Volume 27, Issue 1, Spring 2013
Allison B. Wolf
Metaphysical Violence and Medicalized Childbirth
Feminists have highlighted various ways in which medicalized childbirth is connected to violence. For example, the literature is replete with examples of court-ordered Cesarean sections, intimidation in the delivery room, women diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their childbirth experiences. The most common approach to the accusations about the connections between medicalized childbirth and violence has been to investigate the degree to which the evidence bears out their accuracy. In this essay, the author takes a different course; instead of trying to confirm or refute reports of violence in childbirth, she posits that understanding the ways in which violence is connected to medicalized childbirth requires us to note the existence of another form of violence that has not been recognized or discussed up to this point – metaphysical violence. The primary focus of this essay is to define that other form of violence as well as to suggest places where the routine practices of medicalized childbirth perpetuate it and possible ways to resist it.