Monday, 8 October 2012

About that male student midwife story - Monday club

Lots of tweets at the moment are about the student midwife who was denied to attend an NCT breastfeeding session because he's male.
Well, as usual and unsurprisingly, it's onbly part of the story. It was actually a women only breastfeeding session, and he was offered other options to attend, which he declined.

Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive for NCT, the UK's largest charity for parents,said:

"We want breastfeeding to be as normal as reading the newspaper, so normally partners do attend support sessions. We are also committed to supporting the development of health professionals. However, women who seek breastfeeding support are often feeling particularly vulnerable and some may feel uncomfortable with a male presence, so we also offer women-only sessions for those who want this.

"On this occasion, when a male student midwife wanted to visit a women-only group, we offered him a number of alternative options and did all we could to support him in furthering his professional development. It's disappointing that he was not able to follow up these offers."

Some could say, but he's a midwife, he will deliver babies and help women breastfeed. Shouldn't he be treated like any other midwife? Isn't it sexism?
But the thing is it IS women who give birth and breastfeed. Surely it's their needs that should take precedence over political correctness and not being sexist?

I find it admirable that men want to be midwives but I fear it might not be the only hurdle this student will meet with. He could meet women who won't want to be followed during their prgnancy or attended for the birth of their baby, by a male midwife. Will that be sexism?

My mother used to tell us this saying she had learned as a child in "education civique" (civics) : Everyone's freedom stops where that of someone else's starts.
Isn't that a bit what is happening here? This student sees it as his right to be treated equally to a female student and attend whichever antenatal session he chooses to. But NCT saw it as the women's right to have their "women only" session, well... only with women.

However hard it's been tried in the past, a profession doesn't make one asexuel. "It doesn't count, he's a doctor." Well, I'm sorry, but sometimes it does count. A person is surely more than their profession?

If a man was to have a coloscopy or a close examination of sensitive parts and refused a female doctor to do it, would he be deemed sexist? Well, there might be people to do so but I think they would be wrong.

To come back to that midwife student, as Belinda Phipps said pregnant women can feel particularly vulnerable and it's a question to decide whose needs come first: First time mums', hormones all over the place, body changed beyond recognition ;) , life turned upside-down by the upcoming arrival of a completely new person whose going to have somehow to come out of their body. Or a male midwife student's, with free time and choice and offered to attend a couples breastfeeding session?
It might sound sexist and not politically correct, but I think it's the mums'.


  1. That is a very interesting point of view. Everyone is entitled to their own privacy and if some women prefer to discuss and seek advice from other women then that is their choice.

  2. thanks for posting the truth on this story. I totally agree with you.

    And it is right that women who feel vulnerable have their wishes taken into consideration, ahead of political correctness.

    having lived in Saudi Arabia for six years i understand all about "women only" areas and how this is a religious necessity for Muslim women.

    I admire the NCT for sticking up for these women, and for offering many alternatives to this midwife. A shame he didnt take them up and that this story made it into the press

    1. As you say it's a shame and unfortunately feels like yet another unfair attack from the press directed at the NCT and their promoting breastfeeding...

  3. I had a male midwife at the birth of my first child. I was past the point of caring, but I can't say it would be my preference. Now, I pride myself on being a feminist in the true sense, that we are equal to men, and I have no problem with a male midwife BUT if I was going to the GP about gyny issues, I would ask to see a female doctor. Does this make me sexist or just a bit insecure/vulnerable/embarrassed in myself?

    I think it is such a shame that he (or the media) has chosen to ignore the vital fact that it was women only and options were there. Should all changing rooms, therefore be mixed? Should sports' teams select according to gender or ability? Not great examples, but you know what I mean.

    I think he is missing the point of some mothers' needs and putting his own rights above theirs. And dissing the NCT again, which is SO supportive to so many mothers. Perhaps midwifery is not the best route for him?

  4. You're right about him putting his own rights above the mothers' need. I don't know if midwifery is or not the right route for him but how to build a relation with his clients and put them first 'might' be something is got to learn still...!

    Funny to think that there are so few male midwives in the UK, which makes it a country where birth is still mainly the domain of women, whether in France doctors attend to the birth and they are mainly men (the female gynecologists seem to practice more as private practices, outside of obstetrics). One could question what motivate men to have such an important role in such an intimate and essentially womanly time?!
    Whatever their motivation they should always put the women first, I think!