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This article, based on interviews about pregnancy, birth, childraising, and career with 31 middle-class Anglo women, examines self- and body image as microcosmic mirrors of social relationships and worldview. All interviewees are professionals in positions of power and authority. They tend to see the body as an imperfect tool that the more perfect self should control. They tend to experience pregnancy and birth as unpleasant because they are so out-of-control, and to emphasize the separation of the self from the body and from the fetus growing inside that body. They demand pain-relieving drugs during labor and are generally pleased with obstetrical interventions in the birth process, as long as they feel that they are the ones making the decisions about which interventions to use and when. Their conscious choice to dissociate themselves from their biology is reflected in and encouraged by the medical management of birth and current directions in reproductive research, raising many questions about the future of American society and the role of women in its reproduction.
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Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, Ph.D.
Robbie Davis-Floyd is a cultural anthropologist specializing in medical and symbolic anthropology and gender studies. She teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, and gives talks around the country on ritual, on gender, and on birth in the technocracy. She is the author of numerous academic articles, and of Birth as an American Rite of Passage (U. of Ca. Press, 1992). Books in progress include The Power of Ritual and The Technocratic Body and the Organic Body: Hegemony and Heresy in Women's Birth Choices. Address correspondence to 1301 Capital of Texas Hwy. Suite B128, Austin, Texas 78746.