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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Poison Pens Six: Feminist columnist wants to ban men

No knee jerks with such predictable, goose-stepping precision as that of a feminist when men deign to comment on female health issues.

The not-so-hidden subtext of such reactions is generally that men should STFU about women's health issues entirely, the patriarchal scumbags.

In this context, one can of course understand that British hack Melanie Reid (medical qualification: X -X chromosomes) is infinitely more qualified than a certain Dr Denis Walsh (medical qualifications: associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University) to comment on childbirth (scroll to bottom, past the other shite she's written this week.)

Dr Walsh has opined that women are having too many epidurals these days. Not so controversial, you might have thought, to suggest that too many dangerous spinal injections for pregnant women during labour should perhaps be discouraged.

But that would be to disregard the righteous wrath of people like Melanie Reid, who, like Caroline Simons in a very different context, is apparently supremely qualified for everything by virtue of her possession of a functioning womb.

Let's start by reminding ourselves that Melanie is, first of all, a HUGE fan of medicalising pregnancy and birth as much as possible. Not for her the hippy nonsense of homebirths or that sort of delinquent behaviour. No, no. Mel wants hospitals, and caesareans, and drugs. And she wants everyone else to want that too.

Bear in mind, she's expressed some extremely strange opinions in the past. Probably the most bizarre before today was when she went on BBC Radio to talk about how caring for the elderly is bad for them and people should just let their elderly senile parents die alone of hypothermia like she did.

So let's ignore her prescriptive preaching, since it actually serves to strip pregnant women of choice. Let's ignore also her nonsense about what nasty people medics are for encouraging women to breastfeed. Let's instead focus on her latest bout of uterus-focused lunacy - men can't talk about pregnancy or childbirth because men don't have wombs.

Dr Denis Walsh is a midwife. Not just any old midwife, though. He teaches other midwives. He teaches them so well that he is now a professor of midwifery. He's been in the childbirth game for decades, and has seen the rates of epidurals rising rapidly, and he's concerned.

He's concerned because epidurals are risky, and because they lead to women needing hormones to boost their contractions, which has god knows what effect on the children. As the good doc says, we've no idea what the long-term effects of this will be.

He also reckons that there are a load of other pain relief options for women in labour. And he'd know, because he's a professor of midwifery and this is his subject of expertise.

But that's not good enough for Mel. She's got a womb, so clearly she is way more qualified to discuss such matters than Dr Walsh. In fact, she reckons that he should be sacked from his job for the sole crime of being a man - him and every other male midwife.

Let's imagine for a moment that I said: "Look here, this Melanie Reid is a pretty piss-poor journalist. Here she is criticising experts who know way more than she does. She's clearly not qualified to be doing her job. In fact, it's unnatural for her to be doing it at all. For centuries we relied on men to be journalists. All women should be banned from journalism because it's unnatural."

I take it the flaws in that argument would be evident to all. So now let's look at what Melanie has to say about Dr Walsh. (You might want to settle down and get the popcorn out for this - such spectacular nonsense rarely gets a public outing):

"There’s simply no point trying to be reasonable about this. Dr Walsh either wants women to suffer or he thinks being controversial is a good career move. Either way, this is the midwifery equivalent of bombing women back to the Stone Age. Personally speaking, I’d rather take my chances with the Taleban [sic] than inhabit a system run by Dr Walsh and his kind.

And incidentally, don’t you think men should be banned from becoming midwives? If we’re talking tradition, after all, a male midwife is even more unnatural than a pain-free childbirth."

She has no intention of being reasonable.
She'd rather receive pregnancy and labour care from the Taliban than a professor of midwifery in one of the safest countries in the Western World to give birth.
She considers his sage advice that less epidurals be used as akin to being bombed into the stone age.
She wants men to be banned from a job that many do well, saving little lives each day, purely on the basis of their gender.

Shrill? Yup. Unscientific? Yup. Kneejerk? Yup. Preposterous? Yup.

I have a little suggestion of my own, if we're in the business of proposing that people be banned from stuff. Melanie Reid should be banned from writing about childbirth, or medicine, or health, or men ever again, since she clearly has only frothing-mouthed feminist cant to contribute.

In fact, perhaps we should consider a breeding ban for Mel too. After all, she clearly doesn't like the way women are given options and advice and care when giving birth in Britain, and she clearly hates the fact that men are allowed to perform some of these tasks. And do we really want someone with such bizarre opinions in control of kids, even her own?

If she falls pregnant accidentally, we could of course refer her to the Afghani health service and those Taliban midwives - you know the ones, all dressed in black with zero education, living in squalor and under genuine male oppression - that she rates so highly.

Melanie Reid, take a bow for being the stupidest cow in British newspapers this week.

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