Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When Birthing Becomes a Fetish

Holly, supported by her husband and doula, switched
from an OB to a midwife late in pregnancy. She received
support for her VBAC.
In the letters to the editor of NY Times, a lawyer from New Jersey calls women who want VBAC "natural birth fetishists." (Source)

I find this an interesting way to ridicule the normative process of birthing. Once again, the body of a woman working as it was designed/evolved draws criticism in our culture, as if women who want to experience normal birth are asking for too much. 

 If mamas who want a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section) are called natural birth fetishists, then men who exercise, change their diet and take medications after heart surgery must be artery fetishists. And people who struggle through physical therapy after spinal surgery are spine fetishists. Yet, instead, we find that the man who goes against the odds and climbs a mountain after doctors say he won’t walk again is applauded as a hero. Or the surfer who loses an arm to a shark and gets back on her board becomes a living inspiration. They aren't called fetishists!

Our culture commends and praises those who are recovering from non-birth surgery and who work hard to restore their body so that they can use it in the way it was intended. Someone who wants his body to work normally receives encouragement, support and advice. But for women who want a normal birth? Clearly, nothing but surgery is good for those pregnant women. Hack them open, yank at them, drug them and pay those surgeons! Their bodies are unreliable and untrustworthy. Or so society tells them. 

Why is normal birth attacked in our society? Could it be that the lustful sexualisation of a woman's body influences the way our culture handles this situation? Just as nursing a child draws criticism, so does pushing a child through a birth canal. For in a lustful culture, people (and in this topic, women) are severely objectified. They become non-person beings present for the satisfaction of others. Therefore, their duality cannot be tolerated. 

Michelle goes on to nurse her baby after cesarean surgery.

Female breasts are for sexual foreplay only and a female vagina is for sexual intercourse only. A woman who wants to wear provocative clothing receives praise. A woman who wants to nurse her child in public receives condemnation. A woman who goes in for surgery to remove her child is making the "safe choice" while a woman who tries to birth vaginally is a "fetishist." Because of this inequality, each person within the family unit is turned in violence towards the other, with both the mother and father turned against the child. The child, once seen as a symbol of the couple's unity and love, is instead looked upon as a thief, one who steals the woman's body and ruins it, so that she cannot meet the objectifying demands of our culture. 

To say that violence against the smallest in our society has no impact upon us is madness. It is this violence against and rejection of the woman's offspring and the rejection of what her body is designed to do that represents the greatest inequality against women. For nothing so strongly proves her inequality than to cast off or demean the purpose and abilities of her body and the child that she bore in her womb or that she nurses at her breasts. In so doing, her very womanhood is denied and devalued. 

To respect normal birth is to respect women. To promote and encourage normal birth is to promote and encourage equality. To applaud and support women who work hard to restore their bodies is to show support for all people. Our culture cannot be brought back from the brink of objectifying women until we restore equality and respect within the family unit. 

An involved, supportive partner

Those who were deprived as children and want to lash out at the unity they see in normal birth or breastfeeding must find within themselves the strength to acknowledge their infantile wants and to heal and move forward. Those men who want to objectify the bodies of women during pregnancy, breastfeeding and mothering their children need to become partners who deeply and fully love women and all that women can do, and they need to become fathers who protect their offspring.

 Those women who were trained to offer their bodies to others must come to recognize the power and beauty of their own bodies and the duality they wield within the family unit. They must learn to refuse objectifying behavior from partners, friends, doctors, the media and our culture overall. 

And everyone must accept that children are people with rights and dignity, who represent the power of bodies working as they were designed/evolved to work. Nowhere else can this be achieved faster than during pregnancy and birth. For our culture, peace on earth really does have everything to do with the events leading up to and surrounding birth.


  1. Hear! Hear! Well said. To equate wanting to birth as nature intended with a "fetish"... once again, a male writing from the male-centered medical perspective in a male-dominated society about how when you get down to it, everything having to do with a woman's body is somehow SEXUAL. Good grief, guys, get over your dicks and come up to higher ground where we're all thinking clearly.

  2. Excellent post, Guggie! I totally agree. Women are denigrated as mothers; raising children is looked down upon. We are only as valuable as our last paycheck. How do we get society to change? How do we get everyone to value parenting?

  3. So very well said! I had never looked at the issue this way before, but you are absolutely right! Thank you!

  4. I love this!!! "Why is normal birth attacked in our societ?" - That entire paragraph needs to be posted and reposted all over the internet, in every paper and put on every news channel in the country!!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    A. Redmer

  5. @Guggie great article!

    @itinerantlabor is there really a need for comments like "good grief guys, get over your dicks"? Supporting VB & VBAC has nothing to do with men vs. women. I'm sick and tired of men being portrayed like this. Men and women are both being discriminated against in horrible ways in our society, and we need to work together to stop it.

  6. Great post Guggie! These are the same people who call folks who don't circumcise "foreskin fetishists".

  7. Nice! It's such a paradox of ideals that society tries to feed us. Women are supposed to maintain youth and beauty, but at the same time as mothers we're supposed to be self sacrificing and keep the nice house, the kids activities, supporting the spouse (in whatever). Now we're fetishists...amazing.

  8. Great way of putting it out! Doctors who like to stay on schedule and roll in the dough= Mercece's fetishists HHHHHAAAHHH had to say it!

  9. love it, wonderfully written! i can't wait to share this.
    thank you

  10. Well done. I've birthed 7 with no meds, including a set of twins in which the second was a double footling breech. They were 6 & 8 lbs. Fetish...more like I know what is best for my babies & my body and I fought for the right (the twins in particular) to do what was best for us!

  11. Why waste a perfectly good vajayjay by pushing a baby out of it?! thats just stupid! you know nature always intended that baby to be cut out of there, thats why we grow fingernails!

  12. I'm not a fetishist, I just don't want major abdominal surgery when it's not neccessary.