The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘babies’

The contentious debate about pain relief during childbirth

Posted by Nic Heath on July 20, 2009

Dr Denis Walsh, one of Britain’s leading midwives, caused a global furore last week when he spoke out against the ‘epidural epidemic’ currently sweeping the UK. Dr Walsh claims, among other things, 20 per cent of epidurals are given to women who don’t need them, and advocates alternative methods of pain relief during labour such as yoga and birthing pools.

Despite being reported by the BBC as saying in some cases epidurals are very useful, Dr Walsh’s comments have been taken as a personal insult by women all over the internet.

The collective outrage has been fed by provocative and misleading headlines:

Just put up with pain of childbirth: UK professor Dr Denis WalshHerald Sun

Male Midwife Tells Women Take Pregnancy Pain Without DrugsFox News

Dr Walsh’s comments seem to have struck a sensitive seam of guilt felt by many women in relation to childbirth. The many stories and blog posts on the web about the issue have drawn thousands of comments from readers, and many mothers speak defensively about guilt and of being judged.

 Remola from Wagga on a Herald Sun forum:

“All I can say is I AM A SUPER MUM just for being a mum and I’m happy to say I took the drugs 2 yrs ago and I will take them again if I feel the need despite what is said.”

Mammamia reader claystep asks “do mothers really need more stuff to feel guilty about??”

Another point of contention is Dr Walsh’s gender.

Liz45 on Crikey:

“To have a male carry on in this manner is just too ludicrous for words. What the hell would he know? … He can say what he likes, safe in the knowledge that he’ll never have to experience it!”

Mia Freedman struck up the refrain, ‘no uterus, no opinion’, in her blog post on the subject, ‘Brave man tells women in labour to toughen up because pain relief is for wussbags’, which many of her readers reiterated.

This is surely a counterproductive and reactionary response to Dr Walsh’s comments, not to mention one that is plain sexist. The reasoning behind it is dangerously exclusionary. It’s too easy to substitute one element and end up with something much more malevolent – say, ‘no uterus, no admission’ etc. Suddenly such logic is pretty clearly discriminatory.

It is the sort of thinking that many feminists have been seeking to overturn for years – when applied to circumstances such as the role of women in professional sport like AFL.

Dr Walsh is a senior midwife and associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, a good reason to take into account his opinion, and there have of course been more rational responses to his views.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr Ted Weaver:

What we want to get away from is the sort of maternity care where mothers are given an epidural to shut them up so they can…be baby-sat while the labour progresses.

Alison Bailey commenting on Crikey:

“As women, we have been inculcated to believe that childbirth is a horrible and scary experience full of pain and fear. It is well known that fear increases pain and no doubt also increases the number of women opting for epidural, regardless of how their labour may or may not go.”

This whole episode raises a number of questions – like why have women reacted so strongly to a man recommending more options for women during childbirth, while actions to limit choice – the new restrictions on homebirths – have been almost entirely unremarked upon? Why would a woman feel guilty about her labour? And what can be done to make childbirth a more positive experience for women?


Posted in Media Watch, Parenting & Family, reproductive rights, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

That’s ‘Essential Baby’, Not ‘Get A Load Of These Babies’

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 19, 2008

Essential Baby is Fairfax Digital’s web presence for mums and parents, covering all things baby – from pregnancy to Baby Crocs (god, I sound like a marketing executive). So it figures, then, that they would run a story about the breastfeeding rates of various countries (apparently Norway is beating Australia 90% to 65% when it comes to breastfeeding, largely because that country provides better support to breastfeeding mothers, according to the experts questioned in the piece). It’s quite an interesting insight into the way certain countries choose to assist (if at all) mothers who choose to breastfeed.

Which is why I am having trouble working out why the Fairfax Digital team decided it would be best to create this little graphic/blurb to use on The Age Online as a click-through feature:

A note to the design team: babies are suckling on them, not FHM readers.

Posted in Family, Media Watch, Sexist Stock Photo Watch, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Forget Sexualising Teens, Now You Can Sexualise Your Newborn!

