What is empowering?

Female empowerment is a major theme in “The Business of Being Born,” and it is one of the primary focuses of the natural birth movement. Throughout the movie, various women discuss how there is nothing else in the world that provides females with that same sense of accomplishment as having a natural birth does. Yet, when I went home for Thanksgiving, I asked my mom what her thoughts were on this issue. She has experienced both sides of the spectrum; she first gave birth naturally to my older brother, and she had a cesarean section when she had my twin brother and me. Yet, contrary to what the movie argues, my mom said that her natural birth was so incredibly painful that it ruined the experience for her; in that moment, she didn’t even care about having the baby, she just wanted the labor process to be over. Hearing such a drastically different opinion from my feminist mother made me realize how biased and sexist the movie’s argument really is. While I understand that a natural birth may bring women to overcome a huge obstacle, I believe that females should be able to seek empowerment in ways that are not confined to their gender. Empowerment by giving birth emphasizes gender roles by reinforcing the female place as a mother and in the home. Moreover, it implies that women can only reach their highest level of pride and success by doing things that they are “made” to do because of their gender. I think women should seek empowerment through accomplishments that defy gender barriers—getting a college degree and having a great job, to name a few. That, to me, is truly empowering.

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3 Responses to What is empowering?

  1. domcp says:

    I agree with you that the documentary provided a biased view on the joy and pride that women feel after experiencing childbirth. Frankly, the movie convinced me that birth at home or birth at a hospital (with or without medications) will be a physically and emotionally demanding experience that I am not looking forward to very much. I do not, however, think the documentary presented a “sexist” message at all. The reality of female physiology is that our bodies are the chosen vessels for new life; so, the documentary focused on women’s experience with birthing, as it should. In addition, I do not feel that the film “demonized” women that chose to use medication. It was shared that midwifes are also equipped, and have been known to use, some of the same medications as are used in the hospital. The only demonized entity that I saw in the film was the field of obstetrics, as it was portrayed as being overly aggressive during the birthing process and making rash decsions that leads women to take medicaitons and undergo unnecessary medical procedures. In my opinion, the movie focused on encouraging women to educate themselves and research their options in childbirth; this ability to chose is empowering in and of itself, and (in the presentation in the documentary) is currently best supported in the field of midwivery.

  2. ctr0605 says:

    I think we all agree that natural childbirth is a huge obstacle; otherwise everyone would be chomping at the bit to buy a birthing tub and have a doula friend on speed dial. I agree that this movie was biased, and did portray that because of their gender women are “made” to birth children. I also agree that there are other ways women can seek empowerment that are equally as important, such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, or getting her doctorate. However, I disagree that this movie reinforced the female place “as a mother and in the home”(emilym27). If anything I saw the opposite, a showcase of women choosing to balance their careers with having a family. I disagree also, that the film demonized or shamed women into choosing natural childbirth. I believe that was evident when Abby Epstein the film’s producer, decided to take her home birth into the hospital when complications were discovered. Her friend and home birth advocate Ricki Lake did not impose her views, but simply jumped into the cab right along side her and was with her through the birth of her son. The core of feminism for me is becoming aware and educated and making informed decisions, and I think that was evident in this movie despite its reinforcement that all women were made to survive natural childbirth.

  3. taek2012 says:

    I think you’re definitely right; the movie’s main argument was sexist, and it implied that the ultimate role for women — and only women — was childbirth. The major problem I had with the film was that it made it seem as though childbirth was the only time women could bond with their child, which means that women who don’t give birth naturally, as well as fathers, were not capable of bonding in the same way. It also demonized women who chose to have drugs while giving birth. In terms of childbirth, I think the most empowering thing is educating women on all the issues without bias, letting them choose the birthing method that is best for them, and refraining from shaming them for their choice.

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