Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Giving Birth? Shame on You!

It really annoys me when people bully or shame pregnant women and treat them like stupid sheep incapable of making their own decisions. Here is an example of such an attitude:

This is in addition to the shamefully high cesarean section rates of most hospitals, which carries all the risks of any major abdominal surgery.

Got it? A woman chooses a method of delivering a child that suits her best and that is shameful. I have once witnessed a woman being bullied – and I mean really bullied – as she was carted into the delivery ward by a bunch of officious, uneducated, stupid doulas who thought they knew better than this woman and her doctor what she needed to do with her body. You have to be a real jerkwad to bully a person who is on her way to give birth.

I am getting pretty damn sick of seeing women subjected to unnecessary surgery. Plastic surgery, bariatric surgery, FGM, episiotomy, c sections. It means real pain and injury, sometimes death, for women. The popularity of c-section births has a relationship to some popular anti-woman ideas.

And I’m getting pretty damn sick of people who don’t realize how disgusting and anti-woman this need to police women’s reproductive choices is. I’ve got to wonder why it is that we never see any kind of questioning of the choices men make about their bodies. Is that because, for some people, any choice that a woman makes is by definition suspect? Is that because such people simply cannot accept the idea that women have brains and can be allowed to make their own choices about their own bodies?

In North America today, you have to be a very strong and resilient woman to choose a C-section. Even people who know you very well and have no reason to suspect that you’d make such a decision lightly, immediately get into a hectoring mode whenever you mention this choice. Just the other day, I’ve been talking to a friend who’s known me for the better part of a decade. When I mentioned that, for me, an elective C-section would be my method of choice to give birth, he immediately started delivering this very didactic speech on how “natural birth is best and are you even planning to breastfeed.” In the past 8 years, there has never been a single occasion when he’d taken such a tone with me. Of course, when he saw horror on my face, he stopped and apologized profusely. (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know what scared my friend.)

I suggest that we just shut the fuck up about how the choices that women make about their own bodies make us feel. If you believe that vaginal birth is best, then, by all means, go have one. Or fifteen, if that’s your pleasure. Just stop criticizing the choices other people make and assuming that you know best what’s good for them.

If you experience any need to criticize the delivery, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion choices of other people, you need to analyze where this deep-seated aggression towards others comes from. And if a discussion of people’s reproductive choices makes you start using words like “shameful,” the only person who needs to be ashamed is you.


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36 thoughts on “Giving Birth? Shame on You!

  1. That is crazy! It’s no one elses business if a woman has a c-section or not.


  2. the twisted spinster on said:

    I was thinking the other day: I don’t know why we don’t grow babies in vats instead of forcing women to grow them inside their own bodies. We should have the technology by now to enable women to bypass having to carry a growing body inside of them, and getting all stretched out and having extra stress put on their back and feet and other joints, not to mention the hormonal and metabolic changes pregnancy causes.

    But actually, I do know: it makes people feel squeamish (a staple scene of cheesy scifi is the lab full of babies in jars), and there is also this mystical idea that the baby forms some mysterious bond with the mother from being inside her. But I don’t buy that this mystical bond exists. Look at me: I’m adopted, and I always thought of my adopted mother as my mother. (Yes, I always knew I was adopted.) I don’t feel any mysterious bond with the women who actually gave birth to me. If babies bond with the mother it happens after they are born, that’s why they used to take them right away from mothers who decided to give them up for adoption.

    As for the squeamish “ew, that’s unnatural!” impulse, most of modern life is unnatural. And we’re better off for it. Instead of being subject to the elements we build unnatural shelters called “houses.” Instead of relying on the sun for light we have electricity. Instead of having to walk everywhere we invented the automobile. Instead of having to stay indoors in a room all the time because they can’t walk, we invented motorized wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs so people who are paralyzed or have lost a leg can go outside and do things. And so on. Of course, many of these things have caused problems as well as been boons, but I think the benefits to humanity have outweighed the problems. So I would be supportive of another choice offered to women: the chance to have her new baby grown outside her body to ally the common physical stresses of pregnancy.


    • You have no idea how much I agree with you. Every word of this comment is like it came straight from my mind. This is really uncanny, especially because I don’t normally get any support for these views of mine from other people.

      I also agree completely about this idiotic fixation on the “natural.” We sit in air-conditioned or heated rooms and use electricity to tap on our keyboards long texts about the evils of all things that are not “natural.” Most of us would not survive for a week left alone in a forest with no way to light a fire or heat ourselves. What’s with the “let’s go natural” obsession? Do people worry about how natural it is to visit a dentist instead of just letting our teeth rot?


      • the twisted spinster on said:

        “I don’t feel any mysterious bond with the women who actually gave birth to me.”

        I just realized I wrote that. But I am pretty sure only one woman gave birth to me. Or were my dad’s stories about a strange light in the sky and then finding me wrapped up in a silver cocoon as a flying saucer lifted into the heavens playing the tune from Close Encounters of the Third Kind true? 😉

        It’s the same with those conservatives who are against anything that increases longevity unless it’s something “natural” like eating better and exercising. I’m pretty sure eating better and exercising can only do so much; I wouldn’t mind a pill that gave me a couple of extra centuries. I could finally finish all those books I downloaded onto my Kindle…


  3. I have known many women who were talked into a C-section against their wishes, apparently just for their ob-gyn’s convenience. I think this works both ways. You are right, women should decide for themselves, either way.


  4. Wirbelwind on said:

    People do not talk like this to men because men do not have reproductive rights.


  5. I’m going to have a lot of fun tomorrow talking about this kind of stuff as the lone C-section/hospital birth advocate at a screening of “The Business of Being Born”. 🙂


  6. Patrick on said:

    I don’t think the shame is on the women for choosing c-sections – but on the doctors for pushing it – one has to question their motivations, as they make significantly more money from a C-section than from a vaginal birth – especially if said vaginal birth is attended by a mid-wife rather than a doctor. As always in North America – follow the money.


  7. I was thinking the other day: I don’t know why we don’t grow babies in vats instead of forcing women to grow them inside their own bodies.(Twisted)

    And all I could think was, “Holy whacko batman”.


    • I think it’s a brilliant idea for those who choose that. I’d totally choose it.


      • Patrick on said:

        We can’t even build cars safely (check out the recall rates) – imagine how fucked up ‘manufactured’ babies would be.

        Sorry – not ready to go there.


      • There are a few things that you think are brilliant………….. and…………….well, we wont go there. 😉


        • “There are a few things that you think are brilliant………….. and…………….well, we wont go there.”

          – I have high blood pressure and pregnancy is very risky for me in terms of my health.


      • the twisted spinster on said:

        “We can’t even build cars safely (check out the recall rates) – imagine how fucked up ‘manufactured’ babies would be.”

        They wouldn’t be “manufactured babies,” they’d be like in vitro babies only the embryo would be placed into an artificial womb instead of the mother’s. And the artificial womb would stay in its nice, safe vault, not be driven about on the expressway. You did know that we’ve been doing in vitro fertilization for some time now quite successfully, didn’t you? I don’t see why that process couldn’t be perfected further by extending it into artificial womb gestation.

        One more thing: since you’re supposedly so concerned about safety (I find that the safety squeakers rarely are, they just find something icky and want to come up with a more acceptable rationale to oppose it than “ew, that’s gross!”, but anyway), what can be less safe an environment for a developing fetus than a fragile casing made of flesh? Any sickness or injury could affect the baby. Not to mention a lot of common side effects of pregnancy are dangerous and potentially life-threatening to the mother, like high blood pressure and diabetes.


  8. Smart reason not to get pregnant then, for you that is.


  9. So you can decide to give birth by caesarea just by yourself? You can’t do that is Spain! it’s only done if there’s no way of a successful vaginal birth…
    If the choice exist, then the one giving birth and her doctor are the only ones with something to say about the matter and she’s the one making the decision.
    Anyone else, fuck off- that is it.


    • “So you can decide to give birth by caesarea just by yourself? You can’t do that is Spain! it’s only done if there’s no way of a successful vaginal birth…”

      – Sometimes, you are asked for a psych evaluation. Talk about barbarity. And is anybody protesting that? Except me, I mean. No, not really. Quasi-feminists eagerly bash women for this particular choice as we have seen in the OP.


      • Psych evaluation?! O_O
        “Quasi-” people is something I can not stand in general because they always are so contradictory… really: how come someone is a “feminist” and is still against a choice a woman does for herself?. They make me sick.


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