Wimmenspeak on Midwifery Lore

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This paper is an attempt to write in a form of wimmenspeak which eschews footnotes, academic jargon, and the position of the objective observer. I am writing in wimmenspeak because, as we all know as "good" postmodernist feminists, the logical rational constructions of academic language, the distancing of subject and object, are part of what Ursula Le Guin calls the father, or learned tongue. She says (you see how hard it is for us academics to avoid footnotes): "The essential gesture of the father tongue is not reasoning but distancing - making a gap, a space, between the subject or self and the object or other."[1]

Since what I am going to talk about is my own experience of birth, the process of becoming a mother generally, and whether law should intrude on that most intimate and immediate of female activities, it is appropriate that I should try, at least, to avoid such distancing. In fact, the interesting thing about labour and birth is that the distancing of subject from object is conspicuously absent. Labour and birth are very much in the present tense. The objective observer which accompanies us through most of our experiences, and allows us simultaneously to analyse and report, holds its breath and shuts its eyes. There is little concurrent analysis which can proceed whilst we are in the throes of a contraction. Perhaps that is why language cannot describe childbirth. It tries, it can manfully (excuse the pun) resort to metaphors, but childbirth eludes language.
Original languageEnglish
JournaleLaw Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


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