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The struggle against the Patriarchy must be grounded in a material analysis of the societal situation. The means of reproduction in society is the material basis for the patriarchal oppression of women.

Women throughout history have been erased from their own reproductive processes: shame, laws, and violence put others at the centre of these events. Doctors, doulas, midwives, and other health care practitioners often put their interests above the birthing woman’s, deciding what is best based on their own political, scientific, or social agendas. And now, the very people who were fighting for woman-centred care have turned their backs on the birthing woman and are erasing her from their language. Even if high-quality, best-practice, evidence-based, respectful care were available to women, it is not in our best interest to agree to our own erasure, no matter how much we want to please, make good, and comply.

As a birth attendant, I’ve witnessed women being pinched, prodded, and poked against their will. In Canada, where socialized medicine is our norm, I’ve seen a doctor stand between a woman’s legs and yell that she had to pay $1600 in cash before he would “deliver” her baby. I’ve witnessed unnecessary surgeries: caesarean sections for no reason, and episiotomies for the sake of training students. I’ve even seen an extra tight perineal repair done with a wink to the husband. I’ve watched while intelligent, educated women are convinced that their babies are too big, too small, or badly positioned. I’ve heard countless stories from women who told me that their cervixes didn’t open, their vaginas were too small, and their uterine contractions were ineffectual. I’ve heard women told that if they don’t agree to interventions like inductions, amniotomies, or epidurals, their babies will die. I’ve seen countless women try to convince medical staff that their pain medication wasn’t working, in vain. I’ve seen other women tell staff they would be giving birth soon, but be ignored. When a woman is held down, made to do things she doesn’t want to do, threatened, or ignored when she is giving birth, that constitutes abuse.

The struggle for woman-centred maternity care is far from over. I have attended the births of some of the wealthiest families in my city, and I have provided maternity care for migrants fleeing the war in Syria. I have watched refugees from Congo being abused in a hospital birth room, and I have witnessed a scientist arguing in vain against the bad science her doctors employed to convince her of their unnecessary protocols. The common thread that runs through all of these stories is abuse. Medical professionals abuse birthing women every day, all over the world, because they are female.

Women are not oppressed and abused because they like pink, wear high heels, or aren’t good at math. These are societal myths about what it means to be a woman. We are oppressed because it is in the interest of patriarchal society to keep us oppressed. The root of patriarchy is control of the means of human reproduction, and women’s bodies contain the means of reproduction, therefore patriarchal capitalism needs to control them.

The struggle against patriarchy must be led by those who own the means of reproduction: women. If we obfuscate reality by saying that, actually, it’s not only women who give birth, we lose our focus, in terms of the feminist movement, and risk losing the small triumphs we have achieved in our struggle for woman-centred childbirth.”

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