This article in this mornings New Zealand Herald, and blog reply, misses an important point.

Michel Odent, a ‘childbirth specialist’ tells us that birth would be so much easier if men, both doctors and fathers, were not present during labour, with his focus on the presence or absence of fathers. We are told this is because labouring women sense the anxiety of their male partners and become nervous. This nervousness upsets hormones, and slows labour. While this seems logical, and if the men present are not helpful and supportive, then it surely could be a hindrance to labour. However, it is the focus on fathers presence that is problematic in both the original article and the blog reply.

The masculinisation of the birth environment is more about male doctors and specialists than fathers being present. The cesarean rate, which is relatively high in New Zealand, is more about the medicalisation of birth driven by a largely male dominated medical system. The usual story goes something like this: labouring woman enters hospital, monitoring equipment is strapped to her and she is left alone for some time. The use of monitoring equipment has been shown to increase cesarean rates. Monitoring equipment hinders movement and is not supportive of labour, it is unnecessarily intrusive. With pain relief, gas is followed by pethidine, followed by an epidural. By the time she has to push, when the epidural wears off, she has built up no natural reserves of endorphins to help cope with strong contractions. If the epidural has not worn off, she may be able to push enough to allow a forceps delivery. If not, a cesarean may be called for.

The very male environment and medicalisation of labour, as Odent says the ‘industrialisation of labour’ probably has a lot more to do with difficulties in childbirth than a father’s presence. For many women, the presence of a support person who knows their needs and wants and is able to speak for them when they are at in a very vulnerable position is to be encouraged (if that’s what the woman wants). To blame difficult labours on fathers being present seems somehow like an attempt to remove support for women in labour, and leave them further to the mercy of Odent’s ‘industraialised labour’.

The article even goes so far as to insinuate that it is all womens fault anyway, because they are the ones forcing men to attend during labour and birth, with Mary Newburn of the UK’s National Childbirth Trust stating “There’s such a feeling among women that ‘you got me into this, I have carried the baby for nine months and now I have to go through labour and birth, so the least you can do is be with me, and if you feel a bit squeamish, then tough’ “.

Further, we are told that men witnessing childbirth can ruin sexual attraction between couples and lead to divorce. Men may go of and play golf and computer games, to avoid their reality. This probably has more to do with the problems of a nuclear family than men’s presence during childbirth! And if that’s how men are behaving, they really need to put on some big boy pants and grow up.

At the end of the day it is the woman’s needs during labour that must be paramount. It is she after all who has to do the work (it’s called labour for a good reason). If she wants the support of the father, she should have it. If she wants the doctors to stop fussing and monitoring and actually help rather than hinder, they should.

This article is problematic in the insinuation that it is women (and to some degree, their partners) wanting fathers present during childbirth that has led to problems of masculinisation of the process. No where in this article is the issue of the male dominated and technology dominated medicalisation of childbirth given any weight or mention.


Facebook Feminist

October 18, 2009

The number one feminist group on facebook is ‘feminist’ with over 2,000 members. Because younger women are more likely to use facebook, it could be fair to say that this could prove to be a valuable platform for young women and men to discuss ideas on feminism, and a platform from which to organise. Except it’s not, and never will be.

The biggest problem feminist on facebook seems to have is trolls. Trolls who post ridiculous discussion topics as ‘women must obey and be told what to do and when to do it’ and ‘women don’t deserve rights’. This would be laughable and easily shrugged off for older more secure feminists, but it gets more than annoying when admins are very slow to remove such posts. Trolls repeatedly derail discussion topics, and if not directly abusive their posts are not removed by admins.

And this post by an admin: ‘petiti0n for mens equal rights as a feminist also looking out for womens rights’ really takes the cake.

So, apparently women need to look out for mens equal rights as well as fight their own battle for equality. Poor disadvantaged men. They really need our help.

Why does this bother me so? Because sites like feministe will not be the first port of call for young women beginning to think critically about issues affecting women. Facebook feminist group is way more likely. And that is sad.

Cotton Wool Kids

October 15, 2009

Zoo trip 044

Imagine a childrens’ playground on a Sunday afternoon. Parents, strollers, kids, climbing equipment, slides, and a large rock stack for climbing. Chaos.

When kids get to the rock stack (it’s big, like 15 meters high) the parents rush over and tell the kids that’s off limits. There are very few kids on the rock stack, the only ones seemingly allowed up there are older boys of at least 7 or 8. Parents are so afraid of kids falling and hurting themselves, they are totally overprotective and do not allow kids to explore their environment in a natural way.

Girls are generally not allowed on the rock stack, because it’s dirty. Girls are hovered over when they achieve any altitude, warned to ‘be careful’. Boys are allowed a little more leeway. A little.

If we were so stupid as a species that our offspring did not have an innate knowledge of how to remain safe at height (and around large bodies of water) we would be extinct. Kids if left to their own devices from a very young age will learn by appropriate stages how to manage such situations. If not allowed these learning experiences, one day Mum and Dad will not be there and kids will have accidents because they have not been able to learn how far they can safely go, yet they have the physical maturity to attempt more than they have learned to cope with.

I put this into practice with my son before he could walk (or crawl properly – he did a weird commando thing for ages). He showed me he was interested in helping me in the garden by cutting grass. So I gave him a knife, at 6 months of age. I simply gave him the handle, and said just once, the other end is sharp and could hurt you. I pressed it gently to his palm to illustrate, and left him to it. He cut the grass. He never cut himself. His dad came home early one day and saw him with the knife and totally flipped out, but by that time this had been going on for several days.

My point is, kids, and indeed babies, have an innate knowledge of their own physical safety that is strong. If allowed to learn at their own pace, they will grow stronger and more confident.

I put two caveats on this approach to raising physically confident kids; electricity and vehicles. Neither are a part of our evolutionary history. These are the things we need to be protective about.

Atheist Meme For The Day

October 13, 2009


Atheism is not lonely. It is no more lonely to ponder on our neurons making up thoughts about the proteins communicating within our cellular structure, than it is to kneel inside a wooden structure with hands fervently clasped together and speak to an imaginary someone who never answers back.

As science reveals more of our biological processes I am enraptured with the simplicity and beauty of it. But just because it is beautiful and simple in its complexity and beauty, does not mean an omnipotent being had to create it.

Anyway, if your head cannot get around the concept that nature just is, how can you comprehend the idea of God? How did God come to be? Has he always existed? Like infinity? Why can it not be that matter and energy just have always existed then? Same concept of infinity it seems to me.