[Needless to say: trigger warning]
Wow. I have a hard time even writing that title.
Over at Jezebel, they explained this phrase in a recent post (I love that they included that picture of Betty Draper giving birth to baby Gene because that episode was fucked up because it was just showing how fucked up the medical establishment can be even when it thinks it is doing well by the mother and the child). This phrase was not one I had ever heard despite how much I read about birthing. [Be warned: some of the comments at the Jezebel post are, of course, terrible]
If a woman feels like what happened to her and her body while giving birth equates to rape, I’m not going to say otherwise. And I am certainly going to trust her experience. I think it is much too easy to say that doctors can just do whatever they think is best (even without consent because a laboring woman is so drugged or in so much pain) because they “know more”. But for me, the trope that doctors know more about birthing babies than the woman actually birthing a baby is just another “women aren’t smart enough to make decisions about their health care, especially while pregnant” shit that we hear all the time. There are important recent studies (that I just wrote about) that show that doctors make decisions about women in labor for many other reasons than what is best for the woman or her child.
I have known multiple women who have had extremely upsetting birth experiences, some because birth can be upsetting for biological reasons and some because they felt like they weren’t listened to by the people in charge, their bodies were violated, etc. Birth can be traumatic for many more reasons than that you have given birth. It makes me incredibly sad to imagine any woman who feels like her birth experience was traumatic (perhaps even “rape”) because of what her doctors and nurses forced her to do without her or her husband’s or partner’s consent.
I don’t know how effective it will be, though, to draw attention to the reality of this problem by using the term “birth rape.” While it can certainly make clear how terrible this experience can be, I feel like that phrase may put people off before they even start listening. It’s complicated. But I am at least thankful that there is a discussion about this out there in the world.