“You are Not Qualified—Leave it to us”: Obstetric Violence as Testimonial Injustice

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-653
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Birth
  • Epistemic injustice
  • Fricker
  • Obstetric violence
  • Testimonial injustice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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