Saturday, March 19, 2005

Womb pride

As women, we place a great premium on our breasts. We regard our breasts as the indubitable proof of our womanhood…. This despite also always feeling that our breasts are never quite good enough - theres always something wrong. if only they had been smaller, bigger, whatever......but we still cannot conceive being really freed from them. (which of us would say yes, I want to go back to pre-puberty?) Could the reason for our being so obsessed with our breasts be because of the high importance attached to them by men around us? - An importance even greater than that given to the womb….

Look at the womb. As the females of the species we are unique for our child bearing capabilities. Socio-culturally speaking, pregnancy is considered to confirm and “establish” our womanhood (itself a questionable concept). Why then do we not look at the womb and reverence it? After all, it is truly a fantastic biological creation – look at the magic that goes on in the womb at any point of time!

A part of the reason may be that the womb is seen as a hole. A cavity that’s as redundant as a cave (except for when it houses a foetus). We learn that we are walking around with a deep void in us, which by its very existence reminds us perpetually of our “incompleteness” and imperfection. How many of us women feel a deep surge of joy when our womb reminds of its existence every month? We curse it and barely tolerate it so that one day we may bear children. None of us even remotely likes it. How very sad: we rejoice in the result and scorn the basis that made it possible.

Patriarchy has never liked the womb. Early doctors (all male) used to blame the womb for all kinds of ailments. The case of the “
wandering womb” sounds ludicrous now, but in the recent past, men used to solemnly agree and shake their heads reprovingly over errant wombs. According to them, the womb of a woman makes her hysterical and unreasonable. Since women are born with wombs, it was also a convenient way of saying that all women are born unreasonable and hysterical, and need never be treated with anything beyond kind contempt.

We have not yet learned to hate the womb in its child bearing state. A mother was a sacred being in society, and is still cherished today. her status being irretrievably linked to the womb, patriarchy took the first logical step towards diminishing her importance. The experts on the female body (gynaecologists continue to be predominantly male), decided that the womb was incompetent and incapable of functioning properly. A natural birth at home with the help of other women as needed is unthinkable now – it has to be in the controlled environment of a hospital and almost always has to be a caesarian.

But even that option still left us with the source of power, the womb. So the next step…. Out with the womb! We “progress” and try to create artificial wombs – we try growing babies in test tubes, beakers, steel containers or any old thing. (what a woman can do, a man in a laboratory can also do?)

We shall learn to conveniently overlook the fact that the womb has a function beyond merely helping to produce children. Even after menopause, the womb continues to be critical to good health, as it keeps the body healthy through the secretion of hormones. Hormone replacement therapy is a long, turbulent, exhausting and by- no-means-perfected option… option? Silly me! Make it compulsion.

As usual, who gets a raw deal here? Lets see. The woman pays her (usually male) gynaecologist to suggest a surgery, the surgeon who relieves her of her womb, and then is back under the expert care of her gynec who prescribes an expensive cocktail of drugs. If she can afford it, she rides this cynical no-win merry-go-round, or if she cannot, she has the surgery and then lumps the side (more like main) effects the rest of her life. If shes really poor, she escapes the dubious attention of medicine. (medicine, being one of patriarchys more powerful minions, this may almost be a good thing)

Patriarchy has devised any number of ways to take away the control of her body from the woman herself. When you speak of somebody – the most basic definition of the person starts with just that – the body. To steal their body from them, to wipe out their face into the indistinct blur of a stereotype is to deny a person his or her identity, individuality and thereby, to deny them freedom.

You see, resistance from people is difficult to deal with – some of the troops (the basically decent men) may listen to their ethics and reason and refuse to be brutal. Dehumanize the resistance, and why, its so much easier isn’t it....



Blogger KoPoS said...

What appals is the hypercynical approach taken to ascribe every problem of women to patriarchy.

Already you have told that since gynaecs are predominantly male, and are only aiming to play, mutilate bodies of women. When you have made distinction,where the profession has been genderised completely...think again.

Agree lots of atrocities going on, but all atrocities having a single cause...

9:03 pm  
Blogger m. said...

@shashanka: hullo. thanks for dropping by... its a statistical fact that most gyns. are male.

when i run down the patriarchy, i am NOT running down every man in the world. men also get a rotten deal in this system. the unreal expectations are equally difficult on them.

so in medicine, though a doctor may have the purest intentions, he may still be doing some damage since in the patriarchy there is no choice: you completely subscribe to the system or it just throws you out...

youre welcome to disagree despite what ive said! :-) i understand many people have differing pts of view, this just happens to be mine... as always, this is not a violent blog though i may write about such issues.

11:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

going for a caesarian,or removing the womb - decisions are taken based on the results of loads of medical research over the years..and certainly not because Dr.Periyasamy(gynec) at Malar Hospitals is an MCP tyring to play shit in his patient's life:)
and...a tamil proverb goes like this.."edhuvum azhagu daan...ellayai thaandaadhavarai"(anything is long as it doesnt cross limits...)the same applies to the sacred womb,however sacred be it!!i have seen quite a few women suffer because of its malfunctioning when they approached menopause, and hence were forced to get themselves relieved of it..yes..i do agree it pains women..but this...
"To steal their body from them, to wipe out their face into the indistinct blur of a stereotype is to deny a person his or her identity, individuality and thereby, to deny them freedom"
is like saying "i had an indigestion today because my mom served stale food because my dad bought low quality rice from the stores because the stores fellow got it thru middle men who getit from farmers of guntur who use poisonous pesticides manufactured by SPIC...!!
SPIC just became the cause of ur indigestion:)
u seem to relate almost anythng and everyting to patriarchy!!

2:17 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops!! i forgot to signoff at the end of that long anonymous comment!!

2:19 am  
Anonymous Misha said...

Why point out in particular that most gynacs are men? Most professionals in any field are men!!
I know you are going to say that this in itself is a function of patriarchy and the bias shown towards educating women.....but the point is simply this....patriarchy exists in male gynaecs as much as it exists in any other male proffessional.It is rather unfair to target them just because it has to so with the womb, dont you think?
How unfair is it when a male gastroenterologist tells you that you need to have an appendicitis operation?

8:46 pm  
Blogger m. said...

@ kp: hullo. yeah i sort of guessed this wouldnt be a popular point of view... :-)

@ misha: dont you think its very strange the authorities on womens bodies are men? that women have less power when it comes to reproductive health choices for their own bodies? im not objecting to something like a cancer situation where the doctor may suggest that the womb be removed... the wombs starts getting seen as redundant because the woman is no longer able to bear children. that she may need it to stay healthy doesnt seem to be a factor thats paid attention to. a womans reproductive system is seen as being mainly for producing children. beyond that - who cares is the attitude.
yeah male professionals are the majority. what i find really sad are the women professionals who are also patriarchal!! isnt it like letting your own kind down?

if anyones interested, theres a lot of interesting (non femininst) stuff about health care systems and womens choices from unifem reports downwards. theres also a pretty good journal called "reproductive health matters". see : .... i beg your pardon folks - reading lists again! :d

11:41 pm  
Blogger Vitalstatistix said...

Enough has been said to disagree with all that you have said and I dont want to get into all that again. You talked about how 'a natural birth in those days with the help of other women' is not possible these days. Tell me, was society less dominated by males in those days ? Was infant mortality lesser when women without the help of modern technology ?
I'm sure there are quite a large number of female doctors in this world. But many of them choose not to take up gynaecology and go for better paying ones like neuro, cardio, dental etc. So blame women for their greed and not men for trying to dominate gynaec. Going by your arguments, I guess you think all new technologies have been invented with the sole purpose of wresting women's freedom from them. :)

6:26 am  
Blogger m. said...

not all new technology... im just wary of "progress" since it usually means bringing in the problems of the first world,and then being "advanced" and implementing stop gap measures or solutions for em! :d

youre right about the male domination bit, its not that it was less in those days, its simply that its in a different form now, plus there are 3 things that are interlocked : race, gender, wealth. so if youre a woman of colour whos poor, youre at the bottom of the ladder...

hey - interesting point abt IMR!! will try getting exact numbers. i know children are more malnourished cos their mothers are also malnourished, but i dont know the comparison for number of em who survived before vs now. i think the indian govt says theres an increase. will chk it out. :-)

7:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in a hospital and the womb is removed alot of the time even when it isnt the only way.. its just the EASIER way to deal with the problem, whatever it may be, then to treat the problem using some other method. The only time the doctors will go out of their way to treat it another way is if the woman hasnt had children and is still of child bearing age (as if thats all she and her womb are good for).
Most people dont know this but the womb has a secondary function, it stores energy for dreaming. If you store your womb energy (sexual energy) and practice and intend lucid dreaming, you can become adept at dreaming and use it to astralproject. Its not easy, but if you really want to do it you can, being celibate helps alot considering sex is a waste of energy and an indulgence.. men also ejaculate energy and pollute the environment of the womb.
A womans womb having the direct connection to source is what makes them dream easier then men. (think about it, a whole new living being can incarnate within you!, thats the direct connection with the infinite).

11:47 pm  
Anonymous erimentha said...

Hi! Stumbled on this discussion as I trawled through the archives; that's my excuse for the late response!

The patriarchal obsession with control of female reproduction is not 'induced' by technology; technology just makes it possible in new ways. And if we really don't believe such control should exist, we need to be conscious of it in the application of technology; simply because the default function is male control!

As a lawyer, I can point you to many many instances of this property-fication of the uterus: from the law relating to adultery, sexual harassment, and rape, to medical termination of pregnancy, the laws on surrogacy and so on.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that patriarchy is systemic and structural; that is why, yes, SPIC is the cause of my indigestion!

10:12 pm  

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