I guess I’m behind the 8-ball. Maybe it’s because I don’t watch the news, or read the newspaper, or even enjoy television much. At the end of March, artist Daniel Edwards created a sculpture of Britney Spears birthing. Naked. On all fours. Vaginally. Naturally. Many of you may be responding similarly to how I did: “Cool, birth art”. But I think we would be in the minority. We would be considered the pond scum of the art world. Now, the fact that he chose Britney as his subject, or that she indeed birthed her son via C-section isn’t what I’m interested in right now. It’s the fact that apparently, this sculpture has created quite a controversy. People are up in arms of the fact that someone would even dare sculpt an image of a naked birthing woman in a hands and knees position. Not only do they find it offensive, but are utterly appalled at this raw, natural depiction. They are pissed off. Disgusted. Appalled. Infuriated. Just read between the lines of the actual description from the ABCnews.com article:
“The life-size pop princess is naked and pregnant, crouching face-down on a bare-toothed bear rug as the baby’s head appears on the opposite end.”
As if it’s being naked while giving birth is unheard of. As if a woman birthing on all fours is ridiculous (okay, the bear skin rug is just funny). And they couldn’t even write that the baby’s head is emerging from her vagina. Yes, I typed vagina. Vagina, vagina, vagina. People, get over it. Like the word or not, it is where babies emerge from, after all. They’ve emerged from vaginas since the beginning of humankind. This, unlike the Brit statue, is not breaking news..
Perhaps I could agree that the image of Britney wasn’t the best choice to convey this idea, but then again why not? We unfortunately look to celebrities to tell us what fashion to don, teach us how to be “happy”, and give us examples of how to measure our body image and self worth. Maybe Brit, in all her pregnant glory, was the perfect choice.
I made the mistake of reviewing some comments on forums about the sculpture. Afterwards, on my commute to my cubicle, I gripped the steering wheel in dejection and frustration as the comments ran through my head. I was so tense I thought my brain would explode into a billion pieces (now that’s a sculpture in the making). It seriously ruined my day. The comments ranged from mildly understandable to utterly ignorant. People used words such as disgusting, vile, degrading, and filthy. These words were describing birth… her birthing position, her vagina, the image of the baby’s head.
I wondered if these individuals would rather have viewed a sculpture of a woman cut and bleeding after an episiotomy. Or perhaps they’d rather have laid eyes upon Britney with an IV shoved in her helpless arms as she laid vulnerable upon her back, with her legs forced into stirrups. Would they have noticed the defeat on the face of Britney, exhausted and starved from hours of pushing without food and without the ability to even feel her contractions? No, I think it would have been easier to gaze at this new Mother, abdomen and fragile uterus exposed, as she struggled to stroke her newborn’s cheek for the first time with her arms strapped to a metal table. Please, anything but a naked woman birthing vaginally on all fours with her child emerging perfectly from her uncut, intact, miraculously stretching vagina. (I know, I know, here come the “but women tear all the time” comments).
I guess I don’t know what I had expected. Our culture provides us with very little impressions of natural birth. Those we are exposed to are often “blurred” in all the “right” places. They certainly aren’t edited in a manner that would demonstrate the perfect power and ability of a birthing body, of an empowered woman. As children, we are seemingly forced to construct our own ideas and visualization of the exact details and dynamics of how and where babies emerge from their mother’s bodies. Why is it easier for our children to access images of porn, violence, war and crime than images of an incredibly intricate process that a majority of women will experience in their lifetime? This doesn’t seem like responsible journalism or education Because we aren’t given the opportunity, through news and magazines and television, to witness births many do believe that it’s gross, disgusting, or dirty. This must change. Our daughters must not endure the fear that the medical industry and culture have instilled in the minds of recent generations of women. Our sons cannot turn their heads at the beauty of their loved ones’ bodies that they, nine months prior, obviously indulged in without hesitation. Mothers should no longer be expected to silently weep in shame (or act grateful) as their bellies are sliced, their vaginas cut, their veins punctured, and their emotions numbed in the name of medicine, safety, and modesty.
Some say that birth is intimate, private and personal and it shouldn’t be “shoved in our face”. But since when has the medical institution respected the birth process as intimate and personal? I ask you if droves of strangers gloved and masked in a foreign room, with shiny steel instruments and beeping machines at the ready, portray an image of respect and intimacy?
We fear birth. We are taught it. Expose the real stories and photos of natural birth (hospital or home) that thousands of women experience each day and I wonder if we are ready to answer the question: what the hell are we afraid of anyways?
Perhaps we fear the truth.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” – Marianne Williamson
I know you were waiting for this…go here for the photos:
Go here for the image of the baby’s head crowning: http://www.blognyc.net/news/britney-spears/britney-in-the-act-of-childbirth-the-money-shot.php