WOMEN AS MOTHERS: How They See Themselves in Different Cultures by Sheila Kitzinger

WOMEN AS MOTHERS: How They See Themselves in Different Cultures

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During heavy labor, some African women start swinging from the rafters. Other women around the world give birth in special houses built out over the sea, in piles of sand, or crowding between house posts. They give birth alone, or aided by sisters, husbands, shamans, or midwives. Kitzinger, a British social anthropologist and childbirth educator, draws on extensive anthropological research plus her own work in Jamaica to contrast the Western style of birthing with the varied practices of other societies. Unlike the English woman who complained that ""He can't stand me like this, and to tell the truth I can't stand myself,"" or the ex-Playboy bunny who spoke of feeling ""like a great hippopotamus wallowing in the mud,"" Jamaican women are happy to be teased--""You be getting fat!""--about a possible pregnancy. There, as in many Third World societies, pregnancy is a sign of adult status and as such is highly desired (the Chinese term for an expectant woman is ""the woman with happiness inside her""). It is also a powerful ritual state, and the pregnant woman can either cause danger or be in danger herself. Thus, an expectant Guatamalan woman's stare can knock a baby, animal, or a plant dead, but pregnant Jamaicans must take care not to cork a bottle, view a corpse, or step over a donkey's rope. By comparison, the Western way of birth--replete with straps, stirrups, and sedatives--appears at once sterile and barbaric. Kitzinger argues forcefully for returning more control to the women and their husbands and for seeing mothers as ""people in their own right."" Solid research, engagingly presented--a one-world complement to Selma Fraiberg's Every Child's Birthright.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Random House