633.3 “Boys with the toys”. Hegemonies of men over reproduction: Biomedical childbirth made in Czech Republic

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 9:40 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Iva SMIDOVA , Sociology Dpt. - Gender Studies, Masaryk University, Faculty of Social Studies, Brno, Czech Republic
The paper reflects the RC call to “attempt empirically and critically explore men’s involvement in reproduction“. The goal is to explore (consistent and changing) masculine hegemonies in reproductive medicine in the Czech Republic, a Central European country with totalitarian experience (1948 – 1989). The Czech medical context is highly developed with a biotechnological approach to human reproduction eliminating debates about potential alternatives, not to mention practices; it is paternalistic and strongly gendered.  Structures of power relations and masculine domination in the arena hinder the expected democratisation of gender relations in the arena of human reproduction. Despite recent significant changes in assessment of men´s involvement in human reproduction, and in bringing more gender justice to the field, critical approach to potential challenges these processes bring is adopted in the paper.

The paper concentrates on the dominant biomedical approach to childbirth (event studied at length by sociologists, social anthropologist as well as feminist scholars). It elaborates ideologies and practices as represented in recent articles from Czech obstetric/gynaecological journals and in presentations at annual conferences of the national OB-GYN Association. The intersection of professional and gender hegemonies as well as biomedical authoritative/expert knowledge (Jordan; Foucault) is questioned.

The paper poses a critique of a simplistic rhetoric stressing approaches to men´s involvement in reproduction as a lack of both action and power. It argues and elaborates the omnipresence and power of men in human reproduction, particularly at childbirth. Theoretical inspiration comes from CSM (Critical studies on men and masculinities) approaches, and Foucault´s governmentality and biopolitics. The critique acknowledges, though, the discourses as well as practices at childbirth that may  and sometimes do challenge the existing masculine hegemonies, and illustrates the (lack of) challenge on empirical data from the Czech context (fathers´ presence at childbirth, feminisation of medical care etc.).