What is Freedom?

In relation to Angela Davis’s Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights and The Business of Being Born, are women truly free from being considered just baby makers? Women who fight to control their own birthing process are few in the United States, with a very small portion of mothers using midwives. In Davis’s article, women are sometimes misinformed and subject to dangerous abortions. Pregnant women are objectified in hospitals, reduced down to how much money and time that they spend while giving birth. In the film, the process of chemical intervention was described to basically induce labor – to the benefit of the hospital and the discomfort of the mother. The mother isn’t seen as a woman, she’s seen as a process that needs to happen in a x amount of time.

Yet women who do not want to have children are often considered lesser than mothers or selfish. The fact that women fought for ‘voluntary motherhood’ show just how ingrained the idea that every woman must be a mother was, and still is, to this day. Will women ever be free from their assumed role as mothers?

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One Response to What is Freedom?

  1. jmickey317 says:

    I find this argument very interesting. It makes sense to tie the medicalization of birth to the lack of choices given to women with regards to the birthing process, and their reproductive options (ie. laws against abortion and the practice of it in hospitals that are a part of the larger Medical Health Industrial Complex). However, I’m not sure that this lack of choice can be expanded to symbolize a general lack of freedom for every woman. After all, there are women who do have children and regard their position as a mother to be an incredibly important part of their self identity. Isn’t it just as much of a choice for those women to identify with motherhood so much as it is a woman’s choice who does not want to identify primarily as a mother to find other ways to fulfill that need to identify as a runner, or a traveler, or whatever else? I don’t believe the fight for “voluntary motherhood” ties women who don’t wish to be mothers to that identity. In fact that is what they are fighting against. Involuntary motherhood, or the idea that a woman should be forced to be a mother,and not given that choice not to be. Frankly, I think this has more to do with woman’s social role as submissive to men,and religious factions’ outrage with the concept of abortion than it has to do with women not being able to separate themselves from the role of motherhood. What might be more accurate is the argument that women can’t separate themselves from their reproductive potential. That unequal, gendered division of reproductive labor discussed in the Firestone piece would have to be broken down in order to “free” women from that submissive position as the carrier of men’s seed.

    Citation: Firestone, Shulamith: The Dialectic of Sex (1970)

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