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 12, 2008

While I usually look askance, to a certain extent, at the “sexualising our kids” debate (a lot of it is Australian Family Association-led hot air), there are times when I have to agree to file things in the “yep, that’s fucked up” file – like Heelarious’ high heels for babies, for example:

They sold their first shoes 14 weeks ago and haven’t looked back. “Oh yeah, it draws attention,” Jenelle Kulaas said. “People see them and are like, ‘Those are hilarious’.”

The booties are only made for children up to 6 months old, and the heel is squishy for safety reasons.

The shoes are the brainchild of Washington woman Britta Bacon, who thought up the idea and the brand name, “Heelarious” on her daughter’s fourth birthday.

The shoes are described as “extremely funny, completely soft shoes for babies 0-6 months designed to look like high heels.”

“That’s kind of all I could think about at her birthday party and came home and registered the website, and called Hayden,” Bacon said.

Supporters of this incredibly naff product will no doubt cry “It’s a joke, get a sense of humour!” (already boxes of the booties are being shipped to the Emmys to include in goodie bags, evidently). But I fail to see the gag.

Of all fashion and clothing items, one could argue that the high heel is – along with perhaps the corset and, if you want to go there, the bra – one of the most contentious points in discussions of gender conditioning and the perceived oppression of women. Added to that is the fact that, really, high heels are designed with sex appeal in mind and you have one unbelievably icky proposition. It’s not heelarious at all, really.

Posted in Family, Fashion, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Sunday Tele Waggles Its Judging Finger At Four-Star Mums

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 27, 2008

You know what? However a woman chooses to have a baby, whether at home, in a hospital, underwater, with loads of drugs, no drugs at all, vaginally or via caesarean, or in a spaceship cubby with pan-pipes playing and a Batman mask on, that’s her choice (and her partner’s). So what a joy to see the Sunday Telegraph come up with this doozy of a graphic to illustrate their story on ‘maternity hotels’:

Let’s see, what can we count here: there’s the odious “What Recession?” moral/economic judgment based on the apparent frippery of mothers choosing to give birth in a “luxury” environment. There’s the naff sexualisation of the mother-to-be in the photo via the headline made to conjure up thoughts of porno mags (“Penthouse Beach Babes”). Assuming the woman in the photograph is Cinta Taylor, who is interviewed in the story, how do you think she would feel about this bit of photo editing?

‘Maternity hotels’ are nothing new; there are options at certain Melbourne hospitals to have one night in the ward proper after giving birth, and then transferring to a hotel nearby with a nurse and midwife on standby; Sofitel Melbourne and Frances Perry House offer one such program, with costs covered by private health funds (in other words, in this instance, the Tele‘s “what recession” gripe is redundant). It’s just another option in the myriad options available to prospective mothers, and I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. But like any new concept in obstetrics, the ‘maternity hotel’ has its detractors and supporters; from the Tele article:

Australian College of Midwives president Professor Pat Brodie said anecdotal feedback from interstate was that women enjoyed the luxuries of a hotel while having midwifery care.

“Midwives providing post-natal care in a social setting like a hotel would appreciate the opportunity to provide continuity of care, get to know the woman and offer advice and support,” Professor Brodie said.

“Sometimes that’s difficult in busy post-natal wards.”

This is not a perfect answer to the problems of hospital crowding, nor is it the definitive way to have a baby. But if a mother-to-be has an uncomplicated birth and decides to spend the first few days of baby bonding in a four-star hotel room, I see no reason why she should be chastised for apparently spending too much, or for – heavens above – giving herself and her partner and newborn a treat. I am not one of those “motherhood is the most amazing thing any woman can do” people, but you know, if you do do it, well done you – have some room service and a pay-per-view new release! You’re worth it!

There are already too many value judgments made on mothers (see ‘too posh to push’, to breastfeed or not, blah, blah, blah) and I can see that this is just another excuse for the conservative media to tut-tut at mothers, who just can’t seem to please anyone these days.

