Would you rather stand aside, or stand up?


I’ve written about Negative Politeness, and how it asserts our submissive position. We place the needs of others above our own, and perhaps try to please EVERYONE. We try to be inclusive, even when inclusiveness no longer makes sense. For example: Accommodating the beliefs of another at the expense of the mother-baby dyad.

There is No One Way.

We do not all experience the same thing, the same way. When we use general terms, usually based on physiological or pathological terms at a population level, we allow space for the individual to determine what is realistic in their circumstances, what fits with their beliefs and goals. If we try to include all the variables, we will undoubtedly highlight those we inevitably exclude.

Nic Jam (Full Cream) in her blog post, Won’t Somebody Think of the Fathers!, raises some excellent points, relevant not just to breastfeeding, but also to birth – and life in general.  Women are consistently expected to step aside, to accommodate the needs of others – in this case, the father.  The blog post was a response to an article written on a major ‘news site’ by a father who was glad his wife ‘failed’ to breastfeed, as it paved the way for him to take over.

I have written about fear and belief dictating choices, and the problem when this dictation comes from the partner.  In this case it is not selfishness, as the full cream blog post is addressing, but ‘protector’ behaviour, that usually stems from mistaken feelings of ownership over a partner and her choices.

In both cases, the partner fails to be a supporter.  [His] needs and feelings, beliefs and fears, override the reality.  The biological importance of the mother-baby dyad is pushed aside as irrelevant or dispensable, and this is NOT ok. In the post by Nic Jam, she describes a situation where male dominance may be placing a woman into a situation where she has no autonomy. This is a form of domestic violence called coercive control. Often it is during pregnancy that the first experiences of domestic violence appear, as a male partner seeks to control his ‘property’ or his own fears through dominance. In this link Jess Hill, author of See What You Made Me Do, speaks of entitlement, ownership and shame.

It is not just ‘protective’ or self-interested partners making decisions for us, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) does this too: 

Carolyn Hastie of ThinkBirth, calls out the AMA on the matter of Birthing in the Bush. This is a matter close to my heart – rural and remote women are robbed of choices.  Birth before arrival is a very real possibility and continuity of care (let alone of carer) is a pipe dream.

People Pleasing, or fawning, can be a response to to having experienced coercive control (currently or in the past) or in order to avoid a perceived conflict. Along with negative politeness, females are groomed to place themselves (and their needs) secondary (or irrelevant) when they conflict with another person’s.

​​When we stand aside, and allow others to make decisions or set intentions for us, there is a very high chance that they will not be in our best interest.  The person or organisation we entrust to will have bias, or even an agenda, that may not align with us. 

​But why hand over your power, when you can stand up and assert yourself?

If we need to assert ourselves, we do this by taking the responsibility of understanding the situation. In maternity care – this means knowing what the pathways look like. Taking time in advance of birth to consider these pathways and how they fit into our context, before making informed decisions. This is a process called Birth Cartography.

It also means, stepping into the advocacy space. This means calling out the inaccessibility, such as not having rural maternity services. or birthing on country, or information tailored to the context of the individual. Advocating for humanised birth, respectful maternity care and effective communication means that all maternity care users will benefit. It means the partners and babies of those users benefit, and it also means that maternity care staff will benefit.

1 thought on “Would you rather stand aside, or stand up?”

  1. Pingback: Diplomacy, politeness and the underlying threat – Beautiful Heart

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