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  • Nathan Riley, MD

The Devaluation of Birth Has Led to a Devaluation of Women

Updated: Jan 27



The magic that women possess is what led me to the practice of obstetrics. Many women are endowed with special gifts that empower them to do awe-inspiring things of infinite biologic importance. Men play an equally important role in the early steps of producing offspring, but women contribute far greater to the sustenance of our species. They connect us to the earth and thus the ecosystem. Women grow new people and are equipped with the physiology to then feed these new people. They then carry the burden of cultivating the goodness of all of humanity from birth to death. As such, the feminine energy ferries the masculine, enabling it to execute its duties. Both are of equal importance. Indeed, the yin and yang intercourse together as one.


The feminine is one with nature and, before the patriarchy devised a story that stripped the power from within earth and cast it away to a "man in the clouds", the divine creator was thought to be a supreme feminine being. Rightfully so. In the distant past women were worshiped for their superpowers. Yet, when men realized their own limitations, they gradually molded a society that valued the masculine and devalued the feminine.


At the forefront of this story is the devaluation of birth. Over the past several millenia, women have gradually been indoctrinated with fear around an otherwise physiologic process that has sufficiently sustained our species for millions of years. With women being subversively thrust into a medical system presumably to be kept safe, the magic of the feminine has likewise been dissolved. Whereas before elder women were revered and upheld for their role in caretaking, the new age has brought forth the systematic dismantling of the feminine's critical role in our society. The burning of tens of thousands of witches across Europe and the elimination of midwifery at the expense of modern obstetrics is merely a consequence of this paradigm shift.


The loss of a reverence for the inherent value of the feminine to society has resulted in a shift towards an over-valuation of the masculine. This is all too apparent in the modern workplace, where the power of birth, maternity, and the feminine has been replaced. Instead of honoring our women for the labor of child-bearing and child-raising, we demand even more of them. With an overemphasis on the masculine, our women are left to seek value through higher-level education, accumulation of material wealth, and occupancy of executive level jobs. This contract is only possible in a society that so undervalues the feminine that competition with men is a reasonable alternative.


Before I go further, please don't misinterpret my words. I don't mean to dissuade women from pursuing professional degrees or seeking to usurp their company's CEO. I also do not think that these activities should solely be pursued by men, though they are inherently masculine energetically, or what would qualify as "yang" in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, I find that women far more commonly exhibit the qualities that I value most in physicians. Needless to say, I think that inequality in the workplace, especially when an undervalued female colleague is met with the reality that her male colleagues of equal or lesser competency or productivity earn more, is an utter disgrace. But this is not my focus.


What I am suggesting is that our society demands that the feminine accommodate a patriarchal value system in order to be seen as valuable. This is equitable to expecting a queen bee to put in the same amount of "work" as the worker bees while continuing to carry on the duties of the queen. As if the critical responsibilities of a queen are insignificant alone...


If we valued women, it would be sufficient enough that they were women. If we valued women, we wouldn't need to create policies to accommodate them in the corporate workplace. We wouldn't need lactation rooms or diversity training. If women were equally valued, we wouldn't require laws that permitted them to care for our young while simultaneously making a living. These are merely addenda to appease the patriarchal corporatocracies that many industries in the United States have become. Furthermore, sitcoms wouldn't make fools of "sissy" men who are sensitive to the incredible contributions of their wives to family and society.


When society values women, women won't have to prove their worth. The movement being led by midwives and birth workers to relinquish the fear around our most primordial of functions (birth) is an early step to reteaching the magic possessed by the feminine. The queen bee will be honored for being the queen bee, and birth will once again be trusted and embraced, not feared.



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