For What are We Responsible? How about my uterus and ovaries, thank you.

This week’s viewing of “The Business of Being Born” and our reading, “The Sexual Politics of Sickness” forced me to realize that the overall responsibility of a woman’s relationship with her body began to deteriorate when the male dominated medical profession convinced her that she was inherently sick and in need of repair. This is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been in practice for over a century.

The early 20th century doctor’s view on pregnancy was pathological, with the primary focus being a “concern about prenatal impressions.” Once the pregnancy was over, a woman “could only look forward to menopause.” (Ehrenreich, English, 123) Nearly 100 years later, that idea has left a residue on the medical field and the notion of childbirth. Due to the fear of something going wrong and the anxiety of having pain, birthing is not viewed as a process but rather as something to be cured.

The movie showcased women who chose a home birth instead of a hospital birth. It highlighted how these women took responsibility over their own bodies and their own birthing experience. They made their own individual decisions to decline medical intervention out of awareness, not fear. I do not believe it’s a weakness to want or need pain medication or some form of medical intervention, but shouldn’t it be a choice? Shouldn’t it be an option and not the standard?

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Deidre English. For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Expert’s Advice to Women. 2nd. New York, New York : Anchor Books , 1978. Print.

Epstein, Abby, Amy Slotnick, Paulo Netto, Ricki Lake, Madeleine Gavin, and André Pluess. The Business of Being Born. Burbank, Calif.: New Line Home Entertainment, 2008.


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GSWS G&S Fall 2012
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2 Responses to For What are We Responsible? How about my uterus and ovaries, thank you.

  1. Emily Kalenik says:

    Firstly, I think the medicalization of women’s bodies needs to be interpreted in the greater context of medical trends in general. I think there has been a general trend in the United States to want to put a medical label on everything, and to find a way to use drugs. People are eager to go to the doctor’s and leave with a medication. The medicalization of bodies hasn’t been a targeted attack on pregnant women.

    Secondly, I don’t think that the medicalization of pregnant bodies has been entirely detrimental. In “The Business of Being Born”, New York women who scheduled their C-sections received harsh criticism, but the ability to do this might be seen as a new freedom. I can imagine that it would be very difficult to stay productive at a job in the last few weeks of pregnancy when you do not know when your baby will be born. However, having a scheduled date for birth might allow for more certainty at work, and the ability to have a more concrete schedule. Women are no longer at the mercy of their own bodies when it comes to labor. Instead, they can predetermine the date and have more control over their lives in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Scheduling a C-section might be seen as taking “responsibility over [your] body and [your] own birthing experience”, to quote the original blog post.

    Overall, I agree that the medicalization of women’s bodies has been detrimental, but some good has come out of it.

  2. shivanis1 says:

    I agree with you that women should be given more of a choice by doctors so they can take responsibility of their own bodies. However, I think it is also interesting to view the way medicalization plays into women’s other responsibilities according to society today. Women continue to be held responsible for how their homes are run, their children and even husband are looked after, their careers, and their participation in activities such as book clubs, social circles, or charities. Perhaps one reason the medical profession has been able to take over the way women view their bodies and how they treat them (during pregnancy or otherwise) to such an extent is because so many other responsibilities are piled on women already. It may have become easier to give up the maintenance and understanding of the body to the medical profession than to add those things to one’s personal burdens. This could also apply to men, highlighting how it is not just women who have been medicalized but a vast array of peoples, allowing them to forget to think critically about their bodies and health. As you say, those who have begun to think more critically, such as the women in the film, are able to make informed decisions. This is what people must be reminded- that it is important to accept and own responsibility for one’s body so that one has control over what is done to it.

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