so selfish. Breastfeeding research is not done for current or past formula feeders to beat themselves up, it’s done for the benefit of future mothers, future researchers and policy makers. Childbirth research is similarly done for the benefit of future birthing women and the medical professionals who will advise them. Climate research is not intended to make us feel guilty, but to inform us that we may want to start to change our ways because the choices we are making may not be optimal for our future.

In the Guardian piece, Freeman says, “It is quite something to watch how what is erroneously described as “natural childbirth” – as though childbirth involving medical intervention is fake, or “lesser” – has shifted from being an option feminists promoted in the 1960s to help free women from the male-dominated atmosphere of hospitals, to being yet another stick with which to accuse women of being insufficiently self-sacrificing as mothers.” No, there are still plenty of feminists promoting natural childbirth as a feminine, empowering experience and frankly the shift of some feminists toward embracing trust in the establishment smacks of the same shift to the right of many capitalist feminists embracing ‘lean in’ ideology. For more on that see the insightful post: How Feminism Became Capitalism’s Handmaiden.

“Carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas; it is a harmless gas … And yet we’re being told that we have to reduce this natural substance and reduce the American standard of living to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the Earth.” Michelle Bachman, House Representative in the U.S.

Do you see the similarities? They are both denying the science because it’s inconvenient. As feminists, I don’t believe we should be taking the anti-science approach. I can get behind the sentiment that women should be able to choose what is right for themselves though. Mental and emotional health is important and should be taken into consideration; this is why the NHS chose to make elective c-section a possibility for women who were unable to relax into the idea of vaginal birth. This doesn’t mean elective cesarean is a good idea, it just means it’s better than a terrified pregnant woman who can’t stop crying nor sleep.

Ms. Freeman, however, in all her birth choice fury, neglected to mention birth rape, a term referring to the experiences of women who feel violated by medical interventions they did not consent to. As Zion Lights puts it in the Huffington Post, “The way the medical establishment sees it is, when you’re on the hospital bed, you have already given consent. Some men say the same thing about the marital bed, or any bed that you get into with them.” How is it Freeman wrote an article purporting to support choice in childbirth but completely ignored the many women violated by those interventions?

If you’re going to promote choice and consent, you should promote these for both sides, not just for your own preference. Ironically this is what she thought she was saying.

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Featured image courtesy Dionysius Burton