For what are we responsible?

The film “The Business of Being Born” allowed me to realize that a woman is responsible for how she treats her own body. The increased dependence on doctors, hospitals and Cesarean sections has caused birthing to be a medical emergency.  Do women not have the right now to spend as much time as they want to in labor? The injection of drugs and a quick visit to the hospital is of utmost importance, rather than the woman’s experience.  A mixture of capitalism, sexism and racism can explain this shift from the home to the hospital, as hospitals sought out a way to increase funds, and sexism and racism caused people to believe that doctors could perform births better than midwives who were often minorities. The film suggests that women can take control of their bodies and their birthing experience by choosing to have home births with midwives.  This film highlights the role that the midwife plays in providing a calm, healthy birthing experience, compared to the intimidating and rushed experience in a hospital.  The women who were shown to give birth at home were opposed to the hospital birth and wanted to experience birthing as naturally as possible, and in this way, they took control over what they wanted.  Recognition that pregnancy is not an illness and does not require the help of a doctor is a powerful thing for certain women, and can allow them to reject normal practices of medicalization that typically go hand-in-hand with birthing.  Knowing that infant mortality is higher here than in other countries, is it that a majority of women lack the knowledge about birthing options and that capitalization completely controls the woman’s choice?  Is complete rejection of birthing in hospitals necessary to gain this responsibility over our bodies back?


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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One Response to For what are we responsible?

  1. judithal007 says:

    I, too, believe this rapid shift of dependence on hospitals is a shocking one. Like you highlighted in the reflection, I think a main cause of this is lack of knowledge on a woman’s part. But this lack of knowledge stems from the reliance and trust we have placed on “authority figures.” Many women believe if a doctor says it, it must be true. While it is cynical to think that all doctors are selfish and only have themselves in mind it would also be naïve to think that they’re not human. This humanity is revealed in the statistic the film “The Business of Being Born” points out, revealing that C-Sections peak at the hours of 4 pm & 10 pm, precisely at the times many doctor’s shift end.

    Like you also reference, this switch to the hospital and away from midwives began when pregnancy began to be viewed as a “disease.” Being pregnant began to be viewed as debilitating and contributing to the idea Ehrenreich describes as “female frailty.” However, I don’t think it is capitalization that completely controls the woman’s choice. I believe it in instead, societal norms and again lack of knowledge. The thought that by opting for a midwife, you might potentially have complications and put your child’s life in danger (many people do not know how prepared midwives are), then you are considered a “bad” mother. And in a world where you are defined through someone else’s eyes, being considered a “bad” mother could have detrimental effects. It all boils down to empowering and teaching women their options so they do not become pawns in the medical business.

    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.
    Ehrenreich, Barbara & Deirdre English For Her Own Good: Two centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women. New York: Anchor Books, 2005 (2nd Edition).

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