When I was pregnant with my third child, my partner and I ventured into the nighttime music scene we had slowly been weaning ourselves from during the pregnancy. A banjo player that we love was in town and we were excited to hear some good music, laugh, and be with friends.
About halfway through the show, the musician, prepping for his next song, asked the audience, “Anyone ever hear of Amelia Earhart?” Someone from the back of the room yelled an extremely rude and inappropriate sexual response as to how he knew her. The crowd inhaled an audible, collective gasp. With barely a pause, the musician raised his eyebrows and replied, “That joke never gets old. Or good.” And carried on with his song.
Now, something about this scenario didn’t end here for me. It likely had to do with myriad factors – my pregnancy and giddiness at being out, the way the musician-comedian threw his leg over his neck while standing on a table and playing banjo. Whatever the case, about three cords in, I erupted in a fit of giggles that only got worse whenever the artist sang the words, “Amelia Earhart.” Which was often. By the end of the song my entire table was in tears. How’s that for a raving feminist? Had I just just unwittingly become an accomplice to the joker? To misogyny through my laughter?
To this day whenever anyone says “Amelia Earhart,” I’m ruined. My poor kiddos come home with a homework paper that contains her name and I relive the event and snicker. If anyone says the line, “that joke never gets old,” I follow it instinctively with, “OR GOOD!”
Are Women Accomplices?
Here’s a line I receive in response to my articles pretty routinely. It goes something like this.
Women need to take responsibility for their part in the process. Women were the ones who demanded medicalized and “pain-free” childbirth, and they are still demanding it today….
That joke never gets old.
A belief that women were the ones who demanded a system in which they were drugged, restrained, and physically abused during their labors and births, and then systematically separated from their newborns, is a belief system that is grossly filtered through a patriarchal lens. (Click here and here to read more about the historical agenda to move birthing women into hospital and women’s inadvertent “role” in that process.)
So, we need to grasp an honest understanding of birthing history – one that tells HERstory not HIStory. Because birth is about Women. It is a woman’s story. And we need to also understand why and how this herstory compels women to make the choices they make surrounding birth in the present day.
People become the product of the culture that feeds them.
It takes an immense amount of work to deconstruct cultural lies. Especially ones as insidious as the ones that we, as birthing women, have been fed for more than a century. We need to stop blaming women for their place in this System. Women are victims and by-products (not accomplices) of medicalized birth.
It takes a whole lot more than a childbirth prep. course to unearth women’s deeply rooted fears about birth. We’re talking about not only a lifetime of ingrained belief in her inability to birth – but generations of this belief system passed down. What a destructive form of self-loathing – a direct result of oppression.
A woman’s request for an epidural or induction or C-section is not a sign of complicity; it is the sad state of Woman’s collective internalized fear, ignorance, and loathing of her body and its immense capabilities and power. *
What are you doing to help?
If you are a birth worker, what are you doing to help women along in the process to reclaim ownership of her body and her birthing power?
If you are, have been, or will be a pregnant woman, what are you doing / what have you done to process, sort through, deconstruct culturally-influenced lies about birth? How did you reclaim ownership over your birth?
* Note – My comments about an epidural / induction / section are in no way intended as judgement. I find no place for shaming and blaming when it comes to women’s choices. I hope that this post makes that point clear already. However, I also understand that there is immense sensitivity where birthing choices are concerned. My comment in this regard is a general and broad sweep using a few common examples to highlight women’s collective mistrust in the birthing process.