This paper addresses epistemic aspects of the phenomenon of obstetric violence—which has been described as a kind of gender violence—mainly from the perspective of recent theories on epistemic injustice. I argue that what is behind the dismissal of women’s voices in labor is mainly how the birthing subject, in general, is conceived. Thus, I develop a link between the phenomenon of testimonial injustice in labor and the marked irrationality that is seen as a core characteristic of birthing subjects: an irrationality that appears to be always at odds with the kind of knowledge that is, wrongly, privileged within medicalized childbirth. I use Miranda Fricker’s analysis to argue that a central part of obstetric violence involves laboring women being “wrongfully undermined specifically in their capacity as knowers” (2007: 9): they are disbelieved in the labor room because of a double prejudice, one deriving simply from their condition as women, the second involving the kind of knowledge that many women find useful in the process of birthing. Women in labor thus suffer from both systematic and incidental kinds of testimonial injustice.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
I am deeply grateful to the two blind reviewers of this article for their valuable comments and recommendations - I believe they made this research a much better one. I also want to thank Orli Dahan for her illuminating insights and her support. I thank all the wonderful participants of the Feminist Perspectives on Gendered and Sexual Violence virtual Working Group for their helpful inputs while I was working on the paper's major revisions. Lastly, I thank Marie F. Deer for her helpful comments. This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 328/19).
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.
- Epistemic injustice
- Obstetric violence
- Testimonial injustice
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science