Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 29, 2018

Philosophical Approaches to Gender

Stella Villarmea
Pages 113-118

Controversies and Conceptual Innovation
An Approach to Philosophy of Childbirth

Conceptual innovation can change our perspectives and be thus emancipatory. It is my thesis that emancipatory movements do not construct a language ex novo but rather proceed by understanding how a certain segment of language works, removing problems and confusions regarding some terms, and proposing a creative use of that language, which throws light onto its meaning, to use a Wittgensteinian formulation. That happened when feminist theory started to use and reuse notions like “patriarchy”, “sexism”, “gender”, “feminization of poverty”, “sex worker”, “domestic terrorism”, “sexual class”, or “emotional work”. And that is exactly what happens around the new terminology on gynecology and pregnancy. To see a caesarean not as a necessary surgical intervention but as an unneeded and violent intervention, childbirth activism coins an expression that concisely shows the difference: “unne-caesarean”. From a philosophical perspective, the new conceptualization on childbirth is fascinating. To understand the kind of debate produced by childbirth activism, I appeal to Marcelo Dascal’s famous classification of debates as discussions, disputes, or controversies. My hypothesis is that linguistic innovation is one of the factors that turn a discussion or a dispute into a controversy. Thus, when childbirth activism talks of an “unne-caesarea” it shifts the field of debate into a controversy. The shift has advantages: it enforces dialogue between positions and promotes socio-political changes in our common practices. To conclude, I draw some theoretical and practical consequences of this approach for the sphere of rationality and normativity.