Australia's birth politics: A Marxist approach

Friday, June 17, 2011
In classic Marxism, the bourgeoisie (fuck i hate spelling that word) are the ruling class. They own the means of production such as the factories, and their income is gained off the backs of the proles. The proletariat are the working class who sell their labour efforts to the bourgeoisie for a wage.

Blah blah blah. To minimise the glazed eye effect while reading up on classic sociological theories for uni, I started applying them to my interests. Marx's class struggle made me think of Australia's current birth politics, and so I read on with this in mind...

Introducing the Birth Bourgeoisie!

So who owns the hospitals and the spiffy (but overrated and useless) machines that go ping!? In the public sector, we have the State Governments. In the private sector, we have large corporations like the evil Ramsay Healthcare Group. If you follow the money far enough, you'll find a small, select group of white, wealthy, old wrinkly dicks patriarchs in ownership. For the purposes at hand though, lets call the board of directors and all those policy makers, the modern birth bourgeoisie.

*Drumroll* Enter stage left, the Birth Proletariat!

(Yes, I know its obvious I'm bored and gotta entertain myself). The proletariat are easily identified as anyone who works within the hospitals, or within the birth industry. Let's focus on the obstetrician proles and midwife proles.

How the bourgeoisie exploit the proles;

I know, I know... if you're a savvy birthing woman, your eyes will probably be rolling back in their sockets at the prospect of obstetricians being exploited... but bear with me!

According to Marx, the ruling class will always develop ideologies to justify and legitimise their exploitation of the working class. An example of this in practice the passing of legislations and policies to control how the worker proles handle the birthing process.

The ideologies surrounding caesarean surgery for instance, help increase the rate of caesareans. This is extremely profitable for the bourgeoisie as more of their technology and facilities get put to use, and more women can get processed along the conveyor belt of surgery.

It is a fucking meat factory, with obstetricians as the butchers, and women the meat! ~~~ QUICKENING

For those of you with the disease of viewing obstetricians as KNobs, well, obstetricians are as much a product of society as you are! If it helps, I also have a hard time sympathising at the plight of obstetricians within this class struggle and for the life of me, I can't really grasp exactly how the poor things are exploited. I'm just too invested in the downtrodden at the very bottom rung of the ladder - women and babies.

False consciousness (or as Bourdeaux's misrecognition)

Marx called the workers’ acceptance of ideologies that ran counter to their interests, false consciousness. There are midwives and obstetricians working within the system, who are unhappy with the fallacies of institutional birth, yet are unlikely to strike out on their own as independent birth providers because of the belief that hospitals are the safest places to birth in.

Revolutionary acts or criminal behaviour? 

Law is seen as a tool of the ruling class, used to criminalise activities of workers which are harmful to bourgeoisie interests, while ignoring their own socially harmful behaviour.

Today in Australia, great efforts are being made to criminalise homebirth midwives, using sneaky underhanded legislation. In the meantime, all those bourgeoisie policy makers with shares in hospitals, medical technology etc are guilty of harming women and babies via policies which eventuate in birth complications needing further medical technology... but hey, there's money to be made so women and babies be damned!

Crime is viewed as the revolutionary acts of the downtrodden. For change to be possible, Marx says there must be revolution. If you ask me, we need a helluva lot more crims. Homebirth midwives, homebirthers, freebirthers are all in the minority. They are the ones engaging in revolutionary acts. The rest of the downtrodden continue to birth in hospitals, work in hospitals and follow bourgeoise self-interests thanks to ideology and false consciousness.

Oh well. Women are always going to go to hospital to birth - even if they don't need the emergency services or specialised care provided by hospitals. The cogs of the birthing machine will continue to turn within the meat factory. There simply aren't enough of us engaging in revolutionary acts to stop it.

Viva la sheeple!


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