Apparently next week is Birth Week on Discovery Health. Forgive me for being underwhelmed. Yippeekifuckingyay and all that. This kind of shit always really irritates me, and I don't think I'm just being a wet blanket here. First, there's the list of shows lined up: Little Parents Big Pregnancy, Births Beyond Belief, and Obese and Pregnant. For real? Why don't we just call it Further Othering through Pregnancy week?
But beyond that there's the whole attitude toward birth that surrounds these kinds of shows that is deeply fucked, in my view. The explicit message is allegedly woman-centric and empowering and shit like that. Isn't birth a miracle? It's the most magical day in a woman's life (except for her wedding, of course). But the implicit messages totally and completely contradict these explicit messages. The implicit messages are that birth is a mysterious and dangerous thing, that it's scary and out of control, a medical disaster waiting to happen, that women can't do it on their own, which is why they need medical professionals to deliver the baby for them while they try to be good little girls and behave. It's portrayed as an inherently medicalized thing, in which all kinds of disorders occur within the woman's body. She's a patient, not an agent. Birth happens to her, rather than being something she actively does. And she should never, ever question the medical professionals or act like a mature, rational adult who can understand and take some control of the experience, lest she endanger the baby. If she dares to conceptualize childbirth as anything other than terrifying, horribly painful, and out of control, she'll experience a kind of eyerolling and naked contempt she's never before encountered. Because that is how patriarchy steps in and manhandles you at the moment when you're in the most need of support and encouragement. Fuck that.