Analysing constructions of childbirth in the media; Moving possibilities for childbirth beyond gender essentialism.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Women and Birth, 2020, 33, (4), pp. 377-382
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PROBLEM:Birth can be a contentious issue with maternity care providers and consumers alike advocating fiercely defended and polarising views. These positions are largely shaped by opposing biomedical and natural childbirth constructions of birth. Contemporary debate on homebirth is one such example which illustrates this divide. AIM:To reconceptualise birth by deconstructing current constructions of childbirth contained in homebirth articles published by one online media source in Australia. METHODS:Australia's self-acclaimed largest women's media company was searched for articles pertaining to homebirth. Articles which met inclusion criteria were analysed using poststructural feminist theory and deconstruction techniques informed by Davies and Gannon, Butler and others. FINDINGS:Gender essentialism present in both the biomedical and natural childbirth approaches constructs birth as an act of nature, dictated by biology rather than one with a sociohistorical location. DISCUSSION:Gender essentialism at birth serves to obscure the sociohistorical determinants of birth, making it appear as a static, immutable sort of act, rather than one which is defined by its sociohistorical location and which can be redefined, even reinvented, by its sociohistorical location. CONCLUSION:Gender essentialism is an enduring phenomenon, underpinning seemingly opposing constructions of childbirth. Disengaging childbirth from essentialisms of woman's nature may create possibilities and meanings of childbirth that could be useful for childbearing women.
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