Patching up False Dichotomies in the Birth Subculture

Jessie K. Tougas


Some birth scholars (Melissa Cheney, Robbie Davis-Floyd, and Elizabeth Davis) have argued that there are two models of birth that value different kinds of knowledge. They assert that the “technocratic” model has been adopted by “mainstream” culture, which values reason and scientific knowledge. Meanwhile, the “countercultural” birth subculture, which has adopted a “holistic” model, values intuition and “body knowledge” instead. However, my research does not support this argument. Rather, the 119 birth stories I analyzed suggest that, even if the birth subculture rhetoric supports those scholars’ dichotomies, their birth experiences do not. Neither group appears to uniformly hold their respective values, thus weakening the original dichotomy between the “mainstream” group and the “countercultural” group. Moreover, I demonstrate how the dichotomy between reason and scientific knowledge on the one hand, and intuition and “body knowledge” on the other, is also inaccurate. Feminist epistemology also warns that this dichotomization undercuts a diversity of thinking styles by limiting them to just two.


birth stories, homebirth, natural birth, epistemology, reason, intuition, science

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