There was a really excellent article by Alice Dreger in The Atlantic that made the rounds a couple of weeks ago. The article, entitled The Most Scientific Birth is Often the Least Technological Birth was rightfully celebrated by birth advocates who believe in evidence-based practice as the best way to improve obstetrical outcomes AND maximize satisfaction for individual women with regards to their birth experiences.
A lot of the time – and not just when it comes to birth, though I will be coming back to that topic (of course) shortly – we have a tendency to see things in terms of conflicting pairs, what semioticians call binary opposition. For example Light//Dark, New//Old, Good//Evil, Presence//Absence, Male//Female, Science//Nature, etc. Contemporary communication theory explores the way that these pairings in language are embroiled in how we see and construct our world (i.e. culture). Essentially, we can only understand ‘good’ in the context of its pairing with ‘evil’ for example, or ‘light’ in terms of its relationship to ‘dark’. Without the opposing term we are unable to define either. Driven by the psychological urge to categorize and order our world, we find comfort and satisfaction in these constructs. Unfortunately, as post-structuralist theory demonstrates, in every pair one of the two terms tends to assume dominance (culturally speaking) over the other. Quite often this privileging is determined by prejudicial assumptions of the larger culture (that is, it is often imbued with values that are tainted by ethnocentric or gender-biased perceptions of reality).
So, how is my nerdy fascination with language and culture connected to birth, you ask? Continue reading