Posted in Family, Media Watch, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Sunday Reed: Just Some Kooky Slut Who Inspired Nicole Kidman’s Baby Name, According To

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 9, 2008

So it turns out Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban’s daughter’s name, Sunday Rose, was inspired by Heide doyenne and one of Australian art’s most fervent supporters, the late Sunday Reed; apparently Nicole’s father Dr Antony Kidman had suggested it as a possible name for their baby after reading about Reed and the Heide school, and Nicole and Keith took a shine to it.

Nothing to complain about there – I’ve always liked the Kidmans (as much as you can “like” a family you only read about in the papers and mags) and it’s a much more thoughtful way of naming a child than the “that’s where she was conceived” trend apparently sweeping the celebrity world.

The problem is not the Kidman Urban clan, no – it’s (somewhat predictably) the Daily Telegraph and’s treatment of Reed’s story with this gobsmacking piece of captioning and photo editing – art-loving feminists better shield their eyes:

If you can’t read the caption, it says:

Nicole Kidman’s father has solved the mystery behind her baby daughter’s unusual name – it’s inspired by Aussie artist Sidney Nolan’s bohemian muse whose love life was twisted and saucy.

Yes, “twisted and saucy”. Because apparently a married couple who were trusting of each other and conducted polyamorous affairs with each other’s knowledge is “twisted and saucy”. But wait, there’s more! Another “article” provides the “background” on Reed:

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban will probably hope they have bestowed only Sunday Reed’s name on the child and not her sordid and tumultuous life story.


Sunday Reed was not averse to extending her patronage beyond the studio and into the bedroom. She enjoyed a menage a trois in which Sidney Nolan and her husband John were the other partners, and her particular affair with Nolan lasted nine years.

“Tumultuous” is probably a fair, if slightly hyperbolic, assessment, but “sordid”?

Do I really need to point out all the ways in which these pieces a) suggest that Nicole needed daddy to pick out her baby’s name, b) imply that Nic and Keith have done their baby wrong by giving her the same name as a “twisted and saucy” art patron, and c) paint Sunday Reed as little more than a shagger with a penchant for artists?

Posted in Celebrity, Media Watch, Relationships, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Do Ad Execs Even Listen To The Songs They Choose?

Posted by Clem Bastow on June 26, 2008

If you watch Australian commercial television with any regularity lately you will have seen the new “Miles More Smiles” ad for Nurofen For Children. If you’ve not seen it you can watch it here.

From its comforting female voiceover we can assume is aimed squarely at mums – advertising loves to sound like a helpful friend giving some inside tips to frazzled mothers, and I say “mothers” because according to advertising, the only thing fathers are good for is getting stuff wrong. (See? Sexism isn’t just harmful to women, blokes!)

The gist of the ad is all about how it works for up to eight hours, presumably giving your baby more time to smile. It’s all a bit Anne Geddes, but rather sweet, thanks mainly to that lovely “because you’re gorgeous” refrain. Aww, sweet, isn’t it?

Pity, then, that the Nurofen ad execs didn’t think to do a proper listen-through to Babybird’s (admittedly fabulously) creepy ballad to exploitation, the casting couch and DIY porn in a car yard. Some highlights from the verse:

Remember that tank-top you bought me?
You wrote “you’re gorgeous” on it
You took me to your rented motor car
And filmed me on the bonnet

You got me to hitch my knees up
And pulled my legs apart
You took an Instamatic camera
And pulled my sleeves around my heart


You said my clothes were sexy
You tore away my shirt
You rubbed an ice cube on my chest
Snapped me ’til it hurt


You said I wasn’t cheap
You paid me twenty pounds
You promised to put me in a magazine
On every table, in every lounge

…And then that lovely chorus starts up again. I realise it’s only the chorus on the ad, but to anyone who knows the song, the verse inevitably follows in your mind. Honestly, guys, is the world of advertising so fast paced that you can’t spare 3:42-minutes to listen to the whole song? Particularly when there are children involved!

Posted in Watching The Ad Breaks | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »