Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To Empower...? Maybe not!

Recently, a friend (not a birth professional, because I do interact with a whole slew of people out there who have fairly normal jobs with predictable hours!) was discussing her work with me. Part of her work, she felt was "to empower people" as much as she could.

It's not the first time I've heard the word empower used that way. But I look at it the way I look at women who say their OB's delivered their babies -- Who is empowering whom? And with whose power?

As a doula, I don't have any special powers or magic dust. I am not a supernatural force field against a c-section or traumatic birth. And I don't have the ability to empower. I relish helping women feel safe, relaxed, and informed; and it's within that framework that I hope they can tap into a strength and faith that is all their own. I can't empower them any more than I can push their babies out for them.

Tricky stuff, language. And words often reflect our cultural, social, or ideological beliefs, as seen in the fact that many women don't refer to giving birth to their babies, but their babies are delivered. Delivered by whom? By the doc on call.

Doulas, in their websites or marketing strategies often state that one of their jobs is to empower women. I feel very strongly that this is not what I do.


Karen said...

You know, I hear that word all the time too. I don't think I have ever heard your critique before but I find myself really leaning towards your point of view.
Now I wonder if I have ever used this word as a sort of short-hand for the type of support I provide! It's good to be conscious of what we are advertising, isn't it?

LaLa said...

That's a very neat perspective on the language. I never thought of it that way.

clara said...

So far, I love your blog!! I totally agree with you on this post. I just doula-d for the first time & felt the same way exactly. I just wrote about one of your posts on my blog too.