Michel Odent, another old white male mansplainin’ childbirth to us womenfolk


Heeeee’s baaaaack!

Michel Odent is back with another of his wacky, entirely fabricated theories about childbirth.

Michel Odent has moved from being the benign natural-birth pioneer to a doomsayer predicting that caesarean sections will increase autism spectrum disorders and change humanity on an evolutionary level.

And the doom he foretells?

The Birth of Homo, The Marine Chimpanzee theorises that the way babies are delivered could be one cause of increased numbers of developmental disorders, psychological problems and addictive behaviours. He has interpreted epidemiological studies that show that a high number of children born by caesarean section or induction go on to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in support of his theories.

I beg to differ, Odent hasn’t “moved.” Natural childbirth has always been about preaching doom for those who give birth using technology.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Natural childbirth has always been about old white men insisting that women must suffer agonizing pain or “bad things” will happen.[/pullquote]

It’s always been about old white men, mansplainin’ childbirth to us poor, benighted womenfolk, insisting that we must suffer agonizing pain or “bad things” will happen.

And it’s always about controlling women and their bodies.

It started with opposition to the use of chloroform in childbirth. Both religious leaders and doctors opposed the use of pain relief as a violation of God’s wishes that women suffer in childbirth to atone for Eve’s original sin. The only thing that has changed more than 150 years later is the nature of the “bad things.”

The father of childbirth mansplainin’ was Grantly Dick-Read, a eugenicist, who freely admitted that his claims were intended to get white women of the “better” classes back into the kitchen and pregnant, instead of agitating for political and economic rights.

Odent is also a eugenicist. He claims:

One effect of modern obstetrics is to neutralise the laws of natural selection – the laws that foiled us all [in the past]. We have neutralised those laws. It means that at the beginning of the 20th century, a woman who could not give birth naturally would die, whereas the one in the village who could give birth easily would have 12 children. Today, the number of children one has depends on other factors than the physical capacity to give birth.

Like most eugenicists, Odent betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about evolution. Natural selection does not lead to survival of the perfect, but rather survival of the fittest. Fitness changes when the environment changes. Those who are best able to exploit the environment in which they live are the fittest. In a highly technological society like ours, the ability to exploit technology is a key to fitness.

The graph below vividly illustrates the truth of this:


The acquisition of technology fueled explosive population growth, the ultimate measure of evolutionary success. The use of technology does not “weaken” the human race, it strengthens it.

This is not Odent’s made up nonsense. That includes his famous lie that childbirth pain is necessary for maternal-infant bonding and his fear of attending the births of his own children:

As it happens, at the exact moment our son arrived in the world, the midwife was on her way down the street and I, having made my excuses realising he was about to be born, was fiddling with the thermostat on the central heating boiler downstairs.

My partner did not know it, but I had given her the exceptionally rare, but ideal situation in which to give birth: she felt secure, she knew the midwife was minutes away and I was downstairs, yet she had complete privacy and no one was watching her.

It is easy for to understand that Odent’s “theory” of fathers at birth is nothing more than a projection of his own anxieties. His other theories are no different. They reflect the standard misogyny of old white mansplainers: women are meant to suffer, men must tell them how to give birth, and prejudice can be dressed up as the “science” of eugenics, masquerading as concern for the future of the human race.

According to Odent:

…So if we say that everyone can have a baby, from a short-term perspective, that is positive. But I am not talking about the short term, I am thinking of the future of mankind. There have been human beings on this planet for millions of years and how long can humanity survive now? It’s probably a negligible number of years in comparison with the past.”

The truth is exactly the opposite of Odent’s eugenics. When technology allows everyone to have a baby, and technology protects every baby’s health and brain function, the result is not an epidemic of feeblemindness and genetic weakness, but vitality, longetivity and accomplishment such as we have never known.