Friday, October 30, 2009

Birth, Breastfeeding and Feminism?

Earlier this year a birth activist contacted me for information about feminism and birth. Her "fire" was to write an article was lit by recent (at the time) articles praising elective cesareans. Her article was going to be about feminism and its history in birthwork as well as what she is seeing a current "backlash" against the work of doulas, chidlbirth educators, and midwives (so, elective cesarean being framed as a "feminist" choice in some articles). She asked me for additional articles about similar issues and questions.

I never received an update as to whether she finished her article--I'd certainly love to read it when it is finished! I sent her some suggestions of other articles and resources to assist with the preparation of her article and I wanted to share those links here as well (since I bothered writing them all down!).

From the same site as "In Praise of the C-Section," there is another one about natural vs. medicated birth that critiques the "cult" of natural childbirth.

Then, a much older piece from Salon called I Believed in the Breast, which is basically a critique of La Leche League, but touches on feminism and breastfeeding as well. Speaking of breastfeeding as a feminist issue, I previously posted here about this French article about whether or not breastfeeding is feminist.

There is an extensive thread on the subject of birth and feminism on the AllDoulas messages boards that is extremely fascinating. If it won't let you see the messages without registering, you can register and then search for the thread called Feminism, Birth, and Breastfeeding. It is quite long and represents a LOT of differences in thought about the subject (some of them are disturbing to me, actually).

Then, this blog has a whole series of posts/thoughts about feminist theory and birth that are just great.

And then this is another radical feminist doula blog.

A book I enjoy that explores these ideas (and that yes, talks about the feminists promotion of Twilight Sleep and the paternalism of early birth prep methods) is: In Labor: Women and Power in the Birthplace by Barbara Katz Rothman.

An article that was published since our conversation that is also relevant is Jennifer Block's Birth Wars article.

Several articles that prompted the original question were:

Tova Mirvis, "In Praise of the C-Section: I’m not sorry I didn’t have a natural birth" (March 2009)

Hanna Rosin, "The Case Against Breastfeeding," in The Atlantic. (March 2009)

"Baby Food: If breast is best, why are women bottling their milk?" by Jill Lepore, New Yorker, January 19, 2009

Extreme Birth: The fearless—some say too fearless—new leader of the home-birth movement. By Andrew Goldman (March 2009)

"A Doula Makes Four" by Pamela Paul, New York Times (March 2008)

The Way We Live Now: 10-31-99:; Pay on Delivery By Margaret Talbot,

On a related note, I also received an email about a conference about Breastfeeding and Feminism: Rethinking Public Health Approaches to be held in March, 2010.

CfM Blogger


Molly said...

Molly: Thanks for the link! And for the other resources, too.
-the other Molly (of Feminist Childbirth Studies)

CfM Molly said...

You bet. I love the things you have to say!

Molly :)

Bobby said...

Thank you for your thoughts about birth, breastfeeding and feminism. The ironic thing is that there really should be no contoversy about anything concerning feminism and childbirth. By its very nature, having a baby is the most feminine thing a women can do. The second most feminine thing a women can do is choose for herself as a mother how she will give birth as well as how she will feed her child.

Unknown said...

I just came across your blog post searching for articles/sources on feminism and childbirth. I'm currently working on a PhD on the politics of birth and birth activism in the Republic of Ireland. The sources you list are very helpful and I was so happy to come across this blog! Also, there are 3 additional sources I wanted to add that I have found really interesting and helpful -
(1) Katherine Beckett: Choosing Cesarean: Feminism and the Politics of Childbirth in the US ;
(2) Brief article by Juniper Russo Tarascio on Feminist Perspectives of Natural Childbirth ( ;
(3) Article by Christine Morton "Situating Doulas within Feminist Analyses of Childbirth accessible here:

Thanks again for posting this info - It's been really helpful!