Yesterday I drew an explicit parallel between the way that the fashion industry wields the body image issue to induce insecurity and thereby sell clothes, make up and diet aids and the way that the natural childbirth industry uses an idealized image of birth to induce insecurity and thereby sell midwife and doula services, homebirth and a myriad of books, tapes and DVDs.
Over the past few decades everyone from individual women, to physicians, to feminist scholars has come to grips with the fact that the fashion industry sells a view of the female body image that is unhealthy, unrealistic, and deeply toxic to women’s self-confidence. They sell the image that thin women are better, more popular, happier and an ideal to which all women should aspire.
Similarly, the natural childbirth industry sells a view that women who have an unmedicated vaginal birth are better women, better mothers, and an ideal to which all women should aspire. Now is the time for everyone from individual women, to physicians, to feminist scholars to come to grips with the fact that the natural childbirth industry sells a view of birth that is unhealthy, unrealistic and deeply toxic to women’s view of themselves and their confidence as mothers.
It has ever been thus in the natural childbirth industry. The philosophy of natural childbirth was created originally by old, white men to convince women that their primary function in life was to stay home and bear as many children as possible. It is perpetuated by women midwives, doulas, childbirth educators and lobbyists whose income depends entirely on convincing women to judge themselves by the function of their body, not the product of their minds or the content of their character.
The natural childbirth industry, like the fashion industry, situates a woman’s worth in her body. The natural childbirth industry, like the fashion industry, implies that women who meet the ideal (unmedicated vaginal birth or a size 2) are happier, better and widely admired. Women who don’t meet the ideal are unfeminine, unhappy, unadmired, and, in the case of the natural childbirth industry, bad mothers to boot.
But women who are a size 2 aren’t better, healthier or superior in any way to women who wear a different dress size. Similarly, unmedicated vaginal birth is not better, healthier or superior in any way to childbirth with pain relief, interventions and even C-sections.
The life blood of the natural childbirth industry, like the life blood of the fashion industry, is guilt and the inevitable by product of both is self-hatred. Women are convinced to buy fashionable clothing and expensive make up, to starve themselves and submit themselves to the ministrations of plastic surgeons in order to assuage the deliberately induced feelings of guilt and self-hatred.
Similarly, women are convinced to buy the services and accoutrements of natural childbirth, to endure agonizing pain, and submit themselves to the ministrations of poorly trained, deeply manipulative midwives, doulas and childbirth educators in order to assuage the deliberately induced feelings of guilt and self-hatred.
The image of the female body promoted by the fashion industry is manipulative, unhealthy and deeply anti-feminist. The image of childbirth promoted by the NCB industry is manipulative, unhealthy and deeply anti-feminist.
Women should reject